Inspiration from a Sand Dune

I’ll never forget our visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park in southeast Colorado. Let me begin by saying I didn’t know this park existed until My hubby and I planned a trip to Pike’s Peak last year. When I visited the park website I became intrigued. How in the world did the tallest sand dunes in North America come to be in Colorado? As is the case with many geologic formations, the answer involves water and wind.

Water is the lifeblood of the Great Sand Dunes. Located in a valley between two mountain ranges, particles of sand were deposited by stream runoff. The sand washed into a huge lake covering the valley floor. Eventually the lake dried up, and the wind gradually moved the sand to the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Strong winds funnel through three surrounding mountain passes from opposing directions, making the dunes grow vertically. Star Dune, the tallest, stands at 750 feet.

I experienced the power of the wind on our first night in the park. During our first dune walk, blowing sand blasted our faces and we had to turn back after twenty minutes. In hindsight, I realized how dangerous it is to walk out on the dunes at night. A person could fall into a deep pit without a good flashlight.

The next day the wind died down and we determined to hike to High Dune, a distance of 1.25 miles. We were told that on summer afternoons, the sand heats to a surface temperature of 150 degrees F. We started early, but the the walk was extremely difficult due to shifting sand. It seemed like we moved one step backward for every two steps forward.

Half way up, stopping to rest after every twenty steps.

Needless to say it took us over an hour to go one mile. I definitely recommend using trekking poles to help with balance. We experienced a 450 foot elevation gain. Although we scaled the highest dune we could see from the parking lot, we were disappointed to discover the top was not the top. This was just one ridge in a sea of ridges.

I was a tiny speck upon a vast wilderness of sand.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, the sand felt hotter under our feet. Time to head back down. Along the way I admired the beautiful lines and shapes sculpted by the wind, many of them uniquely different. This was the art of God.

“Chinese Walls” created by two opposing winds.

In reflection I’m reminded of an old saying, “bloom where you are planted.” Grains of sand, trapped in a basin with no way out, are continually pressed on every side by wind. Yet they have risen to create a natural wonder of the world.

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17. NIV

The Bird is the Word

Yes, that’s right, bird is the word for today. I used to underestimate birds. Maybe that’s because they’re so small and numerous. Oh, there’s another bird flying by… big deal. My ambivalent attitude ended when my husband started using a Nikon Coolpix Superzoom camera. Initially he bought it to photograph larger wildlife. But he needed some practice, so he started zooming in on birds. After all, birds are all around us.

Fast forward to our recent Colorado vacation. We attended our first bird watching event in Great Sand Dunes National Park. I discovered bird watching is a relaxing way to spend an hour or two. Of course, in order to see birds one needs to be an early riser, which might leave a few people out.

The main point of birdwatching is to identify birds. In order to accomplish this goal it’s important to pay attention and listen. Wow! Those two things might leave a few more people out. But if you challenge yourself to watch and listen at the same time here are the five elements necessary to identifying birds.

  1. Size
  2. Color (which includes individual markings)
  3. Habitat
  4. Flight pattern
  5. Song (when walking in a dense forest it’s hard to see birds in tall trees)

Resources are available to help anyone get started. Our guide recommended a book,  Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds, for either the Eastern U.S. or Western U.S. depending on your location. And as you can imagine, there are iPhone apps to help you learn the songs of birds. If you are interested read this review for more more information. Our guide recommended using bird call apps responsibly when you are in the field because they can disturb whatever birds might be in the vicinity.

IMG_4638
During our bird walk I learned to identify the call of a chickadee.

In addition to attending a bird watching walk, anyone can set up a bird feeder in their backyard to watch birds at home. During our trip to Colorado we saw numerous hummingbird feeders at restaurants and hotels. After several encounters, we identified different varieties of  hummingbirds and discovered some are very territorial. One kind, the Ruby-throated, hid in the bushes until the Broad-tail hummingbirds settled at the feeder. The Ruby-throated bird rushed out of its hiding place. It perched on top of the shepherd’s hook, then  buzzed all the other birds until it had the feeder all to itself.

Enjoy my video of the cut-throat competition among hummingbirds.

I must say my first attempt at making this video was cut short because one aggressive hummingbird buzzed me!

Bird watching is an educational family friendly activity. Now you know why the bird is the word. If you like birds check out my previous post Cardinal Virtues.

I appreciate you, dear followers. Please share my posts on your social media sites to increase my audience. For new readers, please sign up to follow me. You will receive  notifications by email of new postings.