Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Never Say Never in the Great Sand Dunes


The morning after our evening slog on the Great Sand Dunes,
the smell of fresh coffee woke me.
I was still wiped out and discouraged from my failure
to reach High Dune the evening before,
and I did not want to move from under my comfy covers.
I tried pretending I was still asleep, but there was no fooling Terry.

"The light is beautiful," he said, whipping the curtains open.

I was out of bed faster than a five-year-old on Christmas morning
and racing for my camera and the back patio of our lodge room.

Terry was right!  The morning light enhanced
the spectacular topography of the dunes beautifully.



Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
San Luis Valley, South Central Colorado
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We sat on our little patio drinking our coffee, enjoying the quiet,
and watching the antics of the competitive hummingbirds.
Caffeine slowly revived me as we lingered.


A Simple Breakfast
Great Sand Dunes Lodge
San Luis Valley, South Central Colorado
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Frisky Hummers
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Relaxation
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Finally Terry suggested we head over to the park
and try for High Dune again while it was early and cool.
He had just read that zigzagging up the dune ridges was easier,
and we needed to tackle them before the day heated up.
So we packed up water and oranges and headed out.


Heading Back into the Park
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A Muley on the Move
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Before I knew it, I was confronting yesterday's challenge,
the lower dune summit that we had floundered straight up.


Straight Up Is Definitely Not the Easy Route!
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We crossed shallow Medano Creek and headed across
the flat sands stretching to the base of the dunes.

"We'll take it slow," Terry said.  "It's only 8:30.  
"We can stop and rest as much as we need."


Breathtaking, Inviting Beauty
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Looking Back at the Flat Sands and Lower Dunes
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An encouraging thing happened as we worked up the ridge.
I realized that I wasn't the only one stopping to rest and catch a breath.
It was tough going for a lot of people.
In fact, I was one of the oldest people climbing up the ridge.


A Sinuous Dune Ridge
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Terry, the Best Sport in the World!
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Subtle Beauty ~ Wind-Sorted Grains
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The sand kept moving under my feet,
but at least I wasn't sliding six inches backward
with each step forward.
I quickly figured out that, just like in snow,
it was easier to step in others' footsteps
because breaking trail is tiring.

Gradually I began to believe that I could do it
that I could actually make it to the top of High Dune.

"I'm going to make it to the top, if it takes me all day!"
I exclaimed to Terry during one rest stop.


Catching a Breather
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Catching a Breather
Musts for Safe Dune Climbing:
hat, sunglasses, bandana (to cover your face if the wind comes up), protective clothing
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Been There!  Done That!
Skipping Last Night's Summit
Saving My Energy for High Dune
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The dunes were unlike anything I've experienced ~
otherworldly,
eggshell white against the deep blue sky,
sugary and hot underfoot, 
sweltering in sheltered pockets,
refreshingly cool along knife edges,
and absolutely silent beyond the crowds.


Terry Presses On ~
I'm usually trailing to take photos.
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The Summit:  So Close, So Steep, So Far
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A Tough, Slip-Sliding Slog
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Well into our second hour of climbing,
the heat was building and radiating off the sand.
I truly began to appreciate the park warnings
about starting early, carrying lots of water,
and wearing closed-toe footgear and a hat.

It was exhausting, and I stopped frequently to rest.
I was going to make it to the top ~ Nothing was going to stop me.


Tough Going ~ Especially When ...
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A Hissing Ten-Lined June Beetle
Hitched a Ride and Fought to Hang On ...
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As Terry and I drew closer to the top,
a father and his young son caught up to me.

While Terry lunged ahead,
we three were taking four or five slip-sliding steps
at a time, side-by-side,
then stopping to catch our breath.

"I can't do this," said the kid.

"Yes, you can," said the dad.

"I want to go back," said the kid.

"I want to, too," the dad gasped to me in a whisper.

"I'm getting to the top, if I have to crawl up," I managed.

"You can do it," said the dad.

"So can you,"  I replied.

They slowly pulled ahead, but we all kept going.


A Final Rest Near the Top
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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As we scrambled up the last few steps to a saddle
that led to the top and stood ~
!@#$%^!  ~  
We realized it was a false summit.


Give Me a !@#$%^ Break!
The Real Summit of High Dune off in the Distance
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My heart sank when I looked off and saw how much farther we had to go!
But when I looked around at the vast dune field, it soared!


The Dunes Spread Out Against the Sangre de Cristo Range
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The Last Steep Climb Before the Hike Leveled Out
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As we climbed up the sand saddle,
the narrow ridge with its drop-offs became unnerving.

"This is starting to freak me out," said Terry.
"I really don't like heights."

"Don't look anywhere but your next step," I said.  
"And don't talk about heights!"

My head was woozy, and the steep slopes pulled at me.
I've been fighting acrophobia my whole life,
and I felt like I was teetering on the tip of a needle.
Next step.  Next step.
And suddenly ~ We reached the false summit!


Terry Cheers, While Father and Son Take a Selfie
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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We were not stopping now!
We forged on.


The End Is in Sight!
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The Dune Field Is Magnificent
and Contains Unexpected Pockets of Green life
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Terry Gingerly Heads for the Top of High Dune
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The Dunes Spread Out in All Directions
The San Juan Mountains Border the San Luis Valley in the Far Distance
While the Sangre de Cristo Mountains Bound the Near Side 
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Terry Stands at the Top of High Dune,
one of the highest in the park.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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It's hard to believe we reached the top!
The ridge was so narrow and high, 
that we wouldn't stand together at the end.

And sitting down was out of the question,
because the thought of trying to stand up
on the sandy tip was too scary. 

With both of us unsteady with the height,
we could barely wiggle past each other,
so I could walk to the summit.

The wind was gusting, and we had to hang on to our hats.
We felt like we were alone in the world.

I cautiously crept out to the end,
and gazed at the alien beauty in every direction.


The View from the Tip of High Dune
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Yes!!!!!
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Now all we had to do was get down.


Heading Back
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Down and Down
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The return trip was a whole different experience!
We stuck to the ridges because of their firmer footing,
but we bounded along the steeper portions in giant steps.

We stopped at one high spot for a snack,
ripping into sweet, juicy oranges with our teeth.


A Great Spot for a Snack
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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Down and Down
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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And Down
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Sand Sledders and Sand Boarders on the Lower Dunes
Maybe Next Time!
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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What a relief it was to reach Medano Creek
and stick our hot bare feet in its cool running water.
We were exhausted, but exhilarated.

There is no real trail to the top of High Dune.
You just strike out across the sand toward
the highest point visible from the main parking lot
by whatever route you choose.

The average hiking time for the trip
to and from High Dune is two hours.
The distance is about 2.5 miles,
depending on how much you ramble on the dunes.
You'll gain 699 feet of elevation
and stand at 8,691 feet above sea level at the summit.



Medano Creek
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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So what if it took us 3½ hours?
Thanks to Terry's encouragement,
we made it together.

Never say never!
I haven't peaked!
I'm not on the long downhill slide!



Medano Creek
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
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20 comments:

  1. What a beautiful and magnificent place, Louise! Your photos are gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour, my cherished friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are always so affirming, Linda, and I truly appreciate it! I'm burning the midnight oil playing catch up! Some things never change ~ LOL Have a great day tomorrow! Sending you love and hugs!

      Delete
  2. Medano Creek, what a welcome it gave you, The little red trolley, the doggies, and your beetle hitching a ride, what an experience. Bravery in spades!!!! Love the photos and the commentary along the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nancy! It was an experience to remember always! That beetle was dogged in its determination to stay on my hat. Terry, who always rescues me from bugs, spent about five minutes dislodging the hissing beetle. I'm not sure who was unhappier, the beetle or Terry. I'm glad that you enjoyed the post! Have a lovely day! Hugs to you and Hugh!

      Delete
  3. You made it! Zigzagging was a great idea.
    Some amazing shots from your journey up and back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex. You have probably realized that I love photography almost as much as writing. Not that I'm a professional or have a complicated camera. I love my point-and-shoot Canon, which was in my right hand throughout the hike. By the time I was coming down, I had to push back the built in lens cover with my fingers each time I took a photos because sand had gotten into the moveable lens part. My camera was limping along anyway ~ I'm due for a new one after beating this one up for two or three years ~ LOL

      I'm listening to Ayreon right now. I've told you that I enjoy it several times before ~ but, I REALLY love it. When I get back from Nova Scotia, I'm going to have to get more of Ayreon's albums! Have a great day, my friend!

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  4. Congratulations, Louise and Terry! YOU HAVE TRIUMPHED!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG, Debra! It was a challenge. Terry and I had to rest in our car seats for about five minutes before Terry had the energy to start the car and I could pull the door shut. I managed to make PBJ sandwiches back at our lodge room. We devoured them, staggered through showers, and fell into bed to sleep the afternoon away. One of the best days of my life! One more day to go to the weekend! Have a great day!

      Delete
  5. Sure lots of awesome shots. Congrats on making it up too. Shows what determination can surely do. I kind of snickered as you went all $%#%#% at the fake one lol but laughing with you, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laughing with each other always, Pat! Thanks for your kind words. Have a great day, my friend!

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  6. great shots especially the hummingbirds

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Adam. I'm going to find out a lot more about them. They are fascinating birds, and I have so many questions. I saw my first hummer when I was six. I had gone to bed with a tooth under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy. The sun was setting outside my bedroom window and the Tooth Fairy flew up to my window and hovered outside it. I was beyond excited and called to my mother that the Tooth Fairy had arrived. She came running, of course, and had to explain to me that it was a male hummingbird. But what a moment! LOL Then she told me that I had better get to sleep, because the real fairy wouldn't come while I was awake. Have a good one, my friend. Say "Hi" to Daisy for me!

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  7. Congratulations! How wonderful to be with someone who provides encouragement, and I don't just mean Terry.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Janie! Encouragement during the tough spots means so much! Have a lovely evening!

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  8. Way to go! How exciting. Wear your badge of achievement with pride :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Martha! Reaching the summit of High Dune has really invigorated me! Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that yes you can when you think you can't. I hope that you and George have a great weekend together. Sending you a big hug!

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  9. Congratulations, Louise and Terry!!! I am so proud and happy for the both of you! I can't even imagine doing this!! WOW!!

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  10. Thanks, Stacy! It's an extraordinary place for a rock hound like me. I was driven to get to the top, because I always want to see around the next corner, get to the deepest or highest point, the tips of things, lands end, the next island ~ You name it. Terry was driven because he knew how much I wanted to reach the top of High Dune, and he was there to encourage me (also to make sure I didn't get into trouble of some sort). When we got back to our lodge room after climbing, we managed quick showers and PBJ sandwiches before collapsing into bed. The great adventurers slept the afternoon away ~ LOL But what a marvelous day! Wishing you a great day today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet you slept well! LOL! For sure it was a marvellous day!

      Delete
  11. You made it! Zigzagging was a great idea.
    Some amazing shots from your journey up and back.


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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.