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Great Sand Dune National Park

Our next destination was the Great Sand Dunes National Park in eastern Colorado, a mere three-hour drive from Amarillo. Securing a campsite within walking distance of the dunes, we were poised to embrace this remarkable terrain. Upon arriving at the park’s entrance, the dunes towered above, their sandy hue in delicate contrast with the surrounding mountains’ deep brown. This region held a distinction as a dark sky location, a fact that stirred both the boys and me with anticipation. Even though we had reached the park late, enthusiasm fueled our readiness for adventure. We wasted no time, embarking on our first hike.

As the sun settled low on the horizon, its golden rays cast elongated shadows across the sandscape. Within a mere 15 minutes of beginning our hike, a stream appeared before us, blocking our path. The waterway stretched about 40 feet wide, its shallowness only measuring an inch or two.

We slipped off our shoes to feel the cool touch of a shallow waterway, its icy flow a welcome contrast to the sunbaked sand. The dunes rose like undulating waves before us, weaving their path like serpents toward the summit. Our target was to reach that peak by sunset, an aspiration that quickly proved more formidable than we had envisioned.

The sand was deep, and every step forward felt like two steps back as the persistent wind swirled around us. After half an hour’s trek, our progress was still modest at best. Yet, the sand’s temperature began to relent, maintaining its warmth but evolving into a more accommodating embrace. Finding our rhythm, we trudged ahead, pausing only for brief respites. With about an hour under our belts, we reached the pinnacle just as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. Seated atop the dune, we basked in the stunning panorama that enveloped us. The once fierce wind had now calmed, allowing us to savor our surroundings.

The descent proved far easier than our ascent. The boys reveled in taking giant leaps, spanning 10 to 15 feet at a time before landing in the cushion of deep sand. As we neared the base, stars began to twinkle overhead, and by the time we returned to our campsite, the Milky Way stretched across the sky in all its celestial brilliance.