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. 

Newbies to San Luis Valley 2017

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.

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Take a Ride on the Chile Line

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...

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Let the Growing Season Begin

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.

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Here Come the Cranes Again

'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.

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Pike's Stockade and the Free for All

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!

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Zebulon Pike and the Great Sand Dunes

BLOGGERS NOTES - In recognizing two hundred and ten years since Zebulon Pike came into the San Luis Valley, on a mission to supposedly find the southern boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase, I have the advantage of a picture of history before and after 1806 -1807. His adventures here were like many other western travelers in those days, one of awe of the natural surroundings, one of survival, one of discovery, and one of possibly ulterior motives for the expedition that has not necessarily been documented. A good ole conspiracy theory! This will be a two part blog, this one a general overview and the next one more specific about Pike's story out west, his capture by the Spanish, his time as sort of a prisoner in Mexico for 'trespassing' and his eventual release, but not before there was a bit of intrigue surrounding his story...

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Hot Springs Eternal

As winter heads toward spring - days are longer, nights not so cold, and the sun feels warmer as it crawls northward into our daily skies... It seems to be another season of sorts. It is! Hot Springs Soaking Season providing sunset watching, mountain viewing, and star gazing. From Alamosa, there are five options from which to choose. To the north off Highway 17, the Sand Dunes Recreation offers family fun in a big swimming pool, a hot tub and restaurant. Lodging, campsites, RV sites are available. Views? Oh yeah! Plus, in the adult area, several pools of varying temps provide options and there is a bar for adult beverages. Thirty minutes north of Alamosa.

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Rio Frio Ice Fest 2017

Awakening before dawn on Saturday the 28th of January, I checked my phone for the Alamosa temperature. Sounds strange does it not? 17 below zero. Okay, it is January and it is the Ice Fest. The one time of year, winter, when we humans can walk on water, only because it's frozen! Remember the days when we looked out a frosty kitchen window at a thermometer attached to the house, checking the red fluid that would expand and contract with the actual temperature? The red stuff would easily have been midway between the minus 15 and minus 20 mark and generally quite accurate unless the sun hit the thermometer, warmed it up, and would no longer 'read' the actual temperature. Surely, I thought, it will warm up by race time at 9 AM. Yep, it did, all the way up to 9 below. But, no wind and the sun was shining, so we had that going for us!

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Dio of the Rio Frio Ice Fest

The 'dio' (god) of the Rio Frio Ice Fest is WATER. Wait a sec? Is it not WINTER such that the cold is the star of the show? True, cold plays a role in assisting water by fluctuating temperatures from cold to colder to really cold, but it is water that can change its state of matter under many winter conditions, in shape and in volume.

On a training exercise for the 5k run, one of the events for the Ice Fest, I found myself up toward the Cat Creek Trail on the eastern slopes of the San Juan Mountains. Cloudy, with quick bursts of sunlight and occasional snow showers, muddy, snow packed and icy roads made me think of all the ways water can present itself to the surface of our planet. I was the only one parked where Forest Service Road 271 would normally continue on to the Cat Creek Trail. I parked, pulled my snowshoes out of my trunk and headed up the untracked road. My mind began to wander to all the states of water I was experiencing. First was snow, originally forming in the upper atmosphere, starting as a super cooled water droplet, freezing to a dust particle, then attracting more water vapor molecules as it drops toward earth, creating a beautiful six sided shape that dihydrogen oxide (H20) water drops form. We call it snow! There are as many different snowflake crystals as there are snowflakes, although I believe a few years back, scientists discovered two snowflakes that WERE exactly the same. And the number of snowflakes that have fallen within a hundred miles of Alamosa this winter would probably take up more zeros than I get on a blog post!

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