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. 

An Adventure Guide to the Rio Grande River in the San Luis Valley

The Rio Grande River begins its journey in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. On the periphery of Silverton, Colorado, the water begins its high-mountain flow and feeds thick blankets of Ponderosa Pines as it moves southeast through the Weminuche Wilderness.

Also known as the "Rio Bravo," its whitewater traces steep cliffs and jagged peaks before it enters the San Luis Valley: a vast intermountain basin with 14,000-foot snow-capped peaks on either side. To the east, the sun rises over the adjacent Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Outdoor lovers are drawn to San Luis Valley for its magnificent landscape, wildlife, river culture, and solitude. At an elevation of 7,500 feet, the basin spans 65 miles wide, stretches 100 miles in length, and reaches all the way into New Mexico. The Rio Grande passes the towns of Del Norte, Monte Vista, and Alamosa before it continues south.

With Alamosa, Colorado, as a basecamp, travelers will find refreshing adventures while exploring the Rio Grande’s dynamic waters and broad banks.


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New Healthy Beginnings in the SLV

If 2018 resolutions included healthy activities such as skiing more deep powder at Wolf Creek, so far this winter, Mother Nature has not provided. Hopefully she will even herself out from February through April and lay down those deep carpets of snowy fluff for us to enjoy! Weather is out of our control.

How about those healthy activities over which we do have control for our bodies, mind, and spirits? Enter four new businesses in the San Luis Valley who are addressing those needs. Cool Breeze Farm, Susan Vadney Massage and Sound Healing, Infinite Art Gallery and Tea House, and the new remodeled Body Tune Up Gym.


Allien Jones moved here from the bustle of California to pursue what she loves, growing flowers, edible plants and herbs. She has rented a farm that came with a solar heated greenhouse for her plants to grow year round, not only in organic soil, but she has a unique hydroponic system for growing a variety of herbs and lettuces, vertically! It is the first time I have ever seen lettuce, cilantro and parsley growing sideways in this ‘vertical garden.’ Constructed in a metal framework with a drip system, I was eyeball to eyeball with cilantro.

The farm is off the grid northeast of Alamosa and utilizes solar hot water, solar electric, passive solar, and thermal mass in the form of large solar heated water tanks to help balance temperature extremes. Clean artesian well water is used for growing many different types of flowers and plants. Jones is also renting garden space at the Gator Farm up the road where the 87 degree water temperatures not only keeps 300 alligators happy, but the warm water in the greenhouse is magical for growing food in the winter. The extreme winter cold of the San Luis Valley can be overcome by creating microclimates within a carefully controlled indoor environment.

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Math, Physics & Fun!

With a theme of Superheroes for the 2018 Rio Frio Ice Fest, how about a famous real person that does not make most people’s Superhero lists because they are mostly unfamiliar with Archimedes! He is the guy who gave us Pi. This is the number, in what I call circle science that is always the same, when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter and is a never ending number but is rounded off to 3.14159....

And he gave us the Archimedes Principle and all sorts of other cool knowledge as a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer. The Archimedes Principle is that an object placed in water will displace the amount of water equal to its own weight. Perhaps you have heard of Archimedes as the guy who yelled “Eureka! I’ve found it!” While taking a bath, he noticed how he displaced a certain amount of water and the answer came to him! So excited was he, that he went running through the streets without any clothes on to proclaim his discovery. No record of what month in which this occurred or whether or not he came to his senses and ran to the nearest body of water and did his own Polar Plunge to escape being seen!

How do these two super discoveries, made over 2,000 years ago apply to the Rio Frio in 2018? Let’s ask Archimedes!


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Back on Track to the Rio Frio

Not long until the days start getting longer! Winter may even show up after a stretch of single digit mornings and shirtsleeve afternoons, with the desert sunshine in the San Luis Valley feeling as nice as September. Such is a La Niña year when a big High Pressure dome sits over the Southwest making for cold nights and warm days with 50 degree temperature swings not unusual. Perfect time to run at the Alamosa High School track when the day warms up. The track is open to the public and provides a wonderful semi soft surface and the round and round on the oval is still much better than a treadmill for us runner types. I, once again, being of questionable mind and body, am training for the late January tradition known as the Rio Frio, a 5k run on the frozen surface of the Rio Grande when several hundred runners brave the day and run the river without a boat. Last year, the starting temperature was 16 below zero. Makes for cold extremities of toes, nose, fingers and ears. As I run training laps on the track, my mind leads me to wonder, how fit am I?

Adams State University has a Human Performance Lab on Campus that is open to the public. I decided ‘to drop in, to see what condition my condition was in,’ to paraphrase the lyrics from the song by the First Edition in 1968, sung by Kenny Rogers, FYI. Met Dr. Tracey Robinson at the lab and she introduced me to three of her grad students who would test me for my fitness age.

First, they did the ‘caliper thingy’ on various parts of my body along with tape measuring to determine my BMI (Body Mass Index). Next, I get my resting pulse taken, then do step up step downs for 3 minutes to a goofy recording to pace my stepping and compare my exercise pulse to my resting pulse. As a runner, I performed well in this test. Up next was the flexibility test by sitting with legs flat on floor and extending as far as possible to the threshold of pain which tests the legs and lower back.

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Happy Thanksduning

Having turned our Thanksgiving meal this year into a late lunch instead of dinner, we had the rest of the afternoon to either hang out in a ‘food coma,’ or get outside and do something! With temperatures in the mid-fifties coupled with virtually no wind, there were no excuses. Time to go, do what I am now referring to, as ‘Thanksduning,’ at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This would be a good day to hike in the sand and reflect upon all the wonderful Thanksgivings from years past. There were family traditions with grandparents, traveling occasionally hundreds of miles to Minneapolis where we did have wintery holidays on occasion, to being home with friends and doing all the cooking and entertaining while helping out mom and dad. Goofy gimmicky kitchen tools were being sold in those days to aid the average person with all the tasks! I remember those first Sunbeam electric knives being introduced for easily carving the turkey at the table. Ahh, the smells of turkey fresh out of the oven, stuffing and gravy, homemade dinner rolls, fresh pies and everything else that made Thanksgiving special while growing up.

Later, post College, it became good times with friends and their new families and even an occasional holiday that was not so great. I experienced one solitary Thanksgiving. I was housesitting in one of my early years in Colorado. It snowed 16 inches overnight, another 8 during the day, the plows could not keep up and the roads were drifted impassable. I was housebound. I ate a peanut butter sandwich, drank a half a bottle of Cabernet that I was going to take to the house to which I had been invited, and went for a silent snowy walk in the neighborhood, returned to the house and watched football. A nice day overall but Thanksgiving solitude is not something I would recommend! I vowed to avoid another.

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Rio Grande- A River Through Desert

Desert sky,

Dream beneath the desert sky,

Rivers run, but soon run dry,

We need new dreams tonight...

U2 - In God’s Country - Joshua Tree Album 1987

A river, by any other name, will still run its course. Humans are similar, not by geography, but by time. Our lives, like rivers, will run their course, but unlike rivers, we can change direction.

How then do we manage our rivers and streams? Our time? (C’est une bonne question!). That is a good question! In French or any other language. This blog post is the result of having attended a community meeting for Revitalizing the Rio Grande, though not so much about the meeting, but more about the “River Big,” as translated from Spanish to English.

Alamosa is a high desert. The annual average precipitation is seven inches. The town and the valley rely on the Rio Grande for water via reservoirs, canals, irrigation ditches, and other ways to distribute water from the river. Due to changes in snowpack every year, quantity and quality of the Rio Grande can vary.

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Choclorado Seasonal Beers and the Dark Season

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow

Take my head and let me sleep

In the coolness of your shadow

In the silence of your dream

Jesse Colin Young - Darkness Darkness

‘Falling back’ with our clocks makes me call the next three months the ‘dark season.’ Nothing we can do about the reduced hours of daylight, the coming of winter, and the cold and snow. Funny how we all have varying opinions about the seasonal changes. Winter would not be so bad if it were light outside for longer hours in the day! But that’s not how the World turning works. I know people who embrace the dark season by chasing snow. Ski instructor in Colorado during our winter and then they head south to Chile or New Zealand for their winter.

How do people in the San Luis Valley embrace winter and soothe what medical experts call Seasonal Affective Disorder? Check online to read medical suggestions or continue reading here for edible and drinkable ‘medicines.’

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Autumn Part 2

Leaves are falling all around, Time,

I was on my way,

Thanks to you, I’m much obliged, Such a pleasant stay, but now, It’s time for me to go,

The autumn moon lights my way... “Ramble On” - Led Zeppelin

Cannot help but feel so much recently for everyone after being pounded by wind, water, and waves in hurricanes, or, having everything they owned being completely consumed by firestorms! How lucky are some of us to be in the mountains where we may have a few blizzards, occasionally extreme cold, and a forest fire or two, but never as out of control as hurricanes, or the kinds of wildfires that crush California. Weather dynamics in parts of the world are completely in Mother Nature’s control and her wrath can be powerful and brutal.

Enter her softer gentler side. Colorado has two autumns. The first burst of color season that people come to see is mid-September through early October. Amazing contrasts reveal golden aspen groves against the green pines, the high jagged peaks, and the bluest of blue skies. But a series of fast moving storms as the jet stream comes south bring rain into the valleys and snow above tree line on the highest peaks. Unrelenting winds for a day or two rake the aspen trees bare until most of the groves at altitude appear, from a distance, like thousands of naked white sticks pointed to the sky. Though the scene may look uninviting, the trails that pass through them, are actually wonderful. The fallen leaves begin their decomposition to return to the forest soils and emit a unique and pleasant odor. If dry, they crunch under foot, and create a patchwork of art. Streams are running low and cold revealing their rocky bottoms. Autumn Part 2 may not be as colorful but it is still a photographer’s dream or an artist’s canvas. Bronzes, browns, and grays dominate except where renegade trees are ‘late bloomers’ and full of color, still dressed in shades of golds, reds, and oranges. If snow falls in October, it will generally be staying for the winter on the north facing slopes where the cold night temperatures keep the snow frozen even on days when air temperatures may be in the 50s.

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The Autumn Equinox in the San Luis Valley

It happens on time every year! But, not exactly at the same time. What the heck, is, ‘it’? I threw in those commas to slow readers down and contemplate for a bit. In the course of our 365.25 day yearly tour around the sun (that extra quarter of a day each year is what makes us need to throw in an extra day every four years in February to catch up to the Earth’s actual full revolution), the earth tilts at ever changing angles to direct sunlight independent of our 24 hour axis rotation that gives us night and day. Simple, yet complex and let’s all life survive on our spaceship Earth. If our planet did not rotate, the dark side of the Earth away from the sun would be frozen solid at absolute zero and the sunny side would be burnt to a crisp as if someone had left the oven on all night and forgot about the bread baking! Black cinder buns anyone?

What exactly is the Equinox? Similar to the recent solar eclipse where the new moon passed in front of the sun for around two minutes, the sun passes over the equator as the Earth revolves and only ‘hovers’ at that spot for a brief moment. In September this movement of the sun over the Equator starts fall in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere. The reverse happens on March 21 every year.

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