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. 

New Tales and Old Trails

"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


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Food from the Heart of the Valley

'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!

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Penitente Canyon- No Excuses Now

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 info.

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5 Outrageous Farm Visits in the San Luis Valley

The San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado is a very cool place to road-trip. Compared to the packed tourist hot-spots on I-70, The Valley is relatively quiet and undiscovered. (Don't wait too long to visit though; word about this awesome part of Colorado is spreading!) You CAN go for a hike without encountering others. You CAN drive the speed limit. You CAN see something you have never seen before. You CAN get a hotel room at a price you can live with. Oh, and The Valley is home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, too.

Now, about those 5 outrageous farm visits ...

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A Strange Sight in Colorado

Travel Quiz – What can this strange sight be? A photo shopped alligator in Colorado? Fake snow at a gator pond in Florida? A Colorado gator in his natural environment? A real photo? Had I labeled these A - D the answer is....D! On Highway 17, 15 miles north of Alamosa, the Colorado Gator Farm is an excellent stop for entertainment and education. Even as a biologist, I knew little about alligators, having not spent time in the tropics. Learned much in an hour about gators, their behavior, their physiology, and their amazing evolutionary 'run' of 80 million years! Though not alligators' natural habitat, they can survive and thrive in high altitude cold as long as their hot spring ponds are filled with 87 degree water and they get plenty of sun!

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A Seasonal Adventure

Winter recedes upward in elevation as temperatures in the valleys and lower parts of the mountains begin to warm from late March, through April, and into May. Trails emerge from hibernation beneath their blankets of ice and snow and become muddy and wet. Mud season! Depending on the winter snowpack (snowfall measured through April 15th) and variable spring weather, mud season can last a few weeks to over two months. No matter, put on shoes that like mud and hit the trail.

What seasonal treasures are left behind during and after the melt down? Why some of mother nature's finest sculptures in the form of ice waterfalls! One such treasure can be found up the Willow Creek access to Kit Carson Peak. The trailhead begins near Crestone. Find directions there, bring necessary gear and enjoy the day. The hike is 3.8 miles and 2800 vertical feet one way to the waterfall which is a fairly steep climb. Slow and steady hiking will be rewarded. The frozen waterfall lies against the 100 plus foot rock wall where Willow Creek tumbles off a cliff. Imagine how unique it would be to have time lapse photography of the column of ice forming over the course of the winter!

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Climbing the Great Sand Dunes

Climbing the Great Sand Dunes

What a magnificent sandpile! Forever shifting and changing in the wind but always staying in the same place. Hiking the dunes is unique as there is no trail. Everyone blazes their own. Rising almost 800 feet above the valley floor the dunes are easily accessed from the visitor center parking lot. Prepare for seasonal conditions with proper clothing, sun protection, and water. If hiking barefoot during the summer months, pack sandals or shoes for the decent. How do I know this? The hard way, once. The sand will heat up quickly in the high altitude sun and will become a toe toasting surface. And though shoes may fill with an hourglass full of sand, they can easily be removed and drained. Aim at the highest dune and start walking. Each step is forgiving as the soft sand falls away and creates an impression. One step forward, half step back. Every few minutes, stop and look around. In a hurry? Don't be. Enjoy the pace and the views as you hike, for there is no way to turn an ankle! Feel the valley breezes kissing the skin. Reach the top and photo opp.

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Photo Ops for Everyone

Having been lucky enough in the summer of 2013 to be the driver for a photography class in Northern New Mexico, I 'attended' the class of a photographer who made his living traveling the world with his camera. He had a camera, of course, but he informed the class that they could start with whatever camera they had available, including a simple digital or cell phone camera. It's mostly a matter of seeing the shot and even then, sometimes he snaps a hundred pictures and only has three or four that meet his expectations.

With today's digital technology it is easy to do that, so fire away!

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Sand Dunes Swimming Pool

Hot springs in winter … wherefore art thou? Travelers have numerous reactions to hot springs in a region. Some seek them out. Others happen upon them any time of year and are happy to spontaneously try them out. Others, like me, enjoy them seasonally. I like contrasts. Cold winter days make hot soothing pools of water much more inviting, especially after skiing, running, snowshoeing, or any other snow-filled fun. I say 'ahhhh' at the Sand Dunes Pool.

First, let's take a step back in time. Imagine being an oil drilling company in the 1930s and getting into hot water, literally! One mile below ground. Energy is energy in science, but hot water won't fuel a car or a truck. So the oil company moved on and a warm swimming hole became a reality, then a fish pond and greenhouses. Finally, the modernized outdoor Sand Dunes Swimming Pool came to be as it is today. In late spring of 2015, the newly added large indoor greenhouse space will be open to the public.

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