Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

What a difference a couple of days and a few hundred miles can make. We arrived in Great Sand Dunes National Park today, October 15, in southeastern Colorado. As is often the case in sand dune areas, it was windy. It was quite warm though, so it is just a matter of waiting for the winds to calm down in order to walk and photograph the dunes. Indeed, the next morning, we made a predawn trek out to the dunes. It was quite cold, but also very calm and clear. We were able to get into the dunes pretty far. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong dune to climb in order to reach the top and found myself at the top of a dune that left me stranded far short of the high vantage point I initially planned on reaching. But from this vantage point, I was still able to get some really nice abstracts.

Dawn. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

Dawn. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO ©David Gardner

In my second attempt on the dunes later this afternoon, I did manage to get to the top of a 700 ft. dune, the second highest dune in the park. The view was quite nice of course, but I was a bit disappointed because I was looking for rim-lit dunes, and from my vantage point, it was difficult to compose. I got a couple, but not what I really wanted. I did a lot of lung busting “wind sucking” for not much pay-off today. Still, I found a couple of other nice compositions.

Rim-lit

Rim-lit Dune. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO. ©David Gardner

Evening Dune. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO ©David Gardner

Evening Dune. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO ©David Gardner

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO ©David Gardner

After I retuned after dark from the dunes, the wind came up. I mean it really came up. The gusts were rocking the motorhome around and having been there before, I felt sympathy for the tent campers in the campground. Based on how windy it was that evening, I decided to sleep in and not to walk the dunes the next morning. But, surprise, the morning brought calm conditions. A missed opportunity. We went for a hike during the day on a trail to Mosca Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It was a nice hike and a pleasant change from dune walking. I found a nice aspen trunk with some old carving on it. The process of aging of the bark on the tree resulted in the carving taking on a much more organic sort of look. It was almost as if the carving was a naturally occurring formation, blurring the line between man-made and the natural environment.

Tree Carving. Great Sand Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Tree Carving. Great Sand Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

It was also nice to see the changing colors of the autumn trees in the canyon.

Cottonwoods. Great Sand Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Cottonwoods. Great Sand Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

In the morning, we hit the dunes one last time. I was more carful about my path to the top this time and was rewarded with some really nice views.. The early morning cold temps formed frost on some of the dune tops creating some unusual conditions. I also got a few more really nice compositions.

Hoar Frost on Dunes. Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Hoar Frost on Dunes. Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

Great Dunes, CO. ©David Gardner

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