Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seeing the Sights

This week we decided to take a little vacation. Tuesday morning we hitched up the RV and drove 80 miles to Alamosa. Tomorrow we will ride the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad photographers' special train on a round trip from Alamosa to LaVeta and back.

This is a view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains out of our dining room window.

Today we decided to drive around and see some of the other sights in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado. Before we left the RV park, we ran a couple of miles--at this elevation of 7500 ft. It was tough. Yesterday, as we drove over LaVeta Pass in fog and rain, we saw a man riding his motorized wheel chair over the pass. He was followed by a motorhome, but we were not able to read the side to see what was going on. Today we discovered the motorhome here in the park.

We still don't know much of the story, but we did learn that, for $1, you can sign your name on the RV, wishing Matt good luck on his wheel chair journey across the country.

We also discovered two vintage automobiles, part of the Model A and T club that is spending this week in Alamosa. Don't you love the trunk on the back of this spiffy old car?

We also spotted this interesting composite RV. It took someone very creative to put it together.

First we drove south to Antonito to watch the morning tourist train of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad pull out. We have ridden that rail line a number of times and love it, but this year we didn't find time to ride two tourist trains. This is a shot of Engine 484 as they left the station.

Being rail buffs, we took numerous photographs in Antonito, but I haven't the time to post them and others may not have the interest to look at them. I do want you to know that this sign is completely accurate. While taking pictures of the train, I got three soot spots on my white shirt.

From there we drove through the town of Manassa. How many of you are old enough to recognize the name The Manassa Mauler? He was born in this house.

As you drive down the main street, it would be hard to miss the museum with this sign in the yard.

As we drove the scenic road toward the Great Sand Dunes National Park, we got this beautiful view of 14,345 ft. Mt. Blanca, the fourth highest mountain in Colorado and seventh highest in the continental United States.

The first known written reference to the Great Sand Dunes appear in the 1807 journals of U. S. Army Lt. Zebulon Pike--namesake of Pikes Peak. He described the dunes as looking like a "sea in a storm." These are the tallest in North America, with the highest dune rising 750 from the valley floor. The park's visitor center is at 8,200 ft. Bright summer sun means the sand can reach a temperature of 140 degrees. As you can see from this picture, the dunes sit against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The national park encompasses both the dunes and the entire mountain, valley and wetlands ecosystem. It became a national monument in 1932 and a national park in 2004. We have been here three times in the past, once in early summer when Medano Creek was running at the base of the dunes. Today we took a short hike up the forested hill behind the dunes. Then we drove out of the park and over to San Luis Lakes State Park, where we could look across the lakes to the sand dunes. We saw this small group of American White Pelicans.

I also got a photo of the pelicans with the sand dunes in the background.

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