After leaving the first stop on our road trip through Colorado, Arizona, and Utah - Rocky Mountain National Park - Max and I continued on to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. On the way there, we passed through the funky little historic town of Leadville, CO. At an elevation 10,152 ft, it is the highest incorporated city in the United States. Leadville was so scenic that we decided to stop there for lunch and for a quick walk around.
After leaving Leadville (and deciding that we had to return sometime to explore the town and surrounding area some more), we were back on the road again heading south for Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, where we would be camping at Piñon Flats Campground in the park for two nights. During our full day in the park, we hiked up to High Dune (699ft tall) and Star Dune (755ft tall) - twice! Both dunes are close to 9,000ft in elevation.
I had to really push myself the second time up. Unlike our cold and windy days in Rocky Mountain National Park, it was quite hot and dry here, with the sun reflecting off the sand. On the steep parts of the zig-zagging "trail" through the dunes, each step found me sliding a little bit back down as the soft sand gave way beneath each step. With my shoes loaded full of sand and feeling heavier and heavier, I had a few "I can't do this any more!" moments. But Max encouraged me to climb up to Star Dune a second time for sunset, and convinced two other people along the way that they had to make it up too. This view with this light.... worth it!
But the best thing to do in Great Sand Dunes is... play in the sand! We had fun laughing at each other's awkward running jumps into the sand, which ended with a "dooooomph!" sound on impact. Max's cannonball jump was the best! Next time we have to try the little-known sport of sandboarding.
Next stop: Black Canyon of the Gunnison.