Durango to Buena Vista
Recently named a national park and preserve, the Great Sand Dunes rise 750 feet above the San Luis Valley in the south-central part of the state. We pull into the visitor center, and I ask a ranger where we go to rent boards.
"Boards?" she asks.
"For dune boarding," I say confidently. "We've come from California to go dune boarding."
"From California, huh?" She laughs at me. "I think there was a guy out here renting boards a few years ago. But he's not here now."
"That's okay," I tell Sam and Kate. "I'm sure we can slide on these camping mats." The mother of invention, I think smugly, stuffing the mats into my pack.
Built up over centuries in a bend at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the dunes are golden and soft and sinuous. But they are tough to climb; the sand sucks at our feet. We trudge up toward a finely etched spine. One side is gold in the afternoon sun, the other is in shadow.
We plunk down our stuff. I blow up the mats. "This is going to be fun," I say. Sam nods.
I arrange myself on the mat and scoot over the dune's edge. The mat doesn't move.
"I think it needs a running start," I say. I jump down onto the mat from the top of the dune like it's a skateboard, lose my balance as the mat sticks, and land on my side, rolling loglike halfway down.