Great Sand Dunes National Monument

Mon, 29 Jul 2002

When I run down a steep dune, the sand makes a strange squeaking sound. Squeak, squeak, squeak with each step. The sand is like snow, only less cold and it never sticks. So maybe like very cold powder snow. Squeak, squeak.

It is easier to walk up a dune when I always step in the middel of the little pits left behind by other people walking before me. Squeak, squeak. In contrast to snow, the sand can not be compacted, even when several people walk in a row. If they all step into the little pits, the pits get bigger and more stable which makes walking much less tiresome. Squeak, squeak.

There seems always to be a wind blowing in the dunes. Sand is flying around, and the forms are shifting. They shift only a little though, most major dunes we find today are already recognizable on pictures taken one hundred years ago.

Running down a dune, feels like running down a big soft snowfield wearing snowshoes. Squeak, squeak.

Normally, the Great Sand Dunes are encircled by two rivers, one to the north and one to the south. This is probably the only National Park where people go because of the beach. There are changing rooms and showers right next to the dunes. Unfortunately, this year there has fallesn so little rain, that both rivers are totally dry, the Dunes are now only enclosed by more sand and some gravel.

The dunes themselves are wet inside, after only two or three feet of dry sand, they consist of wet sand. This is because they suck up all the rain and snow like a big sponge. So even in a dry year like this one, they will not loose their inner water. This again is one of the reasons for the Dunes to be so stable. Wet sand does not fly.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

Text and images created 2002 by Tobi Oetiker
(Yes, I do like people writing me about these logs! I sometimes wonder if anybody is reading them.)