Sunday, April 16, 2017

Southwest: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

On Thursday, we went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. This park was actually the genesis of this entire trip. Back in 2001, I began working on a case concerning the Baca Ranch, in southern Colorado. The story is a long one, but at the point I entered into things, my client wanted the Baca Ranch (which was owned by an investment partnership for which my client was the funder) to be sold to the Nature Conservancy, which would in turn sell portions of it to the federal government, which would add the land to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and turn it into a national park. The Nature Conservancy signed a purchase agreement for the land in 2002, but due to various complications the deal did not close until fall 2004, by which point I had moved on to Google. When I joined Google, co-counsel in the Baca Ranch litigation gave me a guide book for the park. Sigrid decided we should finally make a trip out there to see the dunes.

The park is about 35 miles to the northeast of Alamosa. On our final approach to the park, we spotted these deer.

There are tremendous views pretty much everywhere along the way to the park, but this particular view is of the North Zapata Ridge in the Sangre de Cristo Range. This view is from the parking lot of the park visitor center. (This panorama, and the others below, can be viewed in much bigger form by clicking on it.)

This is the visitor center itself, with Mt. Herard off in the distance

There are many places you can go within the park, but we went to the dunefield. Here's a view of the dunes from the back of the visitor center.

The rangers had different junior ranger books for different ages. The boys started work immediately.

To get to the dunefield, you cross Medano Creek. If you come later in the season, there's more water, but even when we were there, there was enough to get your feet pretty wet.

Beyond the creek are the dunes. And they go on. And on.

We didn't make it that far into the dunefield. We didn't get to the High Dune ridge (699 feet tall), and certainly not to Star Dune (755 feet tall) beyond that, which is the highest point in the dunes. But things looked pretty good from where we were. Here are a couple of panoramas that together cover a 360° view.

Here's a spherical panorama of the dunes.

More dunes.

Make sure to pack water if you visit the dunes.

The boys spent a lot of time digging on the leeward side of one dune, where there was wet sand if you dug down a bit. When he dug down maybe a foot or so, Anders found snow!

Everything you do on the dunes disappears pretty quickly. Here, the winds quickly were covering some holes we dug.

We crossed the creek again to eat lunch. We found a stand of trees, where Anders spotted a porcupine! No quills visible, which apparently means it wasn't too concerned about us.

Another dune panorama, this time from the other side of the creek.

When we got back to the hotel, the boys went swimming, and then we ate dinner poolside.

Another Alamosa sunset. (Sigrid thinks this pic makes the movie theater look too pretty.)

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