The Great Sand Dunes, Rocks and More Rocks, Plus Some Chaos Because Why Not

As of June 3, 2016, my husband and I have now been married for ten years. I can honestly say that my wedding day remains the happiest day of my life, a day when all of my family and friends came to celebrate the fact that I had fallen in love, and then had the courage and wherewithal to give myself a wedding ceremony. Everything planned, organized, and paid for by yours truly, and done on a shoestring budget.

A kiss108







Greg and I were married in Ouray, Colorado, up at the campground (pictured above), and the reception was held at the Tundra Restaurant, where I worked at the time. I never waited tables at the Tundra, having gone through many years as a server before then, and I’d told myself Never Again would I perform that job. So I worked as a hostess there, and due to the fact that I worked there, I learned that having a wedding reception at the Tundra for “no more than 75 people” would cost me $3,500.00. Alcohol not included.

That was actually the inspiration to have a wedding — watching other people have receptions in this elegant restaurant, and thinking to ask the manager one day, “How much does this cost?” As soon as I heard the amount, I realized that $3,500.00 was not an insane amount of money. The Tundra is a gorgeous restaurant, the food (at least at the time that I worked there) was absolutely delicious, and with a D.J. I hired from Telluride (for $400.00), I pulled off a lovely and extremely fun day.

I know most brides say that their wedding was “a super fun day” — and sure, I fall into that camp, even though I can’t really speak for my guests. But I did work really hard on selecting each piece of music played, and my little rent-a-dance floor was never empty. The last song played at 9:55 p.m., and my guests had to leave the building at ten p.m. sharp. Many of my guests formed a large group of strangers-turned-insta-friends and hung out at the local bar together for hours afterward, drinking and carousing until last call.

My wedding day was not a perfect day, but it was a day stuffed to bursting with gratitude and love — for my friends, for my family, for the fact that people cared about me enough to come all the way to Ouray for the whole White Dress and Tux Thing — and the sun shone, hot and bright, and the trees were a vibrant, glorious green.

Fast forward ten years, and I really wanted to do something fun to celebrate our tenth anniversary — but I spent the day moving furniture and boxes and clutter in Silverton. One of many such days I have spent this past month. I did have lunch with Greg, and that was really nice, but I still felt bad leaving him. He’d taken a four-day weekend off work so that we could drive eight hours to Boulder and visit the Prana store — because Greg knows I have this obsessive love for Prana clothing.










So in preparation of our upcoming anniversary, Greg was all, “Sweetie, I love you, I’ll take you to Prana.” When really, what he wants is to have me all to himself, trapped in the car with him. When all my attention zeroes in on just him. I read to him, and chatter about philosophy and history and rocks and the nature of the universe and ask him questions about random stuff, and Greg pretends to find me super aggravating but really he likes it. Because Greg is weird. He likes to pretend he’s normal, but the truth is out there. Right here in this blog, no X-Files needed.

But our trip to Boulder was not to be. I cancelled my longed-for and much-anticipated Prana store visit. Instead, Greg and I had lunch, and I said, “We’ll go camping. To the Sand Dunes.” Because I’ve always wanted to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. So Greg said, “Okay,” and he stayed home and organized our camping supplies while I drove to Silverton and worked.

What was I doing in Silverton? Trying to make sure my sister and her newborn daughter, Serena, had a home to live in. It’s been an ongoing project for the last month, and I wasn’t about to bail out on this, even if Prana beckoned.

On Saturday, June 4, Greg and I loaded up Queen Elizabeth, our Prius, and drove to the Sand Dunes. I truly had no idea what to expect. Greg had been there before, but I was a neophyte. Here is a view of the dunes right before you pay the entry fee ($15.00) for the park —

View of the whole dunes







That band of light brown between the grass and the mountains is a huge pile of soft sculpted sand. If you live in Colorado and crave a beach visit, you should totally come here.

Here is a view of the entrance sign (look at that pretty blue sky!) —

Entrance Sign







You can see the mass of sand a bit better in that picture.

I took the requisite selfie —








Greg said he wanted no part of this selfie-at-the-sign business, and stayed in the car. You see what I have to put up with.

We drove to a picnic area and ate some roasted chicken slathered in garlic and rosemary, and then I borrowed Greg’s pocketknife and sliced up a mango. This particular fruit was not overly juicy, but the chewy flesh tasted like plum syrup and pine needles and smoke. The very best mangoes I’ve ever had I bought from a street stall in India, so ripe that I could easily suck the seed clean and drip juice all over my shirt. So good. On this day in the park, Greg drank a Pabst Blue Ribbon while I cut up the fruit.

After our haphazard picnic lunch of roast chicken and mango, Greg and I went to visit the dunes.








From the parking lot, you have to cross Medano Creek to access the dunes. In the distance are the Sangre de Cristos Mountains, “the blood of Christ,” so-named by the Spanish for the deep red they sometimes turn during sunset, in the alpenglow.








Medano Creek is a shifting stream of water that blows to and fro with the wind.








Families take toys and and all kinds of play gear with them when they visit the dunes. You can rent sand sleds and sandboards (sand snowboards) for the day. (You have to rent this equipment because snow sleds, cardboard, saucers, and plastic items don’t slide on dry sand. You can see the kids toting plastic floaties for use on the water.) The Visitor Center also rents sand wheelchairs with huge wheels that won’t sink into the ground. Awesome.








You walk about a quarter mile or maybe a half mile across the creek and over a rough base of sand to access the big, super-soft dunes — those giant sand hills perfect for sand sleds and sandboarding. The dunes are a product of erosion. Mountains have a longer life span than people do, but they still undergo birth, life, and death. The dunes are a creation of destruction, as the Rocky Mountains slowly undergo their demise. Wind and water tearing down the mighty peaks bit by bit. They make a glorious playground, and people certainly visit here to play.

Greg and I slipped off our shoes and walked across Medano Creek together — and it was completely delightful.

I laughed and giggled and splashed. The sensations of the twining water and shifting sand on my feet felt amazing, a gentle tickling full of the limitless power of nature, and I was reminded of my favorite sand pit I played in as a kid growing up. That pit is a few miles east of Silverton, in one of the canyons. I used to soak myself and ruin my clothes in that sand pit, happily flinging clay, mud, and sand and jumping around for hours. Even though I wasn’t ruining any clothes during my trip to the Great Sand Dunes, I kept telling Greg, “Wow, this is awesome!!” and letting him know how much I would’ve LOVED romping around in this place getting filthy, had I ever come to the dunes as a kid.

Then I started listing names of all my friends who have young children, people who I could rope into visiting this park with me. Because there is no better way to describe what it feels like to walk across Medano Creek and climb to the top of a super-soft dune, than to say you return to being a carefree child shrieking with joy in the sun.








Later, at our campsite, when Greg and I pitched our tent for the night, Greg realized I’d forgotten to bring my sleeping bag. He stomped around the campsite all pissy, and I said, “I’ll just sleep in my coat, I’ll be fine.” Greg rustled around in the car and pulled out one of those emergency blankets. I said, “Oh cool, a NASA blanket!” But Greg was not amused. He scowled a lot and said I didn’t have the sense God gave a goose. I just shrugged and said, “Honk, honk, want to share my bird lice?” and that made Greg scowl more. He gave me his sleeping bag and he used the NASA blanket, but really, it wasn’t that cold, and I could’ve slept in my wool coat and been fine. Instead, I used my coat as a pillow, and that was super nice.

Because of our late picnic lunch, Greg didn’t need to cook dinner, but he did make me a cup of instant coffee. I brought a pack of Starbuck’s instant coffee with me. You just dump a tiny packet of crystals into a mug of boiled water, add cream, and then bliss.

In the morning, Greg cooked us eggs and bacon, and then we went for a hike up this area —








There are some tiny deer in that picture, too small to see. We weren’t following any trail, we were just aiming for a small copse of aspen. Some people Greg knows had discovered a bunch of potsherds and chert there, and Greg wanted to go check it out.

Chert is a fine-grained, very common rock that is abundant virtually everywhere, especially river valleys. Even so, I was excited to see this rock site. I tagged along behind Greg like a puppy, reading aloud from a book whenever he took breaks to sit in a chair. Greg suffers pain when he stands on his feet for too long, so he carried a camp chair with him, on a strap, and I carried our water and a book. While he sat, I’d root around in the dirt and pick up rocks.

We never did find the chert site, but we did find antler castoffs from mule deer and bear tracks and lots of pretty birds and I kept picking up rocks and asking, “Greg, is this diorite? Is this diabase? What about this one — do you think it’s gabbro?” And Greg was like, “I did not bring my glasses, stop asking me.” The rock he can identify by touch (and shoddy eyesight) is sandstone, and there was plenty of that underfoot as well. I am a lover of sandstone. That rock just speaks to my soul.

After our hike, we left the park, and drove north to a place called Joyful Journey Hot Springs. Greg well remembers the first time we went there, before we were married, because I had a conversation with a woman who had just returned from a trip to India. She’d been visiting the state of Kerala, and she pompously told me that, “India is wonderful because everyone there is happy and rich.” She was insane. In true harpy fashion, I b*tched about how clueless she was and made Greg laugh. So that’s why, all these years later, he wanted to go back. He remembered the laughter and the lunacy. Such is life.

This time, instead of just soaking in the springs for an hour, we rented a yurt. Here is a photo of the yurt we stayed in, along with Queen Elizabeth —








This yurt was composed of one room with a bed —








And a desk by the window, which of course I loved —










We drove to the town of Salida to eat a late lunch, and then Greg took me to the local bookstores. The first shop we entered was All Booked Up, and I found jars of rocks in there that I LOVED. It turns out the owner had made those collection jars herself, and I was super impressed. I bought a copy of The Illustrated Directory of Healing Crystals because the book screamed BUY ME so I had to have it.









In that photo, you can see two other books I bought on this trip (these from the Visitor Center at the park) — White Sands National Monument because I want to visit there (it’s my goal in life to become a nuclear tourist, and visit nuclear sites, including the test grounds at Kazakhstan and northern Russia and Chernobyl and Bikini Atoll) and I also bought a backpack-friendly Rocks & Minerals of the United States Quick Guide because it’s full of pictures of my favorite rocks.

The store All Booked Up is owned by a woman named Jeannie Sutherland, and Jeannie gave me two presents to take home to my sister, to celebrate her move into the home I’ve been helping clean up.








The first gift is a YES charm Jeannie had made, with purple paint and purple yarn, because I’d picked up the charm and had been admiring it along with her excellent jars full of rocks.

The second gift is a piece of rose quartz, which is used for love and compassion, healing and fertility, rejuvenation and strength. Jeannie wanted my sister to have it as she goes through the process of cleaning and settling into her new home.

After we said goodbye to Jeannie, the second bookstore Greg and I visited had a copy of the YA memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, but I didn’t buy it because I was trying to be good and stop spending All The Money on Books.










Greg bought his own book at the park, a copy of San Luis Valley Rock Art —










Because Greg loves him some rock art. He is all over that stuff.

Later that evening, back at our yurt, I received a phone call from Greg’s son, who’s been living with us off and on for almost a year. He told me he’d been doing a load of laundry, went outside to talk to someone, and had accidentally flooded our house. Our washing machine is on the third floor of our home, above our living room and kitchen, and water had come pouring out of the drum (from inside the machine) and drenched the floor. The carpet was fully soaked, and water had pooled onto the floors of our living room and kitchen downstairs, raining down from the ceiling.

The phone call was a major downer, as there was nothing Greg and I could do except face the situation once we drove home.

And we did arrive safely home yesterday, and the water damage is really bad, and Greg and I will have to pay for all the repairs out of pocket. The washing machine is fine, I’ve run several loads already. The first loads I ran were to rinse the soap residue off the clothes that had been in the machine when it overflowed, because they hadn’t finished their cycle correctly after Greg’s son shut the machine off.

So we visited the Great Sand Dunes this weekend and suffered a Great Fiasco at home, but no one was hurt or killed, the house is still standing, my desktop on which I do all my work is safe, and I am super, super grateful for that. Water could’ve landed on my machine, sitting a mere six feet away, but my computer survived this mishap unscathed.

I wrote a blog post in January about my goal to say Thank You for setbacks as well as good fortune. This weekend gave me both in abundance. So here I am saying thanks, for all the positive things I have, along with the negative. Because you can’t call it life without both.

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3 Responses to The Great Sand Dunes, Rocks and More Rocks, Plus Some Chaos Because Why Not

  1. Edwin Young says:

    You know you have a psychological disease. It is called Happy-nosis. Experts say it is incurable. Fortunately, people involved with those having this disorder are blessed with a friend who even meets crises with a smile, ways to meet the challenge of setbacks, and undaunted happiness. Actually, I’d have to say that such crazy people make great friends.


  2. Amanda says:

    Amazing!! Lovely photos!! Lovely you!! So glad there are silver linings and good things, and rocks and things to make you happy and thankful. Your yurt was adorable; I want one.


  3. GW Dickman says:

    Thanks for this


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