Great Sand Dunes- May, 2016

On May 27th, 2016 I purchased my first DSLR camera which I now consider one of the best purchases of my life. A true passion was born. I had always had a love for the outdoors and had been attempting to take pictures on my phone, doing the best with what I had, but it just wasn't cutting it. For a long time I had been wanting to buy a camera and I finally saved up enough to purchase one. I bought a Canon Rebel T5. Just an entry level camera with your basic kit lens, but I was thrilled. When it came in the mail I was beyond excited and eager to try it out. Me and my girlfriend, Katie decided to go camping at the Great Sand Dunes National Park to try out the new camera.

We set out on the road and before we settled into our campsite we wanted to check out the UFO watchtower about 25 miles outside of the park. The UFO Watchtower is a viewing platform that was built because the owner, Judy had several neighbors see strange things and would come back to her ranch to try and spot any extra terrestrials. Unfortunately, we didn't see any aliens to photograph but it was a fun time nonetheless.

We moved on and began to set up our campsite for the night when we realized the tent we had rented from our university didn't come with tent stakes. It was a rookie mistake for sure but luckily the campsite sold them in there general store and everything worked out. The campsite we had certainly wasn't primitive but it had a nice pond with ducks and great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range to practice taking pictures of. We took photos of the sunset and of the ducks before heading off to bed, excited for the morning.

The next morning we woke up early and arrived at the Great Sand Dunes. I had been there once as a kid but with vague memories of the experience, I was eager to head out and make new memories. We grabbed our gear and enthusiastically headed out to hike the dunes. My eagerness was stopped dead in its tracks when my feet felt the crisp cold water of the Medano Creek. It was early summer so the water level was pretty high, reaching up to my ankles and lower calves at points. I managed to tip toe my way across the creek and we headed on our adventure up the dunes.

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We made our way up the steep sandy dunes. We spotted a high ridge and made that our goal, knowing that at the top would offer great views of the surrounding dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I certainly forgot how hard hiking in sand could be. For every step you take its like taking a half step back, and after a while this got very tiring. Not to mention how the dunes are surprisingly steep and as we went on it was getting hotter out. Nonetheless we kept on trekking and finally made it to the dune ridge. The views were amazing. All around us was beautiful mountain views and magnificent sand dunes that reached out further than i would have ever expected. It was a truly beautiful sight, so me and my girlfriend decided to stop and eat a snack while enjoying the views.

After spending as much time as we could, we had to head back down the dunes. By the time we reached Medano Creek, it had gotten so hot out that the sand was burning our feet and the cool water felt refreshing this time, but not for long. We cleaned off our feet the best we could of all the sand and mud and headed on our way. As we were leaving the park we saw miles and miles of cars stopped in line, filled with poor people waiting patiently to get inside the park. This reminded us the importance of waking up early and certainly made our early start worth it. We sped past all the cars and headed toward our next destination, Zapata falls.

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Zapata falls is beautiful waterfall a short distance outside of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It's a short hike and was extremely beautiful, but was unfortunately crowded beyond belief. That short hike to the falls was one of the most crowded hikes I had ever been on and it really took away from the experience. However i still enjoyed the adventure and it was a fun hike that i would love to do again at a less busy time. After hiking a short distance we made it to the stream and to see the waterfall you have to hike up the stream. Me being unprepared and not having waterproof shoes, I had to hop across logs and rocks while in the meantime dodging people to get to the falls. All of the stress and hassle was worth it though, as Zapata falls is certainly a beautiful and magnificent sight. After enjoying the views, me and my girlfriend hiked down and unfortunately, it was time to head home. We headed on the drive home and it felt good knowing that our trip was for the most part a success and our first camping trip of many as a couple was behind us.

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