Field Trip to the Sand Dunes

Getting to spend a day in a classroom full of elementary aged kids can be rather fun. Getting to spend the day on a field trip is even more fun. Getting to do it in the mountains, much fun.

I chaperoned a group of four boys on a trip to he Great Sand Dunes National Park. As we got off the bus and I told them my plan for the day, they pouted a bit. I had told them that we were going to go off in a different direction, diagonal and to the north east. We were then going to crest out at the highest of the Eastern dunes.

They were not happy to hear we were going away from the where the crowds go. I went with the crowds last year and it was where everyone went. I don’t roll that way when it comes to the mountains. After a long walk we made it to the first dune.

I set them lose to roll, slide, and whatever else they could come up with. They rolled like logs, filling shorts with sand. Not me, been there, done that as a kid. I’m not too keen on sand in undies.

After a bit we moved higher. Now they were itching to see what fun place we would stop at next. I promised bigger slopes to go down.

The views were great. The other people far away looked like ants. We were alone, on out desert trek in the great Sahara and we had to take frequent water breaks. They had one small bottle of water each. I knew better. I had my new 3L hydro pack.

On our way to the top we made several stops to slide down the ever growing dunes. I took pics and watched them swim like sand sharks down the slope, then complain as they came back up. That’s why I had my trusty 3rd leg, my constant companion on the hills, an aluminum ski pole. They were begging me to borrow it. The first few times I laughed at them and walked a bit further, but eventually I started tossing it down to them.

After an hour and a half, we made the crest of the east dune complex. At the edge, we all gasped at the hidden slope. It was the tallest yet, at close to 50 yards high. Whatever the angle of repose is for sand, it was steep. They whooped and one dove off and proceeded to swim down. Another rolled and a third slid on his bottom, a little wary of it’s steepness.

The fourth tossed his backpack and I chose to follow it. I raced it down as it rolled ahead of me. Despite me taking huge, bounding leapsteps, I couldn’t catch it. I stayed a steady 5yds behind it the whole way down. After what seemed a very long time I reached the bottom.

At the bottom of the ‘slope of death’ (scary voice) we began a fast hike to the base of the dunes. Our goal was the stream. We found some water, but it disappears into the sand a little bit downstream from where we met it. One boy swam in it, but it was only inches deep. By then we were hot and tired, and we were maybe a mile from the bus and had worked up quite an appetite. Time for lunch and then the trip back to school.

I asked the boys what they thought of my plan now. They were glad I chose the path I did. We had a blast, and a roll.


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