June 08, 2023

Exploring national parks has always been one of our family’s favorite vacation activities. You get to immerse yourself in awe-inspiring landscapes, hike scenic trails, see wildlife like bears and bison, eagles and prairie dogs, and just soak up the beauty of the land.

This spring my husband and I managed to cobble together 5 weeks of vacation time and set off on the mother of all road trips (for us, anyway), aiming to visit a bunch of national parks in a grand western circuit. We’d travel tortoise-style, towing our home-away-from-home in the form of a rented RV and camping in or near each park for convenience.

Our route, give or take

We planned a circuitous route that took us from Austin up through southern Colorado, over to Arizona and Utah (to beat the summer heat), crisscrossing over to the Dakotas, and finally — as late as possible to avoid wintry conditions and road closures — to Wyoming and Montana. And then home again. All told, including day drives without the camper, we’d cover about 6,000 8,600 miles!

This summer I’ll be sharing about the incredible parks and other sights along the way. Maybe you’ll find these posts useful for planning your national park adventure, or you’ll share your own park experiences in the comments!

On Earth Day, April 22nd, we reached our first park, Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, winter still held sway and fat snowflakes swirled lazily to earth.

The dunes, looming like distant mountains, were frosted with snow.

So why are there enormous sand dunes in decidedly non-coastal Colorado? The sand eroded from nearby mountain ranges and washed into a huge lake, which eventually dried up. Prevailing winds then picked up the exposed sand and carried it toward the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which acted as a windbreak. The sand piled up below the mountains to become the gigantic dunes we see today.

Local flora in the tawny hues of winter

The sculpted dunes beckon those willing to get sand in every crevice and slog their way to the top.

To get there, you must cross a rippling, cold creek.

I watched people scamper across, some in galoshes, others in soggy sneakers. All part of the adventure!

I kept my feet dry and non-sandy and tracked others scaling the shifting mountain of sand. See the little black dots at the top? Those are triumphant summiters.

The tallest dunes in North America, I salute you!

Up next: The forbiddingly steep Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!

__________________________

Digging Deeper

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 7 starts in August. Stay tuned for the lineup!

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The post Kicking off our western national parks tour at Great Sand Dunes appeared first on Digging.

At Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado, snow frosted the mountainous dunes and fat snowflakes fell.… Read More
The post Kicking off our western national parks tour at Great Sand Dunes appeared first on Digging.Read MoreColorado, Mountain West, National Parks, Rivers/Creeks, Travel, Great Sand Dunes National ParkDigging

June 08, 2023

Exploring national parks has always been one of our family’s favorite vacation activities. You get to immerse yourself in awe-inspiring landscapes, hike scenic trails, see wildlife like bears and bison, eagles and prairie dogs, and just soak up the beauty of the land.

This spring my husband and I managed to cobble together 5 weeks of vacation time and set off on the mother of all road trips (for us, anyway), aiming to visit a bunch of national parks in a grand western circuit. We’d travel tortoise-style, towing our home-away-from-home in the form of a rented RV and camping in or near each park for convenience.

Our route, give or take

We planned a circuitous route that took us from Austin up through southern Colorado, over to Arizona and Utah (to beat the summer heat), crisscrossing over to the Dakotas, and finally — as late as possible to avoid wintry conditions and road closures — to Wyoming and Montana. And then home again. All told, including day drives without the camper, we’d cover about 6,000 8,600 miles!

This summer I’ll be sharing about the incredible parks and other sights along the way. Maybe you’ll find these posts useful for planning your national park adventure, or you’ll share your own park experiences in the comments!

On Earth Day, April 22nd, we reached our first park, Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, winter still held sway and fat snowflakes swirled lazily to earth.

The dunes, looming like distant mountains, were frosted with snow.

So why are there enormous sand dunes in decidedly non-coastal Colorado? The sand eroded from nearby mountain ranges and washed into a huge lake, which eventually dried up. Prevailing winds then picked up the exposed sand and carried it toward the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which acted as a windbreak. The sand piled up below the mountains to become the gigantic dunes we see today.

Local flora in the tawny hues of winter

The sculpted dunes beckon those willing to get sand in every crevice and slog their way to the top.

To get there, you must cross a rippling, cold creek.

I watched people scamper across, some in galoshes, others in soggy sneakers. All part of the adventure!

I kept my feet dry and non-sandy and tracked others scaling the shifting mountain of sand. See the little black dots at the top? Those are triumphant summiters.

The tallest dunes in North America, I salute you!

Up next: The forbiddingly steep Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!

__________________________

Digging Deeper

Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 7 starts in August. Stay tuned for the lineup!

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The post Kicking off our western national parks tour at Great Sand Dunes appeared first on Digging.

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