Fitness Motivation and Methods

A snowshoe track through Colorado snow.
I can snowshoe on the same trails that I run on.

Motivation is a tricky thing and fitness motivation specifically so. Society always exerts pressure, to have a certain shape or to be able to wear a certain thing, but some motivations are from within. When I am playing a sport, there is motivation to do well in said sport (and not get injured in the process). When I am experiencing health issues, there is motivation to make them end. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to just feel generally better.

I don’t have kids, just lots of projects and work and, until recently, a super long commute. That combined with the fact that my house is in a rural area means that I’ve had to get creative with my workout schedule. There is a county rec center with a gym, but it doesn’t have real gym hours (it doesn’t open until 8 AM…), so it’s not an option most of the time.

I’m fortunate to have an acre of land around my house, so I’ve taken to working out in my yard with some affordable and sometimes homemade equipment. I’ve setup mini obstacle courses, jumped rope, done shoulder presses with some bricks behind my shed (came with the property!) and made something called a “Champion Block” out of a cinder block (also came with the property!).

If you don’t want to watch the video in that link, just wrap a cinder block with duct tape. That’s a “Champion Block.” I mostly do front squats with it, by holding it to my chest. It weighs about 36#.

Water bottle, snack, jump rope, bricks, and a cinder block wrapped in duct tape
Some cheap or homemade fitness equipment. Just wrap a cinder block with duct tape!

There’s also forest service land behind my neighborhood where I can run, albeit very slowly at this point, given my erratic schedule and the fact that my home is at 9000 feet above sea level. It looks like Skyrim back there, but I’ve spotted no errant wolves or bandits, thus far.

A water bottle on a dirt road covered with pinecones.
A forest service road that I run on. There are trails off of it.

In the winter, I’ve snowshoed those same trails, with varying degrees of success as it’s a lot harder to see the trail when it’s covered in snow. There’s been at least one moment of trepidation in which I really didn’t know where I was, but I worked it out. If you do go out into a rural area, do take caution to know where you are.

Snowshoes being worn in a snowfall
That same road during a curiously snowy May

I’ve also managed to build a small home gym from fitness equipment that I acquired for free on the internet. I used a local Facebook group, but you could probably find stuff on Craigslist, Nextdoor, or other similar sites. Fitness equipment is often heavy and bulky and there’s a tendency for people to give up on using it and then give it away. I’ve managed a free Total Gym, elliptical, stationary bike, and even a tiny treadmill. 

A small home gym
Our tiny home gym, the elliptical is in a different room.

When I was doing my worst commute, I was driving 9 miles into town, catching a bus down the mountain, and then switching to another bus down there. It was 50 miles each way, 100 total per day. When my car died and I couldn’t make that 9 mile drive, I had to switch to my bike for a little while and learned the hard way that it takes me an hour to bike into town and 2 hours to bike home (there are longer uphill portions on the ride home).

I did this for the better part of a summer, and it sucked, but at least it was a good workout. I did eventually get the car fixed, because there’s no way this would work in the winter up here and also because I needed that time back.

A bike parked on the side of a road, a lake and mountains in the distance
Los Lagos Reservoir and the Continental Divide – my bike commute did have a stunning view.

So, what about you? Lots of people have a hard time getting to the gym due to work, commute, kids, or a simple lack of motivation. If your problem isn’t lack of motivation, then set something up at home, because anything is better than nothing. I’m no fitness expert, but I know two things.

  1. I feel better when I move
  2. We did not evolve to sit on our asses all day long.

So, go wrap a cinder block in duct tape or jump rope in your yard (yes, this is embarrassing – jump rope is hard – do it anyway) or grab a free stationary bike off of the internet (seriously, worth searching for) and just do something.  Maybe it’s possible for you to bike to work, maybe not. The point is to get creative with solutions to the problem.

Certain things about my workout are more specific to the mountains (no one in Florida is doing any snowshoeing anytime soon), but you can tailor things to your area. Rollerblading? Surfing? Anyone can run or at least walk, depending where your fitness level currently is. When I lived in the city, I would go to city parks and do HIIT workouts. Certain playground equipment can double as fitness equipment and anyone can do bodyweight exercises, virtually anywhere.

It’s easy to fall into an all-or-none proposition such as “I can’t work out enough, so I won’t work out at all”. I went from going to the gym 5-6 days a week, to struggling to get just 2 days in and psychologically it was really hard. I am coming back from being in the worst shape of my life, but… it could have been worse. I refused to give up and stop completely. I still ended up getting a YMCA membership even though I couldn’t really afford it, it wasn’t nearby, and I could only go a couple of times a week. I did the aforementioned home workouts and scrounged up that free equipment and wrapped a goddamn cinder block in duct tape and jumped fucking rope. I hate jump rope. Like, a lot. It sucks.

What is my point here?

  1. Examine your motivations
  2. Determine your goals based off of those motivations
  3. Honestly assess the excuses you are making to prevent you from hitting those goals
  4. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Maybe your life truly doesn’t logistically allow you to do everything you want, but don’t let that be an excuse to do nothing.
  5. Get creative
  6. Wrap a cinder block in some goddamn duct tape

Yes, I’m kidding about #6. I mean, unless you want to do that. I do use mine.

What creative solutions have you come up with?

 

Obligatory legal note: I am not a health or fitness professional. Contact a doctor if you have actual health questions.

 

 

Tips for New Coloradans

Practical Advice for Noobs

So, you’re new to Colorado. Regardless of where you came from, there are likely to be some quirks to your new home that you could stand to be warned of. Since most people who move to Colorado arrive in the Denver metro area, I’m making the assumption that you are around there.

If you moved to somewhere else in the state, some of these things will still be applicable.

  1. Steam rooms are your new buddy. Colorado is dry. Get a gym membership and use the damn steam room. Make sure you join a gym that actually has a steam room. I personally prefer the YMCA as if you join one of them, you can visit all of the area YMCA branches via the Away Program. However, not all branches have steam, so see what your local one has before you decide. When I lived in Louisville, KY I could not have imagined doing this as that entire town is a steam room. Colorado is dry. Steam is your friend.
  2. Snow tires are a fun new expense that you’ll want to have at your disposal, especially if you plan on venturing into the mountains to sit in traffic on the way to a ski area. Actually, they are required as “Under a Traction Law, motorists will need to have either snow tires, tires with the mud/snow (M+S) designation, or a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle — all tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.”That’s not even completely correct as the law has just (and I mean just, as of this posting) changed to require that tread be 3/16 of an inch instead of 1/8 and those traction laws are now in effect for a full 9 months and not just during inclement weather. You really want an all wheel drive or 4 wheel drive vehicle, too. I live in the mountains. I mean that.
  3. Street Sweeping will be your nemesis if you live in the City and County of Denver and don’t have your own parking space. It happens once a month, April through November, though the day varies depending on your neighborhood (actually read the signs on your street). If you forget, it’s a $50 fine. That shit adds up and Denver is the town in which the boot was invented, so you don’t want to push it. You can sign up for alerts on the city website.
  4. Yes, Casa Bonita is real. Yes, the food is terrible. The cliff diving is legit, though. You pretty much have to go at least once.
  5. Accessorize with a water bottle. I carry one everywhere I go and I’m not the only one. Did I mention that Colorado is dry? Also, we’re solidly environmentally conscious and getting better. You can refill that shit. Carry a bottle. Refill it. Be a Coloradan.
  6. Consider RTD. I realize that this is not much of a recommendation. RTD is not great. Also, RTD could be worse. Like, they exist and can take you a fair amount of places. Sure, their schedules are often a fantasy and they like to drop routes without communicating that to their riders (i.e. scheduled buses get cancelled with no warning), but… you can take RTD to the mountains in certain instances and, if you have a flexible job that understands the limitations of public transport, you can save a lot on gas and do an environmentally friendly thing. Check to see if your job provides an Eco Pass benefit. That’s the best way to use RTD.
  7. License Plates. Colorado requires you have front license plates on your car. It’s the first state that I’ve lived in that does. If you are like me and your front plate holder is unusable due to rusted and unremovable screws, you will still get a ticket. Challenge that ticket (they make a lot of mistakes, it’s always worth trying – I got my plate ticket reduced) and then figure out another way to attach that plate. Colorado is very big brother. All of the toll roads are photo enforced, so you’ll end up getting a bill in the mail if you take them. This is probably why they are into having front plates.
  8. Need a Colorado ID? You can’t get it the same day. You will get it in the mail in 10-14 days. Every other state I’ve lived in, you get it the same day, but not in Colorado. It seems it’s a Real ID recommendation, so perhaps all states will be moving towards this, but if you come from a state that has not implemented the change, be aware: the DMV will punch a hole in your ID invalidating it and then give you a piece of paper as a temporary ID. Not everyone accepts this paper as valid ID (caution at bars), so you’ll have 10-14 days of ID issues. One great thing is that you can renew your ID online for up to 10 years (if it’s not a CDL ID), which is awesome. That means, if you lose your ID, you can just order a new one online. Huzzah for this.
  9. Unless your vehicle is 7 model years old or less, you’ll be required to get an emissions test to register your car. The type of test varies according to the age and type of vehicle and certain counties are exempt (holla, Gilpin!), but it does cost $25. Maybe this is more common than I realize, but coming from the Midwest and Appalachia, it was news to me.
  10. Sunblock is also your friend. Unless you are blessed with protective melanin, you’re going to want to stock up. I’m pretty sure my ancestors lived in caves, so my daily morning lotion contains SPF 15 and I use SPF 50 for days I’m actively spending time outdoors. The entire state is pretty damn high up (the elevation of Denver is officially 5280 feet above sea level, I live at 9000 feet up), so you will be exposed to more UV than you would at lower elevations. Make sunblock a habit and wear it year round.
  11. Colorado is a great place to vote. It’s easier than anywhere I’ve lived as ballots are mailed to you and you can just mail them back or drop them off. In an era where certain states have made voting way more difficult than it should be, Colorado is a breath of fresh air (just not literally).
  12. Natives. Sometimes natives are a bit petulant about people moving into their state. To be fair, there are a lot of us. Most people are fine and most of that petulance is exhibitied online and is easily ignored. Just be a good citizen and mostly you will be ok. Oh, and if you are a crappy driver and you know it, maybe work on that.

Colorado - Welcome to Denver

100 Favorite Things

Not all that long ago, Brendan Leonard over at Semi-Rad published a list of 100 Favorite Things. Writing my own list was surprisingly satisfying, so I’m sharing it. Given how negative life can be, spending the time to come up with 100 positive things was a nice exercise that I recommend.

  1. Frank Herbert’s Dune books. That’s only the Frank Herbert books and explicitly not the ones by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
  2. Fruit. Specifically, mangoes, raspberries, cherries, pineapple, and peaches. I hear India has the best mangoes and I kinda want to visit just to taste them.
  3. Summer nights
  4. Odd 13’s Humulus Kalecumber beer
  5. Sherlock
  6. James S.A. Corey’s Expanse book series and the associated television show
  7. Picking up heavy objects and putting them down again
  8. Photography – even when my only camera is my phone, I’ll never stop thinking like a photographer
  9. This video about making things
  10. This YouTube channel in general
  11. Galloping a horse across an open field
  12. Skiing – all the time, all types. I’m also a beginner snowboarder and I think I’ll like that too, once I’m better at it.
  13. The Legend of Zelda. Specifically, the original The Legend of Zelda NES game, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Wind Waker, Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Breath of the Wild. I never played any of the old Gameboy Zeldas.
  14. Learning to cook Indian Food
  15. Skyrim – yes, it’s old and buggy as hell, but I still love it. I also like to run to the soundtrack.
  16. You Must Remember This
  17. Disgraceland
  18. Freakonomics – both the book and the podcast
  19. The X- Files – the first five seasons in particular
  20. The love-hate relationship that I have with the incredible-terrible phenomena that is running.
  21. The very similar feelings that I have toward writing.
  22. The very similar feelings that I have toward swimming whitewater
  23. Brain Pickings
  24. The Left Hand of Darkness
  25. Giant snow storms. I want enough snow to have to dig tunnels.
  26. This specific chocolate
  27. All Miyazaki films, but especially Nausicaa
  28. This short film
  29. Kurt Vonnegut in general, though God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is my favorite
  30. Asimov’s Foundation Series
  31. Drinking beer with my brothers
  32. Gentlemen Broncos
  33. Noisli – my favorite productivity site
  34. Kanopy – all you need is a library card from a participating library
  35. Also, the literary equivalents, Overdrive or Libby
  36. Khan Academy
  37. The Venture Bros is so good that it hurts.
  38. Silflay hraka u embleer rah – the best book you’ll ever read about rabbits
  39. I used to play a lot of Everquest II and I still kinda miss Norrath
  40. I still have dreams of breaking through the pack and I quit roller derby in 2013
  41. What’s better? Star Trek or Star Wars? The correct answer is Babylon 5
  42. Whitewater rafting on the Gauley River
  43. This podcast keeps me motivated to not give up on filmmaking
  44. And this guy keeps me motivated in general
  45. Castlevania on Netflix is amazing.
  46. It’s been years since we moved away from Kentucky, but Dragon King’s Daughter is still one of my favorite places.
  47. Shish Kabob Grill in Denver still has the best hummus I’ve ever had.
  48. Rioja is my favorite for a fancy pants meal.
  49. The trout amandine at Steuben’s in Uptown is so good that I never order anything else.
  50. Strange Planet has me hooked
  51. Best of the Worst has filled the void that MST3K used to occupy (no, I haven’t seen the new MST3K yet)
  52. Watching bad movies with my husband
  53. Star Trek Timelines – I tried deleting it from my phone. I failed.
  54. This subreddit
  55. Fooducate
  56. 10 Barrel’s Cucumber Crush – I dig sours
  57. DiNK Denver
  58. Learning to cook Mediterranean Food
  59. This is my favorite cook book, though
  60. Pod Save America
  61. iNaturalist
  62. My favorite Star Trek TNG episode
  63. WiFMCO
  64. This class
  65. The Best Thing on Facebook
  66. The Oatmeal
  67. XKCD
  68. After years of dealing with white gas, I finally got a Jetboil and I’m a total convert
  69. I like the Aqua Teen Hunger Force so much that I named one of my cats after it
  70. Sealab 2021 was an underrated gem
  71. Adding places to my travel spreadsheet even though I can’t afford to go anywhere yet. I like how optimistic it feels.
  72. My friends sci fi synth band
  73. Andy Serkis as Theresa May
  74. The Colorado Sun
  75. Obvious Plant
  76. The Eric Andre Show
  77. Reductress
  78. Seed&Spark
  79. Raspberry/Lemon/Strawberry Fruit Frenzy Popsicles from Trader Joes
  80. NPRs podcasts. Basically, all of them, but especially Hidden Brain.
  81. Nightvale Presents Podcasts – Alice Isn’t Dead, Welcome to Nighvale, and Within the Wires are my favorites so far. Pretty sure I’m going to like Start With This, too.
  82. We’re Alive
  83. Semi-Rad – gotta give a shout out to the inspiration
  84. This video about faking a model
  85. The Sagan Series
  86. By the Book
  87. Wild Ideas Worth Living
  88. The happy hour specials here
  89. My favorite bookstore in Denver
  90. My other favorite bookstore in Denver
  91. My favorite breakfast spot in Denver
  92. My favorite bar in Denver
  93. My favorite bar in Denver that has live music
  94. Classical Art Memes
  95. and then we’ll be ok..
  96. This shirt
  97. The fact that Final Fantasy VII is on switch
  98. This shuttle
  99. This cozy little bookstore/coffee shop/ice cream parlour in Nederland

Destinations: Nederland, CO

The eclectic little town of Nederland is a great addition to your Colorado vacation.

 

The sunset over Barker Reservoir in Nederland lights the sky aflame
Sunset over Barker Reservoir

Tucked into the mountains above Boulder, at the edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and in the shadow of the Continental Divide, is the little town of Nederland. It’s an eclectic place, having evolved from mining town to hippie enclave to it’s modern state. In the 70’s, it was known for it’s vibrant music scene, enhanced by its location near the now defunct recording studio at Caribou Ranch. The town continues to evolve, but has maintained some of its unique character in the face of changing demographics.

Gateway to Adventure

The town is easily accessible from Boulder via Boulder Canyon. Although the distance is only about 16.7 miles, there is an elevation gain of 2900 feet (883.92 meters), so the temperature and weather differences are often significant. Dress and choose your vehicle accordingly. It’s actually possible to take the RTD city bus from Boulder to Ned, which is a great option if you aren’t sure about driving. The bus makes stops throughout the canyon, including at Boulder Falls. This short hike can be crowded, but is quick and pleasant. If you do choose to get off here, know the bus schedule ahead of time so you aren’t stuck there for a long period.

Once you do get to Nederland, you have several options depending on your adventure of choice and the time of year.

Keep Busing

If it’s winter and you love to ski, Eldora Mountain Resort is just west of Nederland and it is the only Colorado ski resort that is serviced by the city bus system. The buses have plenty of room for your ski gear and can save you the drive and parking-related headaches. Gear is available to rent and ski and snowboard lessons are offered.

Looking up a ski run named Windmill on a beautiful day at Eldora Mountain Resort.
Looking up Windmill run on a bluebird day at Eldora.

In the summer, the Nederland RTD Park & Ride lot is the pickup location for the Hessie Trailhead shuttle. You can drive or take the RTD city bus up and then catch the shuttle in for a hike. If you don’t take the shuttle, be aware that parking is limited and fills up early, so be prepared. There’s a reason the shuttle exists, so take advantage of it. The shuttle only services the Hessie Trailhead, so if it’s the Fourth of July Trailhead that interests you, you’ll have to drive to that. Leave early so you can get a parking space. The shuttle is seasonal, so check out the website to make sure it is running if you plan on using it.

Jasper Lake, a high alpine lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado, during a period of low water.
Jasper Lake during a time of low water.

Stay in Town

The little town of Nederland is worth exploring. The Barker Reservoir allows fishing (no swimming or boating, however!) and there is a little trail than runs along the northern bank that offers nice views of the town and reservoir.

Pedestrian Trail sign and view of Barker Reservoir in Nederland, Colorado
The start of the Pedestrian Trail near the eastern end of the reservoir.

If you need information or gear, stop by the Indian Peaks Ace Hardware store for maps and information or by The Mountain Man outdoor outfitter store, for an even bigger selection of equipment. Also in town are the Carousel of Happiness, the Mining Museum and several neat little shops such as Blue Owl Books and Boutique and Nature’s Own rock shop. If you are hungry or have a thirst, there’s the Pioneer Inn, a relic of the old Caribou Ranch days, as well as Crosscut Pizza, The Branding Iron, and The Very Nice Brewery, among others.

The event that the town is most well known for, Frozen Dead Guy Days, occurs annually in March. Winter is also a good time of the year to check out the local ice rink or rent some snowshoes from Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center.

A Charles Bukowski quote on the wall inside the Very Nice Brewery in Nederland, CO.
The Very Nice Brewery

Head North

There are several great trails and wilderness areas north of town. Mud Lake and Caribou Ranch Open Space (closed April 1st to June 30th seasonally) are both pretty close, whereas Rainbow Lakes Trailhead and the Brainard Lakes Recreation Area both require a bit more of a drive. The Peak to Peak scenic highway that you take to get to these places is a treat in of itself and if you take it far enough, you’ll end up in Estes Park, the home of Rocky Mountain National Park.

A view of an old ranch building at Caribou Ranch Open Space in Boulder County Colorado.
Caribou Ranch Open Space

Head South

If you head south on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, you’ll pass by West Magnolia, a popular mountain biking area. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one in town at Tin Shed. These trails can also be hiked.

Continuing on past West Magnolia, you’ll hit the town of Rollinsville wherein, if you take the Tolland Road to the west, you can reach the East Portal Trailhead. If you are headed here, you’ll pass Rollins Pass Road, a popular place for ATV riders and mountain bikers. Due to the collapse of the Needle’s Eye Tunnel, you can no longer drive over the continental divide at this point, so don’t plan on it. I am told that it is possible to port your bike around the collapse, but the bike ride up is strenuous. Do not try to drive this road without the appropriate skill and vehicle.

Hiking up from the East Portal Trailhead to S. Boulder Creek trail, you can reach several lovely high alpine lakes and the Continental Divide at Roger’s Pass. If you are fit and prepared, you can also access James Peak from this point.

A view of Heart Lake in the James Peak Wilderness with the Continental Divide in the distance.
Heart Lake and the Continental Divide

Stay Safe!

It’s important to plan ahead for your safety and others. Fire risk is high in these areas, so look up the current conditions and obey all fire bans. This frequently means that NO CAMPFIREs are allowed, so plan ahead with a legal camp stove if you are staying overnight. If you head south of Nederland to trails at the East Portal, you’ll be in Gilpin County, an area that has separate fire ban information from the trails in Boulder County.

Weather can change quickly and is usually much colder at altitude than down below. Wear proper footwear, carry a fleece, rain gear, snacks, and plenty of water. It’s best to understand how to use a map and compass, but at a minimum, stay on the trails. If you see bad weather rolling in, get below tree line. If you plan on camping overnight, permits are required for the Indian Peaks Wilderness. They can be purchased the day of your trip at Indian Peaks Ace Hardware store. Remember to keep your pets on leashes and obey Leave-No-Trace principles. Be aware that it’s always wise to treat your water before you drink it due to the high traffic these areas experience.

Finally, if you are visiting the Nederland area from a low altitude location, be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness and act accordingly if needed. Be sure to consult a medical professional if you experience issues. Some people will experience sickness even if they are coming from somewhere relatively high like Denver, so keep that in mind.

The Continental Divide still has some snow, even in the summer.
A view of the Continental Divide from the trail.

Have fun!

This area is spectacular and I’ve only covered the basics of what is available. I feel like I could spend my entire life exploring Colorado and I still haven’t even explored all the trails near Nederland. The town itself and the surrounding natural resources are well worth your time. Stay safe, be respectful, and have fun.

A memorial for "Red the Cat Legend of First Street" in Nederland, Colorado.
The Memorial of Red the Cat in from of Town Hall in Nederland

Destinations: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

“What do you despise? By this are you truly known.” -Frank Herbert, Dune

The Great Sand Dunes Park & Preserve
The Great Sand Dunes Park & Preserve

Colorado has sand dunes. If all that you know of the state is what you have seen in films and tourism materials, this fact may have eluded you. (Half of the state is also reminiscent of Kansas, but that tale is for another day).

If you drive south and a bit west from Denver, the land will become scrubby and drier, and if you happen in the right direction, you’ll suddenly be faced with an expanse of dunes vast enough to leave you looking for Shai Hulud. It’s stunning, really.

The dunes are not close to much of anything, so staying at one of the campgrounds is recommended. There are several, both inside the park itself and in the surrounding areas. Cost and amenities vary widely, but if you choose to stay at the Pinon Flats campground within the park, be aware that in the late season when you are no longer able to reserve a site online, you may still have to fight for one, or stay in your vehicle. We did this the first night and then got up early and snagged a site when someone left. Score one for early arrival.

On the flipside, if you arrive late, you may find the gate to the park unmanned and can then avoid the park fee. I don’t know if this is always the case, but it was for us. Score one for late arrival.

Pick your poison.

Some other potentially useful information:

  1. Plan ahead if you want to build a campfire, especially if you are going off-season. There is a little camp store at Pinon Flats that sells wood, but it closes for the season. If that happens, you will have to leave the park to buy firewood and then, if you managed to get in without paying the fee, you’ll have to pay it to get back in. Be prepared.
  2. Hiking on sand is a real bitch. Be psychologically prepared for an exhausting time. If you don’t want to deal with it, there are sand-free trails. Mosca Pass Trail is especially nice when the aspens are changing.
  3. If you do hike to Mosca Pass, you’ll see that the there is a dirt service road that continues on once the proper trail ends. Take it. When you come to another road, turn right and then quickly turn right again one a third road, Follow that road a short distance to get a lovely view of the Sangre de Christos. There is no view at the natural end of the trail. If you want better directions, ask a park ranger at the vistor’s center.
  4. Consider the possibility of mosquitoes. We went in a very dry year, so Medano Creek was completely dried up and there were none. I have it on report that when that is not the case, the mosquitoes are ungodly. Bring DEET.
  5. The dunes lie within the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and, as such, common national park rules such as dog leash laws apply.
  6. The wind on the dunes can really whip up and blow the sand around. If you are a photographer or if you are a wearer of contact lenses, be prepared to protect both your gear and your eyes.

Anakin hates sand. It gets everywhere.

Things I would do differently:

  1. I’d either go when I could reserve a site or get there early. Personally, I’d rather pay the park fee and not have to sleep in a car.
  2. I would take the time to hike to the top of the dunes. I suspect that view is stunning and I would have liked to have taken some photos.
  3. I’d spend more time there than just a weekend. It’s a bit of a drive and there’s a lot of exploring to do and I’d like to have the time to do so.
  4. Finally, I’d get a backcountry permit and head away from the crowds. The campground is nice if you want to be around people. However, if you prefer solitude, it’s a bit much. Do what you prefer.

Some people will no doubt take issue with my DEET recommendation. I once spent a month backpacking in Alaska during summer and I brought natural insect repellant. It had a pleasant scent and was useful to cover up the sort of increasingly awful body odor that one develops on a month long trip, but it had zero effectiveness against the mosquitoes. I’ll not leave the DEET behind again. That’s me. It just depends how much the mosquitoes bother you.

This is a gorgeous park with stunning vistas and excellent photographic opportunities if you work for them. If you are a Dune fan, it’s hard to not think of Paul and Jessica struggling across the dunes to escape the Harkonnen and Sardaukar. Doing so may well take your mind off of your own struggles and you may need that. Have fun!