This post is sharing only a small portion of the discoveries we made of the San Luis Valley during our recent 5 week stay in Southwestern Colorado. To the east of the San Luis Valley is a portion of the Rockies, Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range. Blanca Peak is the highest peak of this mountain range, at 14,345 feet. Besides Blanca peak, there are more than 20 other peaks and 8 of them are also higher than 14,000 feet. The valley below these peaks holds a mighty view and a handful of history.
To the west is the wall of the San Juan Mountains. According to the www.museumtrail.org the San Luis Valley is slightly smaller than Massachusetts at approximately 125 X 65 miles and sits at an altitude of 7,500 – 81,00 feet. Making this one of the highest high deserts of the world. If we were to take a panoramic photo of the mountains surrounding us, I would have had to take close to 10 separate photos and tack them together to show the entire 360 degree view.
A few sights we took interest in or stumbled across were: The Rio Grande River, Great Sand Dunes, Pike Stockade, Ft Garland, The Cumbres & Toltec Railroad along with The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
We love history so, one day we set out to locate the church known to be the oldest church in Colorado. We found a burned structure on the way that happened to also have been a church in its time. The cemetery in the rear of the property had visitors while we roamed the remnants of the burned down building so we made our visit quite short and continued onto the church we were actually seeking.
We located Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Antonito and strolled around the brick building with history dating back to 1863. It was clear, the town of Antonito didn’t have much for us but it appeared visitors are common to the congregation that had recently been released from service and we felt quite welcome exploring the church building. The décor of the church is colorful and filled with great detail.
I found Ft Garland extremely interesting and will be posting a separate post about that visit.
Alamosa was a nice and quiet town with the exception of the college. 😊 Alamosa is the home of Adams State University founded in 1921. The school was originally a teacher’s college and today ASU has an approximate enrollment of 3,700 students and has recently gone through extensive renovations.
Other interesting pieces we located were the railroads. The Rio Grande Railroad came to Alamosa from Denver in the 1870’s and the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad was built in 1880. Both of these railroads provide scenic tours today. The Cumbres & Toltec Railroad runs from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico. Although I have not yet experienced this scenic train ride myself, I have heard nothing but praises about the trip and plan to enjoy the scenic tour when possible. The Rio Grande railroad has many excursions and special events on its schedule too.
The Pike Stockade was an interesting experience for me. I learned, Lt Zebulon Pike, the same Pike that Pike’s Peak is named after, led an U.S. Army expedition of the new southwest in 1806 – 1807. They crossed over the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and got caught in winter weather. Information is provided at the foothills of the Mountain range, near the Great Sand dunes indicating exactly where they crossed. While the replica of the stockade is miles south near the town of Sanford. After crossing the mountain range, the weather hindered some of the force while others were able to continue until he decided it would be best to build protection and wait out the winter. They were captured by Spanish authority’s and taken to Mexico. Pike was later released and died in action in Canada at the age of 34. You can see in the picture below, apparently a tree has fallen over the winter and has caused much damage.
Of course a little wildlife and old homes caught our attention throughout our time in the San Luis Valley.
I’m sure those homes could tell stories if they had voices.