Hitting The Road: Into The Valley
Spring-ing Forward in Saguache Today
By Kathy Bedell, © Saguache Today
With the unofficial weekend of summer in the rearview mirror, it’s time to catchup with what’s going on in Saguache Today. How did that last pandemic year go for businesses? How’s the recovery going? What’s new?
For those answers and more, Saguache Today (ST) hit the road the week before Memorial Weekend to catch up with old friends and neighbors. It’s some news you can use as The Great Pumpkin spent a week in Saguache County, gathering local news as the calendar flips the page to the busy, summer season.
The journey begins at the northern portal into Saguache County atop Poncha Pass. Coasting south into the San Luis Valley, it’s hard not to notice the more defined Bureau of Land Management (BLM) pull-off area and new signage to the east for the San Luis Valley Field Office. The upgrades are part of the overall relocation of this federal agency to its new western headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado thereby establishing its headquarters west of the Mississippi for the first time in the agency’s history. Most believe this is an asset, as reported last month in the Grand Junction Sentinal:
On Aug. 10, 2020, the Department of the Interior formally established the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction. Not only did this pivotal move bring land management decision-makers closer to the lands they manage, but it created 328 new, good-paying jobs throughout western states.
In Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for 8.3 million acres of public land. Many sites on BLM lands in Colorado help to reveal the history of this stunning state. There are no entrance stations on BLM land and visitors are mostly free to enjoy the land as they see fit. Locally, it’s likely to mean staff will have more of a physical presence on the lands that are managed by the BLM in the SLV. The San Luis Valley Field Office manages nearly 500,000 acres of public land in Colorado’s Rio Grande Basin. The public lands managed by the BLM’s San Luis Valley Field Office present myriad ecosystems; from alpine desert to the majestic Sangre de Cristo Wilderness on the eastern side of the Valley.
Grooving in Villa Grove
Travelers’ first roadside stop from the northern gateway is Villa Grove. A small former railroad junction the quaint town holds steady with its anchor standbys including Villa Grove Trade (restaurant/gift shop/snack stop) and the Casa Azul planters and B&B establishment, as well as the #wildwestweedshop Primo Cannabis added to the main drag in 2018. While generally a quiet pit stop should you have been one of the passersby on Sunday, May 23 you would have seen a sea of smiles as neighbors and friends gathered in a respectful manner for some live music and good home cooking.
Owners Allen and Jamie from Villa Grove Trade played host as the Blue Rooster Band from Crestone rocked out some tunes that turned the dining room into a dance floor, playing all the favorite boogie and blues tunes. It was a great way to kick off the summer season. Look for more live music to come as they set the outdoors stage for a solid lineup that will have people pulling off Highway 285 in northern Saguache County.
A reminder that Primo Cannabis is now open for recreational marijuana sales. Pitched as a Wild West Weed Shop, Primo offers a wide variety of products, many of them grown right here in the San Luis Valley. Stop in and say hi. Marquita and other friendly faces are ready to help you with all of your Wild West Weed needs!
Highway 17: Smooth Rolling and Rumble Sticks
From the heart of Villa Grove, the Saguache Today catch-up tour headed south on Highway 17. This Colorado roadway recently saw a to see how the newly paved roadway was looking.
The $21 million project got started in May 2020 with most of the work in Saguache County now complete after a winter break. Last summer APC Southern Construction of Golden got phase one done, improving approximately 36 miles of CO 17 in the San Luis Valley, beginning south of Hooper (MP 84.5) and continuing north to the U.S. Highway 285 junction (MP 118.4).
The highway improvement work consisted of widening the existing roadway with earthwork, base course, and heating and remixing treatment. The road was capped with a 2-inch asphalt overlay and shouldering. The project also included minor culvert extensions, erosion control, signing, and striping. But what most locals were glad to see – or perhaps hear is the better verb – was the addition of centerline rumble strips, alerting drivers when they cross the centerline.
Rumble strips are a road safety feature to alert inattentive drivers of potential danger, by causing a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the vehicle interior. A rumble strip is applied along the direction of travel following an edge line or centerline, to alert drivers when they drift from their lane. Could be a lifesaver for this stretch of Colorado Highway.
Happy – safe – travels!
If it seems that every time you visit Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa and Resort there’s something a bit different, some little upgrade. That’s because it’s true and even through the Pandemic, this valley’s hot spot kept a strong momentum forward. Whether the completion of the wraparound deck surrounding their temperature-controlled soaking pools or the upgrades to their bathhouse, Manager Theo Boudreaux and crew are always focused on ways to improve the customer experience.
And more recently as public health restrictions lift and people are coming together in a safe, meaningful way to share time and talents, Joyful Journey has been keeping pace as well. The Joyful Yoga Class being held every Saturday & Sunday from 8 – 9 a.m. On Sunday, get the group together and check out their Sunday Yoga if you’re looking for a restorative morning. For $25 join the morning yoga class followed by a healthy breakfast, and then soak in the hot springs. Please call (719) 256-4328 to reserve your spot.
Or try out the Joyful Art Class. Every Saturday from noon – 2 p.m. there is a Watercolor/Acrylics Class offered to learn the basic techniques and processes. The cost is $5 material fee for overnight guests / $22 admission + $5 material fee for nonovernight guests. Please RSVP by calling the Front Desk at (719) 256-4328.
Calling All Caregivers, Healthcare Professionals!
Do you know a caregiver or other healthcare provider who could use a well-deserved re-charge? Then the upcoming We know you work hard every day to support those who are unable to help themselves. We know there is love in what you do. We also know it is one of the hardest, most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging undertakings, and that it can be difficult to find time to care for yourself.
Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa & Event Center, located in the mystic San Luis Valley of Colorado, would like to show our appreciation for all you do by offering a 5-day, 5-night restorative retreat. The retreat will include yoga, meditation, Emotion-Focus Therapy (EFT), healing waters, spa therapies, nurturing nature and the all-important community of understanding. Plus, lots of downtime. Yes, that’s correct, do-what-you-want-with-it downtime, such as enjoying the simple pleasures of the sun, moon, and stars. You will leave the retreat feeling rested, rejuvenated and empowered, along with memories that will lift your spirits, and tools that will support you through your days and nights. Attend the retreat for as little as $750.
“Yes, you are worth it! Yes, you can find the time! And yes, it is just what you need!” encourages the Joyful Journey staff. Check out the Joyful Journey website for upcoming activities and events, as well as the most up-to-date public health guidelines for your visit.
Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa is 32 miles south of Salida and 50 miles north of Alamosa on scenic highway 17, which runs parallel to the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is 40 minutes from Joyful Journey and the spiritual mecca of Crestone is 30 minutes away. Joyful Journey is located in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado – on Highway 17 one mile south of the Highway 285 junction.
At an elevation of 7700 feet on the valley floor, we enjoy cool summers and sunny winters, as well as spectacular views of the 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness to the east. Joyful Journey Hot Springs and Spa is located in northern Saguache County at 28640 CR 58 EE, Moffat, CO 81143. Contact them directly HERE.
Good Girl: A Joyful Sound
Guests might sight of a new face on the property, but it will likely be her enthusiastically waving tail that catches your attention.
“Someone dumped her and her sister off on the property,” explained Manager Theo Boudreaux. And like many forever-home stories, this beautiful black lab mix has a new owner who lights up when he talks about the meant-to-be pet adoption after the young dogs were abandoned in May 2020. It didn’t take long for the silky beauty to win her way into the tourism executive’s heart and home. And the new walking and eating schedule doesn’t seem to be a burden at all. You can tell by the young pup’s name.
You guessed it – Joyful! Good Girl!
Home Cooking Takes Home Court Advantage
The Great Pumpkin’s catch-up journey continues south down Highway 7 and it’s clear that the completed roadway has traffic moving along. The centerline is now rumbled stripped which should greatly reduce the number of head-ons, along this stretch of Highway 7.
Pulling into Grammy’s Kitchen any time of day, the smell of some of the best home cooking in the San Luis Valley hits your senses before you even pull on the front door. However this visit, it’s the handwritten sign on the door that gets your attention: “If you’re sick, don’t come in”
It has been a long year for the restaurant which opened to provide a central gathering and eating place for valley ranchers and farmers. And while the nature of what they are growing has changed, the concept of feeding hungry farmers has not, even through COVID
“I’m doing a lot more to-go orders than before,” owner Tina Freel said during a recent visit with Saguache Today. But don’t let that fool you, the crowds – especially the locals – are returning as well, filling up the restaurant whose dining room floor is made from the schools’ old basketball court.
But these days, it’s not the tickets hanging in the order wheel that has Freel concerned.
“First it was surviving the COVID shutdowns, then when we got past that, they shut down (Highway) 17. And that nearly did us in,” explained the generational valley resident who was also preparing for her family’s annual Memorial Weekend reunion which coinsides with cattle-branding season on the 160 acres the family still maintains.
“And now,” she adds, “it’s the water.”
As a member of a fifth general ranching family, Freel knows all too well the importance of water. The current battles being waged in the San Luis Valley against outside, big-city interests have grown more bloody in recent years. It’s a story Saguache Today will continue to cover in the months ahead. In the meantime, readers can connect and learn more from the following resources.
Grammy’s Kitchen has new hours Tuesday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Also, their famous Prime Rib nights will be the first and third Saturdays of the month. Grammy’s Kitchen is located at 17396 State Highway 17 Moffat, CO 81143. For updates and specials, stay connected on Grammy’s Kitchen Facebook Page.
What’s Brewing: Milepost Mirage
A bit further south on Highway 17 in the heart of the town of Moffat travelers can fuel up their java mugs from Mirage Trading Co. The colorful coffee house along with the welcome flags flapping in the ever-present SLV breeze, customers will find more than a refill. Sure owner Tara Bunsmoor has some of the finest roasted beans in the valley. You should not only fill your cup up but take along another sack for your favorite java-junkie.
Or better yet, linger a bit longer the sunny shop. Check out some of the incredible work from local artists n display in the beanery. From silk scarves to one-of-kind, hand-painted San Luis Valley landscapes.
It’s in these small, roadside cafes that travelers are likely to find some of the best art deals this summer season has to offer. And that’s no mirage! Shop their online store for organic coffee that is roasted in Moffat, Colorado.
From the Mirage Trading Co website:
The Mirage Trading Company opened its doors on January 15th, 2005 with a vision of creating space where local artists could display and sell their art and customers could enjoy “the best coffee in the valley” During the winter months, there is always a cozy fire in the wood stove. The summer months are enjoyed on the front porch viewing the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.
Moffat began in 1890 as a stop on the Denver and Rio Grande narrow-gauge railroad. Trains carrying grain, cattle and sheep would stop in Moffat twice a day. Named after David Moffat, the railroad tycoon, the town enjoyed much growth early on, supporting saloons, hotels and shops. Soon there were several thousand people living in Moffat.
Cattle drives and livestock sales were a large part of the town’s economy. In 1920, more lambs were shipped from Moffat than anywhere in the United States. Land and water speculation and the development of a full-gauge railroad which followed other routes, led to the decline of Moffat. A population of 120 remained in Moffat in the late 1920s and about the same number of people live there today. Most are the descendants of the early settlers and ranchers.
The Moffat Post Office and also part of the Mirage Trading Company was built after WWII. The adobe was made from dirt dug from a pit in front of the post office. The pit was made into a pond that children skated on in the winter. The pond was filled in by the construction of Highway 17 around 1950. The frame building that is the Mirage Trading Company was a store on another street in Moffat and moved to its present location in the 1930s or 1940s.
That’s a wrap for the first round of the Saguache Today catch-up report. There’s more to come, so stay tuned. And don’t forget to subscribe to receive email notifications when news is posted; it’s free.
Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company located in Leadville, Colorado that publishes Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at email@example.com.