My favorite national park experience so far. Hands down.
You can spot the sand dunes on your approach. I came in from the south. The snowy caps of the Rocky Mountains started to come into view, and then suddenly I spotted the dunes, resting up against the mountains. The closer I got, the more excited I became. It was perfect timing for me to arrive, with the sun beginning to drop behind the dunes. The lighting was amazing, with the shadows revealing the contours of the dunes. I arrived at a campsite, and to my great delight several sites were available. I quickly paid for one and then drove excitedly down to the “dunes” parking lot.
I parked the car and walked down a small trail which opened up to a large flat field leading up to the dunes. Shallow water was flowing through the field. I’m assuming the water was flowing down from the large mountains in the background. Just to the right behind the dunes you could see snow-capped mountains, reaching some-14 thousand feet in elevation. The sand dunes park is somewhere around 8,000ft in elevation, with the dunes themselves shooting up another 800ft.
I couldn’t contain my excitement. I just kept filming the surrounding area, stating to the camera “why isn’t this place crawling with tourists?? This is amazing. I can’t believe I got a campsite. I wish I had someone from Florida here to appreciate this with me.”
That’s what I think made it so fascinating for me. I’m from Florida. Everything is green and flat there. No seasons. Just flat and bright green, with wonderful bright blue oceans. This was an ocean of sand. Great rolling brown waves. I stood in the field and gazed in amazement at the dunes. God dammit this country is beautiful. My eyes honed in on a small speck moving along one of the ridge-lines of a dune, out in the middle. Then I realized what I was looking at. It was a person. Then I noticed a number of people walking on the dunes in different areas.
Suddenly the size and scale of the area came into focus, and I had a weird unexpected emotional response. I couldn’t help it but my eyes started to tear and my throat closed up. It was all just too much to take in. I think part of it was because the reality of my trip was finally setting in. I’ve quit my job and left my old life behind and now I’m here. This is what I wanted all along. I want to see amazing areas of the world. The Great Smoky Mountains, Hot Springs, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns. I’ve only been on the road a few weeks and I’ve already seen and experienced so much. I’ve had more adventure in the last 4 weeks than I have in the last 4 years.
It may have taken 4,000 miles and a month of traveling, but the reality is finally setting in.
And hot damn, TRAVEL is for me.