The Rainbow Trail

By Mike Rosso

The Rainbow Trail, which celebrates its 101st birthday this year, could well be seen as an allegory for the various uses and controversies surrounding Colorado forest lands over the past century.

At just over 101 miles long, it spans four counties – Saguache, Chaffee, Fremont and Custer – and ends at the Huerfano County border.

Along its length, outdoor enthusiasts can access numerous 14,000 foot peaks, including Kit Carson (14,165’) and Crestone Peak (14,294’), and over a dozen alpine lakes. The Trail has an average elevation of 9,000 feet and winds in and out of thick spruce forests and aspen groves, as well as high mountain meadows. What initially began as a foot and horseback trail is now accessible to mountain bikes, motorcycles and, for the entire stretch in Custer County, all-terrain vehicles.

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New Trails: The Little Rainbow

 By Christopher Kolomitz

The Little Rainbow Trail outside of Salida stretches about 7.5 miles, from the east flank of Methodist Mountain near the Burmac road, to west of CR 110 where the trail ends at Sand Gulch.

About 1,500 feet lower in elevation, wider and more intermediate than its big brother, the Little Rainbow is another success story written by the volunteers at Salida Mountain Trails.

The group has long championed the idea of building non-motorized, multiuse trails around the Salida area; they took off in a big way around Tenderfoot Mountain, where a series of trails has blossomed into a wide-ranging network.

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A Place of Blessings

By Dave Cruson
Most people in Central Colorado would be hard-pressed to find the Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp, a hidden treasure in its midst. Most Lutherans in Colorado, New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain region, and even from Texas, Minnesota, and yes, Madagascar, would be hard-pressed to know why.

Before small highway signs for Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp along Colorado Highway 69 were purchased, most people not connected with the Lutheran Church in the Rocky Mountain region would have no idea where the camp is located. Off of County Road 182 or Billy Humble Road, just south of Hillside, Colorado is a short, gravelly drive to what many consider a spiritual oasis or a second home.

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A Joyful Journey from Hot Springs City

By Mike Rosso

Isolation is often the first impression when arriving at Joyful Journey Hot Springs.
The resort, located south of Villa Grove in the northern San Luis Valley, consists of a modern hotel, health spa, geodesic greenhouse, hot soaking pools, yurts and teepees. It resides amidst vast fields of rabbitbrush and sage. To the west lie the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a vast beacon in this high mountain valley, the largest and highest in North America.
What is not apparent is the unique history of this seeming oasis: that it was once platted to become a vibrant city and health resort; that the railroad passed through for many years. The largest population at one time consisted of swine; and that for a short while, it was a place to maintain a hippie lifestyle among the crumbling structures, soaking naked in the remains of the baths, away from most of the comforts – and problems – of modern society.
In part one of the story of Hot Springs City, an earlier developer of the resort, Robert Dunshee, passed away, not having realized his dreams of a thriving resort community. The rail stopped running in the early 1950s and the resort sat, alone and mostly abandoned. The post office remained until 1946 and at some point, the resort was purchased by Elmer Walker.
Little information can be found about Elmer Walker and the resort he ran up until the late 1950s. Virginia Sutherland, former director of the Saguache museum, remembers swimming at the pool as a child. Another longtime Villa Grove resident, Mary Moore, remembers she used to “mess around as a kid” at the pool, but not much else.

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About the Cover Photographer: Tom Purvis

Salida resident Tom Purvis is one of the three founding members of Salida Mountain Trails, begun nearly 10 years ago. He was the director of SMT from 2007 through 2009. He has been working as a volunteer, doing trail maintenance and advocacy, for almost 20 years. Tom is a lifelong cyclist, having ridden his first century ride (100 miles) as a ten-year-old. He’s been mountain biking for 25 years.

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Fleece to Fiber to Fabric

By Judith Reese

Love’s labor is not lost on fiber artists. The ancient lure of wool craft and quiet handiwork seems to feed their very souls. It’s summer, and as September’s Salida Fiber Festival approaches, some of the most passionate weavers, ranchers, knitters, dyers, shearers, quilters and spinners from across Central Colorado have invited me and my sidekick, photographer Jerry Wright, into their world. Some of them care for sheep, llamas, alpacas and rare paco-vicuñas. Others work in studios crowded with looms and spinning wheels, their shelves overflowing with yarns and carded wool. They display the fruits of their talents and talk of why they must do what they do. And there is one palpable commonality permeating each barn and workroom: joy.

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Rocks Along the Rainbow

By Vince Matthews

The Rainbow Trail affords an outstanding opportunity to travel through deep time. The trail wends around two of Colorado’s youngest mountain ranges, which together contain 25 of the State’s 58 Fourteeners. The footpath traverses parts of Earth’s crust that record much of Colorado’s 2-billion-year-old history. Faults and folds along the trail record times of crustal deformation. Rocks that were metamorphosed 1.8 billion years ago record Colorado’s oldest-known, mountain-building event. Colorful conglomerates record the 300-million-year-old mountain-building event that gave rise to the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. The high elevations of the Sawatch and Sangre de Cristo Ranges are testaments to the mountain-building event that is currently transpiring. Glacial deposits along the trail record times of great climate change.

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The Natural World

By Tina Mitchell

Wildfire and wildlife – what’s the first image that comes to your mind? I’m seven years old, sitting in a darkened movie theater, watching the fire scene in the Disney animated classic Bambi. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and our protagonist deer all flee through scorching embers, swirling smoke, and crashing, flaming branches. That scene seemed to last for hours, although it likely wrapped up in about three minutes. But more than 55 years later, I remember how scared that little girl felt as clearly as if I had just left the theater.

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Memories from the Rainbow Trail

By Hal Walter

Back in the day, my friend Paul and I would head out before light from the BackEdge cabin which he owns at the Gibson Creek Trailhead on the Rainbow Trail. We’d hike northward on the Rainbow in the autumn moonlight reflecting on the skiff of snow, through the big open meadow and then into the forest’s edge, where the moon threw shadows of aspen, pine and fir out onto the blueish-white ground, and just over the low ridge where the rush of Swift Creek filled the air.

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Somewhere on the Rainbow

The Central Colorado region is fat with backcountry trails. From the Collegiate Range, the Sawatch, the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area, White River National Forest, the West Elks and much more, there is no lack of recreational opportunities for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders.

So why this month are we featuring the Rainbow Trail? Well, for one, it’s historic, having been around for over a century. It spans a large part of our coverage area, second only to the Colorado Trail. In parts, it is mostly accessible to a large percentage of the population and sees thousands of visitors each year. The Rainbow is also the closest national forest trail to my home here in Salida.

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At Home in the Heart of the Rockies

By Martha Quillen

Ed Quillen was the sort of person who always knew what he wanted to do and proceeded accordingly. When Ed called to ask me out for the first time, he asked me what I’d like to do. I told him there was a movie I’d like to see, but he took me to an author’s lecture. For our second date, I told him that I’d like to go to my favorite eatery, an inexpensive Mexican restaurant; he bought a six-pack of beer and took me to a party. For our third date, I told him I’d like to go to a coffee house where my friends occasionally performed, but there was a band Ed wanted to hear.

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News from the San Luis Valley

A “Tire-Some” Problem

Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen requested County Land Use Manager Juan Altamirano to research the idea of holding a county-sponsored tire disposal day.

Abandoned tires are not only trashy, they are potentially flammable environmental hazards and can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus or rodents that transmit other diseases. Used tires are to blame for much of the blight conditions on private property. “Illegal dumping is also an ongoing problem along public rights of way,” said Allen, according to the Valley Courier.

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Fluid Curiosities, Part Two

By John Mattingly
Note: The second part of the water series will be brief (requiring reader participation) and will be followed by a Rainbow Trail postscript.

Anyone who had the persistence to read my column last month to the end (I commend your patience) understands that, after discussing the particulars of a point of diversion, I made the argument that the stated points of diversion for all irrigation wells in the San Luis Valley should be underground.

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