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Day 66: 9/28/17 Great Sand Dunes National Park!!!

Miles: 14 Steps: 31,526 Vertical gain: Strava Knows Liquid consumed: 98 oz. Wildlife: chipmunks admiring my food at camp, National Park deer coming super close with no fear, birds (raven looked really cool atop a sand dune but couldn’t get close enough for a good photo) Faith in Humanity:Really nice woman working at store gave me like 50 cents of her own change and was super nice, amazingly nice park employees (Holly) and volunteers at visitors center very supportive of the trip, great convos atop High Dune with a great gentleman, cool camper from Ohio, guy who sat next to me and chatted a few minutes, lots today, thanks! Well, what a great day! It rained on and off all night and I was dreading leaving, thinking “it’s probably going to rain all day.” How wrong I was! Since I haven’t seen the sun at all in several days a lot of my gear was damp or wet. And now happily covered in lots of wet sand. So great! Not at all... I packed up and kind of laughed. This is why other hikers criticize me for carrying too much. But, the difference? I’m fine if things remain cold and wet for a few more days, whereas others may be in trouble and NEED to dry things out. I just kind of laugh. Not ideal but I’m not worried about my safety either. Anywho, I immediately crossed into my 4th National Park: Great Sand Dunes! And as soon as I entered the park I also got to hike on trail, not the road. Double yay!!! I was quickly reminded that even though the trail was flat, it was hard. Walking in sand is freaking exhausting, and this place has a lot of sand! I lucked out with all the rain last night though: it provided more stability to the sand than the norm. It didn’t start raining hard again!!!! This made me very happy. Yes, it did rain a bit, and I still had my rain gear on, but it didn’t rain hard. This is huge! I slowly made my way to the campground and ran into the camp store which was open! I bought some tasty drinks and a little food and looked for a campsite. I found a spot and paid my $20 and set up my tent. Next stop? Visitors center. Met an amazing Ranger, Holly, and 2 volunteers. I had a bunch of questions about my upcoming route and they were really helpful and friendly to chat with in general. Thanks for the info and kindness! I must comment on how it felt to be without my lack which was at my campsite: INCREDIBLE! I literally ran back to camp on a nice flat trail. Ahhhh, so good! Now I hike more! With almost nothing in my pack. Water, rain gear and extra layer, some food and camera gear. Sand dunes are really cool. I lucked out again since they were a bit wet, really helping with footing in lots of places. O shot a couple really cool videos. I love the sand dunes! I listened to music and danced my way up some dunes. Definitely one of those: I’m so incredibly lucky to be alive and doing this. So damn good. Seriously: chase your dreams. Everything really good is also super challenging but the rewards are unreal! If you don’t know what your dream is, try something new and keep trying new things. Worst case you’ll at least change a little for the positive! I talked to a really nice guy at the top of High Dune for quite a while. He was out exploring NM and CO and had hiked the JMT so was easy to talk to. Hopefully he’ll follow the journey. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Next I returned to camp and it got sunny! For a couple of hours! I spread out literally everything I have and dried everything out. You have no idea how happy I was. Especially with such a horrid forecast this morning, and on my sand dune hike it looked like things were getting worse before they got better, but I was wrong. So beautifully wrong! Must be a funny sight for people to pass and see all of my possessions strewn about but I was happy as a clam! I walked around some, ate some ice cream, and lounged for the rest of the day. I do want to make a call out to all of you out there who meet a solo traveler who seems nice (you can typically determine this within 20 seconds of meeting someone): invite them to join your party! I mean, I get it if you’re on a romantic trip or have little kids or something, but most of the time you should invite them to hang out. It’ll likely add a different vice to your trip and you’ll appreciate it. I did several loops of the campground, chatted with several people, but sadly no invites. I’m not even looking for food or beer, just some conversation and warmth of fire would be amazing. Did meet a really cool guy from Ohio, thanks for chatting a bit! I’m the cleanest person who hasn’t showered in 6 days. I shaved in the campground bathroom and did a wipe down with a Wet One, haha. Oh Trail life! So now I essentially take 3 days off... I have to walk 4.5 miles tomorrow to meet my ride, Peru, and go to the American Long Distance Hikers Association West Gathering! Haha, hopefully that’ll be cool, don’t really have expectations, but it’s a bunch of hikers so I’m sure it’ll be amazing! Just hope I can find a ride back here without too much difficulty!

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