Guide On Exploring The San Luis Valley

May 14, 2022 0 Comments

Having driven in the San Luis Valley almost every year with my family since I was a child, I know this route as well as the directions to my parents’ house. I noticed the time it takes to reach the valley from each remarkable landmark. I know I always have to stop at the Poncha Springs gas station for snacks and Coney Island in Bailey for lunch. I know where and when traffic is going to get stuck when swarms of people are trying to get home after a weekend in the mountains. But most of all, I know the euphoric feeling of finally descending the Poncha Pass into the beautiful San Luis Valley.

The valley is located at an average elevation of 7,664 feet in southern Colorado and covers an area about the size of Connecticut. The dry, sagebrush-covered plains stretch over arid sand dunes, while the snow-capped 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains emerge in the distance. Over time, the winds swept through the valley, beating thousands and thousands of pounds of sand into the Sangre De Cristos and creating sand dunes hundreds of feet high. The same force that brought the sand seems to have given the San Luis Valley and the people who inhabit it an inevitable strangeness and beauty.

Climbing in the sand requires efforts similar to walking in the water: one step up, sink into the sand, step back half a step, empty your tennis shoes and continue. I imagine that the monotony of the hike to the top with a view of the dunes resembles the hike through the Sahara, but in the valley you can always turn to the Sangre De Cristos that appears in the distance.

The summer I entered college, my dad and I spent the whole morning walking through the sand to reach the top of the star Dune, the highest of the sand dunes in the park at an altitude of 750 feet. I was sitting on top of the dune with the Sangre De Cristos right in front of me and the San Luis Valley stretching for miles beyond. The plump afternoon sun burned directly through layers of sun protection on my pale skin and a strong, hot wind whipped sand into my eyes. The sweat that had accumulated on my skin from the hike looked like a sand magnet. My sneakers were filled with sand. My skin was gritty with sand. My Clothes were covered with Sand.

As I sat at the top of the dune, watching ant-sized people running far down the stream, it started to hail. The wind whipped pebble-sized balls of ice mixed with sand in my face. In a few minutes I didn’t sweat anymore, but I froze. There was no cloud in the sky.

I have heard stories of lightning striking in the valley during freezing snowstorms and rainstorms in the middle of summer. Although the San Luis Valley is a desert, you can’t expect sunshine. Unpredictability creates the strange beauty of the place.

Inside the building, the putrid smell of stale water and damp reptile feces mingles with the floral scent of visiting tourists. The constant noise of water flowing into the reptile reservoirs fills every corner. The water flows, squirts and gargles behind the glass to simulate a more lush and humid environment in the dry San Luis Valley. African Sulcate turtles and alligators sit in their stables with semi-open eyes. Sometimes Children cringe from Fear or Joy, when their Parents for a Photo with Mr. Bo Mangles poses. In the souvenir shop, a tattooed man with big muscles and a blue Mohawk shouts: “In five minutes, the Gator action will take place outside the park. If you want to see if you are tough enough to action an Alligator, talk to me at the reception.”Gargle. Splash. Squeak. All the sounds bounce in the musty walls of the Reptile Park. Every visitor begins to adopt the smell of muddy reptile feces and floral fragrance.

I visited the reptile park for the first time in the same year, when my father and I climbed to the top of the star dune. The day before we arrived at the reptile park, one of the older alligators died and some of them started snacking by their side at night. To mitigate possible conflicts over food, the park decided that it would be better to cut the dead Alligator and feed it to the survivors. Fair and honest. And they decided to turn the party into a show.

As I got older, the strange allure of the San Luis Valley became stronger. Summer visits are preferable, but this is no longer always feasible and I turned to the winter months to repair my San Luis. During the winter holidays of my first year of study, I focused on the valley again. Instead of car camping with my family during the summer, I forced my friend at the time to hike through the brutal cold of Great Sand Dune National Park in January.

The authentic Thai Restaurant was too big for the number of customers it seemed to receive. No music was playing as we waited for our waitress to take our orders, and the silence was overwhelming as our voices echoed from the walls. Bright red and golden tassels hung throughout the large room, but otherwise decorations were scarce. The greasy smell of stir-fries and Sriracha hung in the air and the voices of a man and a woman speaking a foreign language penetrated from the back of the restaurant to our Stand. A middle-aged woman with a strong Thai accent and long black hair served us Cup by cup a strong jasmine tea.

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