Sand in Our Hair, July 2007

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

• Driving day: I Spent the night in Alamosa, Colorado.

• High Dune and Zapata Falls

I spent the morning hiking the dunes, including high-pointing the park at High Dune. I had a hot lunch at my camp site, then napped in my tent through a thunderstorm.

I drove a few miles south of the park to Zapata Falls for a short hike. I could have hiked farther if I had anticipated an extended, fully-wet crossing, but it was still a good jaunt.

Butterfly and wildflowers, Zapata Falls
Butterfly and wildflowers, Zapata Falls

• Mosca Pass, San Luis, Medano Creek

I made an early-morning hike up Mosca Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains Wilderness just east of the park.

Wildflowers, Mosca Pass Trail
Wildflowers, Mosca Pass Trail

I made this hike in 2004, but this time I intended to high point at the pass at 10,000 feet. I was turned back by the same thing that turned me back last time: poison ivy. It’s rare to see it above 5000 feet, but I have gotten pretty good at identifying it these last few years, and I’m sure it was poison ivy. It completely blocked the trail. I reported it to the park rangers.

Interior, San Luis Mission Church
Interior, San Luis Mission Church

In the middle part of the day, drove to the town of San Luis, where I photographed an exquisite Spanish Mission which featured bronze statues of the Stations of the Cross. It was the pride of the town.

Later in the afternoon, I hiked southeast along Medano Creek, which is one of the key features of Great Sand Dunes. Along the popular dunes area, the creek is nearly 100 yards wide in places, but never more than a few inches deep. It flows southwest out of the mountains, and some miles downstream simply disappears into the sand. I followed it in both directions. The hike southwest wasn’t more than a few miles, and I was entirely alone.

Medano Creek
Medano Creek

• Driving East

Saw several excellent and entertaining things on the road.

I jogged west to U.S. 285 to cross into New Mexico so I could see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At Tres Pierdras, New Mexico, we encountered a very unusual art gallery, painted bright pink. I was greeted by loud but friendly dogs. The owner, who had the bushiest eyebrows I have ever seen on a human, said we were welcome to take pictures, then disappeared without another word.

Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery, Tres Piedras, New Mexico.
Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery, Tres Piedras, New Mexico.
World's Nest house near Taos, New Mexico
World’s Nest house near Taos, New Mexico

As we approached the Gorge Bridge, I noticed that the EarthShip-style houses I had seen before along this highway seemed to have grow bigger and more complex. I took a chance and pulled into the “main” one. I was greeted by a man named Charles Shultz, who without hesitation gave us an hour-long tour of the place, called the “World’s Nest.”

Continued to last stop, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos, New Mexico, which I have seen several times, including on the Vanishing Point tour in 2001.

Additional images:

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos, New Mexico
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos, New Mexico
Abandoned House and Barbed Wire, San Luis Valley, Colorado.
Abandoned house and barbed wire, San Luis Valley, Colorado.
Stanley Marsh's Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.
Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.
Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.
Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.
Concrete highway dividers, southern Colorado.
Concrete highway dividers, southern Colorado.
The dunes field of Great Sand Dunes with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance.
The dunes field of Great Sand Dunes with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance.
The dunes field of Great Sand Dunes in late afternoon light.
The dunes field of Great Sand Dunes in late afternoon light.
Morning at Great Sand Dunes.
Morning at Great Sand Dunes.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, the oldest church in Colorado.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, the oldest church in Colorado.
Antique cotton gin on display, southern Colorado.
Antique cotton gin on display, southern Colorado.
Medano Creek at Great Sand Dunes in evening light.
Medano Creek at Great Sand Dunes in evening light.
Medano Creek in subdued light.
Medano Creek in subdued light.
On the Mosca Pass trail, San Isabel National Forest.
On the Mosca Pass trail, San Isabel National Forest.
On the Mosca Pass trail.
On the Mosca Pass trail.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Mosca Pass trail.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Mosca Pass trail.
Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery, Tres Piedras, New Mexico.
Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery, Tres Piedras, New Mexico.
Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery.
Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery.
Cross, Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery.
Cross, Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery.
Self portrait in broken mirror, Old Pink Schoolhouse.
Self portrait in broken mirror, Old Pink Schoolhouse.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos, New Mexico.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos, New Mexico.
San Luis Mission and Shrine, San Luis, Colorado.
San Luis Mission and Shrine, San Luis, Colorado.
Bronze Station of the Cross, San Luis Mission and Shrine.
Bronze Station of the Cross, San Luis Mission and Shrine.
Interior, San Luis Mission and Shrine.
Interior, San Luis Mission and Shrine.
San Luis Mission and Shrine.
San Luis Mission and Shrine.
The sun sets on Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
The sun sets on Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.