Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

User avatar
dbhguru
Posts: 4467
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:12 pm

ENTS,

On Tuesday Monica and I reconnected with the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. The Dunes cover 30 square miles and are the tallest dunes in North America. They are one of our favorite spots on Earth. We have become 'Doonies' - one step removed from loonies, but what the heck. Monica literally can't get enough of the Dunes. But where to begin? It is all good. The first image shows interesting sand patterns - something that I'm always looking for. You can view large scale patterns from a distance early in the morning and late in the afternoon when shadows highlight the artistry of the Dunes apparent to all. One views smaller patterns up close and personal. There is no end to the variations, but occasionally I get surprised. . Below, a sand bank reveals its mastery of natural art by weaving various forms across a natural canvass of sand.
PatternsInTheDunesSmall.jpg
The Dunes are to be enjoyed on many spatial scales. You may study the shapes of grains of sand under a microscope, search for endemic species, in which case you may have to get down on your hands and knees on hot sand. You may look at the wind patterns, their creation and destruction. You may survey the expansive landscape surrounding you on the scale of the dunes, a scale of a few feet to nearly 900. Finally, you may survey on the most expansive scale that includes the backdrop of the towering Sangres with their ten fourteeners. The next image shows the plain created by Medano Creek against the backdrop of Mt. Herard, a huge mountain that abruptly rises just shy of 6,000 feet on the northern end of the Dunes.
MedanoCreekSmall.jpg
Looking ground-ward instead of skyward, I saw a piece of wood curing in the sands. It looked artistic, so I photographed it. Its origin, I know not what, but there it was buried in the sands of time. Everybody, may I present to you Mr. Dune Wood.
WoodInSandSmall.jpg
Once you walk into them, the dunes begin a process of swallowing you up. Sand is beneath your feet, all around you, and the piles grow in height. The world turns into a pastel. But toward the edge of the dunes, you are conscious of them on a larger spatial scale. Westward, the San Luis Valley stretches to the horizon, and eastward loom the mighty Sangres. In the next image Monica is disappearing into the sandy vastness.
MonicaCommuningSmall.jpg
Least one forget, the landscape surrounding the Great Sand Dunes bears no resemblance to a typical ocean dune environment. The hulking form of Mount Herard serves as a reminder. Herard is so dominant that near the eastern and northern borders of the Dunes, one never looses sight of this giant peak.
SandAndMtHerardSmall.jpg
From the surrounding San Luis Valley, largest high mountain valley in North America, two prominent ranges of the Rockies dominate the horizon. To the east there are the Sangres. To the west lie the San Juans, but they appear only as a thin blue line capped by spots of white. In contrast, from the Dunes and the nearby Zapata Ranch, the Sangres rule. Notice the line of cattle in the next photograph. The land and the Sangres swallow them up.
SieeraBlancaSmall.jpg
The Zapata Ranch is managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is a working ranch with cattle and buffalo. One also sees the natural animals of the area to include mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Tourists can go to Zapata and participate in 'ranchly' duties. Although the ranch exists in the middle of a desert, it possesses an idyllic green oasis, a spot of exquisite loveliness nestled among a stand of narrow leaf cottonwoods. The last image of this post looks through mature cottonwoods out into the vastness of the San Luis Valley to the west.
ZapataRanchSmall.jpg
I will post more on the Dunes in the coming days. Monica and I will be spending three days there on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th. We will be looking for the unusual and small within the context of this grand-scale land feature.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

User avatar
Don
Posts: 1560
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:42 am

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by Don » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:46 pm

Bob/Monica-
Another exemplary trip report 'snippet'!
But for those of us seeking numbers, the mere use of superlatives just aren't quite enough...
Re "...San Luis Valley, largest high mountain valley in North America...", hmmm, I've a contender in mind, do you have your numbers handy?
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
Science Center
Grand Canyon National Park

BJCP Apprentice Beer Judge

View my Alaska Big Tree List Webpage at:
http://www.akbigtreelist.org

User avatar
dbhguru
Posts: 4467
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:07 pm

Don,

Alas, you've uncovered a weakness in virtually all promotional materials regardless of source. From the rough calculations I've done, the valley covers over 4,000 square miles. One popular promotional description states that the San Luis is the size of Connecticut. Then there is the criteria of high mountain valley. What is a high mountain valley? The San Luis lies between 7,500 and 8,000 feet above sea level. Then there is the further question of what is defined as North America. Sometimes it is considered to be the land north of Central America. I suppose now, we should define North America as everything north of the Panama Canal. I expect most sources include Central America, since Central America is technically part of the North American continent.

When it comes to comparison statistics, I consider myself to be pretty finicky. I let the above bit of San Luis promotion slip through. I'll make atonement when you get to Durango by buying you a frosty mug of your favorite local brew. Gotta reputation to maintain.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

User avatar
edfrank
Posts: 4217
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:46 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by edfrank » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:40 pm

Bob,

You can eliminate some of the ambiguity by better defining the parameters. With regard to North Americs if you are speaking in terms of geology - then the southern boundary of North America pretty much coincides with the southern border of Guatamala ad Belize and northern border of Honduras. The other central American countries are part of the Caribbean Plate, a separate entity from both the North American Plate and the South American Plate. We would also need to separate out Bja California and portions of the west coast as they are strictly speaking part of the Juan del Fuca Plate. Of course the eastern end of Siberia and Kanchatka would also be part of North America as well as Greenland. Geographic boundaries of North America would be bounded by the Bering Straight in the north and the central portion of Panama - i.e. Panma Canal in the south. So no matter what you say you need t better define your parameters.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

User avatar
dbhguru
Posts: 4467
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:12 pm

Ed,

Good points. There are at least five ways to define regions: geologic, political, ecological, geometric, and historic. When the NPS states that the San Luis is the largest high mountain valley in North America, I have no idea what boundaries they're using or elevational criterion, or acreage. It is interesting to contemplate what definitions are being used when forest types are defined, biomes, etc. I'll bet we could uncover lots of inconsistencies, conflicts, etc. The very terms accuracy, precision, and consistency are open to further definition. Aw shucks! The San Luis Valley is a freaking big, high, dry place.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

User avatar
edfrank
Posts: 4217
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:46 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by edfrank » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:29 pm

Bob,

Really I was just finding some humor in the ambiguity of even commonly accepted concepts as the idea of North America.
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

User avatar
dbhguru
Posts: 4467
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:10 pm

Ed,

I understood. I was trying to feed some humor back in my freaking criteria. I apologize if it sounded otherwise. I often use terms like freaking, cool, way, wicked cool and thought I'd run them in in jest. On a more serious track, the amount of geographical terminology that mixes political boundaries with geological and ecological boundaries is grist for discussion. I don't think there is a solution, but we in ENTS can push each other to define our terms.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

User avatar
gnmcmartin
Posts: 463
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:16 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by gnmcmartin » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:04 pm

Bob:

If you and Monica are dune lovers, you have to see the Oregon Dunes. When I was a forestry student at Mich State U., I spent one summer choker setting on a logging crew in Oregon. My favorite weekend "retreat" was the Oregon Dunes. That was in 1959, long before the area was much known, and at that time it was completely "virgin" and untouched. I can't say what has happened since, except a big effort to make them a National Park failed. Anyway, they are "coastal dunes," and they join a coastal forest of Sitka spruce on the east. I loved the area for its variety--there were little lakes, little islands of scrub forest amid all the dunes, some fairly high dunes, areas of "driftwood," but not really drifted wood as such, but dead trees "sculpted" by the blowing sand, and a few fields. There were worlds within worlds to explore--I can't begin to describe the variety and the beauty of the features. I still have a few pieces of the "sculpted" wood I picked up there, and have them prominently displayed. Incredible forms with some great delicacy.

So, I can't say what the area is like now. It is a National Recreation Area, and may be somewhat trampled by now. It was a great joy to me to find it--quite by accident--when I did. The area was absolutely pristine, and when I was there, I never saw another soul.

--Gaines

User avatar
dbhguru
Posts: 4467
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:43 pm

Gaines,

Thanks for the tip. I'll put the site on my list. The Great sand Dunes NP is well protected. Of course some people are there to slide down teh dunes, but no motorized vehicles are allowed. Most visitors visit High Dune. You have the rest pretty much to yourself.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

User avatar
James Parton
Posts: 1576
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:47 pm

Re: Great Sand Dunes Reconnection

Post by James Parton » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:26 pm

Bob,

You and Monica are " Doonies " and I am sure ENTS has a few " Loonies " too. But I am in the third group. The " Boonies ". People in my class like to reside, well, uh...in the boonies.

I love the photo with Monica made to look so small against the dunes. Very artistic and very spiritual. Great photo Mr. Leverett!

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

Post Reply

Return to “Colorado”