Cheyenne Mountain (final thoughts)

No photo.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I thought of something I forgot to mention about Cheyenne Mountain Complex which I wanted to share.  That led me to do some further research online:

Inside the mountain (one mile in and 2,000 feet below the peak) is a 5 1/2 acre campus consisting of 15 buildings.  Most are 3 stories tall.  These modular buildings sit on huge springs.  The mountain is solid granite and will shield the bunker not only from a nuclear blast but also the resulting EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) which would normally disrupt electricity and computer operations.  There are tunnels leading in to the bunker and two 23-ton blast doors can be closed very quickly when an alarm is sounded (they are actually recessed in side tunnels so they would not face a direct blast).  The doors were last closed (other than for practice) on September 11, 2001.  Facility tours have not been conducted since that date.

In addition to the buildings, there are 3 giant lakes inside the mountain.  One, a 1.5 million gallon spring-fed fresh water lake, provides drinking water for the workers.  Another 4.5 million gallon lake (of water) is used as a heatsink to absorb and dissipate the heat created by generators, computer equipment, vehicles, etc.  A third lake (of undisclosed size) contains diesel fuel for the vehicles and generators used inside the complex.


Great Sand Dunes National Park

Today I traveled from Colorado Springs south and west towards Durango, where I’ll be spending the next 5 nights.  The major attraction for the day was this National Park, located northeast of Alamosa, Colorado.

After I turned off Route 160 onto the access road it was a 16-mile drive north to the Park entrance.  This was about 6 miles off the main road, headed right for the Park.  You can see the light colored dunes sitting at the base of the much larger Sangre de Cristo mountain range behind them.  Don’t be deceived by the dunes apparent lack of height.  These are the tallest dunes in North America, as you’ll soon see.



First stop was the Visitor Center.  It was built using “Tromble Wall” technology, which is a passive solar collection system.


As you would expect, inside were displays and photographs pertaining to the Park.  This is a photo on display of the colorful Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle.  This is the only place in the world where it is found.



Another curious creature which was on display (in 3D, though stuffed, not moving about) was this Ord’s Kangaroo Rat.  Not very big, but look at those feet!!


The Dunes were created as the result of sand blowing east from the Rio Grande river (which I crossed after leaving the Park) and it’s tributaries, as well as High Desert further west.  The sand can’t make it over the mountain range and gathers near the base of the tall mountain and, voila…  sand dunes.



The dunes are constantly changing, shaped by the wind and contours of the land.  And these dunes aren’t exactly what you’ll find at the beach.  The highest peak visible as you drive in from the main road is approximately 650 feet tall (that’s higher than a 60 story building, folks), and there is another set of dunes about a mile and a half further back which is 100 feet taller.

Here is a series of photos to demonstrate the size of these dunes.  This was taken from the side of the road after leaving the Visitor Center.


Now I’m going to zoom in to an area just a tad to the right of center.


And zooming closer, towards the very top of the dune.



I turned around and went back to a parking area between the road and the dunes themselves.



After parking my car I walked towards the dunes and almost immediately found Medano Creek.  It is a wide, very shallow stream which is also ever-changing.  Because of the continuous addition of fresh sand the creek never establishes a permanent route.  Little sand dunes form underwater but are then broken by the flowing water.  Everyone has to wade across the creek to get to the dunes.  Sand temperatures can reach 140 degrees so the Park does not recommend going barefoot.




You’ll see some other folks enjoying the Park in the next post.

Although I saw trailers transporting dune buggies (they are very sophisticated these days) and other ATV’s when I was getting gas in Fort Garland, they are NOT allowed in the Park.  There are other areas nearby where those folks can have their fun.  Parents and visitors without kids can rest assured they are safe while climbing on the dunes.  In fact, this is one of the quietest National Parks in the contiguous United States.





Various locations today

On the way from Colorado Springs to Durango I stopped in the little town of Fort Garland for gas.  I noticed this dog, Nia, sitting on the toolbox of a pickup truck at the pump next to me.  Before leaving I asked Nia’s chauffeur if I could take her picture.  He said “Sure, but good luck because she always turns away when I try to get her picture”.  She was a little more cooperative for me.



This is the entrance to Sunny Daze Ranch, on the access road to Grand Sand Dunes National Park.  I thought it looked cool with all the sunflowers (there were more between the road and the gate, which is what caught my eye).


This little guy was just having a blast playing in the shallow waters of Medano Creek between the parking area and the dunes..





And this couple was here from Wisconsin to do a little sand-surfing.


After leaving the Park I started driving out the 16-mile road I had come in on.  When I reached Route 6N my GPS suggested, no, she INSISTED that I take it instead of continuing on Route 150.  I looked at my map and saw that it was basically just the top side of a rectangle and wouldn’t really be any benefit timewise BUT it would take me to the little town of Hooper.  That made me think of another favorite movie, “Hooper” (what a coincidence) starring Burt Reynolds as aging stuntman Sonny Hooper and featuring an all-star cast.  James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard) as his sidekick Cully, Jan-Michael Vincent (from Airwolf) as Ski, his younger competition, Adam West (the original TV Batman), as Adam, Robert Klein……. oh…. you get the idea.


A clever billboard made to look like a postcard (it’s even copyrighted!).


And as I took Route 17 south from Hooper towards Alamosa there was a liquor store with this sign out front.  Ah, the power of suggestion…..


And no, I didn’t go in.  I reached over to my on-board cooler and grabbed a cold one of my own (water, that is).

Finally, as I got closer to Durango I passed Chimney Rock National Monument.  I’ll probably be getting a closer look at it tomorrow.




Sunset in Durango, Colorado

It was around 7 o’clock local time when I arrived at my Airbnb a few miles south of Durango.  A big rain storm was nearby and created some interesting contrasts of clouds and sun.  These were taken from the guest room windows and the back deck of the house.