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Take a look inside... Table of contents

Welcome........................................ 2 Golf courses............................... 37 Calendar of events........................ 3 Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant..... Contact Information..................... 5 .................................................... 38 Breweries.................................. 38 6 Restaurant Guide...................... 39 Alamosa County events.............. 7 Del Norte Trail System............ 40 Mineral County events............. 12 Wagon Tracks............................ 41 Saguache County events........... 15 42 Conejos/Costilla County events .................................................... 17 Fort Garland & Pike’s Stockade. Rio Grande County events....... 18 .................................................... 43 San Luis Valley history............. 44 Colorado Welcome Center at Wild horses................................ 45 Alamosa..................................... 25 Sangre de Cristo National 26 Heritage Area............................ 45 Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy....... 27 Creede Repertory Theatre....... 46 Valley 14-ers.............................. 27 Creede Mining District............. 46 Recreation opportunities.......... 28 Art in the San Luis Valley........ 47 UFO Watchtower...................... 30 Crestone temples....................... 48 Colorado Gators Reptile Park..... Stations of the Cross Shrine..... 48 .................................................... 30 Faith directory.......................... 49 Cumbres & Toltec Scenic............. Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town......................................... 31 Railroad................................... 50 San Luis Valley map................... 32 Scenic byways.............................. 52 Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.... 34 Agriculture and ranching......... 53 Hot springs and pools............... 36 Museums.................................... 54




Anta Grande Elk Ranch................... 56



National forests & wildlife refuges.......... 59 Great Sand Dunes National Park...................60 Photo by Jennifer Alonzo Zapata Falls........................... 61 Flowers and fungi...................... 62 Rock formations........................ 62 Advertisers’ index....................... 64 Mileage from Alamosa.............. 63 Altitude sickness........................ 64 Photography.............................. 63 Marijuana quick facts............... 64

Valley Publishing

835 1st Ave. • P.O. Box 607 Monte Vista, CO 81144 719-852-3531• Editorial Contributors: Jennifer Alonzo, Teresa L. Benns, Lyndsie Ferrell, Anthony Guerrero, Sylvia Lobato, Beth Tooker and Chelsea McNerney-Martinez Advertising Contributors: Jennifer Alonzo and Chelsea McNerney-Martinez Layout & Design: Jennifer Alonzo and Ellie Bone

On the cover:

Big Meadows Photo by Jennifer Alonzo Great Sand Dunes National Park Photo by Todd Adams Gator wrestling at Colorado Gators, Courtesy Photo Ski Hi Stampede Rodeo, Photo by Eric Flores Stations of the Cross Shrine, Photo by Staci Turner


Photo by Phil Ray Jack



“You can dance anywhere, even if only in your heart.” ~Author Unknown

So much going on... May 27 28 28-30 28-29 30

Calendar of events

19 ATV/OHV Poker Run, Creede Hogs and Hot Air Pig Roast & Potluck, Saguache Rollin’ Deep Car Show, Cole Photo by Jennifer Alonzo Park, Alamosa 21 Creede Historical Society fundraiser, The Ruth, Creede 21-26 Alamosa PRCA Round-Up, fairgrounds, Alamosa 22 Creede Chute Out, fairgrounds, Creede 23 Society Hall: Susan Gibson, Alamosa 24 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens, CRT, Creede Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede 24-25 Alamosa Artwalk, downtown Alamosa 24-26 Del Norte Trails Showcase, Del Norte 25 Hispanic Heroes Salute, Ski-Hi Park, Monte Vista Kind of Red opens, CRT, Creede Photography Workshop with Kiyomichi Koike, Sand Dunes Summerfest on the Rio, Cole Park, Alamosa SLV Antique Iron Club Heritage Days, Pull Track, Alamosa Jr. Ranger Day, Great Sand Dunes Toxic Seven Music Festival, Cole Park, Alamosa National Trails Day Celebration, South Fork 25-26 Exile, RGSR, Alamosa Colorado Free Fishing Days, Statewide Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork CHSCA All-State Games, Adams State University, Alamosa 26 Sundays at Six: Vogts Sisters, Cole Park, Alamosa Society Hall: Ronny Cox, Alamosa 29 Creede Chute Out, Mineral County Fairgrounds, Creede Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Little Britches Rodeo, Rickel Arena, South Fork Hot Rod Dirt Drags car show/drag racing, Monte Vista Byron Williams Art Show Reception, RGC Museum, Del Norte 1 Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede National Get Outdoors Day Celebration, South Fork The History Room opens, The Ruth, Creede Runoff Runoff, Creede 2 Singer-Songwriter Competition, South Fork Michael Hearn and Shake Russell, RGSR, Alamosa 2-3 Antique Flea Market/Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Society Hall: David Clemmer, Alamosa Cat’s Classic Motocross Race, Sutak Raceway, Alamosa Creede Historical Society June Program, Creede Eggfest, Colorado Gators, Mosca Great Northern Carnival, Recreation Center, Alamosa Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, RGSR, Alamosa Environmental Sculpture Workshop, Medano Creek, Sand Dunes 3 Independence Day celebration, South Fork Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede 3-4 Independence Day celebration, Creede Little Britches Rodeo, Fairgrounds, Alamosa 4 Independence Day celebration, Alamosa Kids’ Fishing Clinic, Tucker Ponds, South Fork Independence Day celebration, Crestone La Jara Glory Days Celebration, La Jara Pancake Breakfast, Saguache County Museum, Saguache Rails and Ales, RGSR, Alamosa “El Norteno,” Amarante Casias, CTSR, Antonito Antique Flea Market/Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork 8 Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Poster Unveiling, The Ruth, Creede Summer Ranger Program kickoff, Sand Dunes The Curious Case of Watson Intelligence opens, The Ruth, Creede Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR (CTSR) opening day, Antonito Memorial Day Celebration Otto Mears Park, Saguache National Small Print Show opening, Creede Repertory Theatre (CRT), Creede Renaming Ceremony, Picnic, Rio Grande Farm Park, Alamosa Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (RGSR) opening, Alamosa Saguache County Museum Re-Opening, Saguache Encampment/Historical Events, Fort Garland Taste of Creede Festival, Creede Creede Historical Society Museum/Library Opening Day, Creede Memorial Day observations, San Luis Valley


3 3-5 4 4-5 8-11 9 10 10-11 10-12 11 11-12 14 16 16-19 17 17-19 18 18-19



8 8-9 8-15 9 9-10 10 13 14-15 14-16 15 15-17 16 16-17 17 20 21 21-23 22 23 23-24 24 27 28–31 28 29 29-30 30

Society Hall: Syd Masters, Alamosa Relay For Life, Alamosa High School, Alamosa Woodcarvers Rendezvous, Creede Poorboy Car Club Classic Car Show, Center Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Live Music Festival Weekend, RGSR, Alamosa Sundays at Six: Western Centuries, Cole Park, Alamosa Creede Chute Out, fairgrounds, Creede Ladies Aid Bazaar Bake/Rummage Sale, Creede The KID SHOW: Rodeo and Juliet, CRT, Creede Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Logger Days Festival, South Fork Bike to Build Race, Alamosa Chris Collins, A Tribute to John Denver, CTSR, Antonito Doctor Robert, RGSR, Alamosa Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Native American Exhibit Opens, RGC Museum, Del Norte Rockin the Rio Grande Rodeo, South Fork Antique Flea Market/Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Creede Chute Out, fairgrounds, Creede Sons and Brothers, RGSR, Alamosa Sundays at Six:Antonio Lopez/Emily Robinson, Cole Park, Alamosa Creede Chute Out, fairgrounds, Creede Elements Camp for Kids, Crestone Sanford Pioneer Days, Sanford Creede Historical Society July Program, Creede Manassa Pioneer Days, Manassa Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Fort Garland Band Jam, Fort Garland Hal Ketchum, RGSR, Alamosa Rotary Dial with Bill Keller, CTSR, Antonito Society Hall: hONEeyhoUSe, Alamosa Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Richie Furay, RGSR, Alamosa Sundays at Six: Black Lillies, Cole Park, Alamosa Creede Chute Out, fairgrounds, Creede Ski-Hi Stampede, Monte Vista Josh Turner and Clare Dunn concert, Ski Hi Park, Monte Vista Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Stampede on Adams Street, Monte Vista Beat the Heat Challenge, Cole Park, Alamosa Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Hollyhock Festival, Historic Downtown Saguache John McCutcheon, RGSR, Alamosa Steel Stampede Car Show, Chapman Park, Monte Vista

Photo by Beth Tooker


30-31 31

Santa Ana y Santiago Festival, San Luis Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork The Wranglers, RGSR, Alamosa Sundays at Six: Richmond Brothers, Cole Park, Alamosa

1-2 1-6 5 5-6 5-7 6 6-7 7 11 12 12-14 12-16 13 13-14 14 15 15-17 19 20 20-21 21 25-28

Kit Carson Wagon Train, Del Norte Covered Wagon Days, Del Norte Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Ice Cream Social, RGC Museum, Del Norte Mushroom Foray, South Fork Creede Rock and Mineral Show, Creede Rhythms on the Rio Music Festival, South Fork Family Fun Day, Browns Park, South Fork Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Pete Giuliani, CTSR, Antonito Snowshoe Shuffle, Creede Antique Flea Market/Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Gatorfest, Colorado Gators, Mosca Pure Prairie League, RGSR, Railroad, Alamosa Sundays at Six: Mariachi San Luis, Cole Park, Alamosa Reading! And other Superpowers closes, The Ruth, Creede Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Crestone Energy Fair, Crestone Crestone Music Festival, Crestone August Art Retreat: Metamorphosis, Sun Studio, Crestone Chris Collins: A Tribute to John Denver, CTSR, Antonito Dirty Rotten Scoundrels closes, CRT, Creede Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Silver Thread Studio Tour, South Fork, Creede Trout Fishing in America, RGSR, Alamosa Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Kahler Memorial Golf Tournament, Cattails, Alamosa Austin Lounge Lizards, RGSR, Alamosa The Curious Case... Watson Intelligence closes, The Ruth, Creede Creede Historical Society Program, Creede Fun Valley Resort Arts and Crafts Festival, South Fork Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Private Lives opens, CRT, Creede Art Festival, downtown Saguache Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Antique Flea Market/Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Creede Sculpture Show, Basham Park and downtown, Creede Michael Martin Murphey, RGSR, Alamosa Sundays at Six: SLV Big Band, Cole Park, Alamosa Entrance Fee-Free Days for the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday, Sand Dunes


Photos courtesy of Valley Courier

26 26-27 27 27-28 28

Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Headwaters: New Plays of the West Festival, CRT, Creede Annual Intertribal Pow-Wow, Otto Mears Park, Saguache Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Creede Collaborative Music Festival, Creede Ed Stabler, “A Railroad Rendezvous Special,” CTSR, Antonito Rapidgrass Quintet, outdoor amphitheater, Sand Dunes Upper Rio Grande Tour of Homes, Creede Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork Shenandoah, RGSR, Alamosa Kind of Red closes, CRT, Creede

2 2-4 2-5 3 4 3-4 9-10 10 10-11 11 15 16-18 17 17-18

Big River Band concert/fundraiser, The Ruth, Creede Farmers Market, The Village at Mountain Views, Creede Farmers Market, 1st Avenue, Monte Vista Early Iron Festival, Cole Park, Alamosa Labor Day Festival, Antonito Labor Day Weekend Celebration, Creede Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa The Burrito Brothers, RGSR, Alamosa Antique Flea Market/Farmers Market, Rickel Arena, South Fork San Luis Valley Potato Festival, Chapman Park, Monte Vista Chuck Mead, RGSR, Alamosa Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Syd Masters and Lonnie Ohta-Meyer, CTSR, Antonito Rio Costilla Studio Tour, Jaroso Robin and Linda Williams, RGSR, Alamosa The History Room closes, The Ruth, Creede Silver Thread Quilt Guild “Mining for Treasures” Quilt Show, Community Center, Creede Fall Festival & Quilt Show, Otto Mears Park, Saguache Farmers Market, State Ave & 6th Street, Alamosa Chris Collins, A Tribute to John Denver, (CTSR), Antonito Private Lives closes, CRT, Creede Crusin’ the Canyon Car Show, Creede


Contact Information

Although we have made all attempts to verify dates/events, they tend to change; therefore, we suggest verifying with local chamber offices. Alamosa County Chamber


Colorado Welcome Center


Conejos County Tourism 719-376-2049

Costilla County

Creede/Mineral County Chamber

Fort Garland Revitalization Committee Monte Vista Chamber 719-852-2731,

Saguache Welcome Center


San Luis Visitors Center 719-672-3002


SLV Tourism Association

Crestone Town Hall

South Fork Chamber


Del Norte Chamber



South Fork Visitors Center 719-873-5512,


Photo by David Gilbert



“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” ~Thomas Merton

Fun in the sun Alamosa County events

Summerfest on the Rio, June 3-5 SummerFest on the Rio (pictured at right) is a kick-off to summertime in Alamosa’s spacious and picturesque Cole Park. The park opens up at 4 p.m. Friday, June 3, with a sneak peek to what the weekend offers, and SummerFest’s signature Concert in the Park. Food vendors and the beer garden will be open. Saturday, June 4, will be a big hit with families. Also on tap is the fourth annual SummerFest Poker Run, benefiting art and music scholarships to ASU. Vendors and info booths will open at 10 a.m., while entertainment will be offered on two stages, as well as throughout the park. Beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 4, the delicious food, entertainment and activities continue with more than 125 area craft, food and activity vendors. Also on Sunday is the Bob-A-Lu Horseshoe Tournament. This is a “must do” event for the entire family. Info: 719-480-4806, All State Games, June 8-11 Fans of high school athletics are in for a treat as the best high school athletes compete against one another in the annual Colorado High School Coaches Association All State Games at Adams State University. See these athletes as they fight for the top spot in football, boys and girls basketball, volleyball, wrestling, 
softball and cross country. Info: www. chscaallstategames. org

Rails & Ales, June 18 The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Rails & Ales Brewfest brings together brewers and their devoted fans with live music, smokin’ hot barbecue and the best brews from around the region. Hop aboard for the day to enjoy the classic Rocky Mountain one-of-a-kind setting of Fir Summit Amphitheater’s live music. Reserve tickets now, as this event sells out early. Info: www.

with a ranch rodeo at 7 p.m. June 21. A kickoff barbecue is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m.; then the little ones get a stab at ridin’ with mutton bustin’ (pictured below) at 7 p.m. PRCA rodeos begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, with rodeo slack beginning at 10 a.m. Friday. The Rodeo and Rails block party on San Juan Avenue winds up the Rollin’ Deep Car Show, June 19 day Friday with music, dancing The Rollin’ Deep Car Show traditionally takes place on Father’s Day in Alamosa’s Cole Park and features classic cars, classy lowriders and customized bicycles. Info: 719-274-5224

Photo by Jennifer Alonzo

and fun beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25 brings a Patsy Cline/Roy Orbison concert to Adams State’s Richardson Hall at 2 p.m. and the ever-popular

Alamosa PRCA Round-up Rodeo, June 21-26 Enjoy the Alamosa Round-up Rodeo and take a trip back to the beginning, when cowpokes rode and broke horses so they could rope and brand cattle. It was all in a day’s work — back then. Today, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) adds the local rodeo to the roster where pros can add points toward bigger, but not necessarily better, competitions. This year’s event will have a preview on Saturday, June 18;this high noon of legend doesn’t feature a gunfight; instead, an old-fashioned cattle drive will make its way down Main Street right at 12 p.m. The annual event really gets going on Tuesday

Photo by Eric Flores


demolition derby (pictured on page Aug 21, SLV Big Band. Info: www. 11) at 7:30 p.m. The week’s events finish up on Sunday with Cowboy Church at 9 a.m. and new this Colorado Gators Eggfest, year—an ATV rodeo. Info: www. July 2-3 One of the most unique attractions in the San Luis Valley, Colorado Alamosa Artwalk, June 24-25 Gators Reptile Park, welcomes The 14th Annual Alamosa everyone to join them for the Artwalk in downtown Alamosa will spring gator hatch. Hundreds of feature local artists, musicians and alligators will be welcomed into the more. Info: 719-589-5163 world. They will also provide other family-friendly activities during Sundays @ Six, the hatch. Info: 719-378-2612, beginning June 26 One of the mainstays of the Alamosa Live Music Association Cats Classic, July 2-3 is its free summer concert series, Experience the adrenalineknown locally as Sundays @ Six. packed qualifying races, practice The event started a number of years rounds
and vintage bike show at back and has grown into a hallmark Sutak Raceway, south of Alamosa, of the San Luis Valley summertime during the annual Cats Classic season. For two of the most beautiful (pictured below right). All the months, the community is exposed action leads up 
to the big race to all kinds of music, performed where over 300 competitors race for by everyone from the neighbor cash prizes, trophies and bragging down the street to nationally rights. Info: recognized touring musicians. This year’s lineup includes: June 26, Independence Day Vogts Sisters: July 10, Western celebration, July 4 Centuries; July 17, Antonio Lopez C e l e b r a t e o u r c o u n t r y ’s (Emily Robinson opens); July 24, independence in the friendly Black Lillies; July 31, Richmond town of Alamosa. The patriotic Brothers; Aug 7, Mariachi San Luis; celebration starts with a Kiwanis

Photos courtesy of Valley Courier


pancake breakfast at the San Luis Valley Federal parking lot, followed by a Main Street parade at 10 a.m. (pictured on page 11). After the parade, enjoy what Alamosa has to offer, and then get ready for a gala fireworks display at dusk-30. Info: 719-589-3681 or

Beat the Heat BBQ, Brews and Chili Festival, July 29-30 Enjoy barbecue and beer in Alamosa’s Cole Park while competitive cookers compete for prizes in the chicken, pork, ribs and brisket, as well as dessert and “anything but” categories, judged by certified Kansas BBQ Society judges. There will be events for the children, live music and goodies for the entire family (pictured below left). Info: slvbeattheheat. com.

Bike 2 Build, July 16 Bike 2 Build is a benefit ride where each rider raises donations to support the work of San Luis Valley Habitat for Humanity. Pedal 35 miles, a metric century or a100-mile century embraced by Colorado Gators Gatorfest, the dramatic 14,000-foot peaks of Aug. 6-7 the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan The 21st annual Gatorfest will mountains. Info: www.slvhabitat. be held at Colorado Gators. Watch org, 719-589-8678 daredevils take turns in alligator wrestling matches. There will Alamosa Farmers Market, be games for children and much Opens July 9 more. Info: 719-378-2612, www. Alamosa Farmer’s Market opens and runs until October. Fresh local produce, baked goods and Kahler Memorial Golf specialty goods are offered in Tournament, Aug. 12-14 this event every weekend as the This exciting 36-hole stroke growing and harvesting season play tournament takes place at progresses. Enjoy special activities Cattails Golf Course north of and music while meeting friendly Alamosa on the North River Road. vendors, local organizers and It is the course’s largest and most people sharing the day. Info: www. prestigious tournament. Info: www.

Photo by Eric Flores



Early Iron Festival, Sept. 2-4 The 36th annual Early Iron Festival (pictured on page 6 and below) has become the area’s traditional farewell to summer, held on the Labor Day weekend each year. Here’s a chance to see more than 600 vintage vehicles painstakingly restored, heavily modified or gently used. Take in the sunshine and sights as you explore machinery of yesteryear. The rodders stop in Cole Park early Saturday morning looking forward to a day of talking, swapping, and catching up with old friends. Car buffs from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Kansas swarm the park,

oohing and aahing, choosing their favorite and trading stories about their first car. After an enjoyable day in the autumn sun, the Early Iron Club hosts a rodders banquet to a capacity crowd of 650. Food and beverages are available the main day of the event throughout the park, and if that isn’t enough, the rodders take to the streets on Saturday night for a “slow cruise.” This is a free event open to the public. Viewers are asked not to touch any of the vehicles on display. Sunday will include a rodder church service and poker run. Info:

Photo by David Gilbert

Valley Courier photo

Photo by Beth Tooker


Food, fireworks, fun Mineral County events

Taste of Creede, May 28-29 Creede’s chefs have the opportunity to compete for the top spot during the 28th Annual Taste of Creede Festival of Fine Arts and Fine Dining in downtown. The winner receives bragging rights for the rest of the year as well as a trophy to hang proudly in their restaurants. The weekend event will include live music, children’s activities and artist demonstrations, in addition to the Creede Art Council’s National Small Print Show, BakeOff Challenge, Silver Chef Competition, Quick Draw Competition and an art auction.

complete with a silent auction, raffle, food venders, live music and local beer at the Creede Ball Park. Info:

ATV Poker Run, June 19 The annual ATV/OHV Poker Run will include events for riders of all ages and abilities at the Upper Rio Grande Events Complex. This event has great family appeal that gets the entire crew out and about to enjoy the area’s natural and historical surroundings. The event consists of six check points throughout the run where participants choose cards for the winning hand Memorial Day ceremony, May 30 at the end of the game. Winners get a portion Creede Elks Lodge, BPOE #506 hosts a of the proceeds collected for registration fees. ceremony celebrating U.S. soldiers and veterans Info: 719-480-3553 on Memorial Day. Info: 719-658-2661 Creede Chute Out Bull Riding Series, Village Farmers Market, June 22, 29, July 4, 13, 20, 27 Fridays June 10- Sept. 2 This rodeo is sure to mesmerize the crowd The Village Farmers Market takes place every of all ages, as a fast pace, high intensity rodeo Friday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Artisans, farmers rides into town featuring bull riding champions, and food vendors create a welcoming hometown barrel racing, roping, and even mutton busting shopping experience. If you are looking for farm for the younger generations. Sponsored by fresh produce, delicious goodies or something Burris and Sons the rodeo brings a new diverse you can’t find anywhere else, come join us! crowd of guests to the area Wednesdays at 6 The Village Farmers Market is a rain or shine p.m. A special performance will be held on July event held at the Village at Mountain Views 4. Info: near the Mineral County Airport. Info: www. Independence Day celebration, July 3-4 If there is ever a festival to attend among the Runoff Runoff, June 11 many hosted in Creede, it would have to be the The Runoff Runoff marathon, half marathon, Fourth of July celebration. From street vendors and 6K follow the scenic headwaters of the Rio to the Days of 92 Mining events, Creede is the Grande ending in the historic mountain town place to find a great time. Visitors will enjoy of Creede. Organized by the Willow Creek the annual parade (pictured above) at 10 a.m. Reclamation Committee and the Rio Grande on July 4. The Elks Lodge hosts a dance that Headwaters Restoration Project, this event takes visitors through the waiting hours before raises funds to support river restoration projects and after a spectacular firework show. The high that improve water quality, wildlife habitat, cliffs and close canyon walls offer breathtaking recreation and the overall condition of the Rio echoes as fireworks light up the skies. The days Grande headwaters. are full of children activities, a beer garden Following the race, hosted by the Elks, not to mention there will be a fun local shopping and food galore. celebration for the w h o l e family

Photo by Della Brown


Photo by Keith Cerny Woodcarvers Rendezvous, July 8-15 Talented woodworkers from all around the country come to Creede each year for the annual rendezvous where they can sell their wares or even learn a new skill. Each year offers new demonstrations, classes and contests. Beginners can pick up their first woodworking tools, while those with more experience can find just about anything they’re looking for. Info: www. Ladies Aid Bazaar, July 14-15 Each year the Creede Ladies Aid offers a bake sale and rummage sale to raise money for their work. The sale features some great found treasures. Rock and Mineral Show, Aug. 5-7 Rock hounds from near and far make their way to Creede’s Underground Mining Museum where gems, fossils and more are on display each year at the Rock and Mineral Show. Dealers are on hand to show specimens, gold nuggets, geodes, tools and more. Amateur rock hounds and professional geologists alike can find something of interest at the great show. Info: 719-658-2376, Snowshoe Shuffle, Aug. 6 Everyone is welcome to take part in the 32nd annual Snowshoe Shuffle with races for all abilities. The race begins at Basham Park with various tracks to fit any racer. Prizes are awarded for first, second and third place in men’s and women’s age divisions. Silver Thread Studio Tour, Aug. 13 During this self-guided tour, artists from Creede and South Fork welcome people into their homes and studios to show their works. Info: Labor Day weekend celebration, Sept. 2-5 Friday morning begins with the annual Balloon Festival (pictured on page 13). as bright colored hot air balloons fill the sky south of town. After the spectacular view of balloons in the

Photo by Mike Warrick

morning, local businesses open their doors and bring on the salsa. Guests can sign up and take the tour during the annual Salsa Festival. Local participants come up with their own recipes and offer sweet, savory and spicy salsa and vie for the top spot. Participants vote for their favorite in several categories. The winners in each category get bragging rights for the next year and a plaque to show they know their stuff. Daredevils can take on the hill through downtown Creede in the annual Gravity Derby. Vehicles must have brakes, the ability to steer and no motors. Creede Mountain Run, Sept. 3 A 22-mile trek offers challenges for even the most dedicated runners. The run tops out at the 11-mile mark of the Continental Divide. If the whole trip is too much for anyone, there are also 12 or two-mile routes. The 12-mile route separates from the pack at Allen’s Crossing and the twomile follows the path for one mile then returns to the park. Info: www. creedemountainrun. com

Cruisin’ the Canyon Car Show, Sept. 17-18 Pre-registration begins on Friday with a social hour, and the car show is held on Saturday. Vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles will be on display in downtown Creede. The show ends with a rod run and a fly-in breakfast on Sunday (pictured on page 12). All events take place in Creede unless otherwise specified. For more information, contact the Creede/Mineral County Chamber of Commerce, 719-658-2374, www.creede. com.

Silver Thread’s Quilt Guild Quilt Show, Sept. 16-19 The “Mining for Treasures” Quilt Show will be held at the Creede Community Center with vendors, demonstrations, Quilter’s Café, Treasure Trove Gift Shop and onsite professional appraisals.



Music & more Saguache County events

Saguache County Museum Opening, May 28-29 Join the Saguache County Museum for their opening day celebration at Otto Mears Park at Highway 285 and Pitkin Avenue. The event will include races, the famous barbecue lunch, craft and food vendors in the park, kiddie events, music, “how it’s done” events at the museum, book signings and more. The Friends of the Saguache Library will hold a bake, book and root beer float sale. Info: 719-256-4281

San Juan Fiesta, June, TBA The San Juan Fiesta, held at the Community Park in Center, (subject to change), typically includes an open-air mass, bike rally, blessing of the bikes, dancers, baseball games, concessions and a dance (pictured at top). Info: 719754-3497 Independence Day Celebration, July 4 A parade and festival will be held in Crestone (pictured on page 16) with fun events all day that everyone can join. The central event is a parade through the downtown area, with a “Creation Station”

for children to decorate themselves and their bikes prior to the parade. Anyone may enter the parade by reporting to the line-up at 11 am. Other activities include a 5 K Run, Walk or Crawl Race, park Photo by Teresa Benns festivities, vendors, food, music, arts and crafts, games and more. Info: Festival held in Otto Mears Park 719-256-4313 celebrates the town flower, the hollyhock. The festival features Poor Boy Club Car Show, garden tours, a flower art contest, July 9 Named the Poor Boys Club children’s activities, food fun because the members do not sink a and flowers for the whole family. lot of money into the cars, but do the majority of the work themselves; the group will host the sixth annual car show at the Center Schools parking lot. The best of each class receives a plaque. Hollyhock Festival, July 30 In its fifth year, the Hollyhock

Courtesy Photo


Info: 719-655-0155, www. chopping contests, limbo and pie-eating contests. There are many other things going on as Crestone Music Festival, well, a raffle, free door prizes Aug. 12-14 and surprise auctions. Great onThis three-day, two-stage, site camping, delicious food and multi-genre, multi-cultural event Colorado libations are all part of (pictured on page 15) offers the fun. Info: 719-256-4533, www. international cuisine, vendors, activities and contests for all New to this year’s festival will ages. More than 20 international, be the 26th annual Crestone Energy national, regional and local acts Fair. The fair continues to be the perform, with at least five cultures longest running sustainability being represented in the 18th fair in the nation and includes annual event, held at Challenger two days of educational Golf Course In addition to the presentations, community music, there are arts, crafts symposiums, film viewings, and activities for both adults hands-on demonstrations and and children. guided home tours. Info: www. T h e f u n includes men’s and Saguache Art Festival, women’s Aug. 20 w o o d Held in downtown

Photos by Teresa Benns


Saguache, local artists will display drummers, singers and dancers their work through the downtown will be performing throughout area in businesses, as well as in the event. several galleries during the seventh Saguache Fall Festival, annual festival (pictured at bottom Sept. 17 right). Info: 719-655-6202, www. The 23rd annual festival will be held at Otto Mears Park in Saguache at Highway 285 between Christy Traditional Intertribal Pow and Pitkin avenues. Music, food Wow, Aug. 27 A day of Native American and vendors will be available. Info: celebrations and 719-655-2824 events in Otto Mears Park (pictured below left and at right); vendors will be selling their wares at the pow wow all day and Indian

Celebrating our roots Conejos/Costilla County events

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad opening day, May 28 Antonito will celebrate the beginning of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad season with specialty trains and entertainment. Be sure to see the fully restored Gene Autry Engine and other railroad memorabilia. Info: 1-888-2862737, visit Encampment at Fort Garland, May 28-29 Activities begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with the flag raising ceremony. Throughout the weekend the Fort Garland Memorial Regiment and the Artillery Company of New Mexico will present activities and displays that depict 19th century garrison life at Fort Garland. Info: www. La Jara Glory Days, June 18 La Jara Glory Days, a traditional summertime celebration, features a pancake breakfast, 5K race, parade, live music, a street dance, vendors, food and fun. Info: 719-580-5828 Our Lady of Guadalupe Summer Fiesta, June 25-26 Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish will celebrate the third Annual Summer Fiesta with daytime activities for children and adults with a 5K run, carnival games, horse shoe tournaments, great food, a talent show, live music, dessert auction and a beer garden. The evening fun will include a Texas hold’em tournament and dancing and music. Check out the church and parish hall in Conejos for lots of fun. Info: 719-376-5985

their roots with the annual Sanford Pioneer Days event. A pageant competition will be held, in addition to a parade and other events. Info: 719-274-4024 Manassa Pioneer Days, July 21-23 If the true footprint of Manassa’s influence and reach can only be measured by looking to its generations of families, then the Manassa Pioneer Days Celebration—when the population swells to around 10,000—is the time to do it. Just like the old days of summer when mothers would call their children in from the fields for dinner, Manassa’s kin descend on the town from far and wide for the three-day celebration of history, legacy and family. Now in its 137th year, the celebration packs the town chock-full of carnival rides, fair food, old-timey bandstands, Miss Pioneer princesses, horse racing, a demolition derby and the event’s crown jewels, the parades (pictured top right)—so stuffed with entertainment, they run up and down main street twice. Not to be missed is the famed hamburger stand, which boasts long lines and great food Friday and Saturday. Rodeos will be held at 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday, while the rough and tumble demolition derby rolls in at 6 p.m., followed by traditional fireworks on “M” Mountain. Remembering Manassa’s most famous native, the Jack Dempsey Museum will be open all day each day, showing mementoes and souvenirs of the “Manassa Mauler.” Info: 719-843-5207,

Valley Courier photo Santa Ana y Santiago Fiesta, July 30-31 Each year at the end of July the town of San Luis, Colorado’s oldest town, celebrates and honors the indigenous Catholic culture and plays host for two days to Mariachis, local bands, folkloric dancers, traditional singers and more (pictured below). Info: 719-672-2080 Labor Day Festival, Sept. 3-5 Antonito tops off the summer with a Labor Day celebration that includes a softball tournament, drawing players from across Colorado and New Mexico, with parades, artists, great food and abundant fun.

Fort Garland Band Jam, July 23 Sanford Pioneer Days, The Fort Garland Band Jam is more than a July 21 musical extravaganza; the event raises funds S a n f o r d to improve local arts programs and encourage h o n o r s young artists. There will be a beer garden, live music, dancing, food vendors, merchandise and a play area for the little ones. Info: 719379-3482.

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Roping, reeling, riding Rio Grande County events

Memorial Day, May 30 Colorado State Veteran’s Center at Homelake will hold its annual Memorial Day Observance at 10 a.m. Every year there is a flyover, color guard, wreath presentation and a special guest speaker. Little Britches Rodeo, June 10-11 Every year rodeo youth gather in South Fork to show their skills in a variety of events. The Little Britches Rodeo is held at the Rickel Arena on Highway 149. Three separate rodeos are held over two days, with five age groups of boys and girls ranging from five to 18 years old. The rodeo features several events for all age divisions including barrel racing, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping and goat tying. Info: www.

Hot Rod Dirt Drags, June 10-12 The newest tradition hot rod event in the west will be three days of thrilling events centered at the Movie Manor Drive-In Theater outside of Monte Vista. Bring a 1950s vintage bobber, hot rod or custom and help set the scene for what is sure to be the best traditional hot rod event west of the Mississippi! Enjoy drive-in movies Friday and Saturday nights; Saturday and Sunday will include 1/8mile dirt drags (pictured above). In its second year this successful and entertaining event includes live

Photo by Lyndsie Ferrell


music, a vintage car show (pictured on page 19), and a downtown hamburger fry and sock hop. Info:

from around the Valley come together each year to learn about fishing and take part in a friendly competition (pictured National Get Outdoors Day, on page 20). Grab fishing June 11 poles and rods and go This fun-filled day in South Fork fishing at Tucker Ponds to win encourages folks to get outside. prizes and goodies. The Division Hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, of Wildlife will be on hand to give SUPing, horseshoes, Frisbee golf, lessons and instructions to little geocaching, bird watching, fly anglers. Enjoy lunch afterwards fishing and much more. Info: 719- near the water. Admission is free 873-5512, and open to the public. Donations welcome. Info: 719-873-5512, South Fork Farmers Market, June 18-Sept. 4 (Saturdays and Sundays) SFMA Singer-Songwriter The South Fork rodeo grounds Competition, July 2 welcomes artisans, farmers and food South Fork Music Association’s vendors in a welcoming hometown annual singer-songwriter event will shopping experience for the South take place on July 2 from 4-8 p.m. Fork Farmers Market (pictured at the River Mill Festival Field at bottom right). The market will be 28121 W. Highway 160 in South open Saturdays and Sundays from Fork. The winner of the competition 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy musical will perform during the Rhythms entertainment, craft and produce on the Rio Music Festival on Aug. vendors and food stands, and 5-7. Info: new this year there will also be singersongwriter-competition an antique flea market on the first and third weekends of South Fork Independence Day the month. Info: www. celebration, July 3 southforkfarmersmarket. Come celebrate Independence Day with a day full of activities. Start com. off the day with the annual parade, South Fork Kids’ then head over to the Annual South Fork Fire Department Fish Fry and Fishing Clinic, fill your belly with goodies. Take a June 18 Young anglers short break and head on down to the

Photo by Ashli Adams

river to root for your lucky duck as it floats across the finish line on the Rio Grande. The Kiwanis brisket dinner will be held at the South Fork Community Building. Finally, don’t miss the South Fork Rodeo put on by Burris & Sons; there will be bull riding, team roping, barrel racing and much more. Don’t leave your seats, as the fireworks start when the rodeo finishes. Info: 719-873-5512, Rockin the Rio Grande, July 3 and 16 Enjoy good old-fashioned rodeo fun at South Fork’s series with barrel racing, mutton busting calf and steer riding, bull riding and more. The series will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Rickel Arena on Highway 149. Info: 719-588-9979, www. Monte Vista Farmers Market, Opens July 15 The Monte Vista Farmers Market, located in the parking

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Photo by Anthony Guerrero lot across from the Monte Villa Hotel, right on 1st Avenue, offers local produce, freshly baked goods and more. The market runs Friday mornings from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Info: Logger Days Festival and Fair, July 15-17 South Fork’s logging traditions are celebrated each year with vendors and competitions (pictured on page 18). Anyone can enter the amateur axe-throwing competition and then watch the logging professionals show off their skills in the choker race, hanger cut, wrapper throw, two-man cross cut and more. The festival, held at the South Fork Community Building on Highway 149, also features music, food, arts & crafts, on-site wood carving, children’s activities and much more . The event is free and open to the public. Info: 719-8735512, Ski Hi Stampede, July 27-31 Fun, food and great rodeo action can be expected each year at the Ski Hi Stampede, Colorado’s oldest pro rodeo (pictured on Page 20). The event was originally founded in the late 1800s for local cowpokes to compare skills they learned riding the range. Today, it’s a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, where the pros accumulate points toward competition in the National Pro Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev. In addition to the great rodeo action, there will be parades, a chuck wagon dinner, dances, concerts and a carnival at Ski Hi Park in east Monte Vista. One of the favored parts of the event each year is the annual concert, which will feature opening act Clare Dunn, followed by country music star Josh Turner. On Friday, downtown merchants will offer vendor booths, discounts and more during Stampede onAdams. The third annual Steel Stampede Car Show will be held at Chapman

Park on Saturday, July 30 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include food, music, games, vendors and more, with proceeds going go to the Faith Hinkley Ve t e r a n s Memorial Park to honor SLV veterans. Info: 719-588-8566 This is the largest event in the San Luis Valley and boasts one of the biggest carnivals in the state. Info:

Monte Vista Cooperative (719) 852-5181 • 1901 E Hwy 160 • Monte Vista

Clothing • Tires • Fuels Seed • Fertilizer Farm Supplies • Feed Grain • Equipment Chemicals Convenience Stores

Community Committed… Agriculturally Driven

Kit Carson Wagon Train, Aug. 1-2 Enjoy a bit of the old West, while supporting the nation’s soldiers with a fundraiser for Wounded Warriors. The trail will cover approximately 14 miles each day and include a ride in the Del Norte Covered Wagon Days parade. Info: www.facebook. com/pages/Kit-Carson-WagonTrain-and-Trail-Ride Covered Wagon Days, Aug. 1-6 Del Norte turns back the clock for some wild and wooly events harking back to when the West was born. This themed event with this year’s theme being “Live the Adventure” includes a parade, pancake breakfast, the popular and traditional firefighters’ barbecue, a 5K run, horseshoe tournament, oldfashioned games, a Sunday service and more. There is something fun for everyone to enjoy during the annual event. Info: 719-657-2000,


South Fork Mushroom Foray, Aug. 5-6 Each year the town of South Fork offers a mountain getaway to learn about area mushrooms. Get quick tips regarding the proper way to identify and collect mushrooms from an expert and then head out for a nearby hike to look for and collect mushroom species. Once the mushrooms have been collected, participants will go back to the visitors center for identification and discussion. Info: 719-873-5512, Rhythms on the Rio Music Festival, Aug. 5-7 The Rhythms on the Rio Music Festival will once again be held at the River Mill Festival Field, 28121 W. Highway 160, South Fork. Each year this festival offers three days of music in the great outdoors on riverfront property. Peruse the vendors, play horseshoes and dance to more than 10 bands. On-site camping is part of the whole rhythms experience. There is a fee for parking and camping. Info: Monte Vista Potato Festival, Sept. 9-10 The Valley’s most celebrated crop gets its own day with the annual Monte Vista Potato Festival (pictured at top). Everyone is welcome to celebrate the potato and all its possibilities at this event, which keeps growing bigger and better each year; the festival boasts exciting activities, a concert, tastings and competitions for adults and children alike. Info: 719-852-3322, www. coloradopotato. org

Photo by Eric Flores


Photo by Anthony Guerrero

Photo by Lyndsie Ferrell

Photo by Anthony Guerrero


Photo by Keith Cerny




Colorado Welcome Center at Alamosa Colorado has 11 welcome centers, located in key entrance points across the state. The welcome centers, which are staffed by an outstanding group of volunteers, serve as a great source of information for visitors coming to Colorado. The Alamosa Welcome Center is particularly unique as it is located in the historic Alamosa Train Depot. Alamosa was founded, in part, to accommodate the railroad. The first Denver & Rio Grande train arrived in Alamosa in 1870. By 1880, it was the center of narrow gauge railroading in America. The Alamosa Train Depot was built in 1908-1909. The town quickly sprung up from the railroad and Sixth Street became the heart of activity and commerce. After the decline of railroad transportation, the building was used for various government offices over the years. In 2009, the interior renovations were made for the Colorado Welcome Center to move into their ideal home. Listed on the National Historic Register, the depot features the architecture and memorabilia reminiscent of a bygone era. Partnering with the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, this center offers visitors a place to stop and stretch their legs, or pick up their train tickets for a ride on the railroad. The Colorado Welcome Center at Alamosa offers: • Maps, brochures, and information for the entire state of Colorado • Welcoming travel counselors trained to answer any and all questions about Colorado and the San Luis Valley • Personalized itineraries • Road condition information • Wi-Fi internet • Free coffee and tea • Pet friendly • Rest area • RV parking Summer hours: 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. Located in the historic railroad depot on the corner of State Ave. and 6th St., 610 State Ave., Alamosa Info: 1-800-BLU-SKYS (800-258-7597),

Photo by Keith Cerny


Photo by Tyler Cerny



“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves — in finding themselves.”~Andre Gide

Down on the farm Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy

Nestled on beautiful green land between Del Norte and South Fork lies one of the San Luis Valley’s hidden gems. Around 150 head of goat can be seen roaming on the Knoblauch fourth generation ranch which is home to Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy. The land which the dairy is settled on is soon to be registered as a historical landmark. This will protect the area from any urban development and ensure great animals and products continue to be produced on the farm. Laz Ewe was founded in 2007 by Del Norte High School retired science teacher Jennifer Knoblauch and her two daughters Amy Neuerburg, and Christine. The dairy was a result of her daughters having raised goats as active participants in 4-H when they were younger. Knoblauch decided to open the dairy to gain some economic benefit from the original 20 head of goat that grazed the land. The dairy has expanded with significant success. In addition to the goats, the dairy is now also home to cows, sheep and yaks. Delicious dairy products are made from the milk of all the animals. The dairy goats, cows, yaks and sheep are all well taken care of. It is easy to see the trust the animals have in their caretakers while touring the dairy. Each animal is given a unique name, which are often chosen based on themes. Some examples of themes that have been used to name the goats are trees, candy bars and Dr. Seuss

characters. The themes have resulted in fun names such as Sycamore, Juniper and Snort. Cheeses and milks are the main products produced on the farm. Around 100 pounds of cheese is made per week which is made either into feta (semi hard, dry, salty) or chevre (soft, creamy). These cheeses come in a variety of different flavors including garlic, dill, chive, green chili, southwest chipotle, tomato, plain, range and cranberry orange. The dairy cows are predominantly used for a milk share program, which allows individuals to own a part of a cow and gain the legal ability to drink the milk from their property. The program helps interested individuals eliminate government

intervention regarding raw milk. Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy’s products can currently be found and bought in several locations. Businesses carrying the products include Jack’s Market, Valley Food Coop, several farmers markets, Saguache Market, Valley Roots, local restaurants, Crestone Mercantile, Taos Farmers Market and hopefully soon Whole Foods. The dairy also offers free farm tours to the public. The tours are free and include photo opportunities for children, a petting zoo and the opportunity to sample the variety of delicious cheeses. Products can be purchased at the

end of the tour. Knoblauch says the favorite part of the dairy for her is engaging with the public and conducting the tours. She deeply enjoys talking about the farm, having some laughs and sharing the smiles the animals bring with those who visit. Info: 719-850-9914,

Photos by Anthony Guerrero

Valley 14-ers

Photo by Staci Turner

There are 54 mountains in Colorado above an elevation of 14,000 feet. Of those 54, 10 are located in the San Luis Valley: Blanca Peak – 14,345 feet, Crestone Peak – 14,294 feet, Crestone Needle – 14,197 feet, Kit Carson Peak – 14,165 feet, Challenger Point – 14,081 feet, Hombolt Peak – 14,064 feet, Ellingwood Point– 14,042 feet , Mount Lindsey – 14,042 feet, Little Bear Peak – 14,037 feet and San Luis Peak – 14,022 feet A hiker should always be prepared for changing weather in the mountains. It is not wise to go on a hike alone, and someone should always know of the hiking plan and the scheduled time for return. Info:


An outdoor haven Recreation opportunities

For a taste of that Old West wilderness, the mountain vistas punctuated by prairies still untarnished by civilization, come to the San Luis Valley. Wide-open spaces here preserve the wild beauty and stillness of this highdesert wonderland and there are recreational activities galore for everyone.

Hiking, rock climbing Penitente Canyon, Natural Arch — Enjoy 60-70 different climbing routes; numerous options for hikers. This poplar canyon is located between La Garita and Del Norte. Tent and camper sites are available. On the way to Penitente Canyon look for FS 660 and the road just past it leading to La Garita Arch, another great hike/climb. Other campsites in the area include Storm King and Poso. Info: 719-655-2547 Sand Dunes, Zapata Falls — This national park abounds in hiking, backpacking a n d

Photos by Tyler Cerny


climbing opportunities in a variety of environments. Be sure to hike up to Zapata Falls, especially gorgeous in the spring. Info: 719378-6306 Orient Mine, Valley View Hot Springs, Everson Ranch – The historic Orient iron mine is home to the largest known colony of bats in Colorado. The land trust also hosts a modest resort and campground with access to mineral hot springs. Close by is the historic Everson Ranch. Info: 719-256-4315 Crestone — Hiking trails abound in this eastern Saguache town with its stunning view of the Sangre de Cristos and famous 14-ers. Info: 719-655-2547, 719-256-5210 Camping To find where to camp out in the vast Rio Grande Forest call 719852-5941. For private camping opportunities in Rio Grande and Mineral counties, call the local chambers of commerce at 719852-2731 or 719-658-2374. Or visit riogrande/camp.htm For Great S a n d Dunes National Park camping information call 719-378-6399 o r go to http:// grsa/planyourvisit/ campgrounds.htm. Biking, 4-wheeling Biking enthusiasts say for great biking to visit Terrace Reservoir in Conejos County, Penitente Canyon between Del Norte and La Garita, Middle Frisco Trail behind the car wash in Del Norte and Deep Creek Trail off Highway 149, 18 miles from South Fork. These are a few of the beginners’ trails. For advanced and experienced locations, see http:// Four-wheeling destinations include the Rock Quarry between Monte Vista and Del Norte, a scramble through Old Woman’s Creek to the Natural Arch in La Garita, a trip to Rio Grande reservoir, 20 miles from Creede or Medano Pass Primitive Road at the Great Sand Dunes Park. For more information, go to http://itpodcast. org/blog But some of the most popular climbing and four-wheeling destinations can be found in the Blanca area. These include: •The Little Bear Peak to the Blanca Traverse using the backpack approach, a steep ridge climb featuring

excellent rock. • The Little Bear Peak to Red Wing, called by climbers a “semi-technical” climb to one of Colorado’s most difficult peaks. This climb is not recommended for those who are not seasoned climbers. • Those climbing Blanca Peak to the Ellingwood Point Traverse can boast of reaching the fifth highest peak in Colorado, the highest point outside the Sawatch Range. • Lake Como to Redwing is a difficult hike and one of the most difficult four-wheel trails in Colorado. Only experienced drivers should attempt this. • The climb up South Zapata Creek/Red Wing is a scenic trail leading to

pristine lakes high above. The trail also provides access to Twin Peaks. • The Blanca Peak Trail is nationally recognized as one of the best hard-core trails in the state. It has many challenging twists and turns and is a great run for even the most experienced and wellequipped drivers. • Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point is a popular hike from nearby Lake Como to one of Colorado’s famous ‘teeners. This difficult hike should only be attempted by experienced, well-prepared hikers. For more information on Blanca area adventures and other climbs, visit http:// aspx?trailid=MGR054-019 Rafting and boating Spruce Lodge has rafts for rent for river rafting on the Rio Grande that is enjoyed by novices as well as the experienced rafter from early May through August. Info: 719-873-5605 Salida and Canon City, not far from the Valley also offer rafting opportunities along the Arkansas River. Info: For great boating adventures, try Beaver Creek and Big Meadows reservoirs near South Fork, Platoro Reservoir in Conejos County, Smith Reservoir outside of Blanca or Mountain Home Reservoir near Fort Garland. Fishing Cutthroat, browns, rainbows, brooks, bass, pike, salmon and yellow perch — if you’re looking

for great catches, the Valley has it all. One of the best chances to catch a trophy trout may just be a float trip down the Rio Grande. Those looking for stream and creek fishing will find a host of spots in western Rio Grande County, west of Del Norte and north of South Fork to Creede. Fly-fishing is best in July; try Embargo, Beaver and Rock creeks. The area also is dotted with 80 lakes and reservoirs, many remote, others easily accessible. Some 13 lakes and reservoirs are only 20 minutes from the town of South Fork. Among these are: • Million Reservoir — four acres of water, elevation 8,700 feet, rainbow, sightseeing • Big Meadows, — 114 acres of water, elevation 9,200 feet, rainbow, brook trout, salmon, German browns, great for kids and seniors, handicap accessible • Beaver Creek Reservoir — 114 acres of water, elevation 8,850 feet, same amenities as Big Meadows; currently closed, check online for updates • Shaw Lake — 20 acres of water, elevation 9,850 feet, great trolling for cutthroats and brookies, handicap accessible, boat ramp and restrooms • Alberta Park Reservoir — elevation 10,202 feet, forest and meadows, large trout and brooks • Hunters Lake — Eight acres of water, elevation 11,400 feet, flyfishing good for rainbows, one-half hour hike from car • Tucker Ponds — Four acres

of water, elevation 9,700 feet, rainbows, great for children and novices, camping, picnicking, restrooms, handicap accessible • Pass Creek Pond — Good for bait and fly fishing, rainbows, limited parking • Three high mountain lakes — Archuleta, Crystal and Crater — are all between 11,300 and 12,700 feet elevation; Archuleta and Crystal

require a four-wheel drive vehicle or involve a difficult hike. The Conejos River also is excellent for wild browns and rainbows. Sanchez Reservoir and San Luis Lakes have experienced extremely low water levels since 2013. Check online for updates. Info: 719-587-6900, www.cpw.

Photo by Tyler Cerny

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Unique stops UFO Watchtower

In the Valley where sand dunes sing and a mutilated horse still holds celebrity status more than 40 years after its death, a UFO watchtower with vortexes and a healing garden just seems to fit in. Cattle rancher turned UFOlogist Judy Messoline, built the tower in 2000 after hearing the numerous stories of cattle mutilations and UFO sightings from many local ranchers and residents in this otherwise quiet agricultural valley. Allegedly, there have been documented sightings of unexplained aircraft in the area since the 1600s.

Several psychics, who have visited the 600-acre property, have reportedly told Messoline there are two large vortexes located east of the tower. A vortex is an interdimensional portal that links to a parallel universe. The center, where the two vortexes overlap is called “The Eye of the Pisces.” There is a “Vortex Garden” created in front of the platform where people can leave items for good luck. There is also a sign that states “It is bad, bad Karma to move or take anything from the garden.” Many people, including

Messoline, have seen unexplained lights and shapes in the sky, and more than 30,000 believers, skeptics and searchers have visited the watchtower since it opened. A great view is offered from the platform, which overlooks the garden and onto the horizon. If you want to believe, it only costs $2 to visit the UFO Watchtower or $5 per car. Camping is available year-round, and now taking reservations at the tower is GG’s Bed & Breakfast

Photo by Staci Turner

(805-886-6959). The watchtower is located 17 miles north of Alamosa near Hooper. Enter from Highway 17. Info: 719-378-2296, www.

Colorado Gators Reptile Park

Colorado Gators Reptile Park has been a staple in the Valley for well over 30 years. The park began when Erwin and Lynne Young decided to try their hand at growing and cultivating Tilapia fish in the area, having purchased a 40-acre ranch that had access to geothermal water. The fish need the warmer water in order to thrive and the couple, with their four small children, decided it would be the place to start. The Youngs decided to purchase several young alligators as a natural means to dispose of the dead fish or the leftover debris after filleting. Once the news that the alligators were growing up in the cooler temperatures of the San Luis Valley, with help of the geothermal water of course, local residents began to grow curious as well. The park was opened to the public for tours in 1990, which then opened the door to what they have become today. News of the Colorado gators spread quickly through the grapevine and before they knew


Photos by Staci Turner

it, the Youngs were beginning to see a rise in the number of exotic animals that were being brought from all over the nation to their doorstep. Many people have intentions of keeping exotic reptiles as pets, but soon come to realize that it is not the best idea. The Youngs began to accept abandoned or mistreated reptiles ranging from more alligators to 17-foot snakes. They began to use their new contacts and resources to aid in education programs that help spread the word about owning animals that should not be pets. The staff and owners of the farm pride themselves in trying to help people understand the dangers and differences between reptiles that can be pets and those that simply should not. In addition to their educational goals, the group has become a tourist destination for the Valley. While visiting the Great Sand Dunes or climbing to the top of the UFO watchtowers in the area, guests have flocked across the way to see Colorado Gators and all it has to offer. Guests have found the farm to be one of the area’s favorite attractions. The farm even travels to area events

and farmer markets to not only spread their educational message, but to spread the fun each exhibit and reptile has to offer. The park offers several events throughout the year. They are open daily during the summer from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and welcome everyone to come by and get a taste of a reptile’s world. Guests can purchase food to feed the alligators, pet the free roaming turtles and even handle a little alligator and have their picture taken for a keepsake. Those who have steel in their blood can participate in the alligator wrestling program which allows guests to wrestle alligators ranging from 2-4 feet, 5-7 feet and finally, if they are brave enough 10-12 feet. The wrestling program doubles as a means for the park staff to check the animals for injuries, medicate them if necessary and to gauge how new alligators are adjusting to their new lifestyles. Anyone who pays for admission into the park is allowed to fish the tilapia ponds for free; they need only bring their own supplies. The fish are caught under catch and release rules, unless the participating fisherman pays to keep their catch for a minimal fee. Info: www.

Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town

Mill Creek Ranch is an allinclusive ranch resort located 14 miles west of Saguache on Highway 114 towards Gunnison. Located on the world famous Old Spanish Trail and the Hoaglund Stagecoach Station site, the ranch is an accurate reproduction of an 1870s Colorado western town. Several historic log buildings serving the Stagecoach Station still remain on the ranch. The 320-acre Mill Creek Ranch has a full-service restaurant, a 10room hotel, a dance hall, meeting rooms, a wedding chapel, 24 full hookup RV spaces, gift shops, stables and more. Surrounded by BLM and National Forest lands, enjoy miles

of hiking, riding and biking trails. As a full-service resort, Mill Creek offers stays from one night to one week. Along with horseback rides, visitors staying at the ranch for at least a three-night stay can experience many typical ranch activities such as roping lessons, target shooting, archery and Jeep rides. A six-night stay offers several off the ranch activities such as Arkansas River white water rafting, ziplining, visits to Colorado Gators Farm, Great Sand Dunes National Park, technical rock climbing and more. Host weddings, family reunions or business meetings at Mill Creek Ranch. Info: 719-655-2224, www.

Courtesy Photos


From here to there San Luis Valley map




Ride the rails Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad travels on tracks over historic La Veta Pass that date back to 1878, but had been closed to the public in the 1950s and only used for freight. Opened again for passengers in 2006 by owners and managers who didn’t think scenery that spectacular, accessed on rails that curve and wind through steep rocky grade, through mountain meadows teeming with elk, eagles and bears, should remain closed forever, this railroad is the past brought back to life. Trips begin at the historic Alamosa depot, where authentically attired staff and docents join riders, who listen for the cry, “all aboard.” Recalling the days when Alamosa was the railroad hub of the Colorado mountains, the train continues east along the La Veta Pass Route, historically the highest point at which any standard gauge railroad crosses the rugged Rockies. Much of the old west was built by railroads, but Alamosa’s birth is unique. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad put many towns on the map, but none went up

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quite as quickly as Alamosa. The narrow gauge rail into town was completed on June 22, 1878, and shortly after, a train full of assorted pre-built buildings from nearby Garland City were brought in and put into place that same day. No one has disputed the legend that the railroad workers had breakfast in Garland City that morning, and were later served dinner in the same building that evening – in Alamosa. By 1890, Alamosa was the hub of narrow gauge railroading in America. The busy depot hummed day and night with the activity of both passenger and freight trains from Denver, Durango, Santa Fe, Salida and Creede arriving and departing daily. Less than a decade later, after years of unsuccessful surveying, a workable route was found and the narrow gauge rail would be replaced by standard gauge from the town of La Veta over La Veta Pass and into Alamosa. Today, more than 100 years later, the same standard gauge rails carry both freight and passengers over La Veta Pass on the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad and t h e

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. Expanding that historic feel, the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad has meticulously restored deluxe cars that once were part of the fabled “train they call the city of New Orleans,” immortalized by folk singer Arlo Guthrie. All-day club car specials feature these and other restored cars, bringing fine dining with a taste of yesteryear, with a full service bar and armchair-type seating in fully air-conditioned comfort Retro dome cars have seating in a glass sunlit dome top to take in all the beautiful scenery, also in air-conditioned comfort. All excursions operate with an open-air car, with onboard food and beverage service made to order and available throughout the day. Concerts run every weekend from June to the last warm days of September. Is there a better way to spend a summer’s day than riding on historic rails up a rugged mountain pass to a 9,400ft. meadow for an outdoor concert with award winning acts? 
 The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is in its eighth season of the Mountain Rails Live summer concert series. Its

mountaintop concert location, Fir Summit Amphitheater, was named one of USA Today’s “10 Best Outdoor Concert Venues You Shouldn’t Miss” last year. The 2016 Mountain Rails Live concert line-up includes Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Exile, Pure Prairie League, Michael Martin Murphey and Shenandoah. Opening acts are yet to be determined. The summer actually begins with the Rails & Ales Brewfest, a popular, often sold out event featuring unique equipment, a rustic Rocky Mountain setting, live music, smoking hot barbecue and handcrafted brews from the region’s best breweries. There’s something special about hopping a train with friends to a wide-open performance space, custom-built to highlight the union of nature and music.

Courtesy Photos Since the musicians must travel along with the other passengers, a jam session can break out at any moment. The train operates on select weekdays all summer long, departing from Alamosa at 9:30 a.m. and returning at 5:30 p.m. Weekend train rides between Alamosa and Fir are part of the Mountain Rails Live Summer Concert Series. Excursion trains offer a great

seat on select weekdays during the summer. Prepare to discover history, mining tales, wildlife sightings, geology and‌ bears. Depart from the historic Alamosa depot and travel over majestic LaVeta Pass to the old railroad town of LaVeta, then explore the quaint downtown before the return trip. No matter what one chooses, the memories will remain for a lifetime. Info: 877-726-7245, www.


Soothing waters Hot springs and pools

Whether looking for soothing waters or for spa. Somewhat cooler, the children’s pool is fun and entertainment, there are a few swimming shallow and safe for little ones. hot spots in the Valley to choose from. Offering scenic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, suits and water toys are available Indoor Water Park at the Rodeway Inn for rent at the well-appointed snack bar next Located within the Alamosa motel, this water to the pool. park (pictured top right) is a state-of-the-art, Recently opened is a one-of-a-kind soaking year-round place to play. The heated water area built as an adults-only soaking escape in offers a 21-foot-high water slide, a small slide a 10,000 square foot greenhouse. The new area for the little ones, a kiddie pool, a recreation features three small soaking tubs with varying pool, jacuzzi, water games such as basketball temperatures, a 10 by 75 foot zero entry pool and volleyball. Info: 719-589-5833 complete with a water fountain feature, a 10-person sauna, gardens, numerous deck and Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa patio spaces and an on-site libation stop, Steel The Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa offers Box Bar. geothermally heated waters in three pools. A Camping, RV and family trailer parking, tent variety of therapies are available, along with sites and some cabin options are available. Info: massage. 719-378-2807, On-site are hotel and conference facilities, along with dry RV accommodations and tent Splashland Hot Springs camping; also available to rent are tipis and Splashland Hot Springs (pictured below) Mongolian yurts. Laundry and shower facilities is a family centered, warm, geothermal-well are also available. fed, outdoor swimming pool that has been an Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., the important part of Alamosa’s history since 1955. facility is 50 miles north of Alamosa on Colo. Water temperature enters the pool at 104 degrees Highway 17. Info: 719-256-4328, www. with the average pool temperatures of 93-96 degrees throughout. It is the largest outdoor swimming pool in the San Luis Valley Sand Dunes Swimming Pool The pool complex is newly remodeled with Among the favorite Valley swimming spots a food court, two 50-foot water slides, picnic is the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool, also known areas, BBQ grill and menu, shade cabanas, an as the “Hooper Pool.” Created when early oil ADA accessible pool lift and facilities, warming drillers struck hot water, this pool has offered hut, and four new lap lanes. hot water recreation to generations of swimmers. They offer swimming lessons, water The pools are fed by geothermally-heated aerobics and fitness classes; season passes waters, ranging from 98-100 degrees Fahrenheit and various punch passes are available. They in the pool to 107 degrees in the would love to host family, company or school

Photos by Jennifer Alonzo


events, birthday, graduation, reunion or other special occasions. Group rates are available; call for pricing. The pool is open seasonally and is located one mile north of Alamosa on Highway 17. Info: 719-589-6258, Valley View Hot Springs at the Orient Land Trust Clothing optional, the pools at this historic facility are heated by geothermal springs gushing out of the terrain high on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. Valley View Hot Springs is a beautiful, historic village that offers a safe and natural place to relax and enjoy low-impact, off-grid enjoyment. Natural rock ponds are filled with warm bubbling water generally range from 93 to 107 degrees. On site are restored, historic mining cabins that are available f o r rent, along with a sauna and ample hiking opportunities. The campground is open yearround. Memberships are for sale and ensure admission. Info: 719-256-4315, www.

Anytime is tee time With 180-degree mountain views, clean crisp air and no hustle and bustle, those visiting the Valley can truly recreate while vacationing or just passing through. Golfing is a great experience, and the Valley boasts four courses, all in scenic locations, for those dedicated to the game. Cattails Golf Course The Cattails Golf Course (pictured below right) on the edge of Alamosa offers an 18-hole course with a 71-par rating. Just north of the Rio Grande, with mountains ranging majestically on either side, the course features a driving range and putting green, cart and club rentals, as well as a full-service, pro line golf shop. Neighboring the clubhouse is full restaurant, The Grille at Cattails (719-589-6154), offering indoor dining, as well as outdoor patio seating. Travel north from Main Street on State Avenue, across the bridge, and the Cattails’ entrance will be on the left. Info: 719-589-9515, www. Challenger Golf Course The 9-hole Challenger Golf Course in Crestone along County Road T is a semi-private course with long holes, laid out at the very

Golf courses

From downtown foot of the magnificent Sangre de Cristo range. Info: 719-256-4856 Monte Vista, go west on Highway 160 to Dunham Street, then Monte Vista Golf Club The Monte Vista Golf Club north to the course; or (pictured top right) is nestled from Highway 285, go in the heart of Monte Vista on west on Prospect Avenue past the high school to 40 acres. The nine-hole course was one Dunham Street, then north to the of the first 15 courses in the state; course. Info: 719-852 4906, www. it opened in 1928 sporting sand greens. In 1948 the club was Rio Grande Club incorporated as a not-for-profit South Fork’s Rio Grande Club is corporation and work started to a world-class golf course featuring convert the greens to grass. The course was originally flood 18 holes, with eye-pleasing rock irrigated and many of the old dykes outcroppings and shots across the Rio Grande. are still recognizable. Though the fairways are relatively straight, they are very narrow for today’s standards and are lined with trees of varying maturity. The greens are quite small and have Penncross Bent and their own strain of annual blue grass. All of these factors create quite a challenge for the experienced golfer and forgiveness for the beginner. There is a large driving range, and a quaint pro shop with everything a golfer needs to get on the course is also available. Tee times are recommended. Membership to the club is easy and affordable.

The front nine holes are complete with mountain views of pine, cottonwood and aspen trees. The clubhouse offers dining at the award-winning Timbers Restaurant. Info: 719-873-1995, www.theriograndeclubandresort. com

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Tastes of the Valley Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant As children growing up in Calvillo, Mexico, Jose and Martin Lopez’s father always taught them to dream big and to believe in their family and the ability to make their dreams come true. He knew and taught them that with hard work, passion and determination, any dream could become a reality. “We always dreamed of having a familyowned and operated restaurant, and as we got older, we grew to share his dream of working together as a family.” In 1995, that dream became a reality. The Lopez brothers opened the first Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant in east Alamosa. They continued to work hard, both at the restaurant and at learning a new language and the San Luis Valley culture. “We have encountered many wonderful people and friends over the years and we all knew that


Entrepreneurs have taken advantage of local natural resources to perfect their crafts. The result being one that can not only be tasted and enjoyed, but spiral the entrepreneurs forward, floating on a dream come true. This just happens to be the case for both of the local breweries in the Valley—SLV Brewing Company located in Alamosa and Three Barrel Brewery in Del Norte. While venturing in the Alamosa area, guests are urged to end their long days, or perhaps begin them, on Main Street. The SLV Brewing Company is located down the street from some of the best art galleries in the Valley and offers a craft all its own. The brewery was formed in 2006, making this their 10year anniversary and they plan to celebrate with vigor. Info: At the other end of the Valley is Three Barrel Brewery. The business has undergone some changes in the past two years and is not planning on stopping there, as they will be announcing some new improvements in coming weeks. The brewery began in 2005 and moved to a new location in 2014. The new location is located on Highway 160 in Del Norte. Three Barrel prides itself on using the rich locally grown malt, hops and even local honey to create their signature beer. The brews are made in small batches bringing not only fresh ingredients, but fresh beer to the table. In addition to their brews, the food is exceptional, and the atmosphere is an easygoing modern day pizza parlor that caters to families and local nightlife. The brews have made a name for themselves selling not only locally through events and farmer markets, but nationally over internet sales as well. They have also been noted as, a must see destination by the “Denver Post, Colorado planned getaways” last year. Come try the pizza and stay to savor the brew. Info: www.


our dream was possible here.” The popularity of Calvillo’s grew rapidly, and with it came an instant craze for one-ofa-kind Mexican cuisine. Calvillo’s has grown to three different locations in southern Colorado (Calvillo’sAlamosa, Mi Taquita, Calvillo’sDel Norte) and continues to expand. The Lopez brothers, owners and head chefs, are committed to providing made-from-scratch authentic Mexican food. The restaurant offers a unique and authentic experience built around original recipes that demand the freshest ingredients. The combination of Mexican cooking expertise and fresh ingredients creates a unique style of fare that is far from what you will find elsewhere. That unique taste paired with unparalleled customer service and a welcoming atmosphere creates an experience that will be remembered for its warm memories and fantastic taste. “We want to be known as the best; we will do whatever it takes to keep our customers satisfied. We strive to keep things new and exciting.” Friday night Mariachi music (pictured above) allows diners a sample of

the Mexican culture. Fresh fruit desserts, margaritas, horchata, aqua de sandia and melon are a popular hit among customers. Large banquet rooms are available for parties, along with catering services for special events. In addition, there’s an extended full service bar and the friendliest bartenders (pictured below) you’ll ever meet. Although there are a number of Mexican food restaurants in the Valley, Calvillo’s offers something truly remarkable. Info: 719-5875500, 719-6579122

Photos by Jeremy Alonzo

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Discover the possibilities Del Norte Trail System

Outdoor enthusiasts are increasingly finding a hidden gem on the western side of the San Luis Valley. Recently featured in publications such as Trout Unlimited and 5280, the town of Del Norte is home to more than 200 acres of trails which can be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, runners, equestrians, fishers and campers. The trail system developed by the Del Norte Trails Organization (DNTO) has been improving and expanding every year since 2007. Those who use the trails will find the ease of access ranging from easy terrain to extenuating in difficulty. Within the town of Del Norte the trail system includes the 200-acre Lookout Mountain Park Trail System. A difficult one-mile trail ends at the top of the 8,745ft Lookout Mountain. From the summit, breathtaking views of the entire San Luis Valley can be enjoyed. Another enjoyable and beautiful trail within Del Norte is the Riverwalk Trail. This 2,600-ft concrete trail is at the north end of Del Norte by Town Park and has magnificent close up views of the Rio Grande. The trail is a riparian winding trail and is accessible

Photo by John McEvoy


for fishing and kayaking. DNTO also promotes and maintains trails just a few miles outside of Del Norte in about every direction. These trails include Elephant Rocks, Penitente Canyon, Bishop Rock, Stone Quarry, Pronghorn and Middle Frisco. All of these trails are unique and scenic. There is a concentrated effort to connect the trails to the town of Del Norte and to increase recreational opportunities throughout the Valley. This can be seen through events such as a yearly trail showcase, the new 12 Hours of Penitence Bike Race (pictured below right) and the Adams State University’s Cycling Team (pictured top right). During the yearly showcase a group of travel bloggers and writers are invited to experience the trail system guided by some of the best local bike riders. They are given free hospitality at the Windsor Hotel. This year’s showcase will be held May 24-26. Twelve Hours of Penitence is a new event developed by DNTO and its

partners. This bike race takes place in Penitente Canyon. While the race is on Oct. 8, potential riders should and can take advantage of the summer months to tour the canyon and build their endurance for this rigorous race. Last year’s inaugural activities were very successful with 150 riders participating and nearby Del Norte hosting an “Oktoberfest.” The second annual race is expected to be quite bigger and better. For more information, visit To date, 6,500 volunteer hours have been logged helping to develop these great pieces

Photo by Marty Asplin of land (pictured at bottom). Every summer, partners such as Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, SLV GO, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management devote a considerable amount of labor-intensive hours to help continue building a great resource for the San Luis Valley. Info:

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Wagon tracks Not all agree on the origin of the wagon tracks near Penitente Canyon just outside La Garita, grooves created in “tuff” rock deposited by the La Garita super volcano that melded the canyons together many millennia ago. The official story given by the Bureau of Land Management on signage for the tracks is that early Hispano Americans in the area gathering pinon wood in twowheeled carts created Photo by Teresa Benns the tracks during their frequent trips to the canyon. Others add to this explanation the fact that much pinon pine and other timber was needed to build the original San Juan Bautista Church in La Garita, occasioning an unusual amount of trips up the rocky cliffs. So repetitive loads of wood passing over the rocks well exceeding the norm gathered by the Hispanos each winter could account for the grooves. A sawmill located along Carnero Creek reportedly cut and milled the logs for the church; traces of the wood tailings can still be seen in the canyon in certain areas. But others believe it would have taken more than frequent usage by carts to wear such deep grooves into rock not easily worn. Some believe Conestoga wagons crossing the canyon, heavier by far than the carts, are responsible for the grooves, although it seems unlikely that this would have been an easy or favored route for settlers to regularly travel over land. A few canny oldtimers, with a wink, a nod and a sip of the brew will slyly insinuate that those tracks could have been left another way. They relate tales found in some Valley histories of gold transported by the Spanish and the French in the 1700s, maybe even earlier, hidden still in the canyons of La Garita or in nearby locations. Some say men died tragic deaths transporting it and the gold is cursed; it can be found but no one will touch it. Others hint it may have been uncovered by later settlers and can account for easily-made fortunes of certain Valley entrepreneurs. Whatever the story, seeing the tracks is worth a hike into the canyon and a picnic lunch up in the pinon. Visitors to the Valley can reach the wagon tracks by exiting west onto County Road G off Highway 285, passing the general store and little church and taking a left at the Penitente Canyon exit. The wagon tracks’ exit is to the right, not too far off the main road.


Photo by Staci Turner



“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.� ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Protecting the Valley Fort Garland & Pike’s Stockade

Established in 1858 to protect San Luis Valley settlers from Native American raids so common then, Fort Garland (pictured below) was one of only two forts in Colorado when the Civil War broke out in 1861. At that time Colorado was still part of New Mexico Territory. Because Fort Massachusetts, just six miles to the north, was vulnerable to attack and too swamplike, Fort Garland was built to replace the older fort. Fort Garland was named in honor of Brevet Brigadier General John Garland, who then was the commander for the Department of New Mexico. The fort’s 20 adobe buildings could accommodate two companies of 100 men and officers. Various companies of infantrymen, mounted riflemen and volunteers would eventually call the fort home. Once the Civil War commenced, the 200 men stationed at Fort Garland were put on alert and then called into service in 1862 to assist Texas Confederates in fighting the battle at Glorieta Pass. The pass is located at the southern tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains southeast of Santa Fe, N.M. This battle proved to be the turning point of the Civil War, fought in the New Mexico Territory. Following the war, Kit Carson took command of the post as a

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Brigadier General, in recognition of his valor at the Battle of Valverde, also in New Mexico Territory. Carson was well known for his successful work with the Native Americans, and while at Fort Garland was asked to negotiate with the Ute Indians. For a time Carson’s efforts were successful and the Native Americans lived in peace with Colorado settlers. In 1867 Carson was forced to resign for health reasons. In 1876 the fort became home to the Ninth Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers, brought to the fort to subdue the Utes. Company G of the Ninth Cavalry operated out of the fort from the spring of 1876 until September 1879. The Buffalo Soldiers saw scant military action through their brief assignment at Fort Garland. After the Utes murdered Native American agent Nathan Meeker and his staff at the White River Agency, considerable additions were made to the Fort Garland garrison, and the fort became a primary base of operations against the Native Americans. In 1880, a Fort Garland battalion escorted the Utes to reservations in southwestern Colorado, bringing to a close the Native American wars. The main attraction in Fort Garland is the museum. The museum and surrounding area give visitors the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Kit Carson and to tour some of the original adobe buildings.

The museum also puts on great exhibitions and programming. The programming includes Fun Fridays for children, exhibitions on how the fort was saved and preserved and historical dioramas. There is also a gift shop with unique items on site. Fort Garland Museum is open daily April-October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. History Colorado members, as well as residents of the San Luis Valley are granted free admission. Admission fee for adults is $5, seniors $4.50, children 6-16 $3.50 and children under 6 are free. Group rates and military discounts are available. Info: 719-379-3512, Pike’s Stockade Pike’s Stockade (pictured at top) offers a look back into a historic stockade along the Conejos River. It is a designated National Historic Landmark owned and operated by the Colorado Historical Society. Zebulon Pike built the structure during a harsh Valley winter in 1807, which was then Spanish territory, to protect his exploration

Photo by Staci Turner

soldiers. Pike encountered Spanish dragoons while at the stockade, was captured and transferred to what is now Chihuahua, Mexico. During the year Pike was confined he kept a secret journal. The writings were published and have been credited with influencing further exploration and the final U.S. takeover of the Southwest Spanish-claimed territory. The stockade site is open from Memorial Day to Sept 30. The gate is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends by appointment only. Admission is free. Pike’s Stockade is located east of Sanford just off Highway 285. Info: 719-379-3512, www.historycolorado. org

Photo by John McEvoy


Rich in heritage San Luis Valley history

Rich in beauty and adventure, the San Luis Valley has unique and abundant history, as well. Humans have inhabited and visited the area for more than 12,000 years. Archaeological evidence shows Paleoindians came in near the close of the last Ice Age. Nomads, they hunted large mammals such as bison and mammoths, leaving sites generally located in association with animal kills, butchering sites and small, temporary, camps which were littered with beautiful, deadly, spear points. These cultures joined the native tribes and lived by hunting and gathering the native plants and animals, while expeditions were sent out from Nueva Hispaña, later administered as part of the province of Nuevo Mexico until the area was ceded to the United States in 1848 by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American war. The Province of New Mexico, established in 1598 later dispatched explorers from its capital city of Santa Fe. In 1779, Don Juan Bautista de Anza traveled through the San Luis Valley and over Poncha Pass in an attempt to crush the Comanches, who threatened the New Mexican settlements. Other explorers entering the area included Don Juan de Oñate, Juan Maria Rivera, Juan Bautista Silva, Zebulon Montgomery Pike, Jacob Fowler, George Frederick Ruxton, John C. Fremont and John Williams Gunnison. Farming Drawn by the San Luis Valley’s abundant

Photos by Sylvia Lobato


agricultural promise, settlers finally established communities in the 1850s. Farmers developed irrigation systems, as well as traditional communities. The People’s Ditch at San Luis is Colorado’s earliest adjudicated water right. Mexican land grants, aimed at filling the area with settlers, remained virtually empty until the area became U.S. territory after 1848. The Sangre de Cristo Grant was opened in 1851 and residents moved in. The first permanent settlement in Colorado, San Luis de la Culebra, now known as San Luis, was established in 1851 along the Rio Culebra on the Sangre de Cristo Grant. Garcia would’ve been the first town, but was never incorporated. San Luis was established in 1849 and named when it got a post office. Fort Massachusetts, built north of San Luis in 1852 to protect the early settlements, proved unsuitable, leading to the creation of Fort Garland. By 1895, the native tribes had been almost completely forced out of the area. Across the vast valley, Hispanic families who left the Santa Fe area founded La Loma de San Jose, near present Del Norte, in 1859, built irrigation ditches and began farming. More farming began in the 1880s near Hooper and large-scale irrigation systems were built near Monte Vista. Religious zeal Religion united many of the original settlers. Mormon pioneers settled Eastdale, southwest of San Luis in 1890, while Seventh Day Adventists established Jaroso in

1911. Eastdale thrived, boasting a reservoir, homes, a school and a church, with a post office and 120 residents by 1900. A water dispute shortly afterward led to removal of the town and sale of the land to Costilla State Development Co. by 1909. Just one structure remains at Eastdale, while Jaroso has survived as an artists’ colony. A protestant church, now the United For Christ Community Church in Blanca, was established in 1902. Guadalupe County was one of the original 17 counties created by the territory of Colorado in 1861. It existed for only six days before being renamed Conejos County. The first settlers into the area were from primarily from Abiquiu, N.M. Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Parish in Conejos, the county seat, is the oldest in Colorado. The church building itself was constructed in 1856, but partially burned and replaced. Mission churches were set up and had records housed with Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. When the neighboring town of Antonito was built, the Theatine priests from Spain built St. Augustine Church there in 1880. Church records are housed at the church offices of Saint Augustine. Oldest church Established in 1856, the adobe mission in southern Colorado is considered to be the oldest standing, continually used, church in the state, and marks the site of the 1853 Hispanic settlement called Viejo San Acacio, located about six miles east of San Luis and three miles southeast of the new San Acacio, which is nearly a ghost town. Although the church has been renovated to preserve the delicate adobe walls, it stands in virtually the same shape as it did in the 1800s. In 2009, Costilla, Conejos and Alamosa counties were designated the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Agriculture and mining Always a popular industry, farming occurred by the summer

of 1840 as far north and west as Wagon Wheel Gap between South Fork and Creede. Center, believed to be the middle of the Valley, was established in the 1890s, and has continually been a farming community, even today. The mining boom began when gold and silver were discovered near Summitville in 1870. Del Norte, one of Colorado’s first cities, was established in 1872 as a supply point and gateway to the San Juan mining camps, as well as a busy, wide-open frontier town. The first strike at Creede was in 1889, and the town’s rowdy history was memorialized in prose, “It’s day all day in the daytime, and there is no night in Creede.” Other mining settlements followed. The Iron Horse The railroad awakened the sleepy economy, its trains smoking, whistling and belching through the Valley to serve the farmers, ranchers and miners. The native tribes called them “iron horses,” while the settlers called them “progress.” Railroads gave birth to Alamosa, Monte Vista, Antonito and San Acacio, which needed a way to haul their abundance out of the Valley to the cities for sale and the area needed a way to attract more people, as well as new industry. Some travelers could not, or would not, have visited the Valley by any other means. The area’s history is evident in nearly every location. Museums celebrate the unique identity of each community, with historic artifacts and displays showing the art, agriculture and religious traditions that have blended to become the unique, welcoming, place that is the San Luis Valley.

Roaming free A little known treasure of the San Luis Valley is the wild horses. There are two separate areas to see wild horses, which are difficult to find without a guide. The Brownie Hills off Highway 142 by the Rio Grande are home to around 200 Spanish mustangs. They have lived in this area for 100+ years. These horses are seldom

Wild horses

seen because they stay hidden in the hills, most on private land and a few that cross the river onto BLM land. They are beautiful to watch running through the hills, but won’t allow visitors closer than a quarter mile. Coming soon to the San Luis Valley is the Rio Grande Wild Horse Preserve located on the northeast side of Highway 142 and the Rio Grande. The sanctuary is for the preservation and protection of the

Sangre De Cristo

National Heritage Area Into the inhospitable Valley came the settlers of the 1850s, hoping against hope that the promises of the land grantor would come true. Along with them, they brought their heritage and created their history. Today, much of it is preserved in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA), home to the unquestioned birthplace of Colorado in Costilla County. San Luis, the first non-tribal settlement, was established in 1851. Many of the heirs of those long-gone settlers still cling to the traditions and Spanish dialects brought to the area by their forebears. That’s heritage. Sharing that history and heritage are the Hispanic and tribal settlers of Conejos County, who were joined by Mormons, Japanese, Germans, Swedish, Anglos, French and many more adventurers. Alamosa County, the third part of the SdCNHA is the child of a union between agriculture and the railroad. Once the regional hub of the narrow gauge, it welcomed people who came in on what the tribes called the “iron horse,” the Hispanics called “ferrocarril” and the growing Valley called progress. Blended together, the contribution of all these peoples and their progress is heritage. It’s also history and something the visitor can enjoy and appreciate. Info:

Brownie Hills horses. It will include a primitive campground and bathroom with space for tents, trailers and RVs. Visitors will be able to observe the wild horses as they come to drink at the river. Fishing on the Rio Grande will be another benefit along with viewing deer, elk and both areas, which is great for bird watching. The campground photography enthusiasts. Spirit of the Wild Horse is a 501(c) will be complete in the summer of 2017, but tours are now available (3) and was founded to watch over and protect the bands of horses for to view the horses. Wild Horse Mesa off of Highway future generations to enjoy. They 159, south of San Luis, is home to offer guided tours for the public to 125 wild horses. Two bands of view wild horses still running free horses stay at the base of the mesa and wild, not in a sanctuary. Info: 719-206-2749, 719-588and can sometimes be spotted from the highway. Ten more bands stay 7177, on top of the mesa; the bands range in size from two horses to 25 horses. The wild horses are in family bands with a band stallion, lead mare, additional mares and the offspring. The young horses, one to three years old, are chased out by the stallion to find new families. The total group of bands is called a herd. S p r i n g brings lots of new babies to Photos by Judy Barnes Photography


On to the next 50 years Creede Repertory Theatre

Creede Repertory Theatre has an exciting season planned for the theatre-goers coming to the area. Last season the organization celebrated 50 years of theatre and are now setting the stage for the next 50. Year one is expected to be fun, energetic and full of thrilling comedic plays, sure to please the crowds that flock to the area. Coming in May the theatre will be unveiling their annual art poster for the season. The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence will open directly after the poster unveiling on May 27, followed by the opening of the annual small print show on May 28. The National Small Print Show is sponsored by Creede Arts Council and brings artists from all over the

Photo by Keith Cerny


country to the theatre to showcase their best work. One hundred prints from around the country will be displayed in the main lobby area of the theatre for everyone to enjoy. The show is open to the public free of charge. The theatre has a long list of new and favorite events planned for the coming season. Some of the new events feature a unique opportunity to meet with the company and interact with staff from the theatre throughout the year. One means of spicing up the theatre experience is to have dinner before the show or dessert and drink after select productions with the actors, actresses and technical staff. Either option can be added to the ticket price when purchasing for

the year’s plays. In addition to dining with the company of the theatre, several of the plays will feature before and after talks. Attending guests can come 35 minutes prior to a selected show and hear from theatre staff about the production process, insights into the makeup or theatrical tricks of the trade and much more. In addition after select productions, guests are invited to stick around and ask questions during one of the theater’s Chat Back sessions.

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will keep the visitors coming to Creede. In addition to The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, the theatre presents Catching Air, Boomtown, Boomtown Jr, Private Lives, The History Room and Kind of Red. Go online for a full list of events, dates and times of 2016 season lineup performances. This year’s lineup includes Info: 719-658-2540, www. several comedic choices which

Creede Mining District

While farmers were settling in the east side of the Valley, prospectors in 1870 found placer gold in the Wrightman Fork of the Alamosa River. Gold veins were discovered in the San Juan Mountains in 1871, and large-scale production started in 1875 after the construction of a mill. Operations were continuous until 1906, then sporadic after that. Some 520,000 troy ounces, or 16 tons, of gold were taken out of various large and small mines until 1990. Mining claims still dot the mountain sides around the area. Silver was discovered in 1887 in the Creede district in Mineral County, but it didn’t become a significant silver producer until 1891. The ore occurs as veins along north-south trending faults and as replacement bodies in the Creede Formation, a Tertiary ash-flow tuff. Ore minerals are sphalerite, galena, acanthite, native silver, pyrite and chalcopyrite. Production through 1983 totaled 80 million ounces (2,490 metric tons) of silver, 150 thousand ounces (4.7 metric tons) of gold and considerable lead and zinc. In 1985, Summitville Consolidated Mining Company, a subsidiary of Galactic Resources of Vancouver, British Columbia started open pit heap-leach mining at the Summitville Mine. Mining ceased in 1992, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to prevent releases of pollution from the property. Hecla Mining Company owns a Creede area land package that includes the historic Bulldog Mine, which produced 25 million ounces of silver for Homestake Mining before closing in 1985 as a result of depressed metals’ prices. While exploration has focused on expanding the historic resources of both the Bulldog and the North Amethyst-Equity mines, the consolidated land package encompasses more than 30 miles of prospective veins and vein splays.

Inspiring creativity Art in the San Luis Valley

The San Luis Valley is a prime location for any artist that has a need for solitude, a chance to step away and be inspired every day. Many of the area’s cities and towns display artful reminders of the inspiration that can be found all over the Valley. Sculptures line street corners, fences display works of art and galleries of every type of artistic talent can be found throughout the communities. Local patrons forge friendships and offer support for any wishing to enjoy the inspirational beauty the Valley has to offer. Amazing mountain views and scenery that varies from the desert-like sand dunes to wetlands and the Rio Grande River have inspired works in paint, sketch, ceramic, sculpture and more. Nearly every Valley town hosts a gallery or shop that features fine art from more than 500 artists living in the San Luis Valley area. The Valley’s artistic nature can be seen even among the signs and banners decorating local businesses. In between the peaks of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges are more than one dozen art galleries and hundreds of individual artists showing and selling their work. In Antonito, the town’s magnificent Silo Park has murals telling the story of the Conejos County’s founding and development; down the road a lone silo is graced with a mural of the sacred cranes of the Valley; a warehouse tells the story of the sheep industry just outside of La Jara, and a family of metal sculpture whooping cranes sit along a field. San Luis tells a story all its own in murals and public art, the story of the past and present. Monte Vista is

adorned with cranes in schoolyards and parks, which showcase the story of the bird. Alamosa has several art galleries chock f u l l o f masterpieces. Several of the area’s artists display their works of art in shop windows along Main Street, inviting curious shoppers inside for a splendid peak. From craftily made pottery to jewelry made from local gems, line the shop’s interiors, allowing for a wide variety of gift ideas or even home accents to light up a living space. Nature and history is shown in the public art around Del Norte, including the huge elk that sits atop a bluff just outside of town. South Fork invites local talent every year to the area for the annual Logger Days festival. During this event, local artists come and show off their talents with a chisel and chainsaw, turning pieces

Photo by Lyndsie Ferrell

of wood into woodland creatures or pieces of furniture. Guests who have a chance to visit are amazed by the craft and come every year to see the works of art in process. Historic Creede is also in on the act with numerous opportunities for viewing art and plenty of galleries sure to help you find that piece of art to make your home complete. The town was honored as one of the governor’s arts towns in 2010. Whether you’re looking for paintings, photography, pottery or jewelry, you’re sure to be able to find it among the unique surroundings offered in the area. For information on specific art galleries, contact the local chamber of commerce.


A spiritual journey Crestone temples

Crestone temples During the 1970-80s, international figures Maurice and Hannah Strong provided land grants to monasteries and religious institutes to build retreat centers and monasteries near the old mining town of Crestone, in northeastern Saguache County. The resulting interfaith mix of groups that congregated in and around Crestone, and continue to flock there, has drawn many followers of different religious traditions to the area to recreate and meditate. Some have described the scenic atmosphere there as a Shangri-La type ambiance reminiscent of that

portrayed in British author James Hilton’s classic work Lost Horizon. Below are samplings of just some of the religious centers in Crestone open to the public: Christianity The Spiritual Life Institute and the Nada Hermitage Retreat Center, a Catholic Carmelite Monastery, 719-256-4778, www. Buddhism For Crestone Mountain Zen Center and Lindsfarne interfaith chapel activities call 719-256-4692,; Yeshe

Korlo observes the Nyingma Buddhist tradition, 719-256-5224; Karma Thegsum Tashi Gomang Center, (Stupa pictured above; Dragon Mountain Zen Temple pictured below) Hinduism The Haidakhandi Universal Ashram practices traditional Hinduism. Daily devotionals, 719256-4108, Sanctuary House In the far southern corner of the Baca lies a sacred labyrinth that is a replica of the Chartres Cathedral dromenon in France, 719-256-4313,

Photos by Teresa Benns

Stations of the Cross Shrine

Strikingly life-like bronze sculptures guide west of San Luis. The stations are situated on visitors along a re-creation of the path trod by Christ a bluff above San Luis. during the last journey of His life, the Stations of Fifteen art pieces can the Cross near San Luis. Created by renowned artist be found along the trail Huberto Maestas, the site is an especially popular depicting the 12 stations tourist attraction just before Easter. of His journey, Calvary The shrine was constructed in 1986 and and Crucifixion. dedicated in 1990. The sculptures were created At the top is the as an act of love and devotion by the faithful of shrine known as La Sangre de Cristo Catholic Parish at San Luis, Mesa de la Piedad y de reflecting their spiritual traditions. la Misercordio (The Mesa The shrine embodies the vital role of religion of Piety and Mercy); the in southern communities. Locals come to the grotto features pink shrine throughout the year for prayer, reflection sandstone statues of and celebration. the Virgin Mary and Visitors can find the stations along a one-mile Saint Juan Diego. The walking trail that begins just off Highway 159, mesa top pathway is 19 miles south of Fort Garland also lined with many and just statues of the saints. As visitors walk up the trail, they are afforded spectacular views of several of Colorado’s mountain peaks that tower over 14,000 feet above sea Photos by Staci Turner


level, while San Luis and the San Luis Valley are spread at their feet. Complete the journey with a visit to the Memorial de los Martires Mexicanos, at the top of journey. The shrine draws an average of 40,000 visitors annually. Access to the shrine can be found at the northern portion of San Luis. There is no charge to visit the shrine. Info: 719-672-3685,


Keeping the past alive Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Had it not been for railroad enthusiasts and historic preservationists, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad would be a fading memory for many old-timers. Today, it is making memories for young and old alike. Traveling back and forth across the Colorado-New Mexico state line 13 times, the train follows a rail bed constructed in the 1880s and maintained by both states. This year’s opening day is May 28, kicking off a season that will run until Oct. 23. The narrow gauge rails are three feet apart, rather than the four feet, eight and one-half inches of the standard gauge, which runs briefly alongside it in Antonito. Narrow-gauge steam trains leave daily from Antonito, Colo. and Chama, N.M., meeting at historic Osier for lunch. When the rails were laid, narrow gauge made sense to access the rich silver mines in the San Juan Mountains, yet plans were afoot to convert it to standard gauge, even though the two

Photos courtesy of C&TSR


gauges could not connect to each other. The “silver bust” hit, changing everything. The tiny tracks hadn’t been upgraded since the 1920s and the railroad was headed for oblivion. A natural gas boom awakened it briefly after World War II; then it drowsed off again. In 1969, the Rio Grande Railroad was given permission to tear up the track and sell it for scrap, but momentum was growing to “save the narrow gauge.” Much of the track had been dismantled when Colorado and New Mexico were drawn together to purchase the remaining track and rolling stock. Renamed the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in honor of the high pass and deep gulch it traversed, the train soon began hauling passengers. Today, riders may choose from three options, a morning motor coach ride along

C o l o r a d o ’s L o s Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway, returning to the boarding station by train; starting out on the train and returning via motor coach on the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway; or changing trains at Osier and returning by train, viewing the same scenery at different times of the day. Amenities include lunch at Osier and the “Kids Ride Free” program, ADA compliant boarding, on board concessions and liquor service and friendly, informative guides/ docents enhancing the journey of the authentic west, as it was 135 years ago and is today.

28- Sept. 5, with a paid adult on a limited number of excursions. An Antonito Trip No. 3 option is available every day except Saturday. Kids Ride Free is not available on Saturdays. Parlor cars Passengers aged 21 and over can ride in the Victorian-era elegance of meticulously restored parlor cars – a level of luxury, service and comfort that once was reserved for such dignitaries as railroad barons and mining kings, with panoramic windows that open to the unspoiled grandeur of the authentic west. Personal attendants serve a continental breakfast of fresh fruit, delectable confections, fresh coffee, hot chocolate and a choice of juices. Snacks and soft drinks are available and passengers receive complimentary souvenirs

Half-day trips Half-day trips run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from July 6 to Aug. 7. Lunch is included in the fare and provided at the Chama Depot snack car upon return. For 2016, special coach fare for adults is offered at $69 for some trips. Limited seating is available on specific trips during certain periods. Some blackout dates will apply and no other discounts are Tourist and coach cars available. Kids Ride Free is Ride into history aboard newly available with this special fare.  restored tourist cars. Enjoy the elegant Kids Ride Free in setting with extra room and individual coach from May seating or choose the budget-friendly classic coach ride with comfortable bench seating. Snacks, film and gifts are available on board. Relax and take in the fresh mountain air. For all passengers, the open-air gondola car offers unobstructed views, great photo opportunities, and a chance to spot some of the abundant wildlife in the area. Throughout the trip you’ll find a delicious buffet lunch is included in the ticket price for all passengers, with the exception of Kids Ride Free, which must be paid. When you visit, be sure to take the self-guided tours of the railroad yards. Pick up a map and tour information about the railroad yards in either Antonito or Chama. Info: 888-286-2737, www.


Paths of yesterday Follow the footsteps of history in the Valley by taking a scenic and historic byway. These roads are recognized due to their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. They reach deep into the heart and soul of the area and are great day trips. Los Caminos Antiguos Los Caminos Antiguos (“The Ancient Roads”) is the best route to follow through the Valley floor – the northern outpost of 16th century Spanish territorial expansion. Begin the tour in the hub of the San Luis Valley, Alamosa; then venture to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to experience the ever-changing landscape. The sand resting at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains is a beautiful, but perplexing site. Travel south to visit Fort Garland; then 15 miles south on Highway 159 lies San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado. Continue the tour into Conejos County and board the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in Antonito for a narrow-gauge railroad experience. The tour is complete with beautiful views at the top of La Manga Pass. Driving time: 129 miles; 3-4 hours; Info:

Scenic byways

range, travelers can course the paved byway year-round that winds through both the Rio Grande and Gunnison national forests. Once a toll road and the Barlow and Sanderson stage route, visitors can take advantage of breathtaking overlooks that offer insight into geology and local history while providing ample opportunity to enjoy spectacular views. The Silver Thread Scenic Byway took its name from the plentiful veins of silver along the wayside of this U.S. National Forest route. The route also traverses the La Garita, Weminuche and Powderhorn wilderness areas. This magnificent display of mountain scenery begins in South Fork, runs on to Creede and then to Lake City. Visitors return to Creede by way of the Bachelor Loop, with its ghost towns and old mines (pictured at top). There are signs along the loop, and maps are available around Creede to help spot the sites along the 17-mile drive. Driving time: 2-4 hours; Info: 719-873-5512, www.

Old Spanish Trail Recognized as a National Historic Silver Thread Scenic Byway Trail by Congress and and Bachelor’s Loop President George W. For a scenic 75-mile tour of Bush in 2002, the Old the Valley’s San Juan Mountain Spanish Trail runs

Photos by Teresa Benns


through the San Luis Valley. Visitors to the trail have the opportunity to view ancient petroglyphs such as one along the trail that is believed to be 300 years old. The petroglyph is thought to be a depiction of a Sandhill or Whooping Crane, which makes sense since thousands of Cranes are known to migrate to the Valley each spring. Trail markers are located throughout the Valley helping visitors to see an important part of early trade, commerce and travel that helped to form the area. Despite its name, much of the trail did not originate with Spanish settlers, but with Native Americans, who used the routes for trade. In 1829, Santa Fe, N.M. merchant Antonio Armijo forged a trail between two remote Mexican villages, using some of the Native American trails, creating a route between what is now Santa Fe, N.M. and Los Angeles,

Calif. The trail opened up new territory for traders and trappers. Spanish expeditions also utilized the Old Spanish Trail routes to travel from Santa Fe to Utah where they would trade with the Utes. Spanish settlers navigated the trail as early as 1765 and continued to travel it for another 50 years. For approximately one decade preceding the Mexican War, settlers continued to occupy the trail. After the war, the Old Spanish Trail was competing with much more efficient wagon roads, which led to the trail’s abandonment. An easy and popular destination to view the trail is located on Highway 160 between Monte Vista and Del Norte (pictured at left). It is accessible a few miles west of Monte Vista and on the south side of the highway. The trail is also connected to locations and markers in the Ft. Garland, Crestone, Saguache and Antonito areas. Info: www.

A Valley tradition Agriculture and ranching

Agriculture and ranching are Valley traditions. Despite its altitude (7,500-7,800) feet and high desert climate, drought conditions and a declining economy, farming and ranching is still the main source of income for the San Luis Valley. One of the highest alpine valleys in the world, crops grown here includes primarily potatoes, barley, and wheat but also carrots, alfalfa, lettuce, broccoli, canola and cauliflower. At one time, the valley also was known for its prolific cabbage production.

barley-producing region for Colorado, producing over 85 percent of the state’s barley. Much of the barley grown here is malt barley, some of which is contracted to MillerCoors Brewing Company. It is planted with certified seed and must meet MillerCoors’ stringent quality requirements for purchase. Farmers plant malt barley in early April then harvest in early August. Barley is planted early to ensure harvest before the Valley’s monsoon rains. Malt barley is usually swathed for more uniform ripening, then later combined with a pickup attachment. If the barley does not pass muster it is generally sold for feed barley at a much lower price. Farmers learned that planting barley every other year, rotating it with potatoes, helps replace nutrients in the soil and reduce weed growth. MillerCoors’ barley is tested for moisture, protein, skinned and broken kernels, mold, foreign materials and many other criteria. A high minimum germination rate is required because of the brewing process. Barley is steeped in a malt house to germinate it and turn the starches to sugars, then is toasted and ground into barley malt.

Potatoes Potatoes (pictured top right) have been grown in the Valley since 1882. According to one estimate, 90 percent of Colorado’s potatoes are produced in the San Luis Valley. Varieties include Centennial Russet, Russet Norkotah, Russet Nugget and Sangre a red potato. Potatoes thrive on warm days and cool nights, and the cold winters in the Valley mean less pests and fewer diseases. Potatoes are planted in early May and harvest begins in early September, running through early October. Plants first sprout up in June, tubers form in July and tops die off in mid-to-late August. Potatoes are transported from the folds to local warehouses where they Wheat are stored at the proper temperature There are three kinds of wheat and humidity. Later they are washed, produced in the Valley. Soft white bagged and readied for transport. spring is used for baked goods; hard red spring wheat for bread, Barley and durum wheat is grown to This area was once the major manufacture macaroni and pasta

products. While some of the white and red wheat is shipped to the west coast, most of it is milled in Denver. Durum wheats are either exported or go to Arizona for milling. Alfalfa The San Luis Valley is a major hay-producing region, with alfalfa still valued as one of the Valley’s most important crops. Dairies in northern Colorado and southern New Mexico still depend on the Valley’s highquality hay for their dairy herds, but recent winter storms have thinned down dairy operations, and the drought has reduced hay acreage. Much of the lower quality alfalfa hay is used to support the local beef cow herds or is trucked to feedlots for grinder hay. Alfalfa is a perennial crop; the stand usually lasts five to seven years before being replanted. Ranching As one rancher in the northern Valley noted recently, cattle numbers right now are the lowest since 1951, but should go up soon because ranchers are retaining more heifers. But with water in the Valley such a scarce commodity, ranchers find it tough, however, to raise enough grass to keep the herd alive. Artesian springs that once dotted the meadows have pretty much

dried up or run only for a limited time. Surface water hasn’t come through to many local ranches for years, so ranchers often rely on deep wells and pumping to irrigate their meadows. For the past few years, cattle prices have been at their peak, which helps ranchers offset higher feed costs. Less water means less hay grown and that means that winter feed costs escalate because ranchers are forced to buy hay in the winter. It is not an ideal tradeoff, local ranchers agree, but one they can live with. The drought also has meant more cattle are being brought into the Valley from other locations. While this does not pose a specific disease problem, ranch managers have to vaccinate and manage the herds differently. Some good, healthy calves have resulted from the influx. And with ranching and farming a treasured, generational tradition in the Valley, even though many operations have folded in the drought years, those dedicated to preserving that tradition will no doubt keep trudging on.

Photos by Teresa Benns


A step back in time Alamosa Luther Bean Museum The main gallery features a collection donated by Charles and Beryl Woodard. Two galleries contain artwork by Stephen Quiller, William Moyers and Joseph Henry Sharp. Upstairs, cases contain Native American pottery, including pieces by Maria Martinez, San Ildefonso artist; santos and retablos and weavings, including one by Eppie Archuleta. Hours: Visit lutherbean for hours Admission: Free Info: 719-587-7151 Ryan Geologic Museum In 2004, Mr. Edward M. Ryan donated his collection of more than 5,000 fossils and minerals to Adams State for academic and public use. After exploring several possible homes for his collection, he determined Adams State was “the most perfect place.” Hours: By appointment only Admission: Free Info: 719-587-7921 San Luis Valley Museum The San Luis Valley Museum at 401 Hunt Ave. features educational displays of artifacts, photographs, antiques and collectibles portraying early ranch and farm life, as well as Native American artifacts,

Photo by Jennifer Alonzo



Hispanic settlers, the JapaneseAmerican community, Adams State College, Military regalia and early railroading. Museum displays show what an early mercantile or general store was like, along with a model historic U.S. Post Office of years’ past and a typical country grade school classroom designed around a fictitious Valley town. Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: Adults $2, Children/ students free Info: 719-587-0667 Antonito Conejos County Museum Located at 5252 U.S. Hwy. 285, it features memorabilia from the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, Silo Park, the 1913 Warshauer Mansion and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: Free Info: 719-376-2049 or 1-800835-1098 Creede Creede Historic Museum (pictured on page 53) Located at 17 Main St., in the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad depot, dating back to 1891-92. View old photographs, history reference books, a hand-drawn fire wagon, horse-drawn hearse and Bob Ford

assassination mural. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 1-4 p.m. (Memorial Day through Labor Day) Admission: Adults $2, Children (under age 12) free, Seniors $1, Families $5 Info: 719-658-2004 Underground Mining Museum The museum is at the edge of Creede on Forest Service Rd. No. 9. Built by miners in honor of miners, the museum chronicles the history of nearly 100 years of hard-rock mining and shows how real silver mining was done. Guided tours run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $15 for all ages. Audio tours stop at 2:15 p.m. Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (summer season) Admission: Adults $8, Seniors $6, Children (ages 6-11) $5, Under age 6 free Info: 719-658-0811 Crestone Crestone Historical Museum Located in downtown Crestone at the corner of Galena Avenue and Alder Street exhibits highlight the Gold Rush days (1870-1920) of the Crestone and El Dorado mining districts; 135 years of mountaineering on local 14ers (1877 to present) and the founding and evolution of the 100,000-acre Luis Maria Baca Grant. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.5 p.m. (summer season). Admission: By donation Info: 719-256-4313 weekdays, 719-256-5227 weekends

Photo byTeresa Benns Del Norte Rio Grande County Museum They came for the adventure and more. Stories from the past of individuals and groups who made Rio Grande County history. Stories of Native Americans, fur trappers, settlers from New Mexico, gold seekers, farmers, ranchers, cowboys and merchants are told in exhibits and displays. Seasonal art shows and traveling exhibits are shown during the summer as well Hours: Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission: Adults, $2, Children $1 Info: 719-657-2847, 1-800233-4403, RioGrandeCountyMuseum Lookout Mountain Observatory Not a museum as such, the Lookout Mountain Observatory Association celebrates astronomy in Del Norte, which was once part of the Presbyterian College of the Southwest. Star parties are conducted during the year at the Leo Fontenot Memorial Observatory located behind the Rio Grande County Courthouse, which can be used by active amateur astronomers. Info: 719-852-4971 Fort Garland Fort Garland Museum Historic Fort Garland is a proud historic landmark in the town that bears its name. Fort Garland was once commanded by the legendary Christopher “Kit” Carson and was home to the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (summer season) Admission: Adults $5, Children (ages 6-16) $3.50, Seniors $4.50, Children (under age six) free. Active

military and their families, as well as SLV residents (with proof of residency) have free admission. Info: 719-379-3512 Manassa Jack Dempsey Museum The Jack Dempsey Museum is at 412 Main St., the birthplace of the legendary “Manassa Mauler,” the world’s greatest heavyweight boxer of the 20th century. View a wealth of photos and memorabilia of Dempsey’s legendary career. Hours: Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (summer season) Admission: Free Info: 719-843-5207 Monte Vista Monte Vista History Museum and Transportation of the West Museum The history museum, at 110 Jefferson Ave. (next to Carnegie Library), houses more than 4,000 historical photos, and some memorabilia of Monte Vista and the entire San Luis Valley. To view photos and artifacts regarding transportation and agriculture in the area, visit the Transportation of the West Museum, located at 916 First Ave. History Museum Hours: Tues.Wed., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Transportation Hours: Thurs.Fri., 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. (Summer) Admission: By donation Info: 719-849-9320 Homelake Veterans History Museum (pictured on Page 54) Based at the Colorado State Veterans Center (CSVC) at Homelake, the Veterans History Center houses military and veterans organization artifacts dating back to the 1800s. The center also is home to a growing collection of military records gathered from old CSVC records and military veterans still living who volunteer them.

Founded as the Soldiers and Sailors home to house homeless and elderly Civil war and Spanish American war veterans; 52 of the CSVC structures are listed on the State Register of Historic Places. An on-site veterans history museum houses memorabilia and artifacts gathered over the years, as well as what has come in since 2002 when the Colorado General Assembly passed a statute to establish the center as a repository for all unclaimed military memorabilia. Eventually, all this will be housed in the old administration building, itself a memorial to those who founded the center more than 120 years ago. A volunteer has begun to catalog records, journals, books and memorabilia, some of which date back to the 1800s. Items already catalogued are on display and open to the public in the existing museum. Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-12 p.m., 1-3 p.m. (May through October) Admission: By donation Info: 719-852-5118 Saguache Saguache County Museum (pictured on Page 54) Some call it the best little museum in Colorado, the Saguache County Museum takes visitors on a trip to the pioneering era. Check out what’s cookin’ in the kitchen. Visit the schoolroom, the parlor, or see what an old western jailhouse was like. Which minerals glow the brightest? The Spanish/Indian Room contains artifacts from these two cultures. View arrowheads, saddles and spurs. The museum yard contains antique farm equipment and much more. The gift shop offers a large selection of books, local crafts, t-shirts and caps. Sunday afternoon historical lectures or musical recitals begin in June. Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (summer season)

Admission: Adult $7, Children (under age 12) $1 Info: 719-655-2557 Sanford Sanford Museum Located at 778 Main St. in Sanford. Hours: By appointment only Info: 719-274-4382 San Luis Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center

Closed, call for updates Info: 719-672-0999 For more information on all local museums, visit MuseumTrail. org, sponsored by the San Luis Valley Museum Association, “Your pathway to the history of the San Luis Valley.” Info: 719-5804346, Facebook:,

Courtesy Photo


Got elk?

Anta Grande Elk Ranch

Five miles west of Del Norte on US Highway 160, between mile markers 196 and 197, visitors to the Valley will discover a unique southern Colorado icon. The Anta Grande Elk Ranch is home to docile elk and reindeer and the headquarters of the nationally known and Grande Natural Meats. Grande Natural sells prime cuts of farm-raised USDAinspected elk, buffalo, goat, whitetail deer, red deer and fallow deer, wild boar, rabbit, plus antler sets or mounts, many antler dog chews and even some Alaska Seafood. Owner, Rich Forrest, and his late wife, built the business from scratch starting 18 years ago and have become the nation’s largest elk meat retailer. Together with a charming

Photos by Staci Turner


ranch store, their key to success is the Internet, which gives shoppers across the nation access to healthy, all-natural meat alternatives. The ranch’s quaint log cabin outlet store stocks jerky and sausage, plus various frozen red meat items. Discount meats are always available, as are the nationally distributed game meat dog foods and antler dog chews. Moving meat in large quantities, the inventory of all-natural meats is replenished regularly, guaranteeing customers fresh, recently flash-frozen game products. Their prices are very competitive and some of the lowest in the game meat business. All meats sold by Grande Natural are derived from grass-fed, USDA-inspected deer and elk

free from steroids, antibiotics and animal by-products. The buffalo are grainfinished to ensure juicy, tender steaks. Forrest noted, “Now, everyone can enjoy full-flavored elk or deer meat without the wild gamey taste.” The products are shipped via UPS to some of the finest rest-aurants nationwide, including several local establishments. Additionally, their select meats sell in hundreds of natural grocery stores and chains in an eight-state region. Products are prepared for sale by numerous independent USDA processors, three located in Colorado. Products can be sold to the public in affordable bulk packages ranging from whole animals down to fifth animal bundles of elk and as whole bundles down to one-eighth bundles of buffalo meat. Gift packages and jerky-sausage combos for holiday and special events are also available. A number of their products have been highlighted in magazines and books, including ForbesLife and The Complete Venison Cookbook. Maxim Magazine’s 2010 jerky competition selected Grande Natural Meat’s buffalo pepper jerky to be in the top 10 nationwide. Also, in the winter of 2011 Grande Meats was featured in Cooking Wild Magazine with an article titled “Buying Meat Online.” This was a great compliment, as many of the other stories featured are some of the largest and most well-known providers in the nation. Since game meats are heart-healthy, running 90-95 percent lean, it can be assumed that the business will continue to thrive. “Physicians are recommending buffalo and elk for their cardiac patients much more often, and veterinarians prefer the non-allergenic meat for pets.” A new, rustic shop-freezer building, packed with game meat products seems to substantiate this optimistic claim, well stocked with hundreds of products. So, stop by the ranch and Grande Natural Meats for elk steaks, buffalo burgers, all-natural jerky or sausage, some really great frozen dog food or well-acclaimed antler dog chews. Or just make a trip to view the animals and say “hi.” We’re betting you’ll want to take something home with you. Info: 719-657-0942,


Photo by Ashli Adams



“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~John Muir

Wildlife galore National forests & wildlife refuges

Those who travel to the Valley to photograph cactus varieties and wildflowers abundant in or view wildlife and native plant species have the spring. come to the right place. Bring on the cameras The ranch is located just off Highway 150 and binoculars and enjoy. near the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Mosca. Info: 719-378-2356, Alamosa and Monte Vista national wildlife refuges Russell Lakes The headquarters for both the Alamosa and To reach Russell Lakes from Saguache, go Monte Vista refuges is located four miles east nine miles south on U.S. 285 to CR R, then 1.5 of Alamosa on Highway 160 and two miles miles east to the property, spread across 793 south on El Rancho Lane. To reach the Monte luscious acres. The lakes are open from July Vista Refuge, travel six miles south of the town 16 to Feb. 14. Hunting is permitted for rabbit, of Monte Vista on Highway 15. dove and waterfowl. The lakes are an excellent Among the greasewood and the saltbush on choice for wildlife observation. the 11,169-acre refuge, visitors will discover a Restrictions: wide variety of songbirds, water birds, raptors, •Camping is prohibited except in selfmule deer, beaver and coyotes. contained units in designated areas. The larger Monte Vista Refuge covers 14,084 •Field trials may be authorized in February, acres and boasts waterfowl and birds including March, August and September only. mallards, pintail, teal and Canada geese, also •Visitors may park only in established parking American avocets, killdeer. Info: 719-589-4021 areas. •The lakes are closed except as posted and are Baca National Wildlife Refuge closed after 1 p.m. during the first waterfowl season. Currently the 92,500-acre Baca National Section 29 is closed during waterfowl season. Wildlife Refuge covered by wetlands, sagebrush, and riparian lands in Saguache and National forests Alamosa counties is closed to the public. The Rio Grande National Forest on the Valley’s west side encompasses 1.86 million Blanca Wetlands acres and is one of the primo wilderness treasures There are 158 species of shorebirds take refuge in the state. High up in the San Juan Mountains, at the Blanca Wetlands, birds one would normally the Rio Grande begins its 1,800 mile trek to the expect to find along the seashore. In addition Gulf of Mexico, located in the far western part of to the birds, visitors also will find amphibians, the forest. The Continental Divide runs for 236 mammals, fish and insects. Trails are wheelchair miles along most of the western border of the accessible so that handicapped individuals also forest and the 14-ers and lower peaks topping can enjoy birdwatching at the salty marshlands. the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range forms the The Blanca Wetlands are located 11 miles eastern border. The San Luis Valley, one of the northeast of Alamosa on County Road 2S. Info: largest agricultural alpine valleys in the world, lies between these two ranges.  719-274-8971 The Rio Grande National Forest is open, free of charge, for visitor use and enjoyment, Zapata Ranch/Refuge The 100,000-acre Zapata Ranch next door to although fees may be charged and permits the Great Sand Dunes National Park is home required for some activities and locations. Info: to buffalo, bobcats, coyotes and a plethora of 719-852-5941 bird species, mule deer, elk and horned BLM land lizards. Those staying as guests at The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) the ranch can also take advantage of guided horseback tours of purpose is to preserve wildlife and riparian areas, protect ecosystems, manage river resources, the sand dunes. supervise permitted grazing and allow for Rare recreational activities on its lands. It encompasses 33 miles of the Rio Grande River banks, from the southern border of the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge to the Colorado/New Mexico border. The natural area extends out 1/4 mile on either side of the river, totaling over 10,000 acres. Approximately 35 percent is BLM and the remainder is private land. plants insects native to the area will be Photo and by Staci Turner The BLM prepares public participation of interest and nature lovers will delight in the

Courtesy Photo

plans and involves citizens in implementing these plans for use of the lands. The Rio Grande Natural Area, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, consists of nine members with an interest or responsibility in public land management, including such individuals as conservationists, ranchers, outdoor recreationists, state and local government officials, Tribal officials and academics. The Rio Grande NAC will consist of nine members with an interest or responsibility for public land management, including such individuals as conservationists, ranchers, outdoor recreationists, state and local government officials, Tribal officials, and academics.


Do the dunes your way Great Sand Dunes National Park

The National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 on Aug. 25, 2016, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will celebrate with a free day for all visitors. On this day in 1916, the NPS was established as a federal agency of the Department of the Interior. Then on Aug. 27 the Rapidgrass Quintet, a Fort Collins-based bluegrass band will perform at the outdoor amphitheater in honor of the NPS 100th anniversary from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public of all ages. The park and preserve encompasses 150,000 acres, including Medano Creek wetlands, Medano Ranch, San Luis Lake State Park and San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area. Add to this the sand dunes themselves and the possibilities for enjoying the park are endless. Grasslands, shrublands and wetlands surround the tallest dunes in North America on

Photo by Patrick Myers/NPS


three sides, providing countless opportunities for nature lovers and explorers. Set at the base of the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, the Great Sand Dunes are home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife, existing in a unique ecosystem preserved for all to enjoy.

Sandboarding in the dunes Visitors are permitted to slide, ski, or sled on the dunes wherever vegetation is not visible. Cardboard won’t work, but sandboards or snowboards will. Anything slick and flat on the bottom will do the trick, but wait till the dunes have had some moisture before trying to ski or sled. Visitors may ski and sled on the snow-covered dunes in winter as well. Sandboards can be rented from the Oasis store just outside the park entrance 719-378-2222, open April-October) or at Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa, 719589-9759.

Explore on horseback For guests staying at the historic Zapata Ranch adjacent to the park, guided horseback trips are currently available. Most of the national park and the entire national preserve are open to those wishing to ride their own horses. For information on where horses are not allowed. Go to: http:// horse-and-pack-animal-use.htm. The only licensed provider of horseback riding in the national park is Zapata Partners. Rides are provided only to overnight guests at the historic Zapata Ranch.

Photo by Ashli Adams

The rugged road winds through soft sand around the eastern side of the dunefield, up into a mountain canyon forest, topping Medano Pass at 10,000 feet. Eventually the road joins up with Highway 69 in the Wet Mountain Valley. Average speed of the trip is 5-10 miles. Especially in early summer, portions of Medano Creek can run Go four-wheel or fat bike High clearance four-wheel drive deep. Info: 719-378-6395 vehicles can use the Medano Pass Hiking and backpacking four-wheel-drive road, although Hiking and backpacking are the road is not suited to small sport utility vehicles. Fat bikes are also permitted throughout the park but welcome on the Primitive Road. there are no set trails. A free dune’s Medano Pass, part of the accessible wheelchair is available mountain watershed of the Great on loan for exploring the dunes at Sand Dunes, affords drivers a the visitor’s center. For historic trail routes, try the wealth of scenic views. Montville Nature Trail, a forested trail named for a late 19th century settlement once

Zapata Falls

Photo by NPS sporting some 20 houses. At trail’s end hikers will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the dunes, valley and Mt. Herard. Beware of hunters on the nearby nature reserve in the fall. Mosca Pass Trail, also lined with aspens and evergreens, is a scenic route used by American Indians and early settlers to enter the valley. It takes anywhere from two to three hours to reach the pass.

kids and adults. Summer ranger programs and extended visitor center hours begin May 27 and last through Labor Day weekend. The visitor center will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for visitors to receive more information. Be sure to sign up early for Kids Junior Ranger Day June 4. The outdoor amphitheater will host evening programs four times a week. Daily afternoon programs and sunset programs will allow visitors to learn more about Ranger programs Those visiting the sand dunes this geology, hydrology, biology and year also can look forward to a host history. Info: 719-378-6343, www. of special ranger programs for both

Zapata Falls is a great side trip when visiting the sand dunes offering spectacular views. Summer afternoons are the best time to visit the falls. Those making the trek will be rewarded with magnificent views of the vast dunefield and the entire San Luis Valley, especially at sunrise or sunset. Those traveling to the falls should be aware that the trip is inadvisable for those unsteady on their feet. While walking, hikers should watch for Photo by Jeremy Alonzo slippery rocks. Water may be deep and swift, especially in early summer during snowmelt. Rarely, rocks may fall from above into the chasm. But with a few safety precautions the trip is well worth the effort, so don’t forget the camera! To reach the falls from the dunes visitors center, drive south about eight miles along Highway 150, then turn east onto a gravel road. Drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead. Info:

Photo by Patrick Myers/NPS


Nature’s treasures Flowers and fungi

Among towering mountains many varieties of flowers and mushrooms grace the San Luis Valley. Though, visitors can find flowers and mushrooms in many different Valley locations, those discoveries can be made much more informational with experienced guides. Wildflowers Those who choose to travel around on their own to find wildflowers will see them bloom from June to September. They grow along roadways, as well in meadows in every direction. They include flax, Indian paintbrush and wild iris, to name a few. The Colorado state flower, the Columbine, ranges in color from lavenders to pinks, to whites. State law regulates picking these flowers.

Creede Caldera/ Wheeler Geologic Area Magma (liquid rock) seeping up into the Creede Caldera (crater) actually pushed it upward creating a dome, one of nature’s many rock wonders in the area. Creede Caldera is one of several smaller calderas (including Bachelors and San Luis), comprising the huge La Garita Caldera, created by an ancient super volcano that spewed 5,000 cubic kilometers of ash some 30 million years ago, scientists estimate. This can be compared to the 1.2 cubic kilometers deposited by Mt. St. Helen’s in 1980. It is the largest known eruption of its kind. Wheeler Geologic Monument or

Photo by Teresa Benns


Mushrooms Going into forested areas visitors find many varieties of mushrooms, but they must be cautious when checking out the different fungi, as some are poisonous. This activity is most successful in late summer. When finding mushrooms: •Moisture – Mushrooms will likely flourish in damp areas of the forest. •Consistency —Hunters may be able to find mushrooms in the same location year after year. •Elevation—Growth of the mushrooms will vary depending on elevation, just a few hundred feet can affect the likelihood of finding the fungi. •Location—Mushrooms are

Photos by Staci Turner

found in forests, along trails, gravel roads and stream banks. •Timing—August is the best month for mushroom hunting in the San Luis Valley. A mushroom foray will be held on Aug. 5 and 6. For both wildflowers and various fungi, the best thing to take home is a photograph. Info: 719-873-5512,

Rock formations

Wheeler Geologic Area (pictured at right) lies just outside Creede. The 640 acres of volcanic spires reaching for the sky have inspired many to return again and again to this amazing cumulative mound of solidified, layered and weathered volcanic ash. Both the Creede Caldera and the Wheeler area are difficult to access so are lightly traveled. The awesome immensity and antiquity of the area is a consistent draw to visitors looking for a day trip. The Creede Visitors Center can direct tourists to the area. Info: 719-658-2374, www.

a gathering place for the Penitentes Penitente Canyon of northern New Mexico, a Catholic Penitente Canyon was historically religious sect. “Welded tuff rock” found in Penitente is the same type of solidified rock deposits found in the Creede area and issue from the same source — the La Garita super volcano. Penitente’s craggy minipeaks draw climbers from all over the world. Some 60-70 different climbing routes are available and south-facing routes can be accessed year-round. No rock bolting is allowed at the recreation area. To reach Penitente, take County Road G (La Garita turnoff) off Hwy.

Photo by Ashli Adams

285 and go eight miles to the La Garita store. Just past the store, go left (after the pavement ends) on County Road 38. At the one-mile mark, turn right where the main road turns south and take the middle of the three roads. Follow the signs. La Garita Natural Arch On the way to Penitente, visitors will find Forest Road 660, just past Old Woman Creek/Canyon, a dirt/ gravel road turns north for several miles to the La Garita Natural Arch (pictured at left), another of the area’s volcanic wonders. Info: 719-657-3321

Mileage from Alamosa

Albuquerque, NM........................................... 205 miles Amarillo, TX................................................... 352 miles Austin, TX....................................................... 892 miles Chama, NM .................................................... 79 miles Cheyenne, WY ............................................... 343 miles Dallas, TX ...................................................... 721 miles Las Vegas, NV ................................................ 800 miles Lincoln, NE .................................................... 724 miles Oklahoma City, OK ........................................ 582 miles Phoenix, AZ ................................................... 722 miles Salt Lake City, UT........................................... 540 miles Santa Fe, NM ................................................. 173 miles Taos, NM ........................................................ 90 miles Canon City...................................................... 139 miles Colorado Springs............................................. 163 miles Denver............................................................. 215 miles Durango........................................................... 149 miles Fort Collins..................................................... 274 miles Grand Junction................................................ 249 miles Gunnison......................................................... 122 miles Pagosa Springs................................................ 89 miles Pueblo.............................................................. 122 miles Salida............................................................... 83 miles Trinidad........................................................... 109 miles Topeka, KS ......................................................629 miles

Photography The San Luis Valley offers no end of amazing scenic backdrops and activities worth photographing. But, it pays to be prepared before heading out to capture those fantastic memories. Backup batteries or a charger and a spare memory card should be packed along. Once you reach your destination be sure to experiment with different kinds of light and snap pictures throughout the day. Shooting with the sun directly behind you has been the rule of thumb for years, but taking photos from different angles can help to create texture and shadows. Photo by Lyndsie Ferrell Amateur photographers can also find a bit of adventure in taking pictures with unique compositions. Many candid shots feature a family member standing directly in the middle of the picture with an interesting scene behind them. Mix up the arrangement a bit by resisting the urge to include everything in one picture; simple is often better. Photographers can also increase the interest by moving the subject away from the center and balance it with the rest of the photo. The most important thing to remember in collecting those vacation and outdoor moments is to enjoy the experience.


A few last things Advertisers’ index

Absolute Shine.............................................19 Adams State University.................................5 Alamosa Family Recreation Center...............7 Alamosa Home...............................................9 Alamosa Round-Up.......................................7 Altitude Fitness............................................41 Blue Eyed Bear Boutique.............................19 Boogies Restaurant......................................41 Bucks & Bulls Hunting Emporium..............23 Burris & Sons Bucking Bulls.......................19 Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant.......................1 Cattails Golf Course.....................................37 Colorado Gators Reptile Park......................31 Conejos County Tourism.............................17 Creede Arts Council.....................................47 Creede Chamber ..................inside back cover Antlers Riverside Restaurant & Lodge Big River Music Broken Arrow Ranch & Land Co. Cafe Ole Creede Snowshoe Lodge The Holy Moses Kentucky Belle Market Mountain Views RV Resort Off Broadway Rare Things Gallery of Treasures Rincon Real Estate Creede Historical Society............................55 Creede Rock & Mineral Show.....................13 Creede Underground Mining Museum........55 Crestone Historical Museum........................55 Crestone Music Festival...............................15 Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad..............51 Doc’s Outdoor Sports...................................29 Early Iron Festival........................................11 Elephant Cloud Market................................15 Francisco Fort Museum...............................35 Grande Natural Meats..................................57 Haefeli’s Honey Farms................................41 Jack’s Market of Del Norte..........................22

Purchase In Colorado, only those 21 and older can purchase marijuana by presenting a valid, government-issued ID. Out-of-state residents can purchase up to one-quarter ounce at a time.

Jade Communications..................................11 Kathy’s Fabric Trunk...................................41 Kavleys Business & Tech Center.................11 Ken’s Service Center....................................41 Kristi Mountain Sports.................................61 La Garita Trading Post.................................41 Mark’s Outdoor Sports...................................5 Mill Creek Ranch at Old Cow Town...........31 Monte Vista Co-op.......................................19 Monte Vista Golf Club.................................37 Ooh La Spa & Boutique...............................13 Pagosa Chamber...........................................25 Peak Motorsports...................................29, 61 Quiller Gallery.............................................47 Rainbow Grocery...................................... 24 Rio Costilla Park..........................................33 Rio Grande County Tourism.................. 21-24 Rio Grande County Museum.......................22 Rio Grande Hospital............inside front cover Rio Grande Pharmacy..................................41 Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.........................35 Saguache County Tourism...........................14 Saguache Recreation/Chamber....................15 San Luis Valley Prevention Coalition Network..............................................5, 10 San Luis Valley Tourism Association..........63 Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area........33 Shades, Quilts, Etc...................................... 23 Silver Thread Quilt Guild............................19 Spirit of the Wild Horse...............................45 Splashland Hot Springs................................37 Sunflour Bakery...........................................23 The Bridge..................................... back cover Twin Pines Motor Sports.............................59 UFO Watchtower.........................................31 Upper Rio Grande Events & Recreation Complex.................................................13 Valley Publishing...........................................3 Valley-Wide Health Systems.......................11

Marijuana quick facts

DUID laws The legal limit in Colorado is 5 nano-grams of active THC to be considered substantially impaired, depending on the concentration of the product smoked or ingested. The levels for most individuals will fall below 5 ng/ml three hours after consumption.

Photo by Staci Turner

Altitude sickness When planning a trip to the San Luis Valley, keep in mind that much of the area sits above 7,800 ft. Symptoms of high altitude sickness include headache, lightheadedness, weakness, trouble sleeping and an upset stomach. These most often pass as your body adjusts. If you have confusion and difficulty breathing, even while resting, consult a doctor immediately. Severe high altitude sickness can be treated with doctor prescribed medications. A simple way to prevent altitude sickness is to take traveling to a higher altitude slowly, rest often and drink plenty of water. Those with certain lung and heart problems are encouraged to consult their physician before visiting the Valley.

Photo by Judy Barnes Photography

About edibles Be careful consuming edibles. Always check the THC content; be aware that edibles may take several hours to register a high. Overindulgence can have severe medical consequences. Always keep edibles out of the reach of children.

Consumption Transportation Public consumption remains illegal; it is THC concentrations Marijuana cannot be transported in a vehicle prohibited in national parks, on federal lands, at Watch the THC content of the product unless it is in the trunk of a car. It cannot be ski areas or outdoors. A hotel has the right to forbid being used to avoid over-imbibing; Colorado transported across state lines once purchased in Colorado. it, just as they forbid pets and cigarette smoking. marijuana is known for its potency.


, e m ti y a d e th in y a d “It’s day all ~Cy Warman

Breakfast & Lunch Baked Goods Marsha & Ms. Jennie

103A N. Main Street • Creede, CO 719-658-2880

2016 Summer on the Rio Grande  

Summer visitors guide to the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.