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. 

Training for the Rio Frio

Having been deployed to my hometown in Illinois for most of the last two winters to take care of an aging parent, and finding the winters to be as I remembered—cold, gray and windy—I am often confronted with this statement: "Living in Colorado, you must be used to these cold winters."

"No," is my reply, "winters in Colorado aren't this cold!" I say emphatically. Let me explain. What I really mean is that Colorado cold does not feel as cold. I run outside all winter because I told myself years ago that there are no excuses. If I have to bundle up like a penguin and cover every square inch of flesh with multiple layers, which is what I do to maintain my passion. My nose is the exception as I do have to breathe, being one of my worst habits, especially while running. Because I have run so many miles in both places and paying close attention to weather conditions, I present the following theory: In temperatures below 40°F, there is a 25° difference in feel between Colorado and Illinois. Point of reference; 25° in Illinois is what ZERO feels like in Colorado.

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Running the Rio Frio 2015

It all started with over 200 'crazies' aka runners/walkers who slipped, stumbled, and slid ten feet down the embankment to the Rio Grande River and the starting line of the annual Alamosa Ice Fest Rio Frio 5k. Two other perils were the three inches of slurpy slush which made for cold wet feet and the cones which indicated several thin ice or open water spots. Not a good day for a swim. Imagine being Jeff Owsley, the race director, having to drill a thousand holes (his guestimate) into the ice on the river to make sure there was enough depth to the ice everywhere to ensure a safe race. A thousand holes on any other race course might be considered an act of vandalistic sabotage! We were given instructions to stay away from the orange cones indicating thin spots. Rivers do not freeze consistently over their surfaces like ponds and lakes because of the flowing waters under the ice.

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The Art of Adventure

The art of adventure, whether 500 years ago, or now, is wonderful. We read, or watch shows about historical adventures when we have the ability to go now! It is ingrained in our human spirit. We have no idea where we are going until we get there. Such is how I felt on February 3, 2015 as I drove up the muddy, snowy, and slush-filled Conejos River Road. I'd never been up this road so it was time to go. I had two hours to pursue one of my passions, 'light exploring.'

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Have Brochures Will Travel

Travel writing requires travel. Confronted with a brochure rack ... what to choose, what to choose? I take three approaches.

#1. SKIP all brochure racks and go 'Ready, Fire, Aim.' Drive around randomly where I am, see something interesting and stop. This approach will be different for all of us, but it does have its rewards by maintaining a good attitude of not knowing what we may find! An adventure awaits! (As long as the family/traveling companions are in agreement.) My 'no brochure approach' has stopped me at trailheads where I have gone for trail runs, aka, fast hiking. Coming around bends in trails, I have seen spectacular views, migrating flocks, run into coyotes, deer, elk, bears, mother moose with calf (her glare was the scariest of all) and come across fresh mountain lion tracks. One observation - wild animals do look at me differently when I am running versus hiking. Hmmm?

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Insider Trails

Trails Worth the Journey

Explore the area like an insider. These lesser known trails will take any traveler on a hike of a lifetime. Find the largest tree in Rio Grande National Forest or hike across the continental divide. Be sure to take that camera and plenty of water. For more information and directions click here.

Photos Courtesy of Jeff Owsley

Orient Land Trust and Valley View Hotsprings

Imagine being in a high dry desert and having an unlimited* warm water supply, so pure it requires no treatment, flows steadily all year, and supplies all the heat and electricity needed for numerous homes and buildings. A San Luis Valley fairy tale as wild as rumors of lost treasures of gold?

I have always considered water resources in two parameters; quality and quantity. But a tour of the Valley View Hot Springs, in the northeastern end of the San Luis Valley, added two more. Temperature and elevation. The area is a perfect mountainside oasis, a wet and wonderful treasure, and one more testament to Mother Nature's genius.

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Hot Springs and Camels and Golf, Oh My!

With a goal of having a science learning experience (SLE) in the San Luis Valley (SLV) and in a quest to answer, 'What am I going to do for fun today?' I drive south on 285 over Poncha Pass and into the SLV. My interview with camels was in two hours so I had time to make one stop at Valley View Hot Springs and discuss their micro hydro electric generator.

Located on a mountainside, the continuous flow of water supplies the heat energy for the soaking pools. The outflow is collected in a pipe and runs 1.7 miles downhill in a 540’ vertical drop to a Pelton wheel - an efficient electric generator.

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Potato High School

Potatoes. Mashed, hash-browned, French-fried, boiled, foiled (as in baked), souped, roasted, saladed, totted, Augratined or chipped. How do you like potatoes? Perhaps your taste leans more toward European styles like latkes (potato pancakes) or gnocchi (Italian potato pasta). Ah, how the world loves potatoes. But, do most people know how they grow? Potato trees? On bushes? A very small percentage of people who eat potatoes could actually identify the plant from which they grow. The French name for potato is 'pomme de terre' which means apple of the earth and provides a serious hint that potatoes grow underground. But, if they were called 'subterranean starch tubers' in English would that make them more or less appealing? I'm thinking less. Try adding any of the above names before or after and see if that sounds appealing. "I think I'll have the baked beans as a side." But, keep the name potatoes and say "I would like the creamy garlic mashed potatoes, or the baked potato with butter, sour cream and chives," - now we're talkin'!

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New Hot Spring Attraction: The Greenhouse

Something new is brewing at the Sand Dunes Pool and it isn't coffee! Smack dab in the middle of the San Luis Valley, a mile below the surface, Mother Nature continuously 'brews' purified ground-filtered water. Then, through the age old human practice of well digging, this perfect water is piped a mile to the surface at a warm and wonderful 118 degrees.

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