Time to head south! On this leg of the journey, I was on my way to Great Sand Dune National Park, which I believe (parents can fact check me) is my first National Park! I decided to stop at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park along the way, which is the tallest suspension bridge in the US! It's terrifying! I took the gondola over (which was a lovely, enclosed space) and walked back over the bridge. In this case, my fear of open spaces was joined by my fear of dropping things from great heights (thanks, theatre degree!), which meant all the photos from the bridge were taking through the grating on either side, rather than over the railing. Many people were waving their phones willy-nilly over the side of the bridge and to my knowledge, no one dropped one that day. Still, better safe, right? It's just a casual 1,053 foot drop. CASUAL. People zipline it. I was only mildly traumatized.
After breathing a sigh of relief and leaving the park, I started my drive for the Sand Dunes. It was about three hours away, and I was driving on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which gave me beautiful views and very little traffic. I pulled over to do this little panorama from my car.
I didn't realize that by driving down the west side, I was also approaching from the best direction to see the Sand Dunes. They are hands-down the strangest thing I've ever seen. They don't look real. Even as you're looking at them, they seem like they don't belong. They are the one thing I would describe as "too pretty to paint," but that doesn't mean I wasn't going to try.
I had splurged and gotten a room at the Great Sand Dune Lodge, as most of my airbnb options were at least an hour away and I wanted to be closer. A bonus? The view out of my room. I used it to get a head start in learning about the colors of the Sand Dunes before getting a good night's sleep for the full, sandy day ahead of me.