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Backpacking Great Sand Dunes National Park: One Blustery Night

The Great Sand Dunes, formed less than 440,000 years ago, was a destination I’ve been trying to get to since I moved to Colorado almost four years ago. For some reason or another something always seemed to get in the way whether it be work, sold out campsites, or blistering heat. So when my buddy Andy decided to fly out for a Southwest Colorado road-trip I knew we had to lump the Dunes into our route, hopefully backpacking and camping in them. Andy and I were no strangers to epic road-trips. This would be our second within the year as he met me in New Zealand for a 1,200 mile road-trip through the South Island of New Zealand. Sadly we would be without the creature comforts of a camper van on this trip. My trusty Subaru and tents would have to suffice. For those of you reading this that know me well, yes I am well aware I should just shut up and buy a van already.

After a weekend of bike rides, frequent stops at craft breweries, and one hell of a night at Red Rocks we packed the car, stocked up on supplies, and plotted a rough route on Google Maps before finally catching up on sleep. Excited to have my first day off in almost six months we departed early, squeaking out of town just before Monday’s rush hour traffic began. There is varying routes one could take south to the Dunes, some more scenic than others. Unfortunately, we were in a rush to get down there so we took the most direct and quickest route, I-25 South to HWY 160.



Deluge Lake Hike near Vail

The infamous Deluge Lake hike. A simple 9.1 mile hike staring in East Vail, Colorado. Despite being steep and easily accomplished in a day, up until this attempt I had been 0-2 on this trail. The first two times that I attempted this trail was in the winter, and both times resulted in failure. Thick snow, post-holing deep down to me knees, and relatively short days of sunlight meant neither time I’d had even made it past the aspen grove. This time was going to be different. It was September, the first snowfall had just arrived, the aspens were painting the valley an array of yellows and oranges, and I was determined to make it. Not only was I going to make it, but I was going to attempt my first “semi-winter” camping.

Deluge Lake

  • Round-trip length: 9.1 miles
  • Start-end elevation: 8,721′ – 11,746′ (11,765′ max elevation)
  • Elevation change: +3,025′ net elevation gain (+3,545′ total roundtrip elevation gain)



Father Dyer & Crystal Peak


This post will have contribution from both Nate and myself (Tuan). As stated in my previous post, I wanted to provide more details on the hikes and a little less fluff on personal anecdotes. The goal of the hike was to get a more technical peak under our belts for our preparation for the South America trip. We chose the Father Dyer peak a couple of months back with the Labor Day weekend as the target date.

Hike Summary

  • Elevation:  13,615 ft / 4149 m
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,600 ft
  • Route:  East Ridge
  • Class:  Easy Class 3

Getting There
Directions from Denver to Father Dyer Trail head


The link above the map will show the actual driving direction from Denver to the trail head. You can use the embedded map to generate your choice of directions. Overall the trail head is extremely easy to locate. From Denver, take I-70 westbound until the Breckenridge exit (203) and then follow CO-9 until you reach Spruce Creek Rd. The dirt road is towards the south end of Breckenridge. Once you’re on Spruce Creek just follow it to the parking lot. When we arrived there Friday night there was only one other car in the parking lot however if you are planning for just a quick day trip the area does get busy. The lot was full when we arrived back to our car.




Mt. Massive Hike

Prior to diving into the Mt. Massive hike I wanted to provide a quick introduction. This is a new territory for myself – sharing. Yeah I know – weird huh? A virgin to all social media services, I never had any desire to be part of the Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Snapchat experience. Not that I am a hipster who thought himself above or better than the individuals who connect or use these services. I understand their purpose – I get it. However it’s not who I am. I lack that emotional connection to want to share or be shared personal stories. Not that I don’t care about friends or acquaintances, I just don’t care enough to read, write, or post. With our South American trip looming Nate wanted us to begin writing about our experiences, to provide a portal to our future travels. I cannot promise that I will start narrating 140 word updates about the pork belly tacos I had on Tuesday night nor will I fill this blog with useful anecdote during our excursions. No promises, just an attempt to finally share and be shared.

With out much further ado…Mt. Massive