Updated: Nov 10, 2020
THE GREAT ROLLING BEAN ROAD TRIP: 10 NATIONAL PARKS IN 18 DAYS
This blog post is definitely long overdue! Last year we took one of the longest trips we have ever done in our camper. On September 5, 2019 we set out to do 10 National Parks in 18 days (read about how we planned it here). Even though it was a lot to take on and I had more anxiety attacks than I’d like to admit, it’s a trip we look back on that’s just filled with so many great experiences.
In this blog post, we will be talking about the first National Park we explored on this trip. Park #1 was Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Great Sand Dunes is by far one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. So, it definitely set the expectations high for the rest of the parks on this trip.
After what seemed like a never-ending string of gas stations and fast food restaurants, the final stretch before reaching the park was the most picture perfect road trip setting. The mountains finally made an appearance and rose up on both sides as we got closer and close to our first destination. A rainstorm came out of nowhere and created an amazingly dramatic scene over the mountains. Then, as quickly as it came, it disappeared and left a rainbow trailing behind it.
After driving 12.5 hours and 772 miles that day, seeing the rolling dunes and cute campsites sitting perfectly beside them was a welcoming sight. We were eager to get camp set up so that we could start exploring all that the dunes had to offer! Setting up camp didn't feel like work at all. Every little thing we did felt like a memory in the making.
The way the blue hue of the mountains contrasted the neutral colors of the dunes made for a perfectly picturesque backdrop. Completely with the fiery desert sunset and a buck with his doe, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect first day.
Our second day in Great Sand Dunes started early. We packed a day bag and climbed the dunes as quickly as possible so we could watch the sunrise. Climbing the dunes was a little harder than we thought it would be. Not only is trying to get traction in loose sand while wearing heavy hiking boots super frustrating, but the elevation gain is enough to make you feel winded very quickly. There were a few times I told Garrett to go on without me because I was pretty sure I was never going to catch my breath. But the sun quickly rising on the horizon kept me motivated and it was definitely worth it pushing on to the top.
After watching the sunrise and exploring the high tops of the dunes, we decided it was time to explore in a different way. We packed up the Jeep and took a sandy 4 wheel drive road behind the dunes. Garrett got out and let the right amount of air out of the tires so that we could go over rocks and clear the deep holes in the rugged road. This is probably our favorite part about having a Jeep. It keeps us on our toes and let’s us take the road less traveled.
On the way back from our sight seeing drive we decided to stop for lunch on a perfectly placed picnic table right off the side of the road. Besides the bees trying to get to our peanut butter, it was the most peaceful little lunch spot. After staying a while and scoping the place out for pictures, we decided it was time to take a nap back at camp.
After much-needed chill time in the Bean, we decided to put some cute clothes on and go out to take some pictures. Taking self portraits has become somewhat of a tradition on our trips. Garrett and I tend to do a lot of adventuring on our own. Which can be fun and we create a lot of memories that way. But it does get frustrating when no one is around to take a picture for you. So, we came up with a few tricks so that we can get pictures together in the beautiful places we visit. To do this, a self timer in the camera and a tripod is a must. But most importantly, is patience and willingness to stand in the same spot over and over until you get a good shot! Great Sand Dunes is so beautiful that we definitely couldn’t pass up the tradition of self portraits.
Once we had our fill of pictures and the sunlight began to fade, we packed up the tripod and decided it was time for dinner. One thing I can say about the constant hiking and exploring is that it makes you appreciate any kind of hot meal at the end of the day. Knowing we had to get up at 4:00AM the next morning to head out to the next park on the itinerary, we were eager to get to sleep.
I don’t know if it was because Great Sand Dunes was the first park on our 18 day trip, but it definitely made a lasting impression on us. Going back through the pictures to put them on this blog makes me excited to go back to explore the dunes again someday.