In August, we spent three nights at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. I would like to devote today's seven quick takes to encouraging all of you to see it for yourself. Until this summer, I didn't know such a place existed and if you could design a national park for young children, you almost couldn't do better than what you'd find right here.
1. Hiking like this:
2. Sand dunes, which children can climb, scramble, slide down, roll down, and surreptitiously stash in every pocket and crevice of their clothes. I struggled with the altitude, so just sat and watched as the children wore themselves out climbing and tumbling in the sand.
Yes, those little specks are my children.
You can rent sand boards and sand wheelchairs. Our kids seemed satisfied with direct contact with the sand.
We're from Kansas. There are no mountains in Kansas. My kids would see a little hill and wonder, "Is that a mountain?" No, no it is not. These are mountains!
Kansas Dad yearned for alpine hiking, but after one attempt at a mile walk up a bit to a scenic view, he knew such an excursion would have to be child-free.
4. If you come in the right time of year (or in August, if there were heavy snows in May), there's Medano Creek.
It was only a few inches deep when we were there, so we could wade right through it.
Or, you can bring swimsuits, sit yourself down, and dig a swimming pool. Recruit other children to aid and assist while you are there and to take over when it's time to leave for lunch.
It's practically a homeschooler's paradise - what with all the learning about water-based erosion, tiny waterfalls, levees, meaders, oxbow lakes, and the satisfying smush of sand between your toes and fingers.
5. For the early rising adventurous crowd, the High Dune beckons.
Kansas Dad, First Son, and First Daughter made it to the top!
6. This view while taking a guided nature walk during which a kind patient ranger endured Second Son's autobiography of his short but apparently eventful life.
We attended a few of the ranger programs, opportunities to learn actual geology, geography, and natural science relevant to the dunes. Second Daughter and Second Son were particularly enthralled by the one about night visitors and spent much of the walk to the creek the next morning pointing out all the tracks of the kangaroo rats and tiger beetles.
My favorite was the guided nature walk. We had walked the same trail the day before, but the children were drawn in by the ranger in a way they were not when it was just us. Though we had all stopped to draw the day before which we couldn't do while on the guided walk, so perhaps having both is the best option.
We camped right at the Dunes, which was fantastic. It was incredibly windy one night (high winds help create the dunes and clear them of footprints and marks), but our tent was well secured. Being right there made attending ranger events easy.
7. Sunsets a little like this
There's only one disadvantage: no showers. You have to leave the park to get to a shower (and pay a fee once you find one). I'm also still finding sand that might very well be from Colorado. Even so, Great Sand Dunes is officially one of my favorite places in the world to visit with my children and I would love to return.
Bonus, just because it amuses me. Here's a video First Son made the first morning at camp:
Read other Seven Quick Takes at This Ain't The Lyceum.