We were sad to leave Mueller State Park. The campsite was wonderful, the park was quiet and beautiful in high-alpine woods with 44(!) hiking trails and great privacy at each site. Most of the time it felt like no one else was around. I’m sure it gets busier on the weekends, but weekdays appear to be the perfect time to visit. The road splits in each camping area, which gives more space between campsites and makes turning trailers and campers around so much easier. The whole state park seemed to have a very careful design and thoughtful layout with the ease of campers in mind.
For breakfast we had yogurt and granola (and coffee) and hit the road for Great Sand Dunes National Park knowing it would be a long drive. We could see the sand dunes from at least fifty miles away—the highest dunes can reach 14,000 feet—such an amazing land feature. But it takes forever to drive there and the last twenty miles is basically nothing but state roads.
We passed through the San Isabel National Forest which was beautiful and stopped at an Ace Hardware to purchase a longer propane hose (so we can cook on the table and not just on the pull-out shelf), and a rubber mallet in preparation for staking the awnings in The Valley of the Gods. Then we drove into the Pike National Forest land for about 30 miles. The panoramic views and wide-open spaces, high plains, valleys, the photos we took just don’t do it justice. So we are trying hard to soak it all in and just enjoy it in the moment. And it is glorious.
About three miles before we hit Great Sand Dunes National park, we were approaching a cattle gate (for those who may not know, it’s the metal pipes in the road that freak out cows so badly they refuse to cross them). So we slow from 55mph down to 50mph, and at the same time a rickety 1980s RV hits the cattle gate from the other side. When the RV’s front driver-side wheel hits the cattle gate, the hubcap shoots off and heads straight for us. Now, I’m pretty sure he was also going at least 50mph, which gave the hubcap a combined impact speed of 100mph. With only seconds to react, I did my usual helpful thing (gasped and grabbed the dashboard) and Len managed to swerve just enough—but not too much, given that he’s towing a trailer and still has to get it and us between two fence posts and over a cattle gate.
There was a pretty loud clunk (almost as loud as my gasp) and we looked at each other as the color left our faces and images of destruction played through our brains. Len pulled over onto the shoulder and we both got out to see what had been damaged/lost. We checked the Jeep and trailer over like a cowboy checks the flanks of his horse, but we couldn’t find anything—not even a scratch or a nick! The best I can figure, Len must have hit the hub-missile with the side fender of the Jeep at just the right angle to deflect it and send it careening off in the opposite direction. Lucky, lucky us.
Great Sand Dunes National Park was amazing. Like most Grand things, the pictures don’t do it justice (Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Grand Ole Opry … okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea). Medano Creek flows (seasonally) below the dunes and it’s got a mysterious tidal action that they don’t quite understand (the creek water comes in waves and even ebbs). We took off our shoes and waded through it and walked toward the dunes in the distance. We got about three-quarters of the way there, but the sand was hard walking, the day was getting late, we still had at least a mile to get back to the vehicle, and we still had to drive to our campsite, set up, and eat dinner. So we headed back to the vehicle. The museum and gift shop was already closed, but fortunately we had bought a couple of postcards, a shirt, AND a sticker for the galley—our first! (We plan to put stickers all over the raised part of the galley marking the places we’ve seen and loved.)
The Alamosa campsite was nothing special, although we were camped next to some interesting Aussie dudes wearing bike shorts who (it turned out) are biking across the US. Don’t we feel like slackers, now! They were very interested in our trailer and Len gave their driver the tour.
The evening was so windy we each put a plate over our salad to keep it from blowing away between bites. I’m beginning to tire of the wind. We were supposed to have free WiFi at the campsite, but there was none, nada, zilch, so that’s why this post is coming at the end of the day. We’ve been on the road, in remote areas, and just couldn’t make it happen until now.
Things I learned today: Len isn’t planning to adjust his watch for the time difference, even though we’re going to be here for the next three weeks. He insists it’s easier to just look at the watch and subtract two hours. To which I say, “Sure it is … NOT.” (This is a man who adjusts his compass for declination, his radios for reception, his pillow for softness, but not his watch for accuracy. And this is a concrete example of the way different minds think. To me, it’s a basic concept: know what time zone you’re in, have your device correctly “calibrated,” and give your brain one LESS thing to have to think about in a string of days that involve SO much thinking, planning, and execution. But he says it takes more effort to change the watch (and I will admit that he has one of those super complex watches that talks to the International Space Station and requires an owner’s manual to set) than it does to just subtract two hours.
In an effort to prove my point, Mathematical Mary begins calculating. So. Say you check your watch a minimum of twelve times a day, seven days a week. That’s 84 time-checks a week. And your trip is four weeks. That’s a total of 336 watch checks. You with me still? Now say that it takes you five seconds (conservatively) to register that your watch isn’t correct, realize that you have to subtract two hours, mentally subtract them, and come up with the actual time. That comes out to 1,680 seconds and that’s 28 minutes, right?
… Okay, never mind. He’s right. It does save time—especially given that he didn’t pack the owner’s manual. But he DID pack two other watches. Three watches to go west and rough it. By way of contrast, I brought one pair of EARRINGS for four and a half weeks. Who’s the real fashionista in this marriage, hmm? (Although I did bring a bottle of aqua toenail polish. Will I ever find the time? Who knows. They’re starting to look pretty mangy, though, especially after the rough sand dunes.)
Random Gearhead Stuff: We’ve got a partial data-use solution. Len is now taking most of the pictures (especially the landscapes) with his Nikon (way better quality than my iPhone pictures—speaking of, is there a setting on iPhone for landscapes?). Then he gives me the SD card to download them onto my laptop. Much better than emailing them to myself from my phone and the uploading them again. Doh!
Tomorrow: On to Valley of the Gods.