Tag Archives: San Luis Valley

Genes of a Gypsy

gyp·sy [ˈjipsē]: One inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life.

I would make an excellent Gypsy. In fact I am certain my Northern Irish genes contain a bit of ubiquitous “Traveller” DNA somewhere in the depths of that genetic spiral. And I am most definitely “unconventional.” If I had my way, I would be on the road full-time, taking photos and writing volume after volume about the people and places I met along the way.

Lucy soaks up the moonlight at Cave Lake State Park, Ely, Nevada.

A few months ago we purchased a 1956 vintage travel trailer that had been refurbished by a couple in Colorado. She is a beauty and her name is Lucy. The minute we towed her home I was ready to hit the highway. I created a portable solar generator that could power her lights even if we were camping somewhere off the grid. I began to research satellite internet, GPS communication enhancers and even switched over to Verizon so I would have more nationwide coverage for my iPhone. I felt this overwhelming urge to sell it all and burn some rubber on the path towards endless adventure and new discoveries.

Lucy at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, San Luis Valley, Colorado.

We had what I would call our “Gypsy practice run” in the month of August; almost three weeks of pure joy camping with Lucy in Nevada, Utah and Colorado. It all just felt so right. Spending several nights camped in different places while taking side trips to National parks, ghost towns, old mining districts and hiking trails. Wherever we went we met great people, some of them had the Gypsy gene themselves and were doing exactly what I wanted to do full-time. Oh how I envied them for acting on their dreams.

Lucy just outside of Moab, Utah.

For now I am back in the “real” world and submerged in the reality that is my current life. But as I sit here writing and glance out the window at Lucy as she rests in the driveway of this thankless city, I pause for a bit with a big smile on my face, a dream in my heart and listen to the whisper of the road that keeps calling to me. Someday soon that dream will be a reality. Someday soon.
For more on Travels With Lucy, visit my other blog: http://www.travelswithlucy.com

Stormy Dunes

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, San Luis Valley, Colorado.

When I used to think of sand dunes, I would have visions of souped up Baja Bugs flying high over the top of the Pajaro Dunes along the Pacific Ocean.  Or of Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia as he stumbled across the vast Gobi Desert with a camel in tow.  What I failed to envision was over 30 square miles of the tallest dunes in North America resting below 14,000 foot peaks of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains high in an Alpine Valley.  Who’d have thought?

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the San Luis Valley of Colorado is a place shrouded in mystery.  There are several theories that address how the dunes got to where they are today.  The most prominent being strong directional winds that blew the silt and sand from the Rio Grande River and its tributaries towards its current resting place.  It is also theorized that this giant sand pile got its start some 400,000 plus years ago.  Alternate theories touch on the truly bizarre from inter-galactic space travelers zooming through hyperspace and climbing out of “traversable wormholes” in order to  mine the silica; to something in line with the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites, and the Great Horse and Chariot Powder Theory…it’s probably better not to ask.

Whatever the truth behind these magnificent dunes, when one stands at the base and looks off towards the East at the rugged Sangre de Cristo’s and then looks up to the top of the tallest dune, you are driven to climb.   So you spend the next several hours huffing and puffing in the thin air.  You somehow manage to climb 750 feet up from the 8,200 foot elevation starting point, through unrelenting fine grain sand, just to see the view.  And once you finally arrive at the top, you experience a euphoria of sorts.  As your muscles spasm and your lungs heave, you cannot help but smile.  The view is spectacular and otherworldly.  The sand is warm and caresses your tired limbs and you feel a strange, light-headed endorphin rush.  All seems right with the world in that moment of accomplishment.  You are standing on the peak of the highest sand dunes in North America and you were not transported there through some obscure wormhole.  No, you reached the top of one of nature’s wonders by virtue of curiosity and the drive to experience something truly remarkable.  Whether you climb to the top or remain awe-struck by their beauty from the base, the Great Sand Dunes are destined to leave an indelible mark on your soul.


Abandoned stone house

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo: Abandoned stone house in San Luis Valley, Colorado.

While driving through the San Luis Valley in Colorado last summer this little stone house spoke to me on many levels.  It was beautiful, yet broken.  The external structure was solid; created with care by fitting stone against stone with an array of well-placed colors and sizes.  It spoke of pride of craftmanship and the love of detail.  This was a house that was at one time loved by someone and filled full with life.  Sitting on several acres, it had unobstructed views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the white-capped peaks of the Blanca Massif in the distance.  The beautiful Rio Grande River twisted and turned through the deep canyon walls a few miles to the West and the New Mexico border was within walking distance of its doors to the South.  Shattered windows had once served as protection from the driving winter winds and the bitter cold.  I imagined children standing there, looking out at the snow-covered acres while sipping hot chocolate and warming themselves by a blazing fire.  I imagined Christmas celebrations, birthday parties, summer picnics, singing voices and babies crying.  And now it sat, abandoned; filled with shattered glass, bullet-ridden walls and a crumbling roof.  It looked so sad and all alone.

There in the San Luis Valley it still remains in lonely dignity, as it weathers slowly over time.  I may never know the truths of its past for certain, yet its essence in that moment when I stood before it has a place forever inside my mind.  This same house now sits proudly before me in a photograph and continues to whisper the secrets of its past.  Every now and then I make a point to stop and listen.  And sometimes I begin to hear the warmth and laughter of a better time.  A time when this now shattered structure was once a happy home.