A Traveler's Blog

Do you want to visit Alamosa like you know a local?  Here is your chance!  Enjoy the following feature articles written by a traveler enjoying some hidden (and not so hidden) treasures around the San Luis Valley. 

Insider Trails

Trails Worth the Journey

Explore the area like an insider. These lesser known trails will take any traveler on a hike of a lifetime. Find the largest tree in Rio Grande National Forest or hike across the continental divide. Be sure to take that camera and plenty of water. For more information and directions click here.

Photos Courtesy of Jeff Owsley

Hot Springs and Camels and Golf, Oh My!

With a goal of having a science learning experience (SLE) in the San Luis Valley (SLV) and in a quest to answer, 'What am I going to do for fun today?' I drive south on 285 over Poncha Pass and into the SLV. My interview with camels was in two hours so I had time to make one stop at Valley View Hot Springs and discuss their micro hydro electric generator.

Located on a mountainside, the continuous flow of water supplies the heat energy for the soaking pools. The outflow is collected in a pipe and runs 1.7 miles downhill in a 540’ vertical drop to a Pelton wheel - an efficient electric generator.

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Potato High School

Potatoes. Mashed, hash-browned, French-fried, boiled, foiled (as in baked), souped, roasted, saladed, totted, Augratined or chipped. How do you like potatoes? Perhaps your taste leans more toward European styles like latkes (potato pancakes) or gnocchi (Italian potato pasta). Ah, how the world loves potatoes. But, do most people know how they grow? Potato trees? On bushes? A very small percentage of people who eat potatoes could actually identify the plant from which they grow. The French name for potato is 'pomme de terre' which means apple of the earth and provides a serious hint that potatoes grow underground. But, if they were called 'subterranean starch tubers' in English would that make them more or less appealing? I'm thinking less. Try adding any of the above names before or after and see if that sounds appealing. "I think I'll have the baked beans as a side." But, keep the name potatoes and say "I would like the creamy garlic mashed potatoes, or the baked potato with butter, sour cream and chives," - now we're talkin'!

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New Hot Spring Attraction: The Greenhouse

Something new is brewing at the Sand Dunes Pool and it isn't coffee! Smack dab in the middle of the San Luis Valley, a mile below the surface, Mother Nature continuously 'brews' purified ground-filtered water. Then, through the age old human practice of well digging, this perfect water is piped a mile to the surface at a warm and wonderful 118 degrees.

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Beach or Mountain Vacation?

Enjoy both at Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Families are often torn between beach and mountain vacations. Problem solved. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve provides both from mid-April into June. Because of higher-than-average snowpack and heavy spring rains, this year that time has been extended into July. Imagine my surprise on the Saturday after Memorial weekend and having to park over a 1/4 of a mile from the main parking lot. (In contrast the beautiful sunny December 18th day in 2014; I was car three in the lot that has hundreds of spaces.) Wow! Florida Beach? Southern Cal? Jersey shore? Snow covered Mount Herard to the northeast which provides much of the snowmelt water, assured me otherwise! I filled my day pack with necessary supplies - especially water, as the air temp was only in the low seventies, but between low humidity and a blazing high altitude sun, drinking water is required.

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Joyful Journey Hotsprings Spa

Peaceful Luxury

We all hope, for ourselves, and everyone else, for a joy-filled journey through life. However, recognizing the unreality of a smooth road without bumps and potholes, or life's unexpected twists and turns, it is nice to know that places exist for us to pursue some of our joys over which we have control.

One more of the hot spots for hot springs in the San Luis Valley, where Mother Nature makes her warm and wonderful waters available, is the Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa located 50 miles north of Alamosa just south of the junctions of highways 285 and 17. As with the other hot springs in the SLV, the water requires no purification. Mother Nature takes care of that too!

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Orient Mine Bats

Fast furious and frenetic, yet gracefully choreographed, are my words for the evening out-flight of the Orient Land Trust bat colony. As day yields to night, the voices of the 25 of us gathered at a fence above the opening of the old mine shafts—now the bat caves—are hushed as we await the 'opening act.' Rapid click-click chatter noises begin coming from a device that a Colorado Division of Wildlife employee is using to monitor the bats' activities. Soon, several forerunning bats open the gala and communicate to the cave that the coast is clear. Let the out flight begin!

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Because it is there.

Mountains. What is it about the human senses that want to go beyond the beauty of mountains as a backdrop to the horizon, and make those people with a 'climbing mentality' be determined to get to the top? The quote, "Because it is there," is attributed to George Mallory—an English climber—who was on his third attempt to climb Mt. Everest in 1924 when he perished along with his climbing partner Andrew Irvine. To reach 29,008’ requires major preparations in the land of perpetual ice, rock, and snow. And climbing equipment in those days was not as sophisticated as the technological advances of the last 75 years. It is amazing that they could even make the attempts in the 1920s. Such is the human spirit, as Mallory explained in an interview with the New York Times in 1923. "Everest is the highest mountain in the world and no person has reached its summit. Its existence is a challenge. The answer is instinctive, a part, I suppose, of humans' desire to conquer the universe." The debate continues as to whether or not they made it to the top as they were seen through a telescope very close to the summit and then never seen again.

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Hiking the Jeep Trail to Como Lake

September 9th in Alamosa started as a cloudless 36-degree morning. My plan for the day was to drive to the Blanca Peak trailhead and power hike up as far as I could in four hours toward the summit. After reading several trail information websites (14ers.com is a good one), I affirmed that the trail to Como Lake would be a steep and rocky hike, and close to 4,000 feet of vertical in six miles from parking.

The Blanca Peak jeep road turns east from CO 150 (one of the roads to the Great Sand Dunes), three miles north of Highway 160. The dirt road crosses grasslands for over a mile before turning to nothing but ashen gray rock. This is a good place to park a car as hiking is faster than driving! This road is considered the most difficult 4-wheel drive road in the state. For Colorado - 'that be sayin' somethin!'

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