Rumor has it, with 2016 being the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, that Great Sand Dunes National Park is busy. The sand dunes have plenty of room for people and dogs, yes, even dogs are welcome, but the infrastructure of parking lots, campgrounds, and other facilities are beyond capacity. Go, and enjoy, but... If the desire strikes to get far from the crowds, there are other places in the San Luis Valley that offer unique and wonderful views, experiences, and fuel our adventurous internal fires. My brother and I are of the same mindset when we set out on a new trail or even a regular 'go to' trail because we always see something new. The same awaits you and your traveling companions in other parts of the SLV.
Cruising through Alamosa on the main highways in the San Luis Valley will not yield finding a special community garden a few blocks from US 160, south on State Ave to 11th Street. All visitors and locals are invited to stop by the Boyd Community Garden and pull a weed or many, and pick a handful or two of their favorite fresh veggies and fruit in season. Garden therapy, highly recommended by gardeners everywhere, is a way to appreciate the love plants give us when watered and nurtured as if they were a part of the family - because they are! Eat well, live weller!
DEL NORTE TRAIL SHOWCASE
Scientists, by our nature, are always on the quest to discover something, not always for money and fame, or to support an ego, but to better humankind, or like me, for fun! By running with a number of elite runners at the Del Norte Trail Showcase I believe I have theoretically discovered a new human gene, not yet mapped by the Human Genome Project.
Ever wonder how humans that are fast on mountain bikes or in their running shoes get fast? Short of pharmaceutical enhancement, as most cheaters are now getting caught, what makes some athletes faster than the rest of us? Continue for my incredible theory, sure to put me in the scientific annals of 2016 and revered by history! But first, a few easy science notes in physics, math and biology.
The title rhymes if Penitente is pronounced in Spanish with the 'e's being long 'a's as in English. Fun with words and languages. Unlike the mountains surrounding the San Luis Valley, as well as the Great Sand Dunes, Penitente Canyon hides from view until you are actually in it. One of its charms!
On the first Saturday of May, a dry heave hurricane was blowing in from the Southwest as I drove north on Highway 285 heading north from Monte Vista. Several tumbleweeds 'attacked' my car at high speeds as they were doing what they do best in high winds, tumble! One hit my car door and exploded and the other got lodged in my grill. All part of the fun when driving in the spring! This is how tumbleweeds spread their seeds.
My uncle, in describing his family's visit to the Holy Land a few years ago, said, "It's like seeing the bible in 3D!" In three dimensions of course, as they toured many of the places from the scriptures. Made sense, though my mental picture of Easter and the Resurrection was in Sunday School, Easter Holiday celebrations, pictures, paintings, and the many artistic versions of the film industry making movies about the life of Christ.
On what would have been my dad's 88th birthday, I was able to make the visit to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado dating to 1851, and make my own pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. Settled by the Spanish, early residents of San Luis battled the high desert mountain climate, Native Americans (sadly), and other obstacles to establish this community on the western side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
WHO COMES TO THE CRANE FEST?
The out of state license plate read - BRDYMBL (The meaning should be obvious, but, Birdy Mobile is how I read the license plate unless the Brady Bunch happened to be at the Crane Festival in their 'mobile' and perhaps touring with the Partridge Family - showing my age!) - Met the older couple who owned the SUV. Yep, they were serious about their bird watching! Retired, traveling around, and following the birds. Armed with cameras, binoculars, and a small telescope, their birding lifestyle gets them off the couch and out and about. Works well for them and they obviously love what they do. Taking pictures of birds is their thing.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CRANE MIGRATION
Migrations for many animal species on land, in water, and in the air are quite remarkable. For Sandhill Cranes, they have the anatomical abilities with six foot wing spans, hollow bones, long legs, and light, streamlined bodies to fly long distances and to have the built- in migration 'software' inside their brains. These evolutionary tools have been refined and changed over many generations to insure the survival of the species. It is an ongoing process, for if a species can stay put in one place and survive, it is advantageous to do so. How did the process actually begin? The driving forces for migration are the same as are the needs for humans, food, water, shelter, clothing and an environment in which to raise a family.
Mid-March means calendar winter is nearly over. The weather is warm and sunny somewhere. This is a time to renew our spirits and contemplate whatever the first fifth of 2016 has given us. And for all of us, college students or not, we all need a break! Traveler's scatter according to their interests and priorities. Many flock to ocean beaches, others flock to find good spring snow conditions, while others, like me, have a well-defined traveling goal of 'spontaneous wandering.'
FREMONT HAUNT REVISITED - A DEEPER PERSPECTIVE
A person could explore the San Luis Valley for a lifetime and not see it all. Alamosa is a gateway city to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, a bunch of 14 thousand foot peaks and plenty of lower mountains, hot springs, and many other places for adventurous activities. But, wherever we live, it helps to get away once in a while to achieve a proper perspective about the places in which we do reside. To appreciate the explorers and traders, who used the San Luis Valley for a pathway to reach points beyond, it is important to have an understanding of who they were, the places from where they came, and their reasons for passing through a place.
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