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. 

Running the Rio Frio 2015

It all started with over 200 'crazies' aka runners/walkers who slipped, stumbled, and slid ten feet down the embankment to the Rio Grande River and the starting line of the annual Alamosa Ice Fest Rio Frio 5k. Two other perils were the three inches of slurpy slush which made for cold wet feet and the cones which indicated several thin ice or open water spots. Not a good day for a swim. Imagine being Jeff Owsley, the race director, having to drill a thousand holes (his guestimate) into the ice on the river to make sure there was enough depth to the ice everywhere to ensure a safe race. A thousand holes on any other race course might be considered an act of vandalistic sabotage! We were given instructions to stay away from the orange cones indicating thin spots. Rivers do not freeze consistently over their surfaces like ponds and lakes because of the flowing waters under the ice.

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The Art of Adventure

The art of adventure, whether 500 years ago, or now, is wonderful. We read, or watch shows about historical adventures when we have the ability to go now! It is ingrained in our human spirit. We have no idea where we are going until we get there. Such is how I felt on February 3, 2015 as I drove up the muddy, snowy, and slush-filled Conejos River Road. I'd never been up this road so it was time to go. I had two hours to pursue one of my passions, 'light exploring.'

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Have Brochures Will Travel

Travel writing requires travel. Confronted with a brochure rack ... what to choose, what to choose? I take three approaches.

#1. SKIP all brochure racks and go 'Ready, Fire, Aim.' Drive around randomly where I am, see something interesting and stop. This approach will be different for all of us, but it does have its rewards by maintaining a good attitude of not knowing what we may find! An adventure awaits! (As long as the family/traveling companions are in agreement.) My 'no brochure approach' has stopped me at trailheads where I have gone for trail runs, aka, fast hiking. Coming around bends in trails, I have seen spectacular views, migrating flocks, run into coyotes, deer, elk, bears, mother moose with calf (her glare was the scariest of all) and come across fresh mountain lion tracks. One observation - wild animals do look at me differently when I am running versus hiking. Hmmm?

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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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