Today our adventure took us to the Great Sand Dunes, about 25 miles from where we are parked in Alamosa, Colorado. It was quite a spectacular trip, seeing all this sand in the middle of the valley, and surrounded by mountains. We had a nice hike, climbing high in the hills to get a spectacular views of the dunes.
The dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, glaciers feeding the river and the vast lake that existed upon the valley melted, and the waters evaporated. Westerly winds picked up sand particles from the lake and river flood plain. As the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues, and the dunes are slowly growing. The wind changes the shape of the dunes daily.
Deep in the heart of the San Luis Valley, you can find a impressive set of murals. These murals, painted on structures on public as well as private land, reflect the history of this area. Most of these were by Fred Haberlein, known locally as “Lightning Heart”. He is one of the most prolific mural painters in the country. To see these murals, you will have to drive almost 100 miles through very rural USA. Some roads are even dirt, but the trip is worth it.
Below are a few of the highlights.
Colorado Springs is a neat city in a great location. Today we did a quick hike, on a trail system starting in the city limits. The recent rains has made for a lot of mud, but we had a nice hike anyway. Not shown in the pictures is the wonderful view of Pikes Peak, which today unfortunately was somewhat hidden by the clouds.
The Royal Gorge (also Grand Canyon of the Arkansas) is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Cañon City, Colorado. With a width of 50 feet (15 m) at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of 1,250 feet (380 m) in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak. It is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado.
In the early 1900’s, Canon City wanted a different water source and built an 8 mile long water pipeline. It was made from California redwood, and was used until the 1970’s. The wood is still in such good shape that it has been declared a Historical Site to prevent people form taking it all.
This stretch of the Arkansas River is one of the busiest white water rafting areas in the country. Couple that with many zip lines, some across the canyon and some connecting different areas, this is a very popular tourist attraction. There are many ways to visit and see this scenic wonder— from a train in the canyon bottom, on a bridge (or gondola) at the top, or hiking along the rim. The weather cooperated just enough so we could do all three. And, if you are brave, you can take a zip line across the top of the gorge (no, we didn’t).
If you ever go through Canon City, CO make sure to stop for a wine tasting at the Winery at Holy Cross Abby. This abby, built in 1924, was used by Benedictine Monks and the Roman Catholic Church. It was used primarily as a boys school, but closed in 1982 because of declining enrollment. It continued to function as a monastery until 2005, and eventually wound down and was sold in 2007 to an investment firm.
Today, it is a popular event center, used for weddings, receptions, meetings, and so on. The Benedictine monks had planted grapes and established a wine making capability. This continues to this day as one of Colorado’s favorite wineries. And why not? They have a large variety of wines, ranging from sweet one to full body wines. And, they were really excellent and even better, complimentary (except for the two special reserves, which were $1 each).
So we lugged a half case of wines home, including a special gift of a sweet wine (for Ida Cook) and a very special full bodied Red for daughter Tanya Allen. At least, if we can keep our hands off them till we get home….
We are parked in the 4 Seasons RV Park in Salida, Colorado. We are here for a rally with our friends of the Pikes Peak Rollers. It’s nice to catch up with old friends, enjoy some good food, and appreciate the local scenery.
Founded in 1880, Salida was originally a railroad town and was a significant link in the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. After World War II the railroad began pulling back its operations in Salida. Many residents in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s worked either in local ranching operations or commuted north to Leadville to work at the Climax Molybdenum Company. Today, the most prominent business in Salida is tourism, consisting of skiing at Monarch Ski Area, whitewater rafting, kayaking and outfitting, particularly on the Arkansas River. In addition, fishing in the Arkansas River is a big attraction.
A group of RV travel friends, members of the Traveling Supremes and friends, met and stayed in San Marcos, TX to visit the area. We had a fun time together, visited the many historical sites of the area, and of course sampled the local cuisine… barbecue!
Our first visit was to the LBJ library, where we had a chance to revisit the history of the LBJ presidency. This was followed by a visit to the Bullock Texas State History Museum, where we learned more about Texas and its founding. I highly recommend this to anyone, not just Texans… very interesting! That evening, Dave Phillips brought in the “Fajita King”, who made some excellent Fajitas from scratch.
Our next visit was to the San Marcos Springs, a natural spring site located on (or near) Texas State University. There we visited the aquarium and took a glass bottom boat tour to see the bottom of the lake and the springs themselves. A pot luck meal completed another satisfying day.
Then, another trip took us to the Texas State Capital building, where a guided tour introduced us to the largest state capital building in the US. The history of this marble building was a story all to itself. Most interesting! After this we visited the University of Texas, and went to the top of the Clock Tower, notorious for being one of first public mass murders in recent history.
A final meal at the Grist Mill in Gruene helped end a most interesting visit. Thanks to the Phillips and Hoovers for putting together a fun gathering!