Tuesday, October 19, 2010 Sunny, frost on the windshield (!!!!) early, then 58 degrees
Last night I bought the new hiking boots I talked about. After I wore them in the motel room all evening and again this morning, I knew that they rubbed on my insteps. So.... back to the store. Forty-five minutes later with the seams flattened with a hammer and new insoles, the problem was solved. Thankfully, since I was not told and did not know that they were not returnable. This stop made us late arriving at Great Sand Dunes NP which was not part of our original itinerary. But with the detour to Mesa Verde yesterday, we were driving by the road leading to the park so why not?
Across the high desert at the foot of the Sangre De Christo Mountains are the 750 foot high Great Sand Dunes. These towering dunes, the tallest on the continent, seem out of place, located in the Rocky Mountains far from any sea. "The dunes were created over thousands of years by southwesterly winds blowing across the San Luis Valley. They were formed when streams of water from melting glaciers carried rocks, gravel, and silt down from the mountains. Accumulating on the valley floor, the sand was picked up by the wind and carried toward the mountains. Even today the winds are changing the face of the dunes. So-called "reversing winds" from the mountains pile the dunes back upon themselves, building them higher and higher."
After watching the film in the Visitor Center we drove out to the Dunes Parking Lot, the trailhead for the hike to the top of the dunes. We walked out on the valley floor, looked up at the ant-sized people climbing the dunes, ran the sand through our fingers, and said to each other, "Yep, that's a mighty big sand dune." Since we usually spend half of the year on the beach in North Carolina, we long ago lost our love of trudging through deep, loose sand. In fact we try to walk the beach only at low tide to avoid it. So we opted for the Montville Nature Trail which led to part of the Wellington Ditch Trail where we could see much of the thirty-six square miles of dunes without walking through a single grain of sand. It really is a magnificent sight to see sun playing on the peaks and the troughs of the dunes.
Miscellanea: Another day, another mountain pass. Today it was Wolf Creek Pass at 10,700 feet. We have been pleased that we have been able to adjust to great changes in elevation. Last week we went from 267 feet below sea level to 10,600 above in less than twenty-four hours. Not bad, huh? Now can we make it up Pike's Peak?
On US 160E today we crossed the Rio Grande River. In fact its source is located near South Fork, CO. (No Ewings in sight, though.)
The past four days, we have been watching Magpies swooping and diving along the edges of the road. They are black with white throats and bellies and white tips on their tails. When they perch, the green/teal feathers on their wings can be seen. A beautiful bird.
We stumbled upon the Old Spanish Trail this afternoon. In 1859 Mexican and Spanish pioneers from Santa Fe, NM, were the first to head west along this trail. Since it led to Los Angeles, it eventually became an important route for trade and emigration.
A blast from the past: We saw a two-screen drive-in! And we thought drive-in movies were long gone.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Durango, CO, US 160E to CO 150N and the Great Sand Dunes NP; then CO 150S to US 160E to Walsenburg; finally, I 25N to Pueblo, CO