Imagine for a moment you’ve finally become acquainted with the gorgeous mountains surrounding your cabin and look forward each morning to the sunrise that reveals God’s creation — if such an acquaintance is possible. Colorado, blessed with towering mountains, running rivers, and the most beautiful Aspen forests, holds yet another site hidden away between the mountains. The same awe I experienced at the top of my first mountain, at the site of the clearest starry sky (complete with shooting stars and satellites), and at the setting sun each evening fell upon me once again as our van rounded a corner that revealed the largest sand dunes in North America: The Great Sand Dunes National Park. Covering 30 miles of terrain and reaching over 13,000’ above sea level, these literal mountains of sand created a collective gasp among the members of our caravan as our eyes soaked in the vastness of what would become our home for the next two days. The campground where we stayed that night was a mere mile from the edge of the sand, so after unloading the dozens of sleeping bags, pillows, hot dogs, hammocks, and tents, we were off once again towards the ever-growing sand dunes of Colorado.
We had two chances to visit the sand: once that evening, for about an hour (it would turn dark and cold after that), and again the next day, all day. On the first evening, most of us decided to experiment with a little bit of climbing, just to see how far we could get before we had to turn back. It was a great chance to play Frisbee, hike the closest/smallest dune (though if you’ve ever hiked on dry sand you know how much our calves burned), or just walk around until sunset. A few of us, however, thought it a good idea to continue past the first dune and on to the second, then to the third, then the fourth, each higher than the last. Climbing higher meant fighting for each step since we literally sank 8 or 9 inches into the loose sand every time. When the hour mark approached and it was turning dark, we were distraught at the idea of turning around in order to not miss the vans headed back to camp. Naturally, we decided to keep going, forfeiting our seats in exchange for what we later found to be the most beautiful sight I have seen so far, just waiting for us at the very top. Imagine once again the trillions of stars that must exist in the universe, a dazzling shooting star every two minutes, no lights around to hinder our experience, and a surprisingly comfortable bed (the sand molded to our forms when we laid down at the top, better even than memory foam). We lay there for 30 minutes until it was too cold and we returned to the parking lot, stopping once to join another part of our group for a game of star-tipping (basically a lot of flashing lights, getting really dizzy, and falling over). Running down the 75 degree inclines was especially fun, having been the fastest I have ever run in my life. That night we all dressed in three layers like we were told and bundled up in our sleeping bags. While some (the smart ones) slept in tents, others (me and stargazers) could not get enough of the Milky Way and decided to sleep outside. As amazing as it sounds, the next day was just as fun.
Now that it was sunny, we could see everything in full glory. Ryan, a mentor, even brought sand-boards and sleds to surf down the inclines. I was adequate enough, only face-planting once or twice, but Josef Luvin, Darby Olson and a few others were exceptional. A tree fort was built at the edge of the dunes, card games were played, hundreds of pictures taken, and most students ended up reaching the top at varying moments throughout the day. Everyone also experienced probably the only down side to rolling around, climbing, and falling in a big pile of sand — sand. It. Was. Everywhere. In our ears, mouths, pants, shirts, eyes, noses, books, bags, vans, and sleeping bags. The horror stories I heard the following day of the multiple showers, wasted soap and q-tips used to rid ourselves (in vain) of this pest was actually quite amusing. Nevertheless, I speak for everyone when I say a hot shower and soft bed never felt so good when we returned to Snow Wolf Lodge, our home sweet home.
Daxton Davis makes his way to Summit Semester from Plano, Texas. In the Lone Star State, he attends the University of Texas at Dallas where he is interested in pursuing business and physical therapy. Daxton loves helping people, and desires a career that will allow him to do so either physically or spiritually, or both. He has already had the opportunity to serve with Special Olympics, Feed my Starving Children, and Operation Christmas Child. Daxton loves music, especially classical piano and guitar, both of which he has played for a number of years. In addition to his passion for music, Daxton also loves waking early to do physical activity, and desires to grow in wisely using his time to strengthen his walk with the Lord.