Vacation With Dad – Part 1

The Great (Hot) Sand Dunes



“Hey kids!  Let’s go run up a sand dune and then… run back down it… and stuff.”

The kids forced out a barely audible, “ok” and I turned the car north toward the Great Sand Dunes National Monument located in southern Colorado right next to nothing.

We arrived at the parking lot in 75 degree temperatures.  I told the kids to chug a bunch of water so that we didn’t have to carry any with us.  That was stupid, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

I told the kids that since it was only 75 degrees out, we could run all the way up the sand dunes with sandals or bare feet.  That was stupid, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

We left the parking lot and passed the sign that warned us to wear proper foot wear to avoid burning sand and to bring plenty of water while hiking.  We ignored the sign.  That was stupid, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

We started hoofing it up the series of dunes that led to the 700+ foot high Star Dune. The sand was uncomfortably hot and before we made it a half mile, my daughter, Nicole, was miserable.  She needed water and proper footwear.  I gave her the option to go back to the shade trees by the parking lot, or to follow her brother and me up the dune.  She chose to follow.  That was stupid, but she didn’t realize it at the time.

Shortly afterward, we all became miserable, and I realized how stupid I’d been.

We were a couple of hundred feet from the top, when my sense of doom kicked in.  My feet were burning so badly that I tried to stand on top of my sandals, which resulted in pushing my sandals into the burning sand and burning my feet worse.

My son, Jay, through an act of desperation, started digging and found a layer of hot, wet sand that was not as hot as the hot, dry sand.  He called to us and we started digging as well.

Standing on 100 degree wet sand was pure heaven, but the problem of getting back was still an issue.

Jay and I decided to run back down to where Nicole stood melting.  When we got there, we quickly dug another pit in the side of the dune and waited for our feet to become only slightly unbearable.  Nicole had blisters forming on her feet.  All of our feet looked sunburned.  We were still a long way from the car.  Along with acknowledging I was a bad dad, I also had to get them moving.  I told them we had to make a break for it.

With a rally cry, I bolted down the hill at a full sprint, heading for a steep dune with a high north side.  I had hoped that the steep north slope would mean cooler sand.  My son sprinted past me screaming like a man on fire.  We met up at the base of the dune, and I quickly raked the surface sand away to uncover cold, wet sand.  At least I think it was cold.  It was all relative.

Jay and I called to Nicole to run faster.  Nicole ran onto the mound of wet sand and made the same sound that a man makes when the kidney stone leaves his body.

Within minutes, the blisters receded, the pain all but vanished, and spirits rose.  The final stretch to the car turned into a mission to prevent others’ suffering.  I spotted a group of people with sneakers and socks, but one lady had flip flops.  “Don’t do it,” I said with compassion in my voice.  “You will suffer as we have.  Only proper footwear can save you from misery.  Go now, and be shod accordingly, before you end up like us.”

She thought about ignoring us, until Nicole offered to show her the blisters.

Back in the parking lot, I heard a nice couple ruminating over footwear.  I offered up my hot pink foot, and recommended that they wear hip-waders full of crushed ice.