Sand Dunes National Park Couples Session

On Friday morning, after learning that none of our friends could go with my hubby, Ben, and I on the backpacking trip we had planned for the weekend, we decided to ditch all plans we had made and head somewhere new. Ben had never been to the Sand Dunes before and I had only been once when I was younger with my family. Without going grocery shopping, making a to-do list or even knowing where we would stay once we got there, Ben and I hopped in the car early Saturday morning, with our Hazel pup by our side, and headed south.

This 24 hour trip taught me so much. It came at a timing in life where I am trying to do the absolute best I can but feel like I’m falling short. It gave a me a better perspective on what really matters in life, the permission to give myself a little grace and to just go with the flow. Here are the five things I learned from our 24 hour trip to the sand dunes.

Sand Dunes National Park Couples Session

1) Everything doesn’t have to be planned

I am a planner through and through. Ask anyone I know and they will tell you that I am organized, detailed and plan everything out. Well, sometimes God ask you to set that aside and leave it to him. The best part about our trip was having no plans. It involved random stops for ice cream, sunset photo sessions with a tripod, running around with our dog Hazel, reading (my fave), talking around a campfire and napping (my new second favorite thing). The best part is we just did what we felt like in the moment – like taking an hour nap when we go there and getting up at 5 am to see the sunset from the top of the dunes. Not having a plan left room for the in-between moments, the conversations that wouldn’t always happen, and so much less stress.

Sand Dunes National Park Couples Session

2. Be kind and make friends, you never know who you are going to meet

To be honest, I am pretty bad at this the majority of the time because my introverted self freaks out with the thought of meeting someone new. But, my hubby, Ben, is a huge contributor to trying to overcome those fears and step outside my comfort zone more often because he is amazing at meeting new people and connecting with them. When we arrived at the Sand Dunes campground we knew that there was a very slim chance of getting an actual camping spot and pretty much planned on camping in the back of our car for the night if we had to. But as we were driving around the campground, Ben suggested going to talk to the camp host about availability since every single empty site we were passing was taken. We started talking to the camp host about the day and the weather and camp sites and although we pulled away from talking to him without any luck in getting a spot, a few moments later as we were pulling away he called our names because another person suddenly decided to move spots and offered to give us theirs. We were so thankful to have a spot to build a campfire, enjoy dinner and some wine for the night and it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t gone out of our way to make friends with the camp host (all credit to Ben here!).

Sand Dunes National Park Photographer

3. Naps may be the best thing ever invented!

Because we literally had no plans when we arrived we just played the day by ear. As soon as we arrived and got our camp spot, we felt like we had to go to see the sand dunes up close and personal right away, but it was hot and we had just driven for 5 hours and a hot hike to the dunes did not sound like fun (plus we were a little worried about Hazel’s puppy paws getting burnt on the sand). Instead we decided to read our books in the shade and when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer I had no shame in letting my head hit a pillow and take a good long nap. It was the perfect amount of time to relax and recharge before going on a sunset hike up the sand dunes. Napping = winning!

Sand Dunes National Park Couples Session

4. It’s ok to not get enough sleep sometimes

I have always been a stickler about getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Ask Ben and he’ll tell you how I’m always the first one to announce it’s bed time, head upstairs and jump in bed. I have always said that if I get less than 7 hours of sleep I’ll get sick. Well friends, sometimes moments are so much more special when we sacrifice a little sleep. On Saturday night, we made a great campfire to grill our burgers for dinner over (and you can’t forget the s’mores – I never go on any camping trip without s’mores fixings!). We were drinking wine and beer, talking about life, our dreams together and just being so thankful for where we were in life. We were planning on waking up at 5 am the next morning so we could see the sunrise on the sand dunes, so I would typically cut a night like that short so I could get my rest in. But I kicked that to the curb for this night and Ben and I had the best time laughing, telling stories and just being thankful for our 11 and a half years together. I’m not saying you should stay up late every night, because I sure know that getting enough sleep is so important to your health, but, if you are like me and always are strict about needing a certain number of hours of sleep, sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to let go and be in the moment. It will one hundred percent be worth it!

Sand Dunes National Park Couples Session

5. Ice cream is ok to eat any time of day

On Saturday I already planted the seed in Ben’s head that the only thing I want to do on our drive home Sunday was get some really good ice cream. Ben totally agreed, but we both didn’t think about the fact that we left the sand dunes at 8:30 in the morning and not a lot of ice cream places are open that time of day. We knew that there was an amazing ice cream shop in Buena Vista, which we were going to drive through, so we drove by K’s Diner at 9:58 am and they were closed. I said let’s just go get gas and make another pass-by after 10 (because their hours were not clear) and see if they were open. Well, sure enough we come back around shortly after 10 and there was already a line forming. Friends, that huge strawberry milk shake was worth every single sip at 10 am! And to top it all off, it turns out that day was National Ice Cream day – how appropriate!

Sand Dunes National Park

If you have plans that totally go out the door, can I just encourage you to just let it go, think of something fun you have always wanted to do or a place that you have always wanted to go and just do it! You might be surprised about what you learn – and then, please, tell me how it went. Cheers to adding a little more adventure and ambiguity in your life!

Need a photographer for your Sand Dunes National Park engagement session?

Meet Larissa. Larissa is an adventure couples and wedding photographer based out of Colorado. She’d take an adventure in the mountains over shopping + a date night snuggling on the couch over dinner and a movie any day. Larissa’s obsessed with: morning snuggles with her rescue pup, Hazel, hot chocolate, a good book and yoga pants. She believes in making you forget a camera’s even there, that your story is the actual thing she wants to capture on camera and that real, raw moments are more important that perfectly curated poses. Book your Colorado engagement photographer.





What I Learned From Our Spur of the Moment Trip to the Sand Dunes

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