Sledding in the windy sand dunes and alligators were on the program for the second day.
Getting up at 4:30 is hard to do. That is what it takes to get to the sand dunes from Alamosa for a sunrise at the end of May. I had been looking forward to this for a while and I was not going miss it.
When I arrived at the parking lot by the dune field, it was still before the sunrise. I underestimated the cold conditions and set out wearing only sandals and a thin fleece. I had my wind proof jacket in my backpack but I figured there was no time to put it on. Icy patches in Modano Creek reminded me just how cold it really was. I ran across the flat between the creek and the dunes and started climbing toward the High Dune. The sun had already illuminated the high peaks, including the Crestone Needle, to the north. The wind was not as strong as the night before, but it was still gusting. Combined with the cold temperature, it was chilling me to the bone in spite of the tough climb up the dunes.
Just as the sun hit the dunes, I started taking photos. I slowly climbed up to the highest dune. I was all alone, the wind was spraying me with sand, not quite conditions I had hoped for photography. It was still almost a religious experience I had come to enjoy so many times before. Being in a beautiful wild place, all alone and savoring the elements, the view and the solitude.
|Icy Modano Creek||Sandals on ice||First light||Ridges||Sunrise over the mountains||Ripples|
|Tracks||Different scales||Self-portrait||Daddy long legs||The dunes and the mountains|
|A shadow and a dune|
|Great Sand Dunes||Convergence point||Lost in the dunes||Dune hiking|
|Getting closer||Hiker||Dune yin and yang||Tracks||Mountains of sand|
|Rivers of sand|
Other than the sand dunes, San Luis Valley has a number of attractions. The gator farm is arguably the oddest one. One would not expect to find alligators in a place where temperatures dip below -30 F regularly in winter. Supposedly, alligators were brought in to act as garbage cans eating dead tilapia fish grown on location in tanks that are naturally fed by hot springs. The alligators now number in the hundreds, and they have been joined by many other exotic reptiles that became uncomfortable as pets.
|Handling a snake||Getting strangled||Baby alligator||Adult gator||Fat hunters wanted||Wanna file a complaint?|
|Flower shower||My rose||Skylight?||Tilapia tank||Fish and reflections|
|Tilapia||Solar power plant|
The dunes were a lot busier in the afternoon than at sunrise. Nevertheless, the conditions must have kept people away. The wind was still very strong and the blowing sand was everywhere. As much as I was concerned about my camera, I did not really protect it and it survived just fine. After making our way up to the top of the High Dune, we took a few pictures while being being buffeted by the incessant wind. Irina then went on to enjoy another special activity the dunes have to offer - sand dune sledding.
|Up||High Dune||Radek and Irina||Radek and Irina||Flying||Last few steps|
|Hold your hat||Irina||Ready to go||Sliding||Gritty girl||Sledding|
|Sledding||Sand patterns||More sledding||Curves||Tracks||Pregnant with a sled|