Early March in Colorado, after a warm and dry February, has exposed the waters of the Rio Grande from its icy lid and the river is flowing steady, silent and dark. Worth a stroll, a run, a bike ride or taking your dog for a walk along its bank trails to take in the sights and sounds of the water and all else that goes with the trails of the Alamosa City Ranch Trail System. Soon, the snowpack in the high mountains will begin melting, putting more water in the river, and greening up the valley. We take what weather Mother Nature gives us because we have no choice. Could be an early spring, but, we've seen late March and April make a triumphant return to winter in previous years! Hard to believe that 5 weeks earlier we were having the Rio Frio Ice Fest and we were running on the river.
A Traveler's Blog
Do you want to visit Alamosa like you know a local? Here is your chance! Enjoy the following feature articles writtten by a traveler enjoying some hidden (and not so hidden) treasures around the San Luis Valley.
One good thing about events in human history is that they actually happened, for better or worse. Historians, and 'eye witnesses,' tell the stories of events from their perspectives. However, these written or verbal accounts do not guarantee accuracy of what happened, but do give an overall timeline and an approximately true account of ill-fated adventures. Such is the case of John C. Fremont's 4th expedition, as it is known, to locate a railroad route from St. Louis to San Francisco in the winter of 1848-1849 on the 38th Parallel, which happens to be, straight through the San Juan Mountains!
Course Preview - Previewing the 3.1 mile Rio Frio Ice Fest course the evening before, with the sun setting on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, light winds, and temps in the upper 30s, made running a wonderful experience. Knowing the course certainly gave me no advantage as the surface, though flat, made each footfall unique. Part slippy, crunchy, and beachy. There were several inches of snow on the ice surface, channels of flowing water on part of the river, and strange funky ice from previous footprints of humans, deer, dogs, and other creatures of the night that venture onto the frozen waterway. I met part of the Adams State cross country team on a training run, four tame deer, plus several people enjoying a walk and play session with their dogs. I was having such a good time on my run I added an additional mile and half as I was about to have a pre-race meal washed down with a couple of local Colorado beers for carbo-loading purposes.
Here We Go! Rio Frio!
Like major arteries and veins in our bodies to keep our internal systems running properly, a river also provides life giving elements to everything in its drainage basin, essentially, its 'body.' Little drops of rain and soft falling flakes become the life blood of any River. The Rio Grande, (equals the River Big in Spanish and pronounced - Ree oh Gronn day) as rivers go, is fairly small in terms of width, depth, and water flow. However, it is long at 1,896 miles! And the Rio Grande is of huge importance when it comes to water supplies for Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Farmers and ranchers need its water, towns and people need its water, as does wildlife. And it needs to remain fairly clean to keep doing its good work of raising hay, potatoes and wheat, cattle and horses, and provide landing zones and food for thousands of migrating birds. And don't forget the fish and other animals that rely on water. So to celebrate the Rio Grande for its beauty and important contributions to life, why not celebrate the river and run on one its winter seasonal condition, frozen! The Rio Frio 5k is this Saturday, January 30th, 2016! Be there.
A Winter Playground in the San Luis Valley
Wolf Creek Pass resides on the west side of the San Luis Valley and sits in a winter storm track that in big snow years, because of geography, and being on a ridge at 12,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains, storms will spank the terrain with feet of snow, high winds, and cold. In the aftermath, Mother Nature has placed a soft playground upon which to use our human made toys to go outside and play. At the Wolf Creek Ski Resort, this means wonderful downhill and Nordic skiing.
ART, SCIENCE, HISTORY AND HARMONY AT THE GREAT SAND DUNES
December 4th, 2015, at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve... A fellow writer once said - "Strive for excellence in writing, not perfection, because you will never achieve it." Correct he is! However, when I visit the Sand Dunes or other outdoor venues in the area, I have found that Mother Nature is the one force that does achieve perfection, when left alone to do so. She paints sunsets, shoots the moon and stars on night rides across the sky, blows up volcanoes, stirs up snowy and thundery tempests, sends flocks of birds across the valley in artistic formations during migrations, inhales flowing mountain streams deep into the ground and has them resurface elsewhere as wetlands, provides hot springs water at several locations around the valley, and performs many more spectacular tricks. One of these is occasionally unleashing furious winds that add her artistic expressions and impressions in shaping the Great Sand Dunes. But not this day!
"Crikey, this is good beerhh," I heard, in an unmistakeable Australian accent, as he spoke to his friend. I looked over at them and smiled as I heard the 'r' in the word beer get blended into a drawn out, strange 'h' and combined with other spoken sounds we don't have in our American English. He saw me. We were 'parked' at the bar in Three Barrel Brewing in Del Norte.
"Hey mate," he said to me, "you live around here?"
"Sort of," I answered, "I spend a lot of time in this valley. Where are you guys from in
'Changes' is a good song by the Band YES, and changes are something that happen regularly in our lives. The same is true for ranch and farm owners in the San Luis Valley. Decisions must be made on occasion about how to best use the family ground to adapt to changing economic conditions, mixed with what current family members consider their passion. We can all be versatile, when by necessity, we have to be.
While volunteering for the 12 Hours of Penitence Bike Race on October 18th, our aid station was treated to a local's lunch. A warm box showed up shortly after noon filled with locally grown baked potatoes and fixings, including Gosar sausages. Yum!
Penitente Canyon. Okay - now, you've heard of it. There are no excuses for not making this a future destination. Websites discuss the wonders of the canyon and the pictures should lure you this direction.
The San Luis Valley Heptathalon is my unofficial name for the following sports. If these are of interest - mountain biking, hiking, trail running, bouldering, climbing and drinking good
beer - Penitente Canyon is a great place, though it is highly recommended to save the last one for the last one. These sports are all available. Campsites and RV sites are located at the entrance and lodging is available in nearby towns. There is a cost. Check the BLM website for
More Articles ...
- 5 Outrageous Farm Visits in the San Luis Valley
- A Strange Sight in Colorado
- A Seasonal Adventure
- Climbing the Great Sand Dunes
- Photo Ops for Everyone
- Sand Dunes Swimming Pool
- Training for the Rio Frio
- Running the Rio Frio 2015
- The Art of Adventure
- Have Brochures Will Travel
- Insider Trails
- Orient Land Trust and Valley View Hotsprings
- Hot Springs and Camels and Golf, Oh My!
- Potato High School
- New Hot Spring Attraction: The Greenhouse
- Beach or Mountain Vacation?
- Joyful Journey Hotsprings Spa
- Orient Mine Bats
- Because it is there.
- Hiking the Jeep Trail to Como Lake