Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
-John Muir, Our National Parks, 1901
Each time I go out into the world, I feel peace as the sun warms my skin. I feel the freshness of the winds and the energy of the storms. Even in the harsh climates of the desert, where the wind will scour you with sand, and the storms will rock you to the core.
Last weekend, we went looking for some sun and peace in the desert of southern Colorado. We packed up our bikes and trailer, and snagged a campsite in Lake Pueblo State Park. The desert sun and desert winds were there for us to enjoy.
This was my first time in this state park, and I was surprised at how much there is to do here. The park has miles of exciting single track for mountain bikers. Some trails run along the ridge lines of eroding sandstone bluffs, others wind through narrow rocky canyons, thick cholla forests and dry desert arroyos.
G even got in on the mountain biking on this trip. He took his strider out on the Conduit Trail and took off! We were a little worried about his control when surrounded by hazards like cactus and steep hills, but he stayed right on the trail and had a ball.
The lake is the other major draw for this park. The marina and ample fishing make this a big local recreation site. The lake winds between sandstone bluffs, a little like Lake Powell, making a fun place to explore by kayak or canoe as well.
As the sun set on our day of adventure Saturday, I watched Kelvin-Helmholtz waves appear in the sky above our campground. It made for a beautiful sunset, but as an atmospheric scientist, I should have known what those clouds meant.
Around midnight, the wind kicked up hard. We had sustained winds of 50-60 mph for two or more hours. Our trailer is all hard-sided, so, thankfully, we didn’t have flapping tents or swaying popup supports to deal with. But it was scary enough in our trailer for us to all huddle together in bed. G slept through the whole thing. Mark and I stayed wide awake, ready to grab the kiddo and take off if needed.
On Sunday, the winds had calmed and the sun was out. Mark and I each took another loop of riding, and we each found a new beautiful spot hidden back in the canyons. I found a windless and sunny gully to bask in for a few minutes. Mark found a canyon filled with cairns along a trail named “Stonehenge.”
We headed home, noting the swirling dust and sand in the desert north of Pueblo. And then we hit a road-block, as I-25 north of Pueblo was closed due to a sandstorm. We drove off the shoulder of the Interstate onto the outer road, dragging our little trailer through the weed and trash filled ditch and over a small embankment. Then we hit a dirt road next to the interstate and plowed through the sandstorm like we knew what we were doing.
G slept the whole time.
The winds howled down a mountain valley, filling the air with yellow dust and reducing visibility to nothing. The trailer rocked the entire truck when it was slammed by the gust. Mark kept a calm head and drove through maintaining his speed. I squinted into the dimness and prayed that nobody was stopped in front of us.
And we made it home. Later than we expected, but otherwise fine. We were sun burnt, wind burnt, scoured, dirty, sweaty, tired, and happy.