Seniors Make San Luis Valley Road Trip

For a senior trip into history, few parts of the American Southwest can top southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a 125-mile (200-kilometer) stretch of the Rockies front range defined by the high mountains of the Sangre de Cristos to the east and the San Juans to the west. National Geographic has a new booklet out called ’500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips’ and the San Luis Valley is one of them.

The San Luis Valley is technically a high desert, but the surface is underlain by shallow aquifers that in places form lakes, marshlands, and warm springs. By the late 19th century, much of the land was cultivated, crossed by irrigation canals and wagon roads. The valley’s scattered wetlands are home to eagles, waders, and waterfowl.

The Valley receives little precipitation and is made up of desert lands, but the temperatures can be very comfortable in the summer and very cold on winter nights. Wikipedia will fill seniors in on all the specs of the Valley and notes that about 50% of the 2,000,000 acres in the San Luis Valley is privately owned. The Valley has the second largest aquifer on the continent underground and the 8000 square mile, six county Alpine valley makes the San Luis Valley one of the most unique areas in the world.

Valley’s History Intrigues Senior Travelers

A major trade route, The Old Spanish Trail, passed through the Valley that runs about 125 miles long and 65 miles wide and it is one of the largest high desert valleys in the world, lying at an altitude of over 7,000 feet. The oldest evidence of humans in the San Luis Valley area dates back an estimated 11,000 years. The area contains some of the oldest prehistoric archaeological sites in North America. San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado and the valley adds to fascinating Colorado history.

A cavalcade of characters, some famous, some infamous, and some downright notorious, have stepped across the Valley landscape. Diego de Vargas, Zebulon Pike, John C. Fremont, Kit Carson, Bat Masterson, Soapy Smith, Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, Ulysses S. Grant,—the names associated with the valley’s history read like a western epic.

 This area is rich in history. This part of southern Colorado used to be part of New Mexico Territory before Colorado Territory was formed in 1861. Pioneers came up from New Mexico, following the Rio Grande north. Congress has approved funding for the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and locals are having meetings on how they will preserve their heritage and share their history with senior travelers.
 There are wild horses in the valley, around Wild Horse Mesa, near the new Mexico border and senior citizens are building retirement homes on Wild Horse Mesa to enjoy the beautiful scenery and quiet country life.
Enjoy the valley.  My wife has put it on her bucket list.  jeb



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