After an even more rugged, pioneering day - shopping in Denver and Boulder - we went to the Great Sand Dunes.
These are big, well, sanddunes, 700m high, in the middle of nowhere. Clearly good enough reason for a national park in the U.S., God knows
they need more national parks, they only have 380. The sand dunes were great fun, in the great sand dune way.
We all knew what to do. The same thing you you when you find a sandune anywhere.
We climbed to the top and went "wheeee" as we rolled back down the sides. In touch with the primal forces of nature and all
that. Contact with gravity. Educational. All that sand and no bucket. Wheee! What fun. I still have sand in my personal crevices, I swear.
The highest dune is 780m, about as high as the highest Wicklow hill. No sneaze, so it was a bit of a trudge getting up.
Our trek group had already split into ability groups. The A-team, wild Aussie Sue, stalwart Saxon Ian and myself (with the non-dead
lunatic Roberto in enthusiatic, noisy, but not always efficient pursuit) reached the top after about 50 minutes climbing. We looked back
for the B-Team, who had taken an easier route.
"There they are!" I was looking at a group tramping doggedly on at the half way mark. "Quite far off but they'll make it soon!"
Sue shook her head. "No. That's them". She pointed at some ant-sized dots in a far canyon. Sprawled immobile. They had climbed 100m.
Suddenly - "They're moving! At last! Come on lads!!"
And they've stopped.
And they're moving... and they've stopped. Every few minutes, the B-Team would gather itself, stagger forward up the rolling
sand for a few yards, and collapse. We took shelter behind the lee, watched the fantastic evening light in sand-reds and
sweeping greens on the Sangre de Cristo - the Blood of Christ - hills, and peeked over the edge at the other group, and waited.
After an hour they were up. And what do you do at the top of a sand dune? Wheeeee! What fun.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Dark, deep. Sheer walls plunging 800m straight down to the broken waters below. Very much the canyon. We wander the cliff tops, flap around, pretend to push each other off the cliff edge. Very much the canyon sort of thing to do.
Colorado means "coloured" or "red" in Spanish, just as Arizona means "dry" and Nevada means snowy. Prosiac people, the Spaniards.
But what colours! I have never seen land the colours I have seen in the American west. And as we went further into the southwest
the deeper the colours became. Deep, old red, the red of ancient buried sandstone, lines of green and blue as other rocks
became exposed, the darker greens of evergreen mountain trees.
It is a noble and ancient country. I had come on this
trek to see mountains and forests, but found something I had not expected. Colour, deep colours reborn from ancient times.
As we left Colorado to seek towards Utah and the American southwest, we were promised better yet: blood-red sandstone cliffs and deserts reared when the world was young. I couldn't wait.