– Dumas, Texas to Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado –
Ah, sleep. It’s so nice to sleep in, even a little. We’ve been up at 5am all week long, since we had a lot going on, and after getting to the hotel at 11pm last night, we were sorely in need of some extra rest. We slept until 7:30, and lounged in bed until 8, when we really needed to get up and get a move on.
Our La Quinta had a nice breakfast, with warm scrambled eggs and biscuits. It’s a very nice La Quinta there in Dumas, and looks pretty new. We had a king suite, and could’ve probably fit 6 people in the room comfortably (not that we would want to). With breakfast out of the way, we showered and packed up, but instead of taking everything down to the truck, we made a detour.
As we were quite busy this week, we didn’t have time to run to the store for any snacks or drinks, so our food tub and cooler were pretty light on stuff. In fact, all we had in the cooler was mayonnaise and mustard. You might recognize that as not particularly helpful. So, we drove across the street to Walmart and stocked up on snacks, drinks, breakfast items, and fruits. Ripley waited patiently for our return in the hotel room in her crate.
In the end, with the late rise, the grocery trip, and the late packing we didn’t make it out of there until almost 10am. Since our day really only included 6 hours of driving, that was perfectly fine. If you’ve followed along with us before, you’ll know that is not something that we do very often. We are usually up quite early to run and on the road before 9.
Between Dumas and Clayton, we didn’t stop for much beyond gas stations and bathroom breaks. In Clayton, we had our lunch. Mark took us to his favorite little grocery store there, which you might remember from our trip to Black Mesa. They make green chile poppers there, and Mark doesn’t seem able to resist their siren call.
He had those, and we both had sub sandwiches from the Love’s Travel Stop, though I had mine with chips. They were surprisingly good, considering the source. I was a little apprehensive, but our other options were Subway and Sonic, and Sonic is terrible for us and we are so burned out on Subway it isn’t even funny. Thus, Love’s subs. And they were fine. Mark that down for your future travels, ladies and gentlemen.
From Clayton, we did something a little different for this trip. Instead of going up through Raton Pass as we usually would, we drove a bit more through New Mexico, heading over to Springer, then Cimarron.
It was an interesting weather day. It was mostly hot, over 85 pretty much everywhere, but it was still raining in little patches along the road, especially near the mountains. We never ran into any real rain, just enough rain to be interesting. It seemed unusual to me at first, but Google tells me that August is the rainy season around here. I wouldn’t have guessed that.
Between Cimmaron and Eagle Nest, we drove through Cimarron Canyon State Park. The park occupies about an 8-mile stretch of the canyon bottom, which is of course home to the Cimarron River. It’s a pretty little park, and it runs right along the road, so there’s no need to really turn off to far to see what it has to offer.
A particularly striking feature is what’s called the Palisades Sill. That’s what is in the featured image at the top of the page. It’s basically a big, jagged wall of volcanic rock. The river runs right below it.
Since it was so lovely even from the road, we had to pull off and take some pictures. Ripley posed on a log for some cute puppy pics over the river, and Mark danced over some rocks out into the middle of the river for a picture or two from there. It was a surprisingly busy little area, and we spent probably 10 minutes or so down there, looking around.
Away from the water and out of the sun, it was quite hot once again. The cooler weather in amongst the trees is nice, but it seems to really attract the mosquitoes, so I’d almost rather have the sun.
In Eagle Nest we turned north to drive through Red River and Questa. We passed into Colorado just past Costilla, where we stopped for a few photos with the Welcome to Colorado sign. We had Ripley posing under it (got to keep her fans happy), but she was quite distracted by all of the sights and smells around her. We’re lucky she sat still for her pictures at all.
In Colorado, we drove up through San Luis and on to Fort Garland, where we had a decision to make. Since we were camping tonight, we had to decided whether or not we wanted to cook our dinner or just buy something. Fort Garland wasn’t big enough to have food, so we decided that instead of taking our turn off up into Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we’d be spending the night, we would drive on past it into Alamosa, where we had a more reasonable chance of finding dinner.
In the end, we stopped at a Safeway and bought some cheese, fresh vegetables and hummus, which we hadn’t gotten at Walmart because we weren’t expecting to need them. We had our little picnic dinner in the truck on the way back to our turn off.
It isn’t too far from Alamosa up into Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we made it reasonably early. We stopped first to look at the park instead of at our campsite, since we still had plenty of daylight. We’ve been to this particular park before, back in 2011, but there wasn’t a river there when we were here last. Apparently it is seasonal, and is there because of the recent rains. We were totally surprised to see it, considering how dry the area is usually.
We also so a bunch of kids playing in it. We didn’t cross ourselves, since we were planning to do it early tomorrow morning when it will be much cooler, but I think it must be cold. It’s coming down out of those mountains. Eesh. Kids are hypothermia-resistant, I guess.
The campground we chose is just outside the national park. The campground inside the park was not only completely full, it was also devoid of bathrooms with running water and showers, which are two of my favorite things. With that in mind, Mark elected instead to get our tent site about 2 miles back towards the park exit, where things were a little less primitive. It’s worth noting that the campground in the park is huge, though.
Our campground leaves a lot to be desired. The showers and bathrooms are nice enough, but the entire place was just scraped haphazardly into the mountainside. The roads are worse than some 4×4 roads we’ve been on, with dips and turns and loose rocks. The campsites are barely any better, with a few tiny flat places cleared mostly of rocks, but not entirely. Mark says it is the worst campground he’s ever visited, and he’s been to quite a few more than I have. I can say with certainty that driving down the road to the bathrooms in the dark was a harrowing experience that I would not care to repeat.
Tomorrow, we will go for a run in the national park, then hike out to the dunes for a little while before the sun makes it too hot to enjoy. We’ll be in Gunnison, Colorado tomorrow night, and then on to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison the following day.
– Trip Total : 753 miles –