The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Southwest Colorado

Located about 30 miles outside the town of Alamosa in Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes are a fascinating feature that has been created by nature over thousands of years. The giant sand dunes sitting at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains highlight the diversity of habitats in southwestern Colorado, which ranges from wetlands, prairies, mountains, and forests. The sand dunes seem oddly out of place, it is almost as if a piece of an African desert was scooped up and dropped in the mountain valley. The reality is that they were created after a large lake dried up thousands of years ago and the wind drove the sand to the base of the mountains.

Sand Dunes and Mountain Peaks
The People Give Perspective to the Size of the Dunes
The Size can be Deceiving
Hiking the Sand Dunes

Although this year the mountains did not receive a lot of snow and therefore the runoff was minimal, usually there is a river or stream running at the base of the sand dunes, making the contrast even more interesting. One of the good things about the stream not being there was that we didn’t have to get our feet wet in order to get to the base of the dunes, but the bad part was that it was even more sand to walk through in the heat of the sun. It is not easy walking in the sand and even harder walking up the steep sides of the dunes. They may not seem as large from the distance, but the actual peaks of the dunes can be as high as 750 feet (230 meters).

First View of the Dunes
A Sandboarder
People at the Peak
At the Base of the Sand Dunes

As more and more people visit the dunes, one of the most popular things to do is to bring a sandboard and go sandboarding. People will spend hours climbing to the top and then boarding their way back down. Just to reach the top is difficult, so to do it over and over again in order to shred the sand is a real achievement. It also means that you will be surrounded by plenty of crowds as people flock to the area. There is camping nearby and you will find and endless array of motorhomes and RV’s. Since it is a national park, you can expect to pay $20 per vehicle to get into the park, which is good for seven days.

Walking to the Dunes
Like Walking on a Strange Planet
Prairie, Dunes, and Mountains

It took us about three hours to drive from Colorado Springs to the Great Sand Dunes, but it is well worth the drive. We hadn’t been to the sand dunes for over twenty years, so it was also a little bit nostalgic for us as we remembered bringing our young children there to play in the sand. We only spent a couple of hours at the sand dunes as climbing the hills is very exhausting and hard on the legs. Even though we were walking in the Sahara Desert only a few weeks ago, visiting this unique place in Colorado was really something special.

The Struggle to Reach the Summit
A Sense of Scale
Looking Away from the Dunes

Going to Extremes

There are so many beautiful places throughout the world, but it isn’t always easy to reach them. Some of these locations are easily accessible, but others require an effort to reach. Whether it is hiking up a mountain, taking a canoe into the jungle, or just visiting a remote location, the scenery that you see can be quite rewarding. We have been fortunate to see a variety of different scenery throughout the years and look forward to seeing more in the future.

Andes Mountains in South America

Standing in the desert in Egypt

Moon Valley in La Paz, Bolivia

There are so many different types of scenery in various parts of the world due to the various climates and geological forces that exist. From rainforests, arctic tundra, tropical islands, vast deserts, and dramatic canyons, each has its own charm as well as its own challenge to seeing their natural beauty. Sometimes you can find these amazing scenes near where you live today and other require traveling to a far off country. Regardless of where we travel, we always look for opportunities to find one of those places that can’t be found anywhere else.

Amazon Rainforest

Lava Fields in Iceland in Winter

Hikers Heading Up an Exposed Rock Face in Utah

Even though we’ve gone to some extreme locations, we are not ones who take incredible risks to see these beautiful places. You don’t need to climb up the side of a mountain with ropes, cross a desert on a camel, or bobsled through the arctic to see the scenery that the world has to offer. We certainly don’t go to those types of extremes. Even the time of year can change the way that a place looks, so seeing it in different seasons can also effect your perception of it as well. How far are you willing to go to find the places that aren’t like anything that you’ve ever seen before?

Great Sand Dunes in Colorado

View of the Quilotoa Caldera and Lagoon in Ecuador

Beautiful Scenery from a Mountain Peak in Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam


Step Pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt

The Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, is an ancient pyramid in the Saqqara Necropolis. It is located about an hour outside of Cairo and we toured it as part of trip to the Giza plateau. Although most people associate the pyramids of Egypt with the smooth sided Great Pyramids, step pyramids were the predecessors to such technology. There are other temples and burial grounds to be seen around the Step Pyramid, but as with Dahshur, there are not nearly as many visitors as at the Great Pyramids.

Exploring the Site

Ancient Wall

A Crumbing Tomb

Step Pyramid

The Step Pyramid was built around the 27th century BC and is considered the earliest large cut-stone in the world. Tourists are able to descend down the tunnel that leads to an ancient tomb, which is just an empty chamber with hieroglyphs today. It can be extremely hot, so be sure to drink plenty of water and be prepared for cramped quarters as you walk down the tunnel that has had a ramp and railings added for safety reasons.

Steep Tunnel

More of the Complex

Hieroglyphs in the Tomb Chamber

Ancient Doorway

Walking around the entire complex was very interesting and it is a shame that more people do not visit. The site was looted during the uprising in 2011, but fortunately the monuments were left relatively unharmed. For anyone who is visiting Cairo, Saqqara should definitely be one of the top sites to see during your time there.

Another View of the Pyramid

Weathered Statue

Restorations Under Way

Repair Work to Stabilize the Pyramid