Journal of Michael Baum / Travels of an Artist

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Road Trip to the Dunes: Zapata Falls

Zapata Falls






In June, we took a one-day road trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. We made the three hour drive listening to CDs and snapping pictures along the way.

We're just about to the park ,skimming along the highway when we see a sign for someplace called Zapata Falls. The sign points us up a long, rocky, very dry slope dotted with juniper and pinon pine.  We pull into the dusty lot at the trailhead, a desiccating  wind sweeps the hillside. We see no water much less a waterfall. A rocky trail leads up the slope. The Sangre de Cristo mountains loom above. A half mile later, as we approach a cliff face, the air temperature drops. Then we hear rushing water. Suddenly, we are at a lively creek flowing from a narrow canyon cut into the cliff. The desert landscape becomes lush with greenery. Under the shade of cottonwoods, we make our way along the stream toward the canyon. the sheer walls close in and water fills the canyon from wall to wall. It's impossible to keep our feet dry as we pick our way among slippery rocks into the chasm.  We round a bend, and there is the falls, a forty foot column of white plummeting into the cave-like confines of the canyon. A roar of crashing water fills the tight space. Icy mist boils around us. Above, a narrow, twisting slot of daylight. The hot, desert world outside melts out of existence.








Looking up


It's hard to leave, but as we make our way down the trail, the Sand Dunes beckon below.

The trip 2

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