Saturday, October 3, 2015

Back to Bosque via Great Sand Dunes

I decided to spend my last night and morning in Colorado at a place I’ve wanted to see for a long time but had never managed to get to—Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa.  As I descended down from Poncha Springs into the vast San Luis Valley, the storm clouds started building.

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By the time I parked at the National Park campground, the rain was pouring, so my plans to do an evening hike on the dunes were scrapped.  At least I could catch a little glimpse of them from behind my campsite!

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As evening approached, I gambled that perhaps the sun might poke out below the clouds as it set, so I took a quick drive over to the dunes.  Sure enough, I did get a few quick glimpses of the sun to end the day!

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The next morning was much more pleasant.  I was able to squeeze in a quick hike on the dunes before driving to New Mexico.

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From a distance, the dune field seems smaller than I thought it would be, but as you begin approaching by foot, the dunes begin to affirm their 750-foot height.  Especially as you start realizing those random tiny dots on the sand are people!

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I didn’t have the time (or stamina) to do a full climb to the top, but I did get about a third of the way up to check out the view.  Someone had left a few boogie boards on the crest of one of the dunes should we tourists wish to enjoy some sand sledding!

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A fun and very intriguing natural phenomenon, and quite a good workout too!

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After eating some lunch in the RV, it was time to wave goodbye to the dunes and head down to New Mexico.  Colorado’s San Luis Valley is a major flyway for migratory cranes and birds.  Most flocks coming from the northern Rockies stop here to rest and refuel before following the Rio Grande valley down to Bosque del Apache NWR and points south.  It was fun to trace the same route the birds will be taking in a few weeks to see how they’ll be getting to the Refuge!

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After a quick overnight stop in Santa Fe to get an RV oil change at the Mercedes dealer, I finally arrived to Bosque del Apache a week ago to hugs and warm greetings.  Many familiar faces from last Spring are here again this season, as well as a few new friends too.  After getting the rig set up at my campsite, I went to see Chris, the Visitor Services ranger to get my volunteer uniform and confirm my work days.  He didn’t think I’d need any re-training, so he just said “see you tomorrow.”

The next morning, I eagerly donned my volunteer vest and headed over to open up the Visitor’s Center bright and early.  Usually, there’s a Refuge staff member, a Nature Store employee, and a fellow volunteer at the VC when the day begins, but on this morning, I was the first one there.  I thought it was a little odd, but I went ahead and started turning the lights on and getting the place ready to roll.  After 10 more minutes though, and still no one else there but me, I started thinking “o.k., something’s just not right here.”  As I walked up to the front doors to clean them, I realized the sign on the door said the V.C. opened at 8:00am.

In my excitement, I somehow forgot that our workdays start at 7:30am…not 7:00am!  Guess I needed some re-training after all!

Getting back out to tour the Refuge showed quite a difference from last Spring.  Now, all the impoundments (ponds) are dry except for 2 small year-round ponds.  What an amazing transformation!

Here’s how a view from the North Loop of Little San Pasqual Mountain looked last March--

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and then how it looked in April as Spring began to bloom.

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So imagine my surprise to see it look like this at the end of September!

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Completely bone dry with abundant grasses growing!

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The Refuge manages these impoundments to mimic what the untamed Rio Grande river would have done to this valley.  After Spring floods, these lowlands would have historically dried out for summer to grow plant foods. This provides the main food source to sustain the returning migratory bird flocks all winter long.

It will be exciting to watch these dry fields become flooded again in the coming weeks as the cranes, geese, and ducks begin to return!

On Sunday night, I got to enjoy a very special treat—the super/harvest moon’s lunar eclipse!  I headed down a few miles south of the Refuge to capture the moon as it rose over Little San Pasqual mountain.  I wish I also could have captured the vivid Milky Way that was arching overhead at the same time!  Just love these big New Mexico skies.  It sure feels great to be back home to Bosque and the “Land of Enchantment!”

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24 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos, especially the moon one. Thanks for sharing your travels with us.

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  2. So glad to hear you are back in the Land of Enchangment, it really can be enchanting. My brother, from California, is coming in later this week to visit and one of the places he wants to see is the Bosque. We will probably come up next Friday or Saturday and I so hope to get the chance to meet you. We will also be stopping at Ft Craig and the El Camino International Museum too that day.

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    1. Very cool Emily! I work the VC on Sat/Sun/Mon so I'll certainly see you if you guys come on Sat!

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  3. Congratulations on your 100 mile club. You have much more strength than I do to do that in a month. I love your photos. I'll be watching how your winter unfolds. Be Healthy!

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  4. I had heard rumors that Bird Watchers RV Park was going to close. Any truth there? I just love to listen to the cranes.

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    1. The elderly lady that used to run the place had to move to a retirement home, so her sons are now running the park. It's still open for business and doing well, but they are also half-heartedly trying to sell the place. It's a very popular place during winter when large numbers of RVers visit the refuge. Maybe that will include you this winter?!!!

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  5. Your info on the ponds going from wet-to-dry and back again is very interesting. Thanks for that.

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    1. It's an amazing transformation to observe!

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  6. Nice to see you back where you belong.

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  7. Beautiful pictures! Glad you're back in the saddle!

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  8. Beautiful, breathtaking photos, Lynne. The rain and dark sky can make for some different pictures. Thank you. Really enjoy your blog.

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  10. Great pictures! Been to the Great Sand Dunes once-that was enough:)

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  11. Hi Lynne - awesome pictures, as usual. I really love the full moon shot with the night sky.
    Cheers,
    Ursula

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  12. Nice to see you settled back in enjoy your time there.

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  13. I love that area and was at the dunes in 1996 and passing the same area again in 2004.

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  14. Definitely a place I want to come visit and do photographs during the migrations. Added to the list a couple years ago! Meanwhile I'm going to enjoy it virtually through your amazing photos and stories.

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  15. Hi Lynne! So glad to find you! I'm sitting in my home in Albuquerque, with my motorhome parked out front, getting ready for my first maiden voyage. I'm not not new to motorhoming, as my husband and I traveled quite a bit before he passed away, and I learned to do almost everything. Although we had sold our RV, my memories of that lifestyle called out to me to have another go at it. Got the motorhome, the toad vehicle and am just about ready! Am very interested in boondocking, but I am quite nervous about taking the plunge. I may put just a toe in, once I scope out some possible places. You probably don't have time to answer, but two of my concerns are: When boondocking, where to you find places to re-fill you fresh water tank? I've got apps to dump sites, but am stumped about refilling with fresh water. Second, how do you know, if you take off toward some area that is marked for dispersed camping, that there will be a spot for you and your vehicle and that the road is accessible for your vehicle? If they are packed with people, I'd be up the creek! Headed out in a day or two! I so admire your attitude, hour honesty and your spunk!

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    1. Often times there is fresh water available nearby a popular boondocking sites -- in Moab, UT, a few gas stations in town have water spigots available, in Quartzsite, there are pit stops in town with dump and water services combined. If you belong to Escapees, spend the extra $10 for their excellent DaysEndDirectory, a PDF of boondock locations that often lists good places for water and dumps. I usually try to spend a night with full-hookups before going out to boondock. That way, I can fill my fresh water tank and empty the others beforehand. If I need just a few gallons of fresh during my stay, I've got some 5 gal jugs that I can transport in my tow vehicle and get filled at drinking water dispensing stations. I then use my motorhome's winterizing hose to suck the water from the jugs into my tank.

      As for driving into an unknown area, if I can't clearly see campsites or turn-arounds before I drive in, I park the MH and unhitch the toad first, go scout locations/access with the toad, and once something is found, hitch up and bring the MH/toad to that spot. Yes, it's a pain as a solo to do that, but if it's a really pretty boondocking site, it's worth the extra 5 minutes to hitch/unhitch twice!

      If you happen to be headed south on I-25 this weekend, stop in for a visit at Bosque del Apache NWR!

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  16. Hi, Lynne -
    I really enjoy your blog and your beautiful photos. Those balloon...wow.
    I have been thinking about buying a Casita, but I really like your Winnie View. Do you think the View is easier to own and manage that a Casita? I know there are some maintenance issues that will be common to both, but I was wondering if a View might be easier to handle for a 60 ish single woman? I want to be full time and have Texas as my domicile state, since I have children and grandchildren spread all over Texas. Thanks, Lynne.

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