Alamosa, Colorado


San Luis National Forest, Colorado

18 years ago I visited Colorado while my sister was here on a student exchange. While I was here I made a friend that I stayed in contact with over the years, first by hand written letters and later via email and Facebook. Considering that I had not returned to this part of the world since then, I made plans to head back to Alamosa, Colorado to see my friend again. I flew from Vancouver to Denver then caught the bus south to Alamosa arriving in the early evening.

The five hour bus ride was quite interesting as I became involved in numerous conversations with the passengers, trying to learn a little about the culture and their current world view. The conversations covered the recent legalisation of Marijuana and the various issues associated with state law and federal law being out of sync; the American prison industry; hiking; climate change; skiing; distrust of the media; the obstructionist and divisive American democratic system; and the all-pervasive fear that has gripped America over the last 13 years. It made for a very interesting ride and I learned a great deal about the perspectives of individual Americans.

Columbine, Colorado's State FlowerAlamosa is in the San Luis Valley, the highest agricultural land in the US at an elevation of approximately 7500ft, and had changed a great deal from what I remembered. It has grown substantially to a population of around 9000 and become the central commercial district of the San Luis Valley. The area still had not become a tourist destination and I don’t quite understand why as Alamosa is a short drive to a number of excellent sites including the Great Sand Dunes Monument, the San Luis National Forest, a few 14000ft mountains are accessible from here in the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain Ranges. It’s not that I think that it should be a tourist mecca but it should not be treated as a “Why would you go there?” place, which is what I was asked several times when I was travelling to and from there as well as while I was in town. And while Lonely Planet mention the nearby Great Sand Dunes Park they inform people to travel over 100 miles from Pagosa Springs or Crested Butte to get there, as though there are no other options.

Michelle picked me up from the bus and introduced me to her three children. When I was last here we bonded over a passion for writing and love of fantasy and science fiction, which we both still enjoyed. Sometimes when there has been years between seeing a person, it can be difficult to get the conversation flowing again, but over the week we spent most of the time talking.

Michelle had planned a few activities for me to enjoy while I was staying with her which included camping and a few sites but first she had one more day of work. She works at a local radio station and I accompanied her to work on the first day to be her guest host. The show went as follows:

 followed by: Cream ~ White Room; Eric Clapton ~ Wonderful Tonight; The Cars ~ Just What I Needed; Led Zeppelin ~ Fool In The Rain.

 followed by: America ~ Sister Golden Hair; The Allman Brothers ~ Ramblin' Man; Bob Dylan ~ Rainy Day Women #12 & 35; Whitesnake ~ Here I Go Again; The Who ~ Pinball Wizard; Supertramp ~ Goodbye Stranger.

 finishing with the songs: Led Zeppelin ~ Ramble On; Janis Joplin ~ Piece Of My Heart. It was a cool experience and I learnt a little about what it takes to put a radio show together.

Microbrewing has grown across America and the world in the last decade with many pubs and restaurants offering a selection of house or limited supply microbrews. Alamosa has one restaurant that I visited that does that, the San Luis Valley Brewing Company. Their restaurant is located on Main Street in a quaint old building that has been converted. The interior is all polished dark woods creating a western style saloon feel but not tackily. The menu is a single broadsheet newspaper, which is quite cool although could be put to better use with more small articles associated with their food and drinks. They offered me a choice of six beers of which I tried the Hefe Suave (American style wheat beer), Alamosa Amber (Ale), and Grande River IPA. The beers were good representations of American microbrewing, balanced and consistent but not impressive. But if your choice is between something in a bottle or can from the liquor store then these beers are miles ahead of what is widely available. They offer a variety of pub grub, 5 sausage dishes, 7 burgers, 12 sandwiches, and a variety of starts and mains. It is well worth dropping by here for a beer if not a quick bite when you are in the area.

Visiting Alamosa and Southern Colorado again was an excellent experience and there are many ways for a visitor to occupy their time here. For me, the best part was catching up a friend and spending time with her and her family. Getting to see their world from their perspective is the bonus, and I know that they were able to experience their home differently as well.

The Alamosa WitchWilhelmina Becker, The Alamosa Witch TombstoneP.S. There is an interesting urban legend in Alamosa of a witch buried at the cemetery. In the rear left of the cemetery is the grave of Wihelmina Becker, Died October 36th 1913. There are no county or cemetery records for Wihelmmina Becker and offerings are left on the statue. Many people have said they have felt a strange energy and gloominess around the statue, especially at night, with other reporting strange lights around the area, although these could easily be explained by the airport opposite the cemetery. The myth also says that the date of her death also alternates between the 36th and 32nd of October.

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