Great Sand Dunes NP
View of the Dunes from the road approaching the park
Two days to cover with this entry:
17 May (Monday) First stop after leaving Le Veta was Great Sand Dunes National Park NE of Alamosa, CO. It is an interesting place squeezed between a somewhat arid valley and a range of snow capped mountains. A creek flows along the edge of the dunes and was full of school aged children playing in the water and a bunch of folks climing the highest dune (about 750' high above the creek). In the late summer after the winter snows are all gone, the creek loses most of its volume and only flows below the surface of the sand. After the sand dunes, we headed west on US 160 to South Fork where we took CO 149 north. It is called the "Silver Thread Scenic Highway". Near the first pass, we got a view of the headwaters of the Rio Grand. It was truly scenic road with two high passes over 10K ft. Lots of snow around the higher of the two. The slope down was steep and curvy - - a little scary but beautiful views!. Once down off the mountain, the road ran along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River
and then on to US 50 west along the Gunnison River. Spent the night in a nice little campground in Cimarron, CO.
18 May (Tuesday) Made a short run to The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It is truely spectacular. It is up to 2700' deep with almost vertical sides. The Gunnison runs through the bottom and can be clearly heard at the rim. We only took 165 pictures today. Tried to finish the tour by noon - - Bob & Gena got back to the cars at 12:30 after a quick 1373 yd walk each way - - Bob estimates that the trail goes up and down at least 200' twice each way as well. Well worth the effort and Charlie & Kerry were very patient to sit in their van while we made the trek. Great view of the valley that the Gunnison empties into. After a quick lunch of sandwiches in the trailer, we headed south. Picked up US 550 in Montrose, CO and drove over the San Juan Mountain Range to Durango, CO and then west to Mesa Verde. US 550 climbs from around 6000' to three passes(Red Mountain Pass at 11,008', Molas
Moose along CO 149
Divide at 10,910' and Coal Bank Pass at 10,840') and down to around 8000' between the passes. This road is a standard traveled way width (11' lanes) BUT has no shoulder, no guard rails, and shear drops of many 100s of feet at the edge of the pavement - - There were lots of puckered body parts during that run!! Above about 9000' it was snowing, but fortunately NOT sticking to the ground or the road. Very windy. Steep grades both up and down. Fortunately fairly light traffic. The Scenery was really beautiful, but the tension from riding or driving the road made it hard to really take it in. Stopped in Durango at a Dairy Queen for some ice cream to relieve that built up tension.
Tomorrow Mesa Verde National Park.
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