San Luis Valley: Come for the scenery. Stay for the UFOs.

One of the teepees at Joyful Journey Hot Springs

If you've never been to Colorado's San Luis Valley, you really must go. Really.

At 8,000 square miles, the SLV is the largest alpine valley in the world, rimmed on the east by the preening, steriodal Sangre de Cristos and on the west by the craggy San Juans. The valley floor itself is thirsty and dry and pocked with prickly pear cactus, sage and rabbitbrush. Underneath this arid expanse slosh two major aquifirs--fightin' words in these parts--but the Valley has managed to hold on to its water, making it a center for potato growing and other crops happy in harsh desert climes.

The Utes identified the Valley as a place of spiritual healing and potential. In the vernacular of the New Age movement, the SLV is an energy votex, a place where the energy is conducive to spiritual growth. Sedona, Arizona, a Mecca for votex fans, has profited from its perceived vortexes and proximity to Phoenix, whereas the SLV, far from any maddening urban crowds, remains largely undiscovered, a unique mix of Spanish and Mexican families--who have been here so long, it makes the Pilgrims seem like newbies--hardy ranchers, retirees, artists and other seekers.

We went to take the waters. The San Luis Valley has several hot springs and we chose Joyful Journey, where the water comes out of the ground at a scalding 140 degrees and loaded with lithium. The staff at Joyful Journey Hot Springs maintain three varying temperatures in the pools, which range from 98 to 110 degrees. Pool chatter is always interesting and this time spanned topics as far reaching as the Mayan calendar, cattle growth hormones, cutthroat trout, the comparative merits of Ojo Caliente--a New Mexican springs--yak meat and whether or not the pools were hot enough.


It was our first time staying in a yurt, which is a sturdy round "tent" used by Central Asian nomads. Yurts are environmentally friendly in that they sit on temporary foundations and when removed leave no trace. Given the summer heat and skylight, our yurt was sweltering when we arrived but cooled down beautfully after nightfall. After all the soaking and lolling and sweating, we slept like cats.

Morning came early to the yurt village. One denizen took it upon herself to share her morning prayers with everyone at dawn. This is endemic of life in the Valley. People come here to become enlightened and they don't care who hears.

On Saturday we mosied to Crestone, home to more than 25 religious and spiritual organizations. In addition to being one of the most beautiful small towns on earth--shaded as it is by some of Colorado's brashest peaks--it's notable for attracting a hyper-progressive citizenry. If you want to see homes built from old tires, grab a yak burger and get a colonic, check out Crestone.


Comments (1) -

July 19. 2010 13:56


Love the pics.  The yurt looks cozy! Sounds like a really interesting weekend.  Hope you had a great time.

Caitlin |

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