Part 3 of 3: Travel to CO Friend, Dunes & Waterfall

The next few days was a combination of travel, heading south for two new experiences: a stop for lunch in Woodland Park, then further south to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

Do you know the on-line game Words With Friends? I played a few years ago with my mom and a sister. I continued to play, they did not. Most players do not use the chat feature; however, Beth did. Through chatting, Beth and I compared the weather between Colorado and Arizona. Long story short, while in Colorado I texted her, we met for lunch with a great view of Pike’s Peak from Woodland Park, and I enjoyed meeting her with a delicious lunch too. Her niece ran the Pikes Peak Marathon a few days later and Beth texted saying her niece won the women’s division! Wow!

Great Sand Dunes National Park is a couple of hours drive from the interstate. I have always wanted to visit and this trip I was going to make it happen! I immediately felt the elevation as I was hiking on the sand dunes. It is over 8500 feet and the summit is a few thousand feet higher which I did not accomplish (8500 feet is my comfort, beyond can be an issue). The wind had flags straight out as I walked in the sand and felt like it could push me over. I got out of the wind in some places to watch people “sled” down the dune. It was hilarious to watch the varying degrees of expertise and I did feel bad for the guy who “sand-boarded” the dune quite successfully for 3/4 of it, but face-planted at the end! 

I met an Orlando, Florida couple who had questions about my van. They are backpackers who currently travel via their Honda Element and looking to buy a van. All that they said sounded like my story!

Great Sand Dunes Basin
Sled down a dune
Dig in the sand
See the child digging in the sand?
Hikers at top of the dune in the cloud … I see them!

Zapata Falls is a must-do hike!

Close to the national park is Zapata Falls. They need to update the sign at the entrance as the 2.5 miles road to the trailhead is now paved. The trail to the falls though is very rocky, steep in a short section as you gain from 9000 to 9200 feet.

The real challenge came when crossing the stream flowing from the falls. Ice cold water flowing over many rocks, some with algae; looking just a bit slippery. There were 4 crossings and then you had to lean over at one point to get a photo of the 30 foot high falls! No way was I standing in 3 – 4 feet of ice cold water to get a photo of the complete falls. If you go on this hike, bring hiking poles for the stream crossings to make your life easier. At 2 points, helping hands made my rock-jumping a bit safer. Very kind people!

Zapata Falls

Walking back to the trailhead I talked with a Colorado couple. They love to fish and have been to college and lived in different parts of Colorado. As I was pulling away in the van, the woman caught up with me … she wanted to be sure I had seen her t-shirt. I like it!

You never know what people will share with you in a day!

At nighttime I did have an altitude headache even though I was sleeping at 6000 feet. A couple of Advil took care of it for a good night’s sleep.