Colorado Road Trip Part I: Garden of the Gods and Great Sand Dunes National Park
I graduated college in May 2015 and decided to travel for the next month. My cousin Sydney lives in Denver, CO and we had talked about doing a road trip around Colorado for months. We decided now was the time. I had just gotten my GoPro and Canon DSLR so I was excited to use them on this trip.
We planned the trip after I got to Denver. The free Colorado guide I ordered had just arrived before I left. It even had a large pull-out map. While we were flipping through the guide figuring out where exactly to go, we decided to do this trip old school: no GPS or cell phones, only paper maps. It’s fun to disconnect from technology now and then (plus I had already gone over my data limit for the month). We decided to do the trip in three days and two nights.
Garden of the Gods
The next morning we got up bright and early to head to Colorado Springs, the town 70 miles south of Denver. Our goal in Colorado Springs was to go to the Garden of the Gods. After stopping at the park’s visitor center (which has some great views of the park, by the way), we made moves to start our short hike. Many of the paths in the park are paved, while various other side paths are dirt trails. We detoured from the paved path to get to the Siamese Twins, a large rock formation that looks like, well, Siamese twins. If you stand at the right angle, you can see Pike’s Peak perfectly framed by the gap in the twins.
On our hike back to the car, we noticed several climbers scaling the completely vertical walls, with lots of people gathered below to watch.
We continued on to Pueblo, where we stopped for lunch. We ate at an Irish pub and brewery called Shamrock Brewing Co. It was such a nice day out, so we asked to be seated on the upstairs balcony. No one else was out there; we had the place to ourselves. I ate the mac and cheese (yes, I eat like a child).
Our next and final destination for the day was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We passed some amazing scenery on the way and I made Sydney stop to take pictures a few times. While I was already getting a lot better at taking pictures from the window of a moving vehicle, sometimes it’s necessary to get out and walk around. On the first stop, I somehow lost the lens cap to my brand new camera. Had to be extra careful for the rest of the trip to not scratch my lens!
Great Sand Dunes National Park
We drove another couple hours after lunch before arriving at the Great Sand Dunes. These sand dunes are the tallest in North America! They are at the western base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Several mountains shelter the dunes, so when sand particles are blown in, they are trapped. The sand has been accumulating for thousands of years, and it’s a sight to see! We stopped at a convenience store on the way to grab firewood and hot dogs / marshmallows to make for dinner.
We planned on camping in the park, so we paid our fee at the drop box and picked a site. Taking the park ranger’s advice, we tried to find something sheltered by trees since the dunes tend to get windy at night, but also with a decent view of the dunes. Sydney and I set up our tent and headed straight for the dunes, a 5 minute walk from the campsite. We had to cross a freezing-cold river to get to the dunes. It was about knee deep at points and so wide that it was impossible to avoid.
Our goal was to climb to the top of the highest dune. That task looks a lot easier than it actually is. Walking in sand is hard enough as it is, but add a steep incline and it’s near impossible. The sun was setting on the other side of the dunes, so we wanted to get to the top and see it.
After a long struggle, we finally made it to the top. We practiced some yoga before sitting down and enjoying the sunset with some snacks. Once the sun started going down, it cooled off quickly. The wind picked up, especially at the top, and sand was pelting us in the face. We ran down one of the less steep slopes. As we approached the campsite, it started raining. So much for making a campfire! It was pouring all evening so we enjoyed our cold hot dogs in the car. The wind howled all night and we wished we had picked a more protected site. I was excited to see the sun the next morning.
Sights seen on our trip:
Colorado Road Trip
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