by JS Stephens
Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved. All original characters, not meant to resemble anyone living, dead, undead, or other states or non-states of being.
Yes, the Great Sand Dunes National Park is stunning after a snowfall.
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Judy Pauls restisted the temptation to giggle like a child as she stepped out of the Colorado cabin into a brilliantly sunny, crisp, December morning. The temperature was 9 degrees, wind chill around -1. The sun sparkled on the snow on the ground and edging the roadway, adding to her feeling of delight.
"Good morning, love," said Abigail Petersen, Judy's partner, handing her a steaming cup of coffee. "Looks like we're the first ones up."
"Yes. Isn't it beautiful, Abby? I love the snow."
Abby shivered, zipping her hastily donned down jacket. "I love it here, but not at home. Snow + Texas drivers + lack of equipment? Disaster. Here? Snow plows, all wheel drive, and people who seem to know what they are doing equals a much more pleasant experience. So what are we doing today?"
Judy sipped her black coffee, thinking, brown eyes scanning the white covered cliffs surrounding the cabin. "I don't know, sweetheart, but I'm willing to bet that your sister has some ideas."
"Or my niece," Abby added, smiling. "But for now, can we go back inside? My nose will turn blue!"
"To match your lovely eyes," Judy laughed. "Yes, let's see what everyone else wants to do today." She looked one more time at the evergreens peeping through the snow on the sides of the cliffs, then turned to follow her partner back into the warm cabin.
Judy had never gone on a post-Christmas vacation until she met Abigail seven years ago. Both women had been single for several years, and met through friends at a Halloween party. Judy, dark-haired and dark-eyed, was quite a contrast to Abby, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Judy was measured and thoughtful in speech, Abby was impulsive and had her words nearly tumbling into each other in a rapid-fire cadence. Judy rarely saw her family, who all lived across the nation, whereas Abby's family gathered at the family home in Lubbock at every holiday. Judy's family quietly accepted that she had a new girlfriend, but Abby's family quickly claimed Judy as family. Judy's extended family tried to gather at Thanksgiving, leaving Christmas open to spend with in-laws. Abby's family gleefully converged at Christmas, then those who could went on a post-Christmas vacation somewhere.
"Aunt Judy, what are we doing today?" asked Katrina "Kat" Hunt, Abby's niece. She plopped down on the couch next to Judy, a carbon copy of Abby's older sister, Amelia.
"I don't know, what would you like to do?"
The college freshman ran fingers through her short blonde hair, making it stick up even more than it had when she woke up moments ago. "Well, we could go to Pagosa Springs and go shopping. Or we could go to the Great Sand Dunes and see snow on the dunes. I went there with friends one summer and it was brutal! But it should be more fun now than when it was scorching hot! What do you say?"
"Could be fun," Judy agreed, secretly amused by the young woman's enthusiasm. "I'm game for anything."
"That's what I like about you, you're fun," Kat said as she bounced up from the couch. "I'll go get ready before Mom yells at me."
Judy watched the young lady race up the stairs, then turned back to her phone, adjusting her reading glasses as she started searching for information on the places mentioned. Her sister-in-law, Amelia, wandered into the living area, yawning, as she aimed herself at one of the overstuffed chairs. "Morning. I heard Kat up and around. Is there still any coffee?"
"I think so," Judy answered as she looked up from her phone. "Abby brought me some this morning."
"Any muffins left?"
"There were still both apple and blueberry muffins on the counter," Judy answered. She watched Amelia reverse course and enter the kitchen. Minutes later, Amelia came back into the living room, setting down a plate and a coffee cup on the chair side table. "Did you find everything?"
"Yes, thanks, Judy." Amelia took a long slug of coffee, followed by a big bite of blueberry muffin. As soon as her mouth was empty, she asked, "So what do you want to do today?"
Judy slid her glasses on top of her dark hair, laying her phone in her lap. "I've investigated multiple options. If we really want to take advantage of the snow, I'd say either Pagosa Springs and go tubing, or the Great Sand Dunes park and enjoy the sand and snow.The park is further away, nearly two hour drive, but should be spectacular. And I know how you like to take pictures," she added.
Amelia brightened up. "Hey, that's right, you and Abby did get me that new camera pack for Christmas with all the cool pockets and interior dividers. We should go to the dunes, for sure." The older woman applied herself to her breakfast, asking questions about the park between bites.
The four women piled into Abby's SUV, heading for a day of fun. The miles flew by as they chattered and laughed, relaying funny stories about holidays past. They finally arrived at the park, pleasantly surprised by the brilliant sun and lack of wind as they piled out of the car.
The four trekked across the flat snow-covered sand to the beginning of the dunes. "Race you to the top!" Kat hollered to the others.
"I'll get you, my pretty!" Abby yelled back, harking to an old family joke based on the Wizard of Oz quote. She raced ofter her niece, boots digging into the thick snow.
Amelia stopped at the base of the dune, shading her eyes as she watched her daughter and sister climbing through the snow. She shook her head, chuckling at the two. "Judy, mind giving me a hand?" she said as she started to swing her new pack around.
"Nope, what do you need?" Judy asked.
"Hold this a minute," Amelia answered as she handed a lens to Judy. "I want to try out my new wide angle lens." Judy waited patiently while Amelia pulled out her camera, deftly taking off the standard lens and tucking it into a compartment, then reaching for the lens that Judy held. "Thanks," she said, twisting and locking the lens on the camera body.
"Need anything else?" Judy asked.
"No, thanks, go have fun," Amelia answered as she swung the pack back on her shoulders. "Go catch my sister."
Judy smiled, turning to start hiking up the snow covered dune. It's harder than it looks to climb, she thought, leg sinking nearly to her knee in one spot, but I wouldn't trade this day for anything.
The dark-haired woman kept climbing, finally reaching the top of the dune, shading her eyes as she slowly turned, taking in the beautiful landscape. She chuckled softly, watching Amelia turning, snapping shot after shot, then stopping to swap for a different lens. She continued to look, enjoying the serenity, the sharp contrast of snow on the craggy Sangre de Cristo mountains, and the contrast of the sparkling snow on the darker sand. It was beautiful.
"Last one down has to buy lunch!" she heard Abby shout as she and Kat raced toward her. "Judy, I bet you can't beat us down!"
Judy looked at her partner and niece for a moment, then grinned unexpectedly. "I'll take that bet!" she answered impulsively. As the other two started skipping down the path, Judy looked at the steep side she had climbed earlier, took a deep breath, and jumped.
"Oh my god, she's sliding!" Amelia called out, started by Judy's unexpected descent. She grabbed her camera, firing off rapid shots of the dark-haired woman sliding down the snow, laughing all the way.
"I won!" Judy crowed, jumping up and shaking the snow off her jeans and jacket, running to the end of the path.
"I can't believe you did that!" Abby yelled, stumbling and sliding the last few steps, managing to bowl her partner over, grabbing her and rolling over and over, giving her a quick kiss as they finally stopped.
"Too much PDA!" Kat snickered as she fell on top of her aunts.
Amelia put away her camera, laughing as she approached the trio. "So, Kat, where are you taking us for dinner?" she asked her daughter, "you lost."
"Mom, I don't have any money, I'm a college student!" Kat called back, blue eyes sparkling like the snow.
"Ready to head back?" Abby asked as she stood, holding out a hand to help Judy up.
"I think so," Judy answered, "but this is fun."
"Yeah, we don't get snow like this at home," Abby agreed. "Ours turns to slush and ice if we get any."
"Can we go now? I'm starving," Kat suddenly whined.
"Yes, we can go now," Judy sighed, eyeing the sun overhead. "I guess we've had enough fun for one day. "I guess we can have a late lunch. Or early supper. Would that be lupper? Hey, watch those snowballs, you're getting it down my back!"
The others just laughed.
Judy shook the snow off, laughing. Life is pretty darned good, she thought, just darned good.
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