Aliens, Gold, and Blues Hockey (L)

After a blissful slumber, we were ready to hit the sand dunes again. This time, the goal was to summit the largest sand dune in North America, Star Dune. Mission accomplished in a bit under 2 hours. The toughest part was a 45 degree scramble up toward the top of High Dune on First Ridge because the sand was loose and your foot falls half a foot down the dune each step you take up it. After summiting, though, the view was totally worth it. And I (not Sarah) brought my sled with me. Here’s a video of me *gracefully* sledding down the tallest sand dune on the continent.

And another taken in a matter I dub ‘go semi-pro’.

Apparently, May is peak season for the park because the creek is at its highest.

Standing in the stream at the base of the sand dunes.

The season features dozens of school groups interspersed between tourists and nature buffs. Taking a few steps out of the central creek bed bought us a pretty little secluded spot with another gorgeous view.

After returning our sleds, we mosied on North past CO’s own ‘Alien Watchtower’. In 2000, a lady set up a watchtower that slowly evolved into a little garden. World renown psychics and CIA operatives alike have paid visits to this sight. For a steep $2 pp entry fee, an eccentric employee eagerly enlightened us on the various sightings in the area, flipping through photos and relating local lore. Apparently, this small valley between the Sand Dunes and Rockies is home to more UFO sightings per capita than any other place on earth.

Supposedly, the two small aliens figurines on the side mark vortexes or portals into other dimensions. The portals’ energy fields flow in opposite directions and they overlap in a twister of madness around the large alien in the middle. Apparently, pictures taken over that spot frequently turn out strange. While the photo album inside the store can confirm this, our cameras could not…

Next stop was CO’s self-proclaimed spiritual capital, Crestone. This town features a potpourri of retirees, artists, and monks. The town’s chief promoter bought up a ton of land donated it to any religion of lineage (not a new age cult) who wanted it. The road that reaches many of the 27 religious establishments was under construction but we did get to stop by a Tibetan Stuppa and learn about Shumei. The Shumei center even came with a guided tour, a helpful video, and a cup of green tea.

After a quick stop by the Zen center (unstaffed) and a road-side picnic, we scoped out the towns last can’t-miss attraction: funky houses. Got to love laissez-faire zoning laws!

Before we knew it, we’d spent most of our day poking through curiosities. The next stop was Canon City. The only reason I know about this place is because a couple years ago, a friend and I picked up a hitchhiker, freshly released from jail, and he gave us a quick tour of his home town. If you’re in South Colorado, Skyline drive in Canon City is not to miss.

Descending the narrow ridge, we found ourselves on main street and figured, what the heck, why not stroll up and down the avenue. Just before we gave up on this town – almost everything on main street was closed at 8:30PM!!! – we found a smoky old dive bar juxtaposing self-mumbling town drunks with blue collar hipsters playing trivia and bikers racking up pool balls. It was quite an authentic experience. As if that wasn’t enough, the special was $3 craft beers so these two weary travelers happily imbibed! The icing on the cake was that the bartender was kind enough to throw the Blues game on (let’s not talk about the game) so we sat there watching our team and soaking in authentic small-town CO nightlife!

As Sarah snoozed, I drove to our final resting place for the night, CO Springs. The next morning started with a hike around a classic CO landmark: Garden of the Gods. It was Sarah’s first time and although she isn’t much of climber, she wanted in on the action as well. We wrapped up our pleasant stroll to take care of some administrative work… SIGNING CLOSING DOCUMENTS FOR OUR NEW HOUSE!!! (Still waiting for it all to go through).

Afterwards, we drove to Manitou Springs, a town founded on many natural springs. Some of these go right into the middle of town so you can fill up water bottles. After sampling a few springs and a nice picnic, we also decided to fill our bladders with the local beer: Manitou Brewing Company. We were impressed to find such a diverse and tasty selection in a small touristy town. Highly recommend the brewery and the cutesy town.

The time came to start the trek to Denver to meet our friends Katherine and Adam for dinner. And dine we did! After our feast we had a little fun at the restaurant playground before going back to Adams to relax a bit and sleep.

The next day found us up bright and early again (been waking up before 6:15 every day!). First stop was the Red Rocks to check out the famous amphitheater.

The drive to the day’s second destination was not so direct. What we planned to be a quick stop for gas turned into a few hour delay. We found ourselves in what was once the richest square mile in the world, Central City/Black Hawk, the epicenter of Colorado’s Gold Rush. After snooping around outside an abandoned mine (bet you can guess which one of us preferred to stay in the car), we decided to pan for gold with a few grizzled guides who set up camp at the base of a mountain. While we didn’t strike it rich, we each found a few flecks to load into our vials, and were generally richer for the experience. After the gold rush, the prospectors left but their vices remained. Now these two towns with hardly 1000 residents between them host over 30 casinos! Not being big gamblers, it was enough for us to lunch at one of them.

After the detour, we finally made it to our big hike for the day: hanging lake. It is a lake that seems out of place so high up in the mountains but we were glad to see it there! Having hit the trail earlier than the rest of our bus group (we had to get bussed in), we were able to enjoy 10 minutes of solitude at the lake while the rest of the group caught up. Behind the lake was a gorgeous waterfall that you could walk right up to! We loved it. After coming down from the lake and a 2 hour drive, we set up camp for the night in Colorado National Monument.

2 thoughts on “Aliens, Gold, and Blues Hockey (L)

  1. All I can say is WOW! It’s only the first week, but you have already done sooooo much! Nature seems to be beautiful everywhere, pictures and videos you posted certainly reflect that. Very impressed by those free style houses in Crestone. And by your Texas ranger hat 🙂 I bet air in CO is as I remember it – drinkable…
    Hope you will continue having a great time and see more interesting places! Waiting for your next blog chapter.
    Love you both,
    Your A. V.


  2. Thank you both for finding time to share your stories and pictures. It’s definitely not that easy to find a Wi-Fi connection in a rural bar or on the hike :). We appreciate you.
    You probably have much more pictures in your cameras. But from the ones that you posted, I like unnamed bird from Little Sahara State park and a young deer, Red Rocks, the hanging lake looks so peaceful. And 2 of my favorite are – picture of Sarah at the Great Sand Dunes National park and where two of you so close to the waterfall. 30 casinos for 1000 people – that is funny. Looking forward for more stories and more pictures.
    Love, mama Lucy


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