This last weekend was probably our last camping trip until next year since it will be too cold to take the kids. Maybe if we go somewhere like Moab, we can get some more camping in but even there it can get pretty cold at night. In 1997 when I first did the 24 Hours of Moab solo, it was snowing pretty hard for a little while during the night. Even when it’s been warm during the days it’s been pretty cold at night and it’s less than a month from now.
We drove down to the Great Sand Dunes National Park Friday night and camped about 5 miles up the Medano Pass jeep road. It was actually just after leaving the National Park boundary and going into the Preserve because you can’t camp in the National Park except at the campground. They recommend you drop your tire pressure to 15 pounds to make it through the sand. I didn’t want to bother letting air out so I just locked into 4 wheel low. There were a few places where we were spinning and sliding around but we always got to where it wasn’t as soft before we spun out. A few places where we were dragging bottom in the sand.
Saturday morning we drove to Alamosa and met my sister and her family to ride the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. This is the first year since 1953 that there’s been passenger service on the standard gauge route from Alamosa to La Veta. Both Alamosa and La Veta had time stations during RAAM this year. You can also take the train the other direction to Antonito and connect to the narrow gauge Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The trees were changing color although next weekend should be better if we don’t have any bad weather before then. They stop right at nice park in La Veta for lunch and then return. It was a very scenic ride and I got my exercise taking Danielle, our 3 1/2 year old, from one end of the train to the other all day. We saw some deer and 4 elk.
When we got up Sunday morning, it was 23 degrees and the kids were getting cold at camp. I figured the sun wouldn’t hit our campsite for another couple hours so we decided to drive down to the sand dunes. When we got down to the dunes, it was only 18 degrees but in the sun it didn’t feel too bad. The kids had fun sliding around on the ice in the creek and then we climbed up on the dunes. Cassidy got fussy so Julie took her back to the car while I climbed up higher so Danielle could slide down a steep section. You could barely see were somebody had carved some good turns on skiis. I carried Danielle most of the time so I got a good workout and am a little sore today.
After playing in the sand, we went to Colorado Gators. This is a tilapia fish farm started in 1977 and they ship about 2,000 pounds of fish each week. They use geothermal wells to heat the water for the fish. They brought some aligators from Florida several years ago to feed the fish that die and the waste from fileting the fish. Since then they have hatched about 350 aligators and have about 400 aligators. They also have other reptiles and animals. They had 35,000 visitors in 2005. The big Albino Burmese Pythons had eaten a couple days before so they couldn’t be held but Danielle got to hold a Leucistic Texas Rat Snake. Since it had been cold, the aligators wanted to hang out in the sun instead of eating the food we bought for them. The kids were bummed they didn’t snap it up but still enjoyed looking at them and all the other critters.
After the gator farm we went back to our campsite. On our way back, we saw some people getting ready to go skiing. After tearing down camp, we drove over Medano Pass and went off on a side jeep road. Up high a lot of the aspen were turned and there were some great views. I have more pictures posted on my website.