One of our favorite places to visit is the Great Sand Dunes. It is now a National Park but a few years ago it was a National Preserve. The above photo shows Medano Creek which flows in spurts or has a rhythmic flow. Much of the year it doesn't flow at all but when the spring melt occurs high up in the mountains and it starts flowing and it has this sporadic surge to it that makes it unique in my estimation.
There is also a beetle called the Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle that is found no where else in the world. You rarely see them as they are allusive but you can see their distinct tracks in the sand if you can get to the dunes before people start walking all over. In all the years we have visited the Great Sand Dunes it never ceases to amaze me that the dunes are constantly changing formation. The wind will change them around and if you have not paid close attention you probably wouldn't even notice.
It is a great place to take a picnic lunch, walk the dunes, do a little exploration, and relax. It is a one hour drive from our house and we like to visit frequently. They also have a very nice campground. If you go onto the dunes, be sure to take sun screen and lots of water and carry your trash out with you.
The Great Sand Dunes now has Park Rangers and structured activities. It used to be more informal when it was just a preserve. The Rangers are nice and polite but you get the feeling they are watching you to make sure you comply with all the rules. Reminds me of a place I used to love to visit and take our kids just outside Gainesville, Fla. called the Devil's Millhopper. It was an easy bike ride from out home in Gainesville, Fla. - a deep pit in the ground where the kids could root around and find shark's teeth from when Florida was once under water. Shark teeth in the middle of the State and so far from each coast was unusual but there were tons of them. Then it became a State Park and you couldn't do that any more. It was a local attraction, like Ichntucknee River was in North Florida. A great place to take a truck tube and float down the river stopping where you wanted, swing from a rope swing or take a swim. Once the State took it over making it a State Park, you were restricted where you could go in and get out. The rope swing was removed for safety, and the time the park was open was limited as was the number of visitors. They provided transportation, but those of us who knew it before the State took it over enjoyed it more with out the restrictions and limitations.
The Sand Dunes now seems to have more restrictions than previously but I guess when you have so many people visiting it there needs to be measures taken to preserve it. It is still a nice place to visit for a hike, exploring (stay on trails) or a picnic. I know the rangers are protecting our safety and the natural beauty but it would be nicer if they were less of a presence and you felt less watched.