Families logo

Colorado Sand Dunes

Road Trip Edition

By Susan Eileen Published about a year ago 5 min read
Colorado Sand Dunes
Photo by Mitch Walker on Unsplash

In the summer of my eighth-grade year, 1983, my father, mother, brothers Bill, Marty and I took a three week road trip to see the Grand Canyon. I recall the absolute of dread of going on that trip. I remembering thinking how much I would miss my best friends, Gina and Stacie who lived next door.

What eighth grader wants to hang out with the parents for three weeks, let alone drive across the country in a 1973 Nova? The car had no air conditioning and was pea green. It was awful! Little did I know how lucky I was to have my family at the time, let alone the luxury of a three week vacation. I got to see things on that road trip that most people only dream about, as well as hidden treasures that almost nobody knows about. My father was especially good at finding hidden treasures, and this trip was no exception.

On this particular vacation, we decided to camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado on our way to Arizona. This park seems to be a geologic oddity. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, there are 30 square miles of sand that reach a height of 750 feet. As a geology minor in college, I can only imagine hypotheses for how the sand dunes got there, but this is a camping story not a geology lesson.

One aspect that I didn’t anticipate about exploring the west, was the scarcity of resources. It was 1983 after all, and it was before the population explosion out west. The availability of water and running toilets was taken for granted by me until this trip. Unfortunately, outhouses in the raging sun do nothing for sanitation, and you’re hard pressed to find a place to shower unless you spring for a hotel room. As cities were hundreds of miles apart, the lack of competition drove up prices for everything including hotel rooms. On a budget, we always camped instead of going to these hotels.

In preparation for this camping trip, I made a mixed tape. At the time, people had cassette tapes for their listening pleasure, and people, young and old alike, played music on their radios and record players to be taped onto a cassette. It was very tedious work, and lead to a lot of background noise on the tape. Slammed doors, screaming brothers, and radio personalities seeped into the tape. These mixed tapes were a reflection of your personality though, although they did get old after a while. It was the 1980’s and hard rock was in full swing. To this day, I cannot listen to Rainbow in the Dark by Ronnie James Dio. I just heard it one too many times on that trip.

In late June, we piled into this green Chevy Nova, mixed tapes in hand, for the longest road trip the Dent family would ever take. We drove from Ohio to Arizona and back in the span of three weeks. I remember the Grand Canyon, ghost towns turned tourist attractions like Dodge City, and the Sand Dunes. It’s quite possible my love of rocks was cemented on this vacation.

At the Sand Dunes, we pitched our old tent, also pea green, but family sized. This tent was a staple in the family for years. I don’t remember much about the Sand Dunes, except that my twin brother and I decided to hike to the top of the Dunes. We had no idea what we were in for.

Sand, obviously, is not a solid. This poses a unique situation when hiking to the top. Your feet are constantly shifting under you; your body is constantly trying to find balance without falling over. It’s actually quite exhausting for your body. Remember, it has a height of 750 feet. As kids, we didn’t realize that most people would not hike up 750 feet on a whim. As we had no fear of failure ingrained in us, we set out to climb to the top in the blazing Colorado Sun.

This was my twin brother that I decided to climb to the top with. Having a twin is a strange business. We have really nothing more in common other than the fact that we born on the same day, but people are so fascinated by twins! You would think he would’ve been a constant play date, but as children we fought more than ever. However, on this trip we were forced into friendship.

That climb to the top was arduous to say the least. The further we climbed, the windier it got. The windier it got, the more sand was pelting our skin, face, and scalp. But, we were proud of ourselves when we were done! We were now kings of an actual hill, a sandy hill in the middle of nowhere Colorado. The wind storm at the top gained speed, and we were forced back down. Back at the bottom, we realized that we had layers of sand on our scalps, with no water to wash it off. We started regretting our decision – how could we know about the sandstorm though?

Back at the campsite, deer were starting to find our food. In this particular point in time, kids rarely knew what their parents were up to, and this trip was no exception. Oddly, I don’t have any memories of my parents at the campsite. I’m sure they were there, but those memories didn’t make it into my mind. The trip to the top of the sand dunes is a memory burn though. I will have that memory forever!

I’ve always loved road trips, that is before the recent price of gas! I highly recommend all families take one. The experiential education is something that cannot be learned in school, and I say that as a retired Middle School Teacher.

immediate family

About the Creator

Susan Eileen

I am an aspiring writer currently writing a book on the Sober Revolution we are in the midst of, a book about essays that will change the way you think, and a novel about a serial killer. I am also working on a book of poetry.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.