‘At last a glint of sun reveals the approach of a great echelon of birds. On motionless wings they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and setting in clamorous descending spirals to their feeding ground. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.’ Aldo Leopold
In late February and early March, the oldest visitors of the San Luis Valley begin their annual trek from south to north. These beautiful birds make a quick stop near Monte Vista, Colorado, where they rest and refuel before continuing their journey north. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to witness this natural phenomena, known to many as the Sandhill Crane Festival.
This event took us the farthest south we’ve ever been in Colorado. Not only did we get to explore new territory, watch in awe as thousands of cranes engulfed miles of the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge, and for me, travel to a new state, we also had the privilege of catching up and sampling fine adult beverages with Momma Kat!
We made our way south in good timing. We found ourselves in Alamosa (where our hotel was) in just shy of five hours. On our route, we spotted that familiar tiny green road sign stating, Taos 71 miles! Not realizing we were so close, we excitedly debated over a quick visit to Taos, New Mexico, the land of quaint adobe homes, the Rio Grande and our great friend, Will. Consensus had it – our trip to Taos would begin early the next morning.
While exploring Alamosa that evening, we imbibed on mediocre brews at San Luis Valley Brewing Company. Not the tastiest, definitely a funky spot and always a good time!
Our morning commute proved to be a bit more eventful. By happenstance, we encountered an Earthship Village, a community working to develop a sustainable home that has a zero carbon footprint on the planet.
We also skipped across the giant bridge that connects both sides of the Rio Grande, managed to buy a beautiful art piece from a local artist out of Taos, and surprised our friend, Will, with a quick visit. William was an excellent tour guide. We chatted about the history of Taos and good reads as of late, sipped amazing coffee from World Cup, devoured authentic Mexican food and lounged for hours in the coolest brewery around, Taos Mesa Brewing Company, which is set in an old aircraft hangar. This fine visit yielded the best beers and company of the trip.
Early the next morning, we made our way to the refuge, our primary goal of the trip. We were welcomed by a layer of frost, an incredible sunrise and the distinctive rolling cries of the Sandhill Cranes. These regal birds are an incredible sight. The experience and emotion are difficult to explain. I can only recommend that you see it, or something similar, for yourselves. I am so grateful for the visit and to be a part of something so touching and humbling; a good reminder of just how amazing Mother Nature really is.
Change of plans that afternoon had us heading north to spend the evening in Salida, Colorado. On the way, we made two very unique stops. The first, a sweet, albeit short visit, to Great Sand Dunes National Park. This is another natural wonder; incredible and magical. I strongly recommend that you add this one to your ‘must-visit’ list, too. A second visit is in our near future.
The San Luis Valley also happens to be a well-known hotspot for UFO sightings. We circled around a specially-built UFO Watchtower, very intrigued. Our curiosity got the best of us and we paid the $5 entrance fee to get the scoop from Judy, the Watchtower owner. Judy encouraged us, and others, to leave personal trinkets and goodies behind – in the vortex garden, a large area where there are known to be portals to another universe.
Over aliens and portals, we moseyed north to the charming town of Salida. We introduced MK to Señorita Imperial Porter, the tastiest horchata vanilla porter and my favorite Colorado beer to date. We walked about town and dined at the cozy, Rivers Edge Restaurant. Of course, Brown Dog Coffee made another appearance, delivering amazing muffins and that perfect cup of coffee.
Our little visit, though quick, was a sweet one. This has been the trend lately and we definitely can’t complain. We love it when friends and family visit, no matter the length.