Monday, July 12, 2010

Go Somewhere, Do Something

July is National Parks and Recreation Month.

I just want to encourage you to get out and do something.  You don't have to go to a National Park.  Take a walk to your local park.  Explore a recreation area near you that you've never been to. Plan that next trip.  Just take a moment to view all of God's natural splendor.

Visiting National Parks has given my family a chance to view the many different types of natural beauty that exist in the USA.  It's awesome!  We love to visit National Parks and Monuments.  You may already know that my family loves getting outdoors!  And the National Parks give us some pretty cool places to visit.  Biker Boy and I have visited quite a few through our years of marriage and bicycle touring.  The kids have even been to visit a few.  There are still some on our "wish list" of places to visit.  Scooter would love to see the Redwoods.  I'd like to see some of the more popular tourist destinations....Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.  Someday, maybe. We're happy to just get out near our home!

We recently visited Great Sand Dunes National Park after our 2010 Bicycle Tour of Colorado.  Anyone else visited the sand dunes?

I thought I'd bring you along with me on a virtual tour....of our tour!  Plus there are a few tips, if you ever plan to visit yourself.  (Yep, there was a forest fire going on in the mountains while we were there.  See the smoke in the picture below?  Right hand side on the mountains, see it?)

Get there early.  We got there pretty much before anyone else.  (There's no one else in the picture!)  Chewy and Grandma played in the creek, while Biker Boy, Scooter, Grandpa, Ranger, and I headed up the dunes. 

Head up the dunes before doing anything else.  Let me tell you....that's a whole lot of sand.  And it gets hot!  Scooter, Biker Boy, Ranger, and I made it up to a tall peak.  We'll say we got to the top.....of a tall peak. 

Sandals with bare feet are not the best shoes to wear.  Hot, Hot, Hot!  Our poor feet were burning going down the sand.  I can not imagine how hot the sand must have been around noon.  They say even the soles of running shoes will burn in the hot sand as it reaches temperatures of 140 degrees F.  Now that's hot!

Remember your sand/water toys.  It was nice to come back to Medano Creek and play in the water and sand.  By the time we made it back, it looked like a crowded beach with people sitting in the sand and playing in the water.  The water was fairly low, so the kids loved sitting in it and building sand castles.  By the time we were done, the children had sand in places that sand should not be!  Every time I took Chewy to the restroom that day, sand was falling out of who knows where!  I apologize to the people who had to clean those restrooms, we tried our best to clean up the sand.  That child was carrying at least 5 extra pounds on her.....of sand. 

Don't forget your sunscreen and mosquito repellent.  We enjoyed a picnic while swatting a million mosquitoes.  I had forgotten all about mosquitoes.  I now remember they are one thing I do not miss from when we moved from Minnesota.  We discovered Scooter takes after me, mosquitoes find us irresistible.  Why mosquitoes?  Why must you find me tasty and irresistible?  Your bite leaves me looking not so irresistible, with ugly blazing red welts. 

Get to know the history of the park.  We enjoyed a visit to the visitor center and I enjoyed practically sleeping through the informational film.  (Not cause it was boring, I had just finished biking 500 miles over a week.) 

Go visit Zapata Falls.  After a visit to the hot sand, some of us took a visit to the other extreme.  Freezing cold water.  And when I say freezing cold water, I mean it was probably at 32.5 degrees F.  Just above the point at which water would freeze.

It's a short hike on a rocky trail to the water.  Biker Boy, Scooter, Grandpa, Ranger, and I ventured a few miles drive and then a short hike to Zapata Falls.  There were a number of people who hiked up to see the stream and were milling around it.  If you're really brave, you can hike through the stream to go see the Falls.  Otherwise, you're not going to see the Falls because they are hidden in a cave.  And you must be brave....and not have feeling in your feet....because that water is freezing cold.  Again, sandals with bare feet were a bad idea.  Oh my.....freaking...crying....vomiting....COLD WATER! 

Be prepared for freezing cold water!  I was all macho and stuck my feet in the water to get to the waterfall.  I walked through the water to a rock and got out.  Okay.  Got back in the water and walked to another rock.  Oh my!  Enter red feet and the need to feel like I was going to throw up.  Plunge into the water again and head to the next rock.  Ow!  Double Ow!  Walk through water again to another rock.  Oh my!  I'm hung over and about crying.  I'm the only one a girl.  My Scooter is trudging through the water, he doesn't take after me.  Now I run through the water to another rock, hyperventilate, run again, jump on a rock and cry, run again, jump on a rock and do a little dance, splash through the water, cry on a rock, run again, hyperventilate again.  A whole lot of water jumping, rock standing, crying, and I finally make it.  The pain in my feet is nearing epidural stage. 

I can't tell you if the Falls were worth it.  They were big and amazing and I looked at them for all of about 3 seconds and said, "Wow!"  You had to walk through the water and shimmy up a rock to get a good view.  I posed for a picture, with a smile on my face.  Then it was time to go back.  great. 

Scooter got a free ride back from Biker Boy.  He did amazingly well and never complained about cold feet, but when his feet turned red...Biker Boy picked him up.  The dog pretty much got a free ride from someone the whole time.  Lucky dog.  On our venture back down the stream we encountered three girls crying and clinging to rocks.  I hated to inform them that they were only half way to the falls.  Some girls are warm-blooded, we can't take the cold.  I mean...Biker Boy sleeps with zero blankets at night now and I'm covered up with three.  Plus, I don't think anyone would survive very long in that water.  It was seriously COLD!

Overall, a fun trip.  Nice to visit since we were near by.  It's out in the middle of nowhere.  Just a bunch of sand out near some mountains.  Visit if your nearby or traveling through.  Totally worth it then. 

Any other tips to add to mine if you've visited the Sand Dunes?  How about other parks you would recommend to me or other readers?  Any park visiting tips?  If you don't do National Parks, any places near your hometown that you love to visit?  Let me know, I'd love to virtually visit them.

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