San Luis, Colorado’s oldest town, with Zeb the Duck

We are in the San Luis Valley, and today we are visiting the town of San Luis, Colorado.

San Luis, Colorado

This is the oldest town in Colorado.   This is town is older than the state of Colorado.   Colorado became a state in 1876.   We love the murals on the buildings.

Colorful mural

San Luis was settled by people from Mexico.   There were wild horses in the area.

horse

We love horse statues.   This is a small town.   The 2010 census showed a population of 629 for the town of San Luis.

Street in San Luis

We enjoy the small town feeling here.  This colorful mural is on the Visitor’s Center building.

Visitor’s Center

It is beautiful, and so bright.   Behind the Visitor’s Center, we found Most Precious Blood Catholic Church.

Most Precious Blood Catholic Church

We entered the church and gazed at the alter.

Inside church

We love the old churches.   And this is an old church, built in 1886.   From the alter the view toward the entrance is wonderful.   It is so peaceful in here.

Inside church

And my favorite part of many old churches.

Beautiful window in church

The stained glass windows.   I love stained glass.   San Luis is a small, but friendly old town.   We felt welcome here and everybody we talked with was so nice.   Next post we will take you to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross in San Luis.

Path to Shrine of the Stations of the Cross.

You will love it.

Fort Garland, Colorado

As the United States was exploring and claiming territory in the 1800’s, military forts were needed to attempt to keep peace between the settlers and the indigenous people.     In 1852 a military presence was needed in the San Luis Valley.   Fort Garland was built, using the local bulding material, adobe or mud bricks.   Fort Garland opened in 1858.   Today, I, Zeb the Duck, and the humans visited Fort Garland, Colorado.   Paying our fee, looking at museum items and the gift shop, we entered the inside of the Fort.

Parade ground and flagpole

This is the Parade Ground and Flagpole.   Looking down one side, I hopped on the picnic table.

Ready for a picnic

Five of the 22 original buildings are still standing.  Original buildings were constructed in adobe, the style of this area.   Adobe is basically mud and water.   Let’s go in the Soldiers Theater, one of the original buildings.

Soldiers Theater. Probably former barracks

This was probably used as a barracks.

Living quarters

The plaques said soldiers slept 2 to a bunk, sleeping head to toe.   The soldiers were also required to bathe once a month, whether they needed it or not.   This is not like today when humans seem to shower daily.   Table for morning coffee and planning.

Coffee and planning

All space had a purpose and this post became a temporary home for rifles.

Early rifles

Colorado did not become a state until 1876, after the US Civil War ended, but as a territory, Colorado did have a role in that war.   A major battle, the Battle of Glorieta Pass, in New Mexico, was fought between Colorado (Union side) and Texas (Confederate side).   Texas was to go into Colorado, through New Mexico, and take the Colorado gold fields.   Colorado won this battle in March 1862, forcing the Confederate soldiers to retreat back to Texas, and Colorado kept their gold fields.

Typical camp

This is a typical camp during the battle.   Howitzer cannons have been recovered and one is here.

Cannons

Here is the Howitzer at Fort Garland.

Howitzer cannon

It looks pretty good for being over 150 years old.   After the Civil War the former slaves were free.   Some joined the military.

Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Calvary

The Buffalo Soldiers West were here at Fort Garland.

Uniforms and accessories

We saw some uniforms and accessories for the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Calvary.   Many of the black soldiers won awards and medals and some received the distinguished Medal of Honor.   Next we entered the Infantry Barracks Museum.

Exhibit in Infantry Barracks Museum

This is a nice display.   And a cart.

Cart pulled by oxen

I believe this is the type of cart pulled by oxen.   Not too comfortable, but a saddle.

saddle

Looks similar to ones on oxen to secure the load.   We stayed until closing time.   Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center has so much to see.   And we didn’t see everything.   In the Officer’s Quarters building, we saw this model of Fort Garland when it was used.

Model of Fort Garland

Kit Carson was the commander here, in 1866, after the American Civil War.   We hope you visit and enjoy Fort Garland.

Great Sand Dunes National Park with Zeb the Duck

Colorado is hundreds of miles from any large body of water, but we have sand dunes.   Let’s go to Great Sand Dunes National Park and see the highest sand dunes in North America.

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

As we drive to the Visitor’s Center, we stop to admire the view.

Road to Visitor’s Center

These dunes are probably close to 440,000 years old.   The Great Sand Dunes National Park covers 33,549 acres (13,576 hectares).   That’s a lot of sand.   Our first stop is usually the Visitor’s Center, and here we are.

Visitor’s Center

Let’s see what they say about today at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.   The summer sand surfaces reach 140 degrees F, (60 C) but this is a nice day in late September.    So walking on the sand is fine.   Wear closed toe shoes and monitor pets’ feet.   The humans are wearing appropriate shoes and we have no pets.   No, I, Zeb the Duck, am not a pet.   I am the star of this blog.   Back to the car, we drive a short distance, park and then start walking on the sand.

A long walk for a small duck

It is hard to walk in loose sand, so mom takes off her shoes.   That only lasts about 10-15 minutes.   Sand too warm, shoes back on and off we go again.   Getting closer, we see people already on the dunes.   They sure look small.   We still have a lot of sand walking to do.

Getting closer. Humans ahead

There really are several humans on the dunes.   They sure are tiny.   They will walk and hike on the dunes, some will sand board down the hills and we even saw some with a hang glider.   All so much fun, but quite strenuous to climb the dunes to enjoy a favorite way back down.  My little duck legs are screaming for mercy.

As far as my short duck legs wanted to walk

OK mom, this is enough.   Now, tell me, how did all this sand get here?   The sand dunes are in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado.   The San Juan Mountains are to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are to the east.   Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains, about 65 miles (104 km) west of us.   The valley was once a huge lake and sand and sediment settled in the lake.    As the lake reduced, winds from the southwest bounced the sand piling it against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   Northeasterly storm winds blast through the Sangre de Cristo Mountain passes, piling dunes back on themselves, creating North America’s tallest dunes, 750 feet (213 m) high.   That’s what we learned at the Visitor’s Center.  Walking back toward the car, we stop to admire the view.

Heading back towards car

A great view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  We love these sand dunes, here in Colorado.   The elevations in the national park range from 7,500 feet (2,286m) to nearly 14,000 feet (4,267 m) above sea level.   Climates change with the altitude, so be sensible and be prepared.   In the spring Medano Creek runs through the Great Sand Dunes National Park.   Snow collects in the Sangre Cristo Mountains from October into April, then with spring warm up, the snow melt feeds the Medano Creek which flows through the national park, providing great entertainment for human visitors.   While feeding the underground aquifers for the San Luis Valley, the creek seems to have tide movements providing great fun for small and adult humans as they enjoy the cool water in the hot sand dunes.   We were there in late September, so there was no water in the sand dunes.

Path of Medano Creek in the spring

But we could see where the river runs in the spring.   Mom, we need to come back here in the spring.   Driving a little more in the national park, we found the amphitheater.

Amphitheater

Our national parks have interesting presentations, but today’s presentation had been cancelled.   The Great Sand Dunes National Park is open 24 hours a day.   At night, be sure to enjoy the incredible display of stars on a clear night.   We hope you visit here.   We think you will find it very interesting and a lot of fun.

Colorado Alligator Farm with Zeb the Duck

Alligators in Colorado??   Of course.   Why wouldn’t a high altitude desert have alligators that live in tropical waters?   OK   This is why we have an alligator farm.

Alligator Farm in Colorado

Isn’t it funny how things happen?   Start raising fish, have fish parts for disposal, bring in alligators to remedy the problem.   Soon you have a tourist destination for Colorado alligators.   Then other humans had exotic pets like snakes and other reptiles.  Soon humans realize they cannot care for these animals as they grow to adulthood.   What to do now?   Take them to the alligator farm.

Large African Sulcata Turtle

Here is an African turtle.   He was abandoned here years ago.   Now there are several African turtles here.  Mom said turtles do not eat little rubber ducks.   Are you sure?   He is coming pretty fast.   But let’s slow down here.   First we park, enter building, pay our fee, and meet the first African turtles.   Before entering the first room, we pet this alligator, he feels like hard rubber.   Now Tom holds the alligator and I, Zeb the Duck, sit on the alligator.

Tom holding alligator. I’m riding on the alligator

This is fun.   Everybody that enters pets the alligator and gets their photo taken with their camera.   You can purchase the photo or use your own camera and take your own photos.   In the first room, we immediately notice the heat and humidity.   This room has many exotic, tropical animals.

Parrot

This parrot was very loud, but friendly.   We saw many snakes in cages.   All had been relinquished by their human owners, or rescued after being abandoned.   The alligator farm is becoming a sanctuary.   Remember all this started because some humans wanted to raise fish for human consumption.   Here is a green iguana.

Green iguana

Iguanas live in Central and South America and the male can grow to 6 or 7 feet (1.8-2.1 meters) in length.   Too big for a household pet.   Walking outside there are many alligator areas.   Fences are in place to separate the humans and alligators.   I, Zeb the Duck, am staying on the human side.

Alligators enjoying the sun

These alligators have water available, but seem to be soaking up the autumn sun.

Alligator has an overbite. Big, sharp teeth

These alligators seems to have an overbite.   I can see many sharp teeth.   I’m staying close to mom.   Here is Elmo the Emu.

Elmo the Emu

Elmo is mean.   He tried to kill his siblings and had to be moved to a separate area.   There is another area with more emu.   Elmo even put his head over his fence to snap at my humans.   Wow.   More distant cousins.

White ducks

Aren’t these white ducks beautiful and so graceful in the water.   I like this canal or river.

Swimming along the water

This alligator is leisurely swimming today.   Here are the rare stars of the alligator world.

White alligators

White alligators are rather rare.   They have only been found in the southeastern US state of Louisiana.   There were three layers of fences here.   The camera lens went through the first fence, but these additional fences made it difficult to take photos.  Baby alligators are about 8 inches (20.3 cm) long at birth.   Less than 1% of baby alligators survive to become adults.   Humans have not found any adult white alligators in the wild.   Born in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, the white color makes them more visible to prey.   The theory is that they are quickly eaten by predators.   The sign says there are only about 100 white alligators in captivity.  And we are looking at three of them.   Years ago we visited the Alligator Farm and there were less fences. This is a photo of the white, albino alligator from 2013.

Albino alligator

This last alligator, Freeway, is probably mom’s favorite.

Freeway, an alligator TV star

This lady alligator was found wandering along the freeway.   She was taken to people that provide animals for movies and commercials.   Freeway starred in the Lubriderm commercials.    She was also in TV shows, including Dexter.   Mom enjoyed the Dexter series.   Now this is an alligator fact that surprises us.

Really??? Frozen alligators thaw and then swim??

Alligators can be in frozen water, thaw out and then swim to warmer water.   That is almost unbelievable and just amazing.   And fortunate for alligators and for us.   Wherever you go, you always learn something new.  Learn more at http://www.coloradogators.com   The alligator farm is 17 miles north of Alamosa, Colorado.    Visit our alligator farm.   It is fascinating.

A UFO Watchtower in Hooper, Colorado with Zeb the Duck

I, Zeb the Duck, am taking some humans south from Denver into the San Luis Valley.  We will explore this area for a few days.   The San Luis Valley was settled by Ute Indians, Spanish explorers and people from Mexico.   The oldest city in Colorado is here.   The San Luis Valley is a high desert, with the San Juan Mountains to the west and the Sangre Cristo Mountains to the east.   To enter the valley, we needed to cross a mountain pass.   Hooper, Colorado is our first stop.   We are visiting the UFO Watchtower.   Let’s go in.

Let’s visit the UFO Watchtower

Driving onto the property, we are not sure where to go.

Helpful alien

But directional help is here.   We have arrived at the UFO Watchtower.

Garden, tower and gift shop

You can see the garden, the gift shop and the UFO Watchtower.   Here is the garden.

The Garden

The sign explains about the two vortex that are to be here.   A vortex being the way to a parallel universe.   I am making new friends today.

A new friend

There are many things left in the garden, we take a long time to look at everything.   Well, look at this.

An older relative

An older relative of mine.   He now lives here in Hooper, Colorado.   He seems happy.  But I see more potential new friends.

More new friends

These two are very nice to me.   Well, let’s head to the tower stairs.

Friends everywhere

Here is Sasquatch.   I met him on the Alaska Highway this spring.   We are already friends.   He assures me that I will enjoy the tower.

Abductions??

Wait.   Abductions?   Really?  But the humans continue up the stairs.   On the tower, we enjoy the view.

View from UFO Watchtower

We do not see UFOs, but we do have a nice view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   We stay here awhile, just enjoying the view of the valley.  Going back down, we talk with Judy Messoline, the lady that started and owns the UFO Watchtower.   She is great and has fascinating stories.   The gift shop has many newspaper articles about UFO sightings and about Judy and about the UFO Watchtower.   Time for us to leave.

Farewell to our green friends

This nice alien watches us go.   I think he looked right at me.   Whether you believe in aliens and UFO or not, this is an interesting place to visit.   We hope you stop to see things here.   Maybe Memorial Day weekend, the end of May 2020, for her 20th anniversary celebration.

Bishop’s Castle in Rye, Colorado is Beyond Description

I took mom and a friend to Rye, Colorado.   I wanted to see Bishop’s Castle.   This is a work in progress and exploring it was really fun.   Here we are.

Bishop’s Castle in Rye, Colorado

Visiting the castle is free, but of course, there are containers for donations.   As you see, even picnic tables for picnics or just resting.   Notice those tall windows and the walkway around castle.   We will be there.   There are many options for entering the castle.   This is one, but not the one we used.

Outside stairs

We walked around the castle first, entrances on each side and also in back.   We entered from a side and found spiral stairs.   First level was concrete stairs, then iron stairs.   We were inside one of the towers and it was rather dark.   Two flights up, we emerged in a large room.

Inside.

The ladder reminds us that this truly is a work in progress.  From another view we saw Mr. Bishop mixing a small batch of cement, put it in a wheel barrow and head to another area.  These openings led to an outside walkway.   Let’s go mom.   Oh my, this is exciting.

Outside walkway around castle

We are walking around the castle.   Oh, what is that?

Fire breathing dragon

I believe it is a dragon.   We heard that someone donated all this metal to Mr. Bishop and he built this dragon.   We also heard that he placed some type of burning device inside, near the dragon throat.   If he wants, sometimes on busy weekends, he makes the dragon breathe fire.   From the ground we saw a metal bridge, maybe connecting two towers.   We want to find that bridge, so we start climbing again.

Inside stairs

Soon we are climbing inside a tower, limited visibility, but what happened?   We climbed many steps, but never reached the bridge.   Well, look at that.

We wanted to be on that bridge. Wrong tower mom?

We are high above the bridge.   High being an important word here.  Mom had her finger over part of the camera, but you can see we are high.   That long building down there is the temporary gift shop.

Looking to gift shop. Long building is temporary gift shop

In March 2018, a fire destroyed the gift shop and a guest house.  Later we will visit the temporary gift ship.  But we want to get to the bridge now.   So we climb down all the stairs until we arrive in the big room, or the ballroom.

Windows in huge room. I’m on floor in front of windows. Yep. A tall room

This room is really huge.   I, Zeb the Duck, am on the floor in front of those windows.   You can hardly see me.   This is one of the few rooms in the castle.   OK, we climbed more stairs inside another tower.   Now we are on the bridge.   But, this is a bridge to nowhere.   You can see that the end of the bridge just ends.

On the bridge to nowhere

Not connected to anything.   And not to sound like a worrying duck, but this bridge moves a lot when we walk on it.   Just glad it is not windy, also.   OK mom, I have seen enough from this bridge.   I think I would like to get my little duck feet back on the real ground.  Back on the ground seems so nice.   I like climbing and exploring, but the moving bridge did make my little duck heart beat a little faster.   Mom and her friend, with me, of course, went into the gift shop.   We did not see anything we wanted, but we did put money the donation jar to help rebuild the gift shop.   Then we went outside near the castle and put money in that donation jar to help with castle building expenses.   This is a great place and we want Mr. Jim Bishop to keep building.   This is another bridge, wooden this time, that goes into the bridge by the road entrance to the castle.

Walkway to enter bridge between castle and road

We went over the bridge and into the building.   The stairs to ground level are cement and it is very dark there.   You have the choice of stairs or walking around as we did when we entered.   Near the road we saw this.

A model of the castle?

This seems to be a model of the castle.   It is on wheels, so perhaps it goes, or has gone to fairs or other locations.   We don’t really know.  Mr. Jim Bishop has been working on this castle for about 50 years.   Each year he single-handedly gathered and set over 1,000 tons of rock to create his stone and iron fortress.   He says it is a “monument to hardworking people” and “America’s biggest one man physical project.”  When asked why, he answers “I’ve always wanted a castle.  Every man wants a castle.”  He says “I did all myself, and I don’t want any help.”   2018 was a rough year for Mr. Jim Bishop.   In March 2018 a fire destroyed the gift shop and in August 2018, his wife passed away.   And he still keeps building.   Looking back at the castle, built by one man, we admire this structure.

What one man can accomplish

This is a day we will long remember.   We think you would enjoy seeing Bishop’s Castle in Rye, Colorado.   A little southwest of Pueblo, Colorado.

Elk in Estes Park, Colorado 2019, with Colorado Traveling Ducks

It would not be fall for us without a day trip to Estes Park, Colorado.

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park is the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.   There are a lot of elk in the park, and all over this area of Colorado.   In the fall, mating season brings the elk out of the mountains, and many spend time in the parks and golf courses of Estes Park.   We love to see them.   As we enter Estes Park we stop for a photo by the city sign.   The mountain views from this lookout are beautiful.

Mountain view from lookout

We continue into town, park, and walk along the river to the shops.

Creek

Having spent a lot of time in this small park, we can say it is a great place.   Of course, we love the water wheel.

Water wheel

And the shops beside it.   Last year we purchased singing bowls from the Himalayan store.   That is the last store by the water wheel.  They still sing and we still smile when we listen.   Walking along Elkhorn Boulevard, we purchased a couple pair of very soft slippers.   Then our normal stops at Laura’s Fudge Shop.   The sign says they have been spoiling dinner since 1970.   Moms have been coming here since the early 1970’s.   So, it really is delicious.   Fudge, toffee, candy, caramel apples, popcorn, ice cream and more.   Yum.   Then to The Taffy Shop.   Moms have been coming here just as long.    But, let’s find the real stars of today’s trip.   Often we see many elk on the lawn of The Stanley Hotel.

Elk herd at the Stanley

The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s book, The Shining.   Driving a couple miles toward the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, we see more young animals.

We are on the wrong side of these guys

They seem to be looking the wrong direction.   In town, often a herd is in the park near Lake Estes.

Elk in the park

Aren’t they magnificent?   Today we found this bull elk on the golf course.

Bull elk on golf course

And a few more elk lounging on the golf course.

Elk lounging on golf course

These elk are wild and very large, but they are rather accustomed to humans.   However, we do not get too close.   They are wild animals, it is mating season, and they can be startled.   So humans and ducks watch and admire the elk, but do give them a lot of space.   Today we are going home through Big Thompson Canyon.   This is a beautiful canyon with many private cabins, many rental cabins, bed and breakfast, lodge, shops and year round residents.   Parts of the canyon are rather wide to accommodate small settlements, and parts are rather narrow with steep mountain sides.   Often mountain goats are on the side of the mountains.   But today we stop for cherry treats.

Colorado Cherry Company

Colorado Cherry Company is a favorite.   We ducks relax on the chairs and pose for a photo.

Great store.  The Cherry Tree

Inside mom tries a couple bites of pie.   She settles on a cherry rhubarb slice of pie.  It is delicious.   Her favorite jam is dark cherry jam, so that comes home, too.

Pie for dinner dessert tonight?

I bet we have this slice of pie for dinner dessert tonight.   I hope so.   We went for the elk, but did come home with extra things also.   We, Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck, love these day trips.   We hope you enjoy day trips in your area.