Thursday, November 03, 2005

Alamosa, CO - Great "Windy" Sand Dunes

After hiking to Zapata Falls, we went back into the Sand Dunes. Our intent was to try to reach a different area of the Dunes, where the "Star Dunes" are located. But hiking in the dunes is more up and down then any lateral distance. And, once we got into the dunes the wind kicked up something fierce. We were sandblasted by sand particles til every orifice was filled - our ears, noses, mouths. I was crunching on sand everytime I spoke for hours after leaving the dunes. Thank goodness we had sunglasses on - because sand particles were thick on our cheeks rimming our glasses. But what a magnificent site to see (especially compared to the calm of yesterday). Sand flies straight off the ridgelines. It fills in your footsteps as you watch. The wind picks up the sand and makes swirling patterns as it cascades over, around, and up the dunes. When you're there on a windy day, you can almost see how these dunes were created. They are kept in the same area because the winds come from two different directions - southwest and northeast.
(I tried to post a short video so you could see the winds blow and hear the howl, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet!)

The other thing we hadn't anticipated on this trek through the dunes was the steep-sided dunes we came across - they all seemed to be this steep. Two had to be climbed on hands and knees, digging our fingers deep into the cold underlying sand to get a grip on something. We had to take a couple breaks along the way just to catch our breath.

But we felt that we had the best of both worlds. We played on a calm, sunny day and we played in the winds that have created these dunes. The Visitor Center had a wind gauge that showed the winds at 23mph, but they are down low in the valley and protected by the trees. The Rangers said that the winds are much stronger in the dunes, but didn't have a wind gauge to say how much so.


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