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Winter Great Sand Dunes

Having planned to enjoy the New Year in White Sand Dunes of New Mexico like a number of times before (for example, 2010 and 2003), I booked a ticket to Albuquerque. Unfortunately, my plans were thwarted by Trump's government shutdown that started just before Christmas. Unlike some national parks that left their gates open during the shutdown, White Sands National Monument, being a part of a missile range, was strictly off limits to the public during the shutdown.

After struggling with the decision whether to cancel the trip, I made southwestern Colorado and the Great Sand Dunes, that I visited just a year earlier, my destination instead. The area was to be hit by significant snowfall and a spell of Arctic conditions. I still remembered how bittlerly cold it could get in Great Sand Dunes in winter from my trip a long time ago. It would be quite a contrast to what I originally had in mind for the White Sands but off I went anyway.

It ended up being a wild trip in a lot of ways, and I even got to see white sand dunes...


Gallery of my favorite photos


Afternoon in Great Sands

Albuquerque welcomed me with clear cold weather. I drove through Santa Fe that was covered in several inches of fresh snow, and continued north on 285. As the terrain rose toward San Luis Valley, the temperatures dropped even lower to single digits. There was a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and I found the Great Sand Dunes partially snow covered. I was resolved to go explore and set out in the deep freeze. There were few visitors but those who came left deep tracks that moisture, lack of wind and freezing conditions preserved for days and days. I finally found some pristeen snow and sand when I crested a high ridge from which a view of the the entire dune field opened up.

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Sunset

The sun drew closer to the horizon, and shadows started stretching across the sand dunes.

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Last light

After the sun dipped below a distant horizon of San Juan Mountains on the other side of the valley, only alpenglow on the peaks to the north remained for a few fleeting moments. Shortly after the character of the light changed to dusk, and the cold set in for real. I started my descent back to the parking lot. When I later reached Alamosa, the temperature already dipped below -10F.

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Next part: Southwest Colorado Drive
Last updated: September 23, 2019
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