“You are entering the trailless Great Sand Dunes Wilderness area. Wander wherever your curiosity takes you”.
These words appeared on the sign welcoming us to Colorado’s largest sandbox, to North America’s largest dunes. These words fit. Fun was what came to mind when I first saw photos of these dunes. No plans were made, no research was done.
I didn’t know the dunes saw snow in winters and the re-creation of Medano Creek in summers. I had no clue The Great Sand Dunes – which started forming almost 440,000 years ago, merely 200,000 years after Yellowstone – were the United States’ youngest national park. Though the Sand Dunes were called a national monument in 1932, it wasn’t until 2004 that it was declared national park and preserve in order to provide it with further protection.
I also couldn’t imagine the excitement I would feel as I saw the dunes from afar, or the fun that would accompany each step on the sand. Yet that fun was what I wanted, that piece of childhood and adult lightheartedness to touch.
The Great Sand Dunes provided all that and more. They provided the understanding of how small I was in comparison to nature, how my daily concerns need not sink, for the wind of the world carries them as it forms the dunes that greeted me on that October day. It reminded me how huge the world is, how many of us it can contain, how flexible it is – compared to some cultures we formed – to diversity, to uniqueness, to connection beyond fears.
Can you see me at the center of the photo?
As I look through the photos of the sun-colored park, the wrinkles of the sand stand out. They are inspiration of time, of years spent learning and experiencing, exploring life. They give me footsteps to follow forward, to climb the dunes as I form my own way in a park that, despite its age, is still trailless.
Around me, I see green mountains that lend their color to trees, which turn yellow, which start shedding leaves, to stand bare, exposed, knowing that they cannot be thrown away, cast aside or deemed unimportant. Some humans might turn their cameras aside, unwilling to witness, unwilling to document their stories, but the wrinkles of the sand will remember.
The clouds which gather above them will soon share with them their tears of laughter. The sun, painted smiling by children, will kiss them good night in a spectacle of colors, and it will be there in the morning, to celebrate their gifts.
Where does your curiosity take you today?