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Heart-Leading Mind-Centering Sand Dune Adventure

8 February 2011 12 Comments

BAM!  I woke up to an explosion near my feet, and the delicate sound of flying ice.  I was too cold to figure out what had burst.  It was long past saving now; I’d look in the morning.

My Redbull can!  It had lived through -25F in Crested Butte a month before, so whatever I was experiencing now was colder than that.  I scraped the ice off the inside of my windshield and peered out at the day.  The sun was shining and the wind had stopped.  Ahhh.

Everything had frozen: my eggs, milk, olive oil, every drop of water I had, so I grabbed a few frozen oranges, stuffed my camera in a drybag, and headed off into the desert…

Sometimes I go on surprise solo-adventures.  They help me recharge, reconnect with the universe, gain perspective on life, and I get to see a lot of crazy parts of the world I might not get to otherwise.  I like to pack for pretty much anything, warm clothes, beach clothes, a bunch of food, a ton of toys, sometimes my passport.  I’ll throw everything in the car, tell the people I love that I’m going to disappear for awhile, and start driving.

This time I left Boulder on a –F day, and headed south.  I ended up in Great Sand Dunes Natl Park,  and was a greeted by a sign “Station Closed, have a nice stay.”  Even the rangers weren’t here on this extreme day.  I had the whole place to myself.

…and so I walked into the sand dunes; a place that is particular is meditative for me.

I shared some thoughts about it when I passed through 4 years ago.

This time I let the land do its work as I began to sink deeper in.  I was immediately struck by the amazing contrasts, textures, patters, and feeling of the place.  Slowly as the day progressed new worlds unfolded, miniature-worlds of ice and sand, mega-worlds of snowcapped peaks and soaring eagles, and everything in between.  I sustained myself on oranges and coconut macaroons as my feet took my across the dunes.  I stopped to take pictures often, careful to shelter my camera from the sand, and my hands from the freezing cold.

My mind quieted, for there was nothing to focus on in the desert.  Thoughts sailed by less and less frequently, and soon I began to feel the place, to hear it, smell it, to see tiny details I had missed before.  I found a miniature Fulgurite hidden in the sandy ripples; I tracked songbirds, desert mice, and beetles, and slowly filled in the rough spots of my being.

A storm came, covering the dunes in snow; still I walked, sat, breathed.  The sun started to set, bringing with it a last brilliance and a pair of sundogs.

The place was mine, no one for many miles.

Interestingly, I felt as if I was merely topping off an already full pitcher.  Life has been amazing recently, heart-opening, full of explorations, and deepening friendships.  This time I let the visit to the dunes be some time with an old friend, sitting a talking about life together, rather than sourcing healing power out of the sand.  It was nice to catch up, sit together, and get ready for the amazing journeys to come.

If you live in Colorado and have never been, this place is a must.

Here are some photos from my time there:


  • Kath said:

    Whoa!! So amazing!! I definitely want to go…one of my internet -> IRL buddies left his life in Denver to move to Alamosa – he goes here often and loves it!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Also, I’m craving a frozen orange right now :-)

  • Terry Huff said:

    Zen like… a couple of those pics I would love to have hanging in my space…

  • Josh said:

    Beautiful, Larkin. Just absolutely beautiful. The contrast between snow and sand is nearly mind-blowing even in your photos. I’m having a hard time imagining how substantial it must have seemed at a life-size scale.

  • Larkin (author) said:

    That could be arranged Terry. Here’s the place where I share my favourite photos I’ve taken. You never know, a couple could arrive in your livingroom shortly http://larkinflight.com/photography/

  • Larkin (author) said:

    That’s wild Kath. Alamosa is intense, being there all year would be very interesting.

  • Larkin (author) said:

    Thanks Josh, you know me, I was wandering around exclaiming “Wow!” “No Way!” “Amazing!” for the first 4 hours of the day :-)

  • Kate said:

    What makes the desert beautiful, said the little prince, is that somewhere it hides a well.


  • Larkin (author) said:

    !!!! oh Kate, this world is so amazing, especially the desert parts hiding wells holding water that is so so good for the heart.

  • Dianne said:

    Wow. Those are breathtaking. I love the sand-snow ripple shots. Well, really, I love them all. Simply stunning.

    Shockingly, I’ve lived in Colorado for many, many years and have yet to go to the Sand Dunes. I’d better add that to the agenda for 2011.

  • Larkin (author) said:

    You’re so right Dianne! It’s an intense place though; both really hot and really cold at different times in the year, so go prepared! Those sand/snow ripples ARE wild! it blew me away to see such texture created by both the sun and the wind/snow, different ways of illuminating the same world details.

  • Nate said:

    Never did think to go there in Winter! I’ve always seen it when the river is flowing (which ROCKS, but only occurs for a few months of the year). Those pictures are spectacular. I wouldn’t have been able to stop hiking around! Cresting each dune would’ve evoked yet another “Oh WOW! Look at that!” … how did you come home?

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