We woke up excited to get to Great Sand Dunes National Park, it was our first long stay, no more setting up the R-Pod at night and packing it away again in morning. We headed west into a gusty wind with our hopes high. It didn’t take long for them to be brought back down. As we battled wind on Highway 10 our gas gauge dropped quicker than expected. Much quicker. We were on a desolate stretch of highway headed for Walsenburg Colorado… we didn’t make it. The truck died going up-hill. “I’m not sure what’s happening! I can’t move the steering wheel!” Tara said looking over at me. I felt slightly panicked but knew what the problem was. “Well coast as far as you can and try to find a spot to pull off.”Luckily we made it down the hill and had a little room on the side of the road. As I considered our options I remembered we had the generator in the back that we use for “boondocking” or camping places off the grid. Tara made a funnel out of a paper plate and I hoisted it up emptying what fuel was left into the makeshift funnel. It was quite the sight. We hopped back on the road with gas soaked hands and a lot of wishful thinking. Miraculously, we cruised our way in to Walsenburg 10 miles later.
We arrived at San Louis State Wildlife Area, which used to be a State Park, located 10 miles southwest of Great Sand Dunes National Park. Due to budget issues the Colorado State Wildlife Agency took over the park from the state and changed half of the park to a protected nesting area for migratory species. They left the campground alone allowing campers to stay in the park by purchasing a Colorado Wildlife pass for $36. Not a bad price to stay four nights with electric hook up!
We considered just hanging in the camper and taking it easy our first night due to our long day on the road but when you live for adventure, that’s not an option. We looked up a short hike not far from our campground. It was called Zapata Falls and man was it worth it! At the end of bumpy, rocky, forest road was the campground and trail head. It was only a short half mile hike to the falls, high elevation snow melt cut through a canyon with a deafening roar. The canyon was still coated with ice on the sides and the clearness of the water made the stones in the stream shimmer. We walked through the canyon to catch a glimpse at the waterfall cascading down. After soaking it all in for awhile we returned to the homey R-Pod with renewed spirits.
We spent the next three days exploring the Dunes. They are really an environmental oddity. At the base of the dunes there is a stream that runs down from the San De Cristo Mountain Range dividing the dunes from the mountain range. The stream circles the dunes and acts as a divide between the desert, the dune field, and the mountain range behind them. Each area provides its own ecosystem with different plants and wildlife all within the same park.
Olive LOVED the sand dunes, she has always been a big fan of sand and it seemed the huge piles of it were a bit of a “sensory overload.” When we hiked the dunes/stream area on our first trip over she sprinted in circles and her tail never stopped wagging. We did a few different hikes in the area in hopes of wearing her down a little bit. We prevailed. Since Olive was in desperate need of sleep and rest we left her in the air conditioned camper to pass out while we went up into the dunes, where dogs are not allowed.
While she slept like a baby, we went to the rental shop to grab some sand boards. Sand boarding is a lot like snowboarding, except there are no lifts, and sand is stickier. We headed out across the dunes, boards in hand. The higher we climbed the more windy it seemed to be. By the time we strapped the boards on it was like we were trapped in a desert tornado. Sand was stinging our backs and pelting all exposed skin. We strapped the boards to our feet and rode down the dune practically blind. We both hit the deck filling our clothes with sand. We got some good pictures of our attempt and decided to call it a day. I guess we can check that one off the bucket list, needless to say we think we will stick to snowboarding.
After getting all the sand out of every nook and cranny of our body we packed up the little R-Pod we call home and headed westward. We have found that it isn’t always going to be rainbows and butterfly’s, but at least if the three of us stick together, there will always be better times. Life is about the ups and downs, the good times and the bad. It’s making it through the bad, and basking in the good. We are only a few weeks into this adventure and we have already learned a lot. More experiences will follow, both good and bad but we will handle them together, and keep moving forward.