Day 49-52: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Trip Start Jun 21, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Friday, August 8, 2008

Day 49 - Leaving Breckenridge, Arriving Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO - August 8, 2008 - Friday
Sat around the hotel until about 10am.  That was nice.  Michael worked on pictures and I finished my book.  It was nice to lay around for a few hours.
We then headed South to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Crossed the Continental Divide again at 11,000 feet, the highest pass yet that we've driven.  It did not seem that high because we were already at 9,000 feet when we started.
Found a campsite, set-up, walked the 1 mile trail to the Visitor Center.  Looked around, watched a video, waited the rain that suddenly started to stop.  Ranger said there was a Tornado Warning in effect which was very strange for this area.  After the rain ended we walked back to the campsite.  After dinner we walked down to the dunes a bit. 
Very interesting to see huge dunes of sand in Colorado at the base of a mountain range - Sangre de Christo Range, "Blood of Christ."
Day 50 - Great Sand Dunes NP - August 9, 2008 - Saturday
Got up early and on the dunes by 8:30am.  We walked to the top of High Dune (650').  Then we walked on across the dune field to Star Dune (750'), the tallest dune in the US.  Felt like walking across a desert.  We did not get back until 3pm.  We saw a Ferruginous Hawk while on top of Star Dune.  We looked it u pin a book at the Visitor Center, and we think that is what we saw.
Lots of people brought their snowboards or snow sleds to ride on down the dunes. 
It was a little easier to walk up the dunes because it had rained the day before.  When we got back down, lots of people were playing in Medano Creek.  2 groups had set up volleyball nets in the creek.  We walked to the little store and bough Klondike bars.
Day 51 - Great Sand Dunes NP, Zapata Falls, Alamoso CO - August 10, 2008 - Sunday
We walked to see if any worship services were posted on the amphitheater sign.  Nope.  So, we hiked up to the Dunes Overlook.  Then walked down to the Dunes parking lot along Medano Creek to a Ranger Walk.  On the walk, we learned about the difference b/w a National Monument and a National Park.
A NM has one main feature where a NP has many main features.  A NM can be established by Presidential proclamation, and a NP can only be established by Congress.  We have been wondering about this the whole trip.  Glad to have it cleared up.
After lunch, we drove outside the park to Zapata Falls.  Drove 3 miles up a bumpy dirt road, then hiked mile to the creek, and then waded in the creek to the cave where Zapata Falls was.  The water was very cold and we had to stand on rocks above the water every so often to let our feet warm back up.  The falls are hidden inside a cave, very neat.
Next we drove to Alamosa, CO, a railroad town.  We stopped at the "W" to replace our broken camp chairs.  Also bought the cheapest gas yet, $3.76/gal.  Then we stopped at the Visitor Center to find out more about the Sundays at Six free concert series we had read about.  We found out where it is held and lots more.  Went to the concert park - Cole Park - along the Rio Grande.  Had dinner - walked around the park - nice park - threw the Frisbee - then enjoyed the concert.  A guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion, and harmonica were used.  Nice evening, nice day.
Day 52 - Leaving Great Sand Dunes NP, Taos NM, Santa Fe NM - August 11, 2008 - Monday
Stopped at the Visitor Center again to buy postcards and a patch.  Stopped at the entrance sign for a picture with the gnome, then on our way.
Stopped in Taos, NM.  Went to the library first to find out where the Visitor Center was.  When to the visitor center and used the free internet to make some plans.  Decided to stay for a couple of days in Santa Fe.  The visitor center not only had information, but jewelry and art by local artists.  Very cool.  Might should have bough something.  Very cool handmade clay vase.
We drove to the historical Taos plaza and looked around.  Almost bough some coffee, but decided to wait.  Went wine tasting instead, and bought a couple bottles.
Drove on to Santa Fe.  Tried to eat dinner at the famous Bobcat Bite restaurant but they were closed.  Found out that they are open Tuesday-Saturday.  Guess we'll go tomorrow.  Michael was disappointed.
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