Zen On Dirt

Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak

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Before Scott and I bought the Scamp, we spent a fair amount of time analyzing our other options. Well, I think we spent a lot of time doing it, Scott thinks that we made the decision pretty quick. But that’s how we work, I fly by the seat of my pants and hate planning, Scott is a researcher. I think that lets us balance each other out – I get prevented from making (too many) spur of the moment poor life decisions, and Scott doesn’t end up spending entirely too much time reading reviews of different options.

The Scamp has proved to be amazing in many ways. Our tow vehicle, the Sportsvan (not to be confused with the $100k Sportsmobile, which is a very capable and overbuilt vehicle), while functional and workable, does not get the Scamp places very quickly. Especially if there’s a big hill or mountain pass involved. We also had some mouse poop burning somewhere in the engine making it smell like, well, poo whenever we drove it.

We sort of figured that a van of some sort instead of a trailer would encourage more wandering, but I hadn’t really anticipated the level of stay-in-one-placeness that the Scamp would lead to. Aside from Ouray, we’d pretty much been in the Ark valley the entire summer. Which wasn’t a bad thing at all, I’m no complaining, but the point of the Scamp/mobile life was to travel!

It took an amazing amount of motivation to get the Scamp hooked up and dragged over Poncha Pass. Our destination was the Great Sand Dunes National Park and then Penitente Canyon. Such treasures, so close. We had to go see them, slow driving be damned. (Actually, on flat ground, we can truck along pretty well, but gravity, damn, gravity is strong!)


We arrived at the tallest dunes in North America sometime early afternoon on a Friday when, luckily, there was still camping available. While all of the Instagram Influencer photo spots were taken, we tucked in to a nice little spot overlooking the dunes.

All I could think of each time I looked over at them while working that afternoon was, How have I lived in Colorado for 25 years and never been here?


We went for a sunset wander on the dunes, ready to test out my camera which had just come back from a warranty repair. Maybe it was our timing (National Parks are far more busy in the mornings than evenings) or maybe GSDNP just isn’t that busy, but in our two hour wander, we saw next to no one.

And then the wind picked up.


And before long, my camera was destroyed again. Somewhat my fault. Ok, entirely my fault. Back to the iPhone it is.


Occasionally during the summer, I wondered if we really needed the Scamp, was it worth the hassle over a tent on warm summer nights. But then when I scamper back into it from a hike with the wind whipping in all directions, I’m pretty happy to have it.

The next day, after a leisurely start to the day, we headed over to ride/hike Blanca Peak. Starting at ~8,000 feet, we had a long way up to 14,000+ feet, and Scott had convinced me that taking bikes up to Lake Como was a good idea. We’d heard rumors that the road up was heinous. Those rumors were true. I walked most of it, giving up in frustration after two hours of bike pushing, unceremoniously dumping my bike in a tree and putting on running shoes.


Ah, much better.

Scott made it to close to 12k feet before the trail really turned unrideable.


Apparently, Blanca’s a pretty big peak that few people try to do from the base in a day (most people are smarter than us), choosing instead to backpack to the lake, camp, and then go up the peak. My guess is that even fewer people attempt the round trip after a lazy breakfast of eggs and potatoes. We got several wary looks from people descending as we went up. Given my Crack of Noon 14’ers Club membership, I’m pretty used to these looks.


We made our way up the saddle and up the ridge, getting to the top just as nice afternoon light was hitting.


Reversing our steps didn’t take long and Scott definitely was faster on his bike than I was on foot once he got back to his wheels. I picked mine up a few miles later and from there it was a smooth coast back to the car.


Ok. That was a lie. That road is heinous. I walked several parts on the way down and had no shame about it. But, when I was rolling, we were making good time and made it back to the car three minutes before the sun disappeared behind the horizon.

Would I have been faster round-trip just on foot given how slow I went up pushing my bike? Possibly. But it sure was fun to get to roll back down.

We were worked, so our final day in the area consisted of stopping to smell the flowers.


Admiring the wind patterns in the sand.


And surfing down the sand dunes.


It’s always a debate. Stay in one area and explore deeply, or try to get new places as often as possible.

We’re gunning for balance with it. As with all things.


One thought on “Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak

  1. We have a (I’m guessing heavier than your Scamp) pop-up camper and tow it with an 11 year old minivan. It makes a fantastic vacation home base, but towing it through the mountains is a pretty slow proposition. Actually, our towing through the mountains days are probably over until we have a newer vehicle, but that’s one plus of living in a plains state.

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