San Luis Valley and Central Colorado
The San Luis Valley is a study in contrasts, evident in the 7,000-foot elevation gain from the low-lying valley floor to 14,345-foot Blanca Peak. The Great Sand Dunes are reminiscent of the Sahara Desert. Fourteen-thousand-foot peaks, the spire-like Crestone Needle and its neighbor Crestone Peak, pride of the Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Range, are the natural landmarks for the valley’s eastern boundary. At the northern end of the area are the Valley View Hot Springs which harness some of the steaming water that pours from the ground. The western border of the valley incorporates the low-lying La Garita hills and the vast reaches of the Rio Grande National Forest.
The arid San Luis Valley sits atop an aquifer that is the lifeblood to this agricultural region and perhaps a key to some of its mystery.
From the New Age energy center of Crestone to the steeped Catholic tradition of San Luis, men and women have sought spiritual inspiration here for centuries. The valley riches probably first drew human habitation long before Spaniard Don Diego de Vargas claimed the land in 1694.
After the Mexican war, when land grants enticed settlers to move here, the population finally began to grow. The land had previously been occupied by the Ute Indians and, before them, by the Mayans.
San Luis Valley provides the headwaters to the Rio Grande River. Early settlers built canals to access these waters, which would nourish their crops and farmland. Potatoes have flourished in this arid soil since the 1870s; carrots also thrive in this climate.
Across the flat valley from spud capitol center and commercial center Saguache, loom the town of Crestone and the myriad spiritual retreat centers – from Buddhist to Christian and Nation of Islam. They gather separately, but harmoniously, in the “Baca” development south of Crestone. Some believe there are thousands of sacred sites in these lands, with powers that can be harnessed or at least utilized. Not surprisingly, there’s a staunch devotion to protect this land and the underground aquifer that remains the San Luis Valley’s lifeblood. Meditations are conducted where the water meets the mountains.
One certainly can’t deny the physical power of this place: the magnet-like draw of the Crestone Needle; the pale glow of looming Mount Blanca. Is it any wonder that otherworldly sightings such as UFOs are not uncommon?
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