The Hardest Hike We’ve Ever Done // Great Sand Dunes National Park

2 hours South of Colorado Springs and 5 hours South of Denver, we found our next Boodockers Welcome stay in Fort Garland, Colorado.

What seemed like the middle of nowhere to us, ended up being another perfect little nook of the world. It was hard to ignore this beautiful, enormous, huge, gigantic mountain in our face as we reached our destination. Devon and I agreed that maybe it seemed so big because there was nothing in between us and the mountain. In Denver, there was at least a good stretch of buidings, cities, natural landscapes, etc. before the mountain range. Here, it was just you and the mountain.

After a great first stay in the Boondockers Welcome membership system, our nerves had disappeared as we arrived at our next one.

Instructions online told us to contact Ken, our next host, as we neared his road…

5 miles down some incredibly bumpy dirt roads later, pictured in the video above, we pulled up to Ken and his wife waving us into their driveway.
Smiles as big as that mountain I mentioned, they helped us get situated in a pull-in lot next to their garage.
As we talked and set up our RV, we quickly realized how much we felt like a reflection of them. They too had been all over in their RV, except theirs was a Mountain Aire that eventually turned into a Dutch Star…

Don’t know what those are? I highly encourage you to look ’em up.

Anyways,

We took the rest of the afternoon to regroup and rest; I think I worked on getting a blog out that day. But most importantly, we came up with a plan for visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park.
ANOTHER ALARM.
This one was set for 4AM. It was a struggggggle to get up that early for the 2nd morning in a row, but again, we knew it’d be worth it.

Unfortunately, we had an hour drive to get to the Park… and with no other signs of civilization, it was prettyyy dark out there… The closer we got, we were starting to see the outlines of the mountains and suddenly…
the dunes.

Known to others as the High Dune Trail, commence The Hardest Hike We’ve Ever Done… and, spoiler alert, we didn’t even do the whole thing.
We got to what we thought was “high enough” and had a blast of a morning as all of the colors changed around us.
We started at 5:30, and scrambled to get to the top in time for sunrise.
Here’s how that went:

5:31 AM

5:41 AM… Finally made it across the flat sand…

5:41 AM

5:52 AM… Ohhhh, so this was climbing straight up a sand dune feels like…

5:52 AM

5:54 AM… Starting to feel the pressure against the sun rising…

5:54AM

6:01 AM… Also feeling the pressure of my legs BURNING… Devon made it to our version of the top…

I was still fighting the climb…

6:01AM

6:09 AM… But ya see… This incline was fighting me back… Every step your foot sank in more and more from how soft the sand was.

6:09AM
6:10 AM

6:11 AM… ALMOST. THERE.

6:11AM

By 6:16, we had by all accounts, “made it”.

6:16AM

We made it for a somewhat cloudy sunrise and what we thought was the pinnacle of the morning:

What actually was the pinnacle of the morning:

6:47 AM

I know I’ve said this before and it’s one of the few things that keeps me going on hikes like these:
But the good thing about out and back hikes that are straight up, is that going back is straight down.
I took a few steps before realizing how much better it would feel on feet.

I couldn’t recommend anything better. Especially considering how much sand I got in my shoes…

Instagram
Reality

What an amazing feeling that hike was. I don’t know when it hit me that we didn’t do the whole thing,
but let me tell ya, I didn’t care.

I pushed myself pretty hard to get to the top of where we did get for the sunrise and the view was absolutely worth it, I didn’t need to go any farther.

Every single color of the landscape changed in a matter of minutes.

It is to this date, Sept. 2nd, still the hardest hike we’ve done. My calves hurt just thinking about it again.

We finally started to see other people around 7AM. Can you see them all?

I would also like to note that my friend, Freaba, did this hike with her siblings a couple weeks after I was there and they DID do the whole thing. She told me afterwards that she kept telling herself, “Jordan did this…” to push herself to the top of High Dune.

………..oops, gotcha sis! but on the plus side, YOU DID IT!!! YAY YOU!!!!!

And if you’re part of this elite club that has made it to High Dune, give yourself a pat on the back because I KNOW that was hard.

As we left, it really was hard to grasp where we were…

Even as I think about it now, it still makes NO sense that these are just…
there.
As you look across the horizon you see mountains, mountains, mountains, and then suddenly these

Great (HUGE) Sand Dunes.

I took a couple different videos because the presence of these dunes simply does not make sense no matter which way you look at it.

We went home that morning TIRED. I seriously think we went to bed around 7 that evening.

When we got up that next day, absolutely well-rested, we went up to Ken’s house to let him and his wife know we’d be heading out shortly. Remember how I said we were a reflection of them? What was supposed to have been a short conversation, ended up being easily an hour. The moment we walked up to their cabin, there were hummingbirds all over the feeders at the front door. Ken and his wife, I really think her name was Carol, were wildlife photographers and had found this piece of paradise as a place to be when they’re not in Texas. Heads of deer and elk hung on the walls, alongside some their OUTSTANDING images of foxes, bears, and mountain lions. Carol walked us into her front viewing room and I just about fell over.

They had a window the size of the wall and that looked straight out to that big beautiful mountain I love.

And a couch just a few steps back making for the perfect place to sit and watch something that wasn’t a TV.

I wanted to take a picture so bad, but how do you take a picture inside someone else’s home?

This picture will absolutely not do it justice, but relatively,

just imagine this is out your front window just like this, except no road, all grass.

and closer.

We talked about everything under the sun before letting them get back to their day.

As we left, I did stop to take a video of the humming birds. Carol said they would typically see 60 at any given time, but they hadn’t been as active this year.

Uhhhhh, I’m good with just seeing these 3-5 at once.

and yep, that’s them that you hear making that noise!


This stop far exceeded our expectations…

I can’t believe we climbed a Sand Dune, thought we did the whole thing and didn’t.

But you know what that means…

“When We Come Back,”

who wants to come hike up to High Dune with us?

Next stop takes us to Mesa Verde National Park.

And our first FREE dispersed camping site!!!!

FOR REAL THIS TIME.

Until then,

j&d

4 thoughts on “The Hardest Hike We’ve Ever Done // Great Sand Dunes National Park

  1. Jordan –
    Wonderful photos & write up about the sand dunes. We have been there, I didn’t make it to the top either. It was in the summer, so add hot sun to the mix.
    Enjoy Mesa Verde, it’s really an interesting park.

    Liked by 1 person

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