Science happens daily in the San Luis Valley. Fortunately, this gives me the chance to use my college degree. As the sweltering heat begins at the lower altitudes and we stride into the official beginning of summer, be it known, there is relief! Go high! I had the chance to do several high altitude adventures this week. One fact of weather science is that the atmosphere cools with altitude - about 1 degree Centigrade per 100 meters higher, equivalent to about 2 degrees Fahrenheit for every football field stood on its end. The sun can feel warmer because there are less air molecules to scatter the light rays, but, the ambient temperature does drop.
Heading over to the Rio Grande Farm Park on the last Saturday in May for a work day, I got a song stuck in my head. My brother and I had the record, a collection of Who songs entitled Odds and Sods. These were studio recordings that had not made other albums. This 'vinyl' had quite a diversity of unrelated songs but one song was called 'Now I'm a Farmer.'
The song goes through the pleasures and perils of being a farmer growing food commercially (versus a backyard garden) and how the politics and economics can affect the way a farmer feels about going through the process, after all the hard work and the toll it takes on tools, the horse, (symbolically his tractor), and the mental and physical toil of it all...
Not all who wander are lost. Wandering around the western United States is not a bad way to spend time. I do it as much as possible. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will see the majority of visitors this weekend in the San Luis Valley with Memorial Day weekend being the summer kickoff for travel. Inevitably, large crowds will be at all National Parks over the next few months, as it should be. The parks are special places! But, one thing is certain. All National Parks and National Monuments are close to other state and Federal lands that offer wilderness adventures far from the madding crowds.
The Great Sand Dunes are certainly on center stage at the National Park. However, nearby trailheads offer routes into the backcountry with fewer people, scenic wonders and offer a good alternative activity when the Dunes are either too hot in the sun or perhaps, as on some days, too windy as Mother Nature has a 'dune sculpting day' and the dunes are inhospitable to human activities.
The Mosca Pass Trailhead is located a quarter mile from the Visitors Center. The trail map is in the newspaper guide from the entrance gate or in the Visitor Center (VC). There are 20 parking spots at the trailhead, or, you can leave your car at the VC as I did on a wild weather May day. Signs at the trail beginning will give you background about the pass as a toll road as early as 1871, a bit about the geology of the trail, possible wildlife sightings from bears to Bighorn Sheep (I saw an aging male who probably was not going to make it for long.).
New travelers, and returning visitors to the SLV, will have fun new additions in and around the valley. Worry not, the Great Sand Dunes, the mountains, streams, hot springs, small towns and trains have not been replaced or relocated!
Starting on US 160 in Del Norte is the new Mystic Biscuit Restaurant located in the old Organic Peddler Restaurant on the west end of town. Familiar too many people as a perfect stop between going east or going west, the new owners, all of whom have had many years of restaurant experience, decided to open a place where they would have control over the menu, the atmosphere and the hours of operation. Except for Mondays, (which may change come summer), the 'Biscuit' will be open from sunup to sundown. Their menu? With a Wi-Fi password of 'eatmorebacon' should indicate that they offer a variety of rich mountain food, including an espresso coffee bar, a small regular bar, a great big varied menu all in the funky cozy confines of the old Peddler building. Sort of like a mini museum with old time pictures, architecture and ceiling decor. An outdoor summer patio will be available in the back of the restaurant to enjoy the perfect mountain air at 7874 feet. Bon appetite at the Mystic Biscuit! (719) 657-1142.
Travel is wonderful. Time travel would be off the scale spectacular! Imagine the ability to be transported back, or forward, to an event, or even a nonevent except for an everyday ride on a train from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Alamosa, Colorado a hundred years ago! It's sort of possible now. However, this trip requires reading about the history of train travel in this part of the country, visiting and seeing where the rail lines were, and stopping in the small places where the trains loaded water, acquired mail, passengers and freight to continue on to the next stop. In researching this blog, I have been able to piece together a short story about the railroad days of what is known as the 'Chile Line.' First a bit of background on the fascinations many of us, including me, have with railroads...
Ahh! Spring! The season of the sun bringing back the warmth to the ground. During the dark dormant days of winter, soils get a chance to rest, and winter is placing water for summer plants high in the mountains for cold storage in the form of snow. Looking across, what appears to be a dreadfully dry sagebrush covered landscape, water has been stealthily percolating underneath the San Luis Valley floor for hundreds and thousands of years, getting naturally filtered through layers of gravel and clay, and is, in places, also under pressure. All that is required, is to dig a well deep enough to find this pressurized water, tap it, and voila, an artesian well, meaning that the pressure alone will bring the water to the surface without mechanical pumping required.
'Here come the cranes again, flying overhead like they always do...'
To the tune of the Eurythmics song - "Here Comes the Rain Again." Twice a year the Sand Hill Cranes move, north in the summer and south in the winter. The Sand Hill Cranes have not missed one of their own human sponsored Monte Vista Crane Festival weekends ever, as they have been having their own fest here for hundreds of thousands of years.
Ever wonder how close the western states came to not becoming part of the United States? About as close as the space between the words you are reading! How so? Permit me to ramble on about the years 1802ish to 1807ish.
The players in the game were the powerful European nations of France, England, and Spain, while the internal players were the newly formed United States, Indian tribes and unethical, yet quite enterprising, American citizens as well as Spanish citizens in Mexican territories all with strong political ties, access to money and self-serving purposes. The prizes in the game were New Orleans, control of the Mississippi River, (an absolute necessity when water travel was the only way to get valuable trade goods up and down to the port of New Orleans and the world markets beyond), parts of Spanish Florida, islands in the Caribbean, and the whole present day American West!
More Articles ...
- Zebulon Pike and the Great Sand Dunes
- Hot Springs Eternal
- Rio Frio Ice Fest 2017
- Dio of the Rio Frio Ice Fest
- Dune Day Afternoon
- Winter Highways in the SLV
- Zapata Lake Trail- A Low Lander's Perspective
- Early Deep Winter
- In Search of - Path Finding Adventures
- Cruising Crestone and Crestone Brewery
- Hiking and Biking in the SLV
- Healthy Trends for Healthy Living in the SLV
- 12 Hours of Penitence Rides Again
- Presto Pesto!
- Wheeler Geologic Area Pyroclastic Breccia!
- Poncha Pass Pondering
- A Potpourri of Pleasures in the SLV
- Boyd Community Garden
- Del Norte Trail Showcase
- May Day Play Day in Canyon De Penitente
- Things to Do
- Scenic Wonders
- Arts & Culture
- Outdoor Activities
- Shopping & Retail
- History & Heritage
- Eat & Drink
- Plan A Trip
- Great Sand Dunes