First stop: Lathrop State Park

October 23-30, 2021

We’re starting off in Colorado’s first state park, which opened in 1962. The state now has 42 parks across Colorado, and a new one, including the area around Sweetwater Lake in Gypsum, was just announced earlier this month.

Sunset at the entrance to the park. The Sangre de Cristo mountain range is on the western horizon.

Named after Harold Lathrop, the first director of Colorado’s Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (now Colorado Parks & Wildlife), the park has two large (for Colorado) lakes that attract a huge variety of migratory birds throughout the year. On a walk around one of the lakes, Ken saw two birds he’d never seen before: a western grebe (which had just happened to catch an early supper) and a juvenile snow goose.

In addition to the grebe and goose, Ken saw American coots, Canada geese, seagulls, American robins, and mallard ducks all enjoying a late afternoon at the lake.

Lathrop State Park is about an hour’s drive east of Great Sand Dunes National Park. On Sunday, Oct. 24, we took Gunther on a visit to the dunes, which are the tallest in North America – some are 750 feet tall.

The eastern side of the Great Sand Dunes from the national park’s visitor center, about half a mile away. Mt. Herard (13,345 feet) is in the background. It’s estimated that the dunes contain 1.2 cubic miles of sand (imagine a cube with edges 1.2 miles long and then fill it with sand).
We were both surprised at how many visitors the dunes received that day, given the time of year. Many were apparently from other countries, which is fairly common to experience during the off-season. The park attracts about half a million people each year.
Gunther had a great time running and jumping around in the sand. We enjoyed ourselves as well, although we neither ran nor jumped.
While we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the parking lot of the dunes, a small herd of mule deer paraded by. There were two bucks and probably eight or 10 does like this one.

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