My first night on sand and under stars

After spending the day hiking the sand dunes of Colorado, which I wrote about on Friday, I had to decide if I could make a second hike, this time to backcountry camp on the dunes.

After not making it as far as expected earlier in the day, Jon was not sure whether or not I still would want to hike over more dunes to camp that evening. In order to camp on the dunes, you have to drive to the Point of No Return a few miles north of the main day-use area and hike out of the day-use area, which ends at the first ridge along the dunes, a two- to three-mile hike.

I was exceedingly more excited about this endeavor and said yes, I wanted to do this. Before heading out we ate a cooked meal. By the time we were packed and ready to go, the sun was setting, which had a drastic effect on the temperature.

The sunset over the dunes

Refreshed and energized, this hike was a lot easier. The hike first led us to Medano Creek, which flows when there is snowmelt, and was flowing here but not where we hiked earlier. Then we proceeded up the dunes, following some footprints.

Distance is difficult to measure when you are going up and down and we were not so sure if we had gone far enough. We decided we had hiked a considerable-enough distance and picked a spot to spend the night.

I thought that if there was ever a place to sleep inside a tent, it would be in a place where sand is blowing.

Jon had other ideas, and I had no reason to argue. I had never slept under the stars before, and as opposed to some locations, there is limited wildlife in the dunes, compared to a forest, and what does live there isn’t going to harm you like, for instance, a bear, elk or bighorn sheep could.

We spread out our comforter, held down the corners with shoes and backpacks, and covered up with sleeping bags.

While lying there, I said something about the sky and Jon said he did not think it was too spectacular that night. I mentioned that I could see the Big Dipper through the clouds, and as I said that, I realized that it wasn’t cloudy. What I thought was a cloudy sky was my terrible eyesight, blurring the sky.

I had forgotten I had taken off my glasses. When I replaced them, the “clouds” went away and I countered Jon’s opinion of the sky, saying it was a pretty impressive view compared to what I can usually see through the light pollution of an apartment complex and nearby interstate exit. A few nights later this view was topped with a night sky that showed off the Milky Way, but even so, it was nice to see something as simple as a relatively uninterrupted view of stars.

It got quite cold at some point in the night. And sleeping on sand isn’t as comfortable as one might think.

I woke some point before the sun made it over the mountains on the eastern edge of the park but the sky was already lightening. I managed to fall back asleep until the heat started to pick up a few hours later. I think it was around 8 a.m. and I was already thinking about needing sunscreen. We ate some food and packed up so that we could get off the sand before it got too hot.

We followed our footsteps back down the dunes and I was surprised they had not yet blown away.

Our footprints in the sand

Jon decided to walk barefoot until the sand got too hot to bear. I was wearing shoes, and as we ran down the steep, leeward sides of dunes, the sand was burning my ankles.

We moved quickly as we approached the creek because we realized the night before that mosquitos were quite prolific there. I got roughly 15 bites.

Medano Creek

The rest of the path was uphill to the car and less pleasant than the night before. There was no beautiful sunset to look at this time. But now I have the memory of spending the night on the sand under a plethora of stars.

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