As I mentioned in my last post, over the weekend my boyfriend and I were celebrating our 3-year anniversary. On Sunday we joined our dear friends Matt and Chris who were celebrating their 3-year anniversary too! We all met up at The Great Sand Dunes National Park which is an incredible place to visit.
There’s nowhere really quite like The Great Sand Dunes. They’re the tallest sand dunes in North America, but I think what makes them even more unique is they look so random! It’s not that you find them in the middle of a desert, they’re actually surrounded by snow capped mountains, grasslands and some pine forests. The dunes were created over thousands of years by wind carrying sand from mountain streams and lake beds and then dumping it in this area because the wind couldn’t make it over the mountain range…at least that’s how it worked according to my understanding.
We set up a nice little picnic when we first got there. It was a a bit challenging/hilarious with how windy it was. Sand. Was. Everywhere. After lunch we went adventuring in the dunes.
It’s hard to get an idea of how HUGE these dunes are through pictures. For reference: all those little dots in the background are people. My boyfriend was our fearless leader who was intent on climbing to the tallest peak which you can see just to the right of him at the top of the photo.
Imagine walking up a very steep Stairstepper…but anytime you take a step, your feet sinks into the ground and you kinda slide backwards. That’s what it’s like to hike up the sand dunes.
We took a few breaks before making it all the way to the top, which was fine with me because then I could take selfies with little Harvey who joined us for the adventure.
It was so rewarding making it to the top, because there were only a few other people who made the trek that far too. Even then, there was still dunes on dunes on dunes behind us!
That’s the view looking back into the park. Judging by the lack of footprints you can see not too many people journey on farther that this. But with how windy it was, any footprints in the distance could have been wiped away so who knows!
There’s the view from the other side, and Harvey catching his breath but still looking as photogenic as ever.
Suffering through the sweaty, sand blasted, lung exploding hike up the sand dunes was soo worth it for this moment: getting to run down them! It’s so steep but even if you fall, you’re not going to get hurt. It’s a funny feeling since you sink in with every step, but then you’re moving so fast downhill you just get propelled forward anyways. We all were laughing so much by the time we hopped down this first dune.
Another unique part of the Sand Dunes is the creek flowing near it. After hiking in hot sand while barefoot, it was such a treat to splash around.
Luckily for us, the weekend we were there was when Medano Creek was experiencing a “historic surge flow.” The creek starts as snowfields in the mountains, then melts into a lake which then flows through meadows and forests before going past the dunes. The surge flow meant that there were a lot of waves. Several small kiddos brought floaties and were riding the small waves, it was pretty cute.
Next up was a stop at one of those bizarre but super interesting roadside attractions you see on road trips: The Colorado Gator Farm! I have literally never heard of this place until a year or so ago when Matt told me about it. It’s near the Sand Dunes so it was a must to go visit it (at least Matt and I thought so haha).
One of the first things you can do is hold an alligator. No matter what this picture looks like, we were not feeding Harvey to the gator! And, yes, I did get a certificate of bravery for holding this guy. He even gave it a stamp of approval via biting down on the paper. He was way heavier than he looks.
In the indoor part there were several tanks and exhibits with different reptiles, but there were also these tortoises just wandering around bumping into people. They were so funny.
Once you got outside, that’s where all the gators were chilling in different habitats they have set up. We kept hearing stories about how some alligators would fight or kill others if they were in the same area but then would get along with only certain specific others. Very temperamental those gators…
I loved seeing all the gators wandering around! The alligator who was in Happy Gilmore (and several other movies) now lives there too which is pretty cool.
The funniest part of this visit was this Emu mama (dad? I’m not sure which) getting really upset at Harvey across the fence. It was likely just protecting that little baby emu, but either way it did not like having Harvey around. Jealous of his cuteness perhaps?
After the gator farm S. and I checked into the Winsor Hotel in downtown Del Norte which was renovated from a historic building. We all grabbed dinner at a brewery downtown before Matt gave us a tour of some of his family’s old homes around town. It was so special to hear about his family’s history in that community and see the places where he spent time as a little kid.
A great anniversary spent with some amazing people!