Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO Bob Leverett
July 07, 2009


            Monica and I left Durango, Colorado on July 4 th , heading east.   After a long and rewarding stay, our time had come to return to Massachusetts. Neither of us was willingly ready to leave. We felt equally sad at leaving the wonderful new friends we had made in Durango, and also Rocky, the delightful little dog that we cared for (or better, the dog that took care of us). Next year we will return to Durango and stay longer. That is a certainty.

On planning our return trip, we had agreed to make several stopovers. The first was to be the Great Sand Dunes National Park – actually only three and a half hours from Durango. We both wanted to renew our connections to that extraordinary place, and this time, we were going to do it in style. Monica made a reservation for us at the tiny Oasis Motel, a short distance from the dunes.   The attachment entitled ‘OasisMotelCompressed’ shows the motel, and folks, I’m not playing a joke. What you see is the motel. Descriptive adjectives that come to mind include quaint, odd, unusual, small, tiny, etc. First reactions include - huh? The Oasis has just two suites. Two. No more. Ours was   the #1 suite and I'm mighty happy to categorically state: we were very pleased with it - especially after shelling out $110 for one night. Ouch!

              In addition to the usual room and bath space, the #1 suite included a large enclosed outer room that had picture windows on three sides. The windows give visitors unimpeded views of the sand dunes and the surrounding superlative scenery.   To our initial surprise, the outer room was entirely empty except for a white table and chairs.   There were no wall decorations or other furniture. At first sight, the outer room seemed disquietingly bare. But then we realized that it supposed to be. The owners were making a point.   If you visit the dunes and are given accommodations where you can see those ever shifting piles of sand from large picture windows, but feel the need for the usual motel type décor, then maybe you don’t need to be visiting the dunes in the first place. The dunes and views of the Sangres ARE the room decorations.

While we rested at the Oasis, a series of extraordinary scenes unfolded for Monica and me as we gazed through the spacious windows and strolled outside to secure even more expansive views. The scenes we witnessed require more artistic descriptive abilities than I possess. However,   Providence has blessed me with a digital camera, requiring minimal skills to operate. The remaining six attachments provide hints to what we saw. But before describing the scenes in the attachments, I wish to point out that to my mind, the dunes can be experienced in 6 distinct ways. 

1. The first order of experience is the recreational one. The laughter of children is ample testament the joy that the dunes can bring.  Watching the young ones jump, slide and tumble down the dunes, play in Medano Creek, and build sandcastles in the wet sand, reminds those of us in our senior years that youth is a state of mind.  One amused parent described the dunes as a 33-square-mile sandbox.

2. The second, more adult, recreational experience is physical: to walk on them, explore them, and to pit one's muscles against the shifting sands as one climbs to the high points  - one step forward, two back.

3. The third way to experience the dunes is to study them and try to understand the processes that formed them and appreciate their unique ecology. This is a higher order right brain experience.

4. The fourth way is to appreciate their artistic beauty, their many moods, to come to know them aesthetically, and perhaps try to capture some of their essence in words, photographs, paintings, and music.

5. The fifth way is to connect with them spiritually. This may be a difficult process depending on ones belief system and background, but the Great Sand Dunes represent a higher order vibrational place that speaks to us in personal ways that I can only think of as spiritual.

6. The sixth and best way is the combination of all the above. I believe that one cannot truly come to know the dunes without this full range of experiences. 

 And with these beliefs expressed, Monica and I now present the images.  

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‘OasisMotelCompressed’ shows the motel, and folks, I’m not playing a joke. What you see is the motel. Descriptive adjectives that come to mind include quaint, odd, unusual, small, tiny, etc.

    SangresSouth Compressed.jpg
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SangresSouthCompressed: This image was taken before the light began to fade. It looks south and east toward the crest of the Sangre de Cristos.   The foreground vegetation is mostly sage and grass. A few forbs and cacti put on color displays throughout the spring and summer.

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BloodOfChristCompressed: As the sun began to set, we were treated to one dazzling display after another. Looking to the southeast into the Sierra Blanca massif, the sun reflects off a peak. The scene reminded us why the mountains were named the Sangre de Cristo Mountains by the Spaniards.

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HerardCompressed: Looking to the north, the great bulk of 13,294-foot Mount Herard dominates that part of the horizon. It rises abruptly without foothills from an altitude of 8,000 feet – a vertical mile of mountain.

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MonicaCompressed: This image shows Monica in the parking area. The direction is to the south.

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nterplayCompressed:   As the evening wore on, Monica and I were treated to a spectacular display of light reflecting off clouds, mountains, sand, and sage. The sharp peaks on the horizon include four fourteeners topped by 14,294-foot Crestone Peak - one of the last fourteeners to be climbed in Colorado.

173K View Download

SpillingCloudsCompressed: The final image I’ll send shows a cloudbank spilling over Mosca, Medina, and Music Passes. I was reminded of the seas of clouds I used to admire in the central mountains of Taiwan.

         Monica and I have much, much more to share with you on the sand dunes, but rather than put everyone into overload mode, we’ll take it event at a time.


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