Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 24- Alligator Rodeo, UFOs & Canoeing Down Sand Dunes

October 8th 2010, Friday

Yesterday when we drove from Nathrop to Great Sand Dunes we passed through many small “towns” if you can even call them that. According to Wikipedia they all had populations of around 100 people. If you blinked you literally would have missed them. There were, however, three interesting things that are worth mentioning.
The first is that we passed a huge field of photovoltaic cells. It was so weird because they covered a huge expanse of land and since they were on the ground where you’d expect crops to be it was like they were growing them! I found that it was the Alamosa Photovoltaic Plant and that it covered 83 acres of land! I guess solar power plants makes sense in a place like this where there aren’t many people who could be aesthetically offended, there’s not enough water to really be able to grow anything and there is definitely a lot of sun throughout the year.

The second sighting was of a sign for the Colorado Gators Reptile Park in Mosca, CO. It started in the late 1970s as a tilapia farm and opened to the public in 1990 as a sanctuary with ponds fueled by geothermal energy that allow alligators and many other animals to survive. It is a refuge for migrating birds as well as abused or neglected reptiles. Every August the park holds Gatorfest, the world’s first alligator rodeo and roundup! Activities include roping, riding, and barrel racing! I wish that was going on right now so that I could see it. I mean, alligator barrel racing? How would that work? And the riding?? I hope they have an ambulance at the ready! Here is their website: http://gatorfarm.com/

The third and final sighting of note was a sign for a UFO Watch Tower just outside of Hooper, CO. Now I was sure we were getting close to New Mexico! The site is run by a female rancher named Judy. If you go to Roadside America’s website you will find descriptions written by people who have visited. This is one of my favorites: “In addition to the watchtower, she has a very strange garden consisting of rocks, sticks and an incredible amount of amazingly random junk offerings, laid out around what she describes as the location of a major Interdimensional Vortex. People leave offerings to the Vortex, which range from quite valuable items down to old hubcaps and half packets of chewing gum, all displayed with equal reverence. She will also show you a small dry shrub nearby, which has magical powers. I had to agree, it was the best small dry shrub with magical powers that I have seen anywhere in the world. It didn't do anything magical while I was there, but hey, I'm not about to argue with Judy.”

God, I love travelling. The thing that makes these sightings even more awesome and definitely more random is the fact that this is literally the middle of Nowhere. I mean, Nathrop, as a ghost town, was the beginning of Nowhere so that would mean we’re right smack in the middle at this point.

But anyways, back to the awesomeness that is Great Sand Dunes National Park!
An amazing view in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Tyler liked it right off the bat because in order to get to a lot of the trails you have to drive on these crazy unpaved roads that are truly ridiculous. Tyler was in off-roading heaven in his new truck while I had one white-knuckled hand clutching the handle above the passenger door and the other trying to make sure Hanz didn’t get thrown around too much in the back seat! We got to the parking lot and the jostling came to a happy end. Hanz and I got out pretty quickly, happy to have two (or four) feet on the ground where things seemed much more stable.
I'm prepared with my Camelback! Take note of the canoe because it's about to become very relevant.

Somehow Tyler had talked me into bringing our canoe out with us with the plan being that we would hike up to the top of the biggest sand dune with it and then “canoe” back down. Well, let me tell you, don’t attempt this. Seriously, I mean, I guess it makes for a good story but it was some seriously hard work hiking that thing down this trail, across the dried up river bed and over to the dunes alone. And then you get there, realizing it’s difficult to carry something heavy and bulky in sand because with every step you sink into the sand. Then you realize that you haven’t even climbed the dune yet! That’s exactly what happened to us but we had come that far so we didn’t want to give up. 
Carrying the canoe

Almost there!
We did take period breaks to sit down and groan a bit. Hanz was super excited the whole time. He didn’t know what to make of this huge pile of sand! He was almost constantly in wild puppy mode, running around at top speed with his ears back and his butt tucked under, mouth open in excitement. So on our breaks we couldn’t help but play with him a bit, as well.
Tyler playing with Hanz who is in Wild Puppy Mode.

The wind was fiercely blowing and the desert heat was intense. You couldn’t open your mouth or you would get sand in it. We finally made it up the dune, looked down and realized that the angle would be fine for us in the canoe until we got closer to the bottom where it dropped off much more sharply and we would definitely hit the ground with the nose of our canoe and topple over. Wanting to avoid this we decided to keep moving along the dune to see if the angles would work any better. This was no small feat, again because of the insane wind whipping the sand everywhere, and with exerting a lot of effort with each step because of how our feet would sink into the sand. 
We eventually found something that looked like it might work. I got out my camera, prepared to film the whole thing, and Tyler and I got into the boat. I was super excited because we were finally going to do it and at least we would have a fun ride down. Tyler had his leg over the side of the boat with his foot in the sand to stabilize it so we could get situated. He put his foot back in the boat and we both push off with our arms…. I think we moved about a quarter of an inch. NOOOOO! It wasn’t going to work! I was so pissed. All this work for nothing??? And now we were going to have to carry it back down??? I don’t think so. 
Not a happy camper!!
Tyler, being the very nice and level-headed person that he is was able to get over it fairly quickly and suggested that instead, I stay in the canoe and he would push me down. Aww, what a nice boyfriend! I wasn’t going to turn down an offer like that so I got back in the canoe with my camera recording away and Tyler gave me a big running push. It worked! I was going! And, oh… wait… this isn’t a good angle…. Crash. It kinda hurt but it was worth it. So now I can officially say that I have canoed down a sand dune. Thank you Tyler! And Tyler continued on his awesome spree and proceeded to carry the canoe all by himself as he ran/walked all the way back to the truck! Wow. Check that one off my bucket list. 
Thumbs up!
Hanz went into wild puppy mode on the way down the dune. He was so excited and confused about my being in the canoe and then crashing and shrieking that when I finally got out he ran over to me super excited, making sure I was okay and then running around in huge circles in the sand. What a good puppy.
Me and Hanz

Hanz giving Tyler a big lick!
It rained that night as we slept in the campground. When we woke up this morning we walked around. The sand dunes looked so different because there were ripples of wet sand that shifted the dunes from a monochromatic smooth look to one of more contrast. Quite interesting indeed. 

1 comment:

  1. What fantastic storytelling.And amazing photos!