Monday, June 4, 2012

GonSS And WH Return To GSDNP

We took a little break from our normal lives recently to enjoy a trip in celebration of our 19th wedding anniversary.  

Last September, we stopped briefly at Great Sand Dunes National Park while returning home from our Zion National Park trip.  We immediately made plans to return.

The landscape is very interesting.  Desert with a large dune field up against a mountain range.  I'll spare you the geology presentation, but if you like knowing how areas like this form, this link has the information.

On the day of our anniversary (May 29), we got up before the sun and hiked the dune field early in the day climbing to the top of the two tallest points.  High Dune 650 feet (198 m) high and Star Dune  750 feet (229 m).  Yes, Star Dune is actually taller than High Dune.  High Dune is the one you see easiest from the creek.  My guess is it was named first and then someone climbed it and realized there was a taller dune west of it. You have to be out on the dunes to see Star Dune.

This is me hiking up a dune.

You can go anywhere you want in the dunes.

Even though sand blows everyday and covers your tracks, the main dune landscape has changed very little.  They had a photo from 1911 and a photo from 2011 that showed the same shapes.  

The air temperature was pretty mild, but the sun at the higher elevation really heats up the sand.  We were off the dune field by mid day and enjoyed walking in the creek that only runs in the spring and early summer around the east side of the dune field.  It is shallow and so fun to play in the sand and water.  All ages have a great time in the creek.  There were families building sand castles and picnicking.

The next day, we hiked up a mountain pass.

We saw tons of humming birds.

There were a lot of wildflowers blooming.

While some of the trail was open with a lot of rocky areas, parts of it were very lush with beautiful trees and green meadows.

I also saw a black bear, but do not have a photo of it.  By the time I saw it making tracks away from us and told my wonderful husband, it was gone.  WH didn't even have time to see it.  He says his first thought when I said, "bear" was, "how close is it?"  I was using our bear bell which rings while you hike; so, you are always making noise to give the bears time to leave.  I guess it works as the bear was going away from us.  The next day at the visitor center, we were asking about another hiking trail and mentioned the bear.  A park ranger asked us to fill out a report on the bear sighting.  So, if you ever see a bear and want it documented, make notes!  We wish we had made a better effort to note where I saw the bear for the ranger.

Our hike the last day visiting GSDNP was a mix of mountain and sand.  We ended it back in the creek.  Here's WH cooling his feet in the water.  The water is a comfortable temperature because the hot sand warms it up.

I admit that I was a bit worried about the garden while we were gone.  I made sure everything was watered well and moved some containers around before leaving.  I did not have anyone come to water for me.  

I wondered if I would miss the last of the spring crops like the peas and lettuce.  I worried that the squash bugs would destroy all the cucurbits.  We did an intense squash bug hunt the day before leaving on our trip and found a lot of squash bugs.  You can read more about our squash bug hunting here and here.

About half way through our trip, our garden was drenched during a thunderstorm and there was some serious hail in the area, but luckily not in our neighborhood.  No hail damage at GonSS.

I returned to a garden that was growing like crazy.  

Lettuce and peas in the basket and a nice harvest of kohlrabi.

The flower surprise upon returning was the lavender.  It is really blooming.

I hope to get some time in the garden this week and will be by to visit soon.


  1. Looks like a lovely trip -- we've never been to either but your description of the Sand Dunes sounds lovely. Did you know about the National Prairie Park in mid Kansas? I forget what it is called but it is prairie as it was, preserved I guess by the family that used to own it (and only ran cattle on it would be my guess) -- I think their farmhouse is there as well. We've never been there although a former Supt of our park was the first supt of that park. They say it is beautiful -- and it's close that we should really go!

    1. Tall Grass Prairie Preserve I think. We've been there. Go! Try for a cooler day or at sunrise or sunset. The house was very innovative for its time. I think rolling prairie is beautiful.

  2. The Sand Dunes National Park sounds like a fascinating place to visit. I can't help but wonder how hiking in sand compares to hiking through snow. I'm glad we don't have to fill out sighting reports when we see bears here in the Smokies. I'm also glad your garden didn't suffer while you were gone.

    1. Obviously, they have less bears than where you are. I was surprised since the area around the mountains is a desert.
      Some of the sand was solid and some of the sand was soft. On 45 or steeper inclines, there were times when it was like going up a down escalator. Ha! Going down felt a bit like skiing so that is like snow.

  3. Hi there, Looks like a great Anniversary trip for you two. Those sand dunes look so interesting. Was it hard hiking on that hot sand???? Bet it was... I have a hard time walking on loose sand at the beach --so I can't imagine what it would be like going uphill....

    Glad everything at your home was fine when you got home. Glad you had some rain. We are in desperate need of rain here. If we don't get any tonight --we'll have to wait for several days. Guess we'll be out there watering...


    1. We weren't on the sand much when it was hot. The water was more inviting at mid day. Some of the sand was a work out walking up the dunes. As I told George, like going up a down escalator but it was fun to "ski" down!
      Hope you get some rain soon.

  4. It's good to get away for awhile, isn't it? I'm glad to hear that all was well in your garden when you returned home. I too always worry about the care of the garden while I'm gone for a week or ten days. It's why I built my automatic watering system. It has been working great this year. I haven't really made any changes to it from last year. I have thought about ways to improve it but why fix something that's not broke. The leaking water tank seems to have sealed itself and life is wonderful for garden watering so far. I haven't had to add water yet this year. I even do some watering over the fence in the neighbor's yard by dipping out of the big tank with a bucket over the fence. I actually have a two foot strip of property between the fence and a rock wall that drops into the neighbor's yard. I decided to plant some vegetables there this year and immediately had the rabbits eat them down to the ground. Cucumbers must be a delicacy for them. I replanted and haven't seen anything come up yet. My bell peppers seem to just be maintaining. The night time temperatures are still dropping into the lower 50s and upper 40s so it could be they will take off when the night temperatures get a little warmer. The volunteer tomatoes that I transplanted to my tomato raised bed are growing gang busters and have blooms. It looks to be a good year so far for them.

    Have a great day in the garden and happy anniversary. May you be able to share many more with each other.

    1. I'd take your cooler nights. Seems like we're starting to just stay hot. Your watering system is great. Would make one feel better leaving for awhile. Sounds like the rabbits thought they had a private garden.

  5. That looks like a place you would want to visit again. Can't imagine running into a bear though.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

  6. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary on your 19 years together. What a wonderful adventure you had there at the dunes!

    Glad your gardens survived and thrived while you were gone.

    Enjoy your week back at home.

    Hugs ~ FlowerLady

  7. oh did all that
    impressive....but then,I am old
    and can't imagine doing all that hiking now
    hee hee.....beautiful
    happy anniversary

    1. They have dunes for all ages and abilities! :-)

  8. Where is Great Sand Dunes National Park? It looks like a great place to explore!

    Glad your garden was in good shape upon your return. Our lettuce and peas are basically done - too many days above 85 or 90 already. Our tomatoes are almost ready to produce though, so I guess I shouldn't complain!

    1. Great Sand Dunes NP is in southern Colorado near Alamosa. Not too far for you to make a trip out.

      I think the pea vines are keeping my lettuce shaded some in the afternoon so it is hanging on a bit.

  9. Looks like a wonderful trip!! I would really enjoy all the hiking. .my hubby.. maybe not as much as yours :-) I'll bet the hummers were exciting to see in mass numbers. .and definitely gorgeous wildflowers on your trails!! Hope you get back into the swing of things at work/home this week!

    1. The hummers at the lodge were very fun. They kept chasing each other like little fighter jets.
      We usually hike in the fall. It was a nice treat to have spring wildflowers!
      I'm starting to dig out of the piles at home and at work. Spent some serious time in the garden today. All that rain made the weeds grow!!!


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