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.
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.
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.
In the middle part of the day, I 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.
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, I 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.
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.