Art and Connie's 2008-2011 Adventures travel blog

People hiking up the dunes

A view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the dunes

Near the top of the dunes

Must be a great book!

Interesting movement of sand along the dunes

A sneaker full of sand. Its like walking with shoes two sizes...

A view from the Mosca Trail

We are playing tourist in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. It is a rural, desert terrain. It is primarily agricultural with potatoes as one of the main crops. It is surrounded by mountains which is what most people think about when you mention Colorado not a flat desert.

Since this area is in a valley, we thought that the seasons would be milder then most of Colorado. We’ve since found out that the growing season is around 90 days. Yet long enough to produce carrots, potatoes, spinach, alfalfa and barley. The summer season has a dry climate, cool nights and access to shallow irrigation water. However, Alamosa, one of he cities in the valley that lies at 7500 ft. elevation is often the coldest spot in the nation. Alamosa is routinely 20 degrees colder then Colorado’s Front Range. Winter temperatures routinely drop below 30 degrees below zero. It’s so cold that you can drive a vehicle across the frozen ponds for about 3 months of the year.

Railroads played a major part in the development of the area and still play a role but in the form of scenic tourist train trips. The area is home to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Hot springs can be found across this valley.

We are currently at a small RV Park in a very, very small town called Hooper. The RV Park (which only has 10 sites) is not their major business. They also operate pools that are artesian fed. All of the local folks from the surrounding area use these pools year round. The temperature of the main pool is around 98.5 degrees and the temperature of the therapeutic pool is around 105 degrees. Could you image jumping into one of these pools in the middle of winter!

Right now, the monsoon season hasn’t arrived so the weather has been good. We visited the Great Sand Dunes twice. The dunes are very different from the White Sand Dunes National Park in New Mexico. Unlike the White Sand Dunes which are made up of gypsum and are surrounded by desert, the dunes here are more diverse. The dunes are nestled right up against the 14,000 feet Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In the spring, a seasonal creek runs right at the base of the dune field which supports a more diverse plant and wildlife. The valley is a major bird migration area.

Within the Sand Dunes Park, we did two very different hikes. One day we hiked the Mosca Trail which meandered through forests and meadows (complete with swarming mosquitoes) and the next day we climbed to the top of the 650’ sand dunes. What a contrast!

We have a couple of other things planned before we leave the area. Later this week, we’ll tour an 82 acre solar station located just down road from the RV Park. It is the largest installation in the U.S. operated by SunEdison. Colorado legislatures have mandated that by 2020, 30% of their electricity must come from alternative fuel. I have lots of questions for them on solar energy. We also hope to do another hike, this time at Penitente Canyon, assuming we can find the trailhead.

So stayed tuned for more adventures in Colorado.

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