Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It’s All Downhill from Here

Day 13, September 1, 2015

I was the last one awake this morning—Joe was up early, and it wasn’t until I heard Naama and Ben outside that I finally got up—it was already 9 a.m.! It got COLD last night—we needed an extra blanket, and Joe put the heater on before I got out of bed. It was 45 degrees outside and 55 degrees inside before that! But that’s why we came up here—to get away from the heat. It actually warmed up quite comfortably an hour or so later.

Joe was making biscuits before the rest of us were up and moving, so once again we at inside Sam—this time biscuits, scrambled eggs, and coffee/tea/milk. Naama was really quite enamoured of the RV by the end of our visit, but rather than agree to come home with us, she suggested that “RVs are for sharing,” which is a 3-year-old code which was very obvious to all of us. We cleaned up from breakfast, and then went for a walk to the end of the campground to the creek. It is really quite lovely, and as Joe said, the kind of place where, between the ages of 7 and 17, you couldn’t have kept him out of it! But finally it was time for Joe and I to leave and start heading east again. Ben, Miriam, Naama and Yael are lucky enough to not have to be home (in Denver) until about a week from now.

So we all hugged goodbye, and Joe and I headed back up the 15 miles of unpaved road. The drive seemed a little faster this time. Our ultimate goal for today was Great Sand Dunes National Park—we skipped seeing the Black Canyon of the Gunnison so that we could spend the time with our friends instead, and it was WELL worth it! I had gone over the map with both Ben and Miriam. There were three possible routes to take, but one turned off before the town of Gunnison. We felt we ought to buy gas before heading over more mountain roads, so we decided not to backtrack and headed east on US 50. We stopped at Curecanti National Recreation Area for lunch—it is a beautiful reservoir which goes on for miles, and we drove along its length after lunch. US 50 also took us over the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass, which is 11,312 feet. We stopped at the top, where there was a souvenir shop and a tramway to the top of the mountain.
It's all downhill from here!
In the end, however, although we were up there for quite a while (Joe needed a break from driving on the winding roads and I was in the gift shop, of course!), we skipped the tram before we finally headed “downhill” at about 4:45 pm.
After that we drove as quickly as we could south on US 285 and CO 17 (one of the emptiest roads we’ve traveled recently) until we reached the county road east toward Great Sand Dunes. We could see them for a quite a while, at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. We could also see what looked like a huge rainstorm over the mountains to the west of us as we drove through the valley. By the time we got to the park itself,
View at the Continental Divide
there were some clouds and the sun was starting to set. We got ourselves into a campsite in
the national park at 7:15, not long before the red of the sunset came through the rainstorm to the west.
Sand Dunes in the distance, at Dusk
Now we’re camped with a great view of the Great Sand Dunes. The campground is surprisingly full (although not completely), and the rain finally arrived here, although it’s not too heavy.  We are hoping to get an early start tomorrow and explore the park for a while before continuing on our way. We had sporadic cell service today, and of course absolutely none at Big Cimarron Campground last night, so it will be another day before I get this blog caught up on line.
Storm in the Distance

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