Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Hiking the Dunes, a Mystery Campground and We're Home

Martha and I drove the CR-V over to the Great Sand Dunes NP so she could walk the dunes and of course get her National Park Passport Stamp.

Having the car, made it easy to also carry the three now empty spare water cans to refill them at the NP's campground.  We also refilled the spare 5 gallon gas can at the station near the entrance to the park.

We didn't walk far into the dunes mind you, just enough to get a taste.  The crowds were "bearable" for a Monday too.

Regular Martha

Silly Martha

Note: though there wasn't many people in the shots above, I edited them out anyways.  We did not have the dunes to ourselves.

We returned to the campsite and while Martha prepared lunch, I took Yagi on a quick ride over to a set of picnic tables with sun shades we'd seen from the highway yesterday.

The tables are listed as $200 at Tractor Supply.
There was one table still in the box, onsite.

Not fancy material, the sun shades...

There's about seven such picnic table sites with a BBQ grill onsite, some of them have a square made of wooden posts which look like possible tent sites.

No signage, just the sites, a porta-potty and a garbage dumpster.  Seems like it's half built or something.  It reminded me of the half-completed houses and shacks in Baja California.

As part of the weirdness, someone left some clothing at one of the sites:

We left the GSDNP yesterday, thinking to do at least an overnight camping in the Tarryall area for Fall Colors.

Sadly, it's not yet time, perhaps next week before the areas we traversed along US285 turn color.  There was some promise around Kenosha Pass but by that point we'd passed the camping areas and just focused on getting home.

No issues towing the CR-V behind Uma except for some loose wires in the tow lights, which will be resolved soon.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Sunday Drive with Martha to Penitente Canyon

Saturday, September 23

I spent the morning pulling maintenance on my TW200 and the VRRV.  I will need to buy some power steering fluid for the VRRV soon.

I found Yagi's intake and exhaust valves out of spec by 0.001 in each, so I tightened them to 0.003 and 0.005 respectively.

Now for the good stuff, Sunday, September 24

The day augured well with a nice sunrise:

Martha joined me at the campsite at 12:30 PM, having driven her Honda CR-V down from the cesspool that is the Metro Denver area.

After a quick lunch, we went on a Sunday drive in the CR-V to check out a couple of BLM camping sites on the western side of the San Luis Valley.  This valley is where the Great Sand Dunes NP and the San Luis Lakes SWA are located, a rather large flat valley that sits on top of a huge aquifer.

First we checked out Elephant Rocks to the north of the town of Del Norte, not bad sites but a bit sloping.

We then went to the Penitente Canyon Campground and saw their sites (not bad, but too much hiker traffic) and then did a bit of hiking of one of the several trails in this canyon.

Penitente Canyon is apparently popular with rock climbers.
It hosts a Climber Fest Oct 13-14 if I remember correctly.

You may have noticed what appears to be a painted figure in the last pic.  We at first thought it was graffiti someone had painted on a while back.  It was quite faded but it looked liked a depiction of the Virgin Mary to us.

Turns out, it was a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe an information plaque at the trailhead parking lot read:

Penitente Canyon takes its name from men of Spanish heritage and deep religious faith, Los Hermanos Penitentes.  The Penitentes were part of the Hispanic Community that settled in what is now Southern Colorado in the mid-19th century.  It's said that in the mid-20th century a few men from the local community painted the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that's still visible today.  The words above the Virgin read "Consuelo y Espiritu" or "Comfort and Spirit".

Some post-processing done to try and bring out details

We didn't hike for long, and once back in the car we headed back towards the campsite.  

We did however, make a brief stop at a small church we saw along the way.

The church itself was closed.  Only opened on special occasions so no inside pictures.

After this, it was a 40 minute drive back to camp and a steak dinner prepared by Martha.  Martha will be camping with me for the next three nights or so.

Friday, September 22, 2023

T-Dub'ing for Dune Views at the GSDNP

 GSDNP: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Yesterday, September 21, was spent cruising up and down the trails and roads of this national park.  It was a late start, I didn't get to the park till after 10AM but that's OK since it was a bit chilly before then.

Some of the sights seen:

Fall Color is starting to show here...

Couple of bucks...

At the Castle Creek picnic area, I saw these two fellows making their way up the steep slope of the nearby dune:

It made feel a bit better, seeing even younger guys like these had to make multiple stops to catch their breath.  Oh, and it looks like they made it to the top but no, it was but a false summit.

I ate some trail mix while watching the climbers, a couple of chipmunks kept wandering near hoping for a handout.  

A bit more riding resulted in this view of more Fall Colors at the base of more dunes:

At the Sand Pit area, I was sitting watching the group of horse riders I'd passed on the trail before make their way into the dunes:

I must say, that's the way to climb into the dunes, on a horse's back!

Lacking a horse, and Yagi not being allowed in the wilderness' dunes, I walked up the same trail as the horse riders.  It proved pretty easy actually.

I then rode to the main dune area where most visitors use to get up on the dunes:

I expect Martha and I will use this area to see how far up the dunes we can manage to climb.

It was close to 5PM at this point, so I elected to position myself outside the park at a nice vantage point to watch the dunes grow shadows.

At 6 PM, I'd had enough of the wind so I headed on back to camp.  All in all, a good day's worth of riding.

A snake I saw on the road to camp, I ushered it off the road before it would get run over....

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

T-Dubing around the Medano-Zapata Ranch Conservancy

Not much got done yesterday, Monday.  I did do some riding at the Great Sand Dunes NP after a decent sunrise:

As I'm waiting on Martha's arrival to tackle the sand dunes, I didn't do any dune climbing/hiking.  The light was very flat too so no further pics of the dunes for Monday:

The weather turned overcast and windy soon after lunch and I spent the rest of the day sheltering in the VRRV.  I did have a visitor to my campsite:

As the sun went down, I watched a lightning storm approach from the west.  It was quite the spectacle, the video below doesn't really do it justice.  Note: The video is a compilation of captured lightning strikes, pasted together without the pauses in between.

Today, I decided to explore what the map said was Medano Road and it seemed to lead one closer to the western end of the Great Sand Dunes NP.  

This morning dawned with fog covering everything including the nearby peaks:

Hoping for some better distance pictures of the sand dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Peaks I went there after breakfast. 

Medano Road led instead to the Medano-Zapata Ranch which is a conservancy owned and operated by Colorado Outdoors.  At first, thinking it was private property, I just rode a trail paralleling the fence line hoping to spot some Bison.

I did spot a small herd but they were pretty far away:

Can you spot the lone Bison?

Returning to the ranch's main gate, I realized it was chained but not with a lock.  I read the signs and realized one is allowed inside since it's a conservancy:

Riding along the road, I spotted a couple of Bison to the right.  I parked Yagi and walked a bit closer but not too close.

When I started Yagi's engine again, the Bison decided to leave the area away from the noise.

I continued inward and found a collection of dilapidated wood buildings, methinks its remnants of the ranch:

Further on, there was the Medano Ranch and some wooden buildings in slightly better shape but I don't think they're in use:

I decided that was enough exploring for the day, it was past lunch so I returned back to camp for burger and fries.

The afternoon was cloudy but somewhat sunny, I relaxed around the campsite, listening to an audio book.  The weather once again turned overcast and windy for a bit in the late afternoon.  Fortunately, the winds died down for the sunset and we got a pretty good after-sunset show:

Update: September 20.  I was mistaken in thinking an unlocked gate into a Nature Conservancy meant it was providing public access; unlike such gates to BLM land.

You're supposed to have a Conservancy employee/guide with you.  Oh well.