Sep 30, 2013

Destination: Crestone, Colorado (and Crest-Fest as a bonus!)

What happens when you combine the remnants of an Old West mining town with a hippie commune?  The result would probably look something like Crestone, Colo. 

Crestone was the ultimate destination of the road trip I undertook with my friend, Ken, and fake wife, Christine, to visit Christine’s daughter who had recently moved there.  My first clue that Crestone had developed a “New Age” vibe was the primary purpose for the road trip – deliver to her daughter two large buckets of clay and pottery tools that don’t exactly mail well. 

The “traditional” town of Crestone rests at the end of the road at the foot of the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range in the northern part of the San Luis Valley – in other words, in the high desert plain in the south central portion of the state.  The town struggled to survive in obscurity after the mining boom ended a century ago and ranching took over, and as recent as the 1990 census had merely 40 people. 

Then, a “genius” entrepreneur working on behalf of the Arizona Land and Cattle Company decided to buy a huge tract of land south of town formerly known as the Baca Grant to create the world’s largest modern subdivision in the middle of nowhere – Baca Grande.  Seriously, we’re talking 10,000 lots.  This guy must have smelled the tourist and retiree dollars rolling in.  Except, they never came. 

But you know who did come, and eventually started buying up those tracts of land after the corporation sold the land off as a lost cause?  Spiritualists, naturalists and artists of all kinds.  In fact, the spiritual communities at Baca Grande continue to grow, and thanks in part to them, the population of Crestone has more than doubled in 20 years (in fact, their website boasts 150 residents).  And if you’re thinking this town is ready to embrace the new marijuana laws in Colorado, you’re probably right. 

This combination provided some interesting sightseeing as we familiarized ourselves with the sights in and around Crestone, and in particular settled in at the Silver Star Bed & Breakfast, which I will blog about in more detail later.

For instance, there’s the “old” town grid of Crestone, blending a few basic modern conveniences, historic buildings, art galleries, a couple of restaurants, a hotel and a youth hostel (with yurts that frankly just weren't up to par with the one we stayed in later on the trip). 

Here’s the mercantile where Christine’s daughter works …

Source:  Wikipedia Commons, Author Fred Bauder
And here’s the all-important liquor store …

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a gas station, you won’t find one within a 40-mile radius.  So, watch your gas gauge when you’re driving out here, and plan accordingly.

Then there’s the “New Age” Crestone, represented by the newer eco-friendly homes, Buddhist and Hindu temples, retreats, monastery, and artist’s colonies nestled on the mountainside just outside of the old town along a web of narrow roads (some are paved, but most going up the mountainside are gravel).  

Here’s an example of a home you’d find on your way to our bed and breakfast. 

Here’s the Crestone post office, fitting right in with the nearby spiritual centers.

Source:  Wikipedia Commons, Author Fred Bauder
Here’s the road that takes you toward where Christine’s daughter lives …

And here’s where Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru Skywalker live.  Or maybe snail people.  We’re still trying to decide.

And, as fate would have it, we happened to be in Crestone during the biggest annual happening of the year – the Crestone Music Festival.  It’s a celebration of world music, diverse cultures and, all the things that make Crestone, well, Crestone.  The festival is held at the Challenger Golf Course and White Eagle Lodge located about a mile out of town on the main road that takes you to nearby Moffat and the nearest state highway.    

Even with the threat of rain, cool nighttime temperatures and a constant wind, Ken and I felt like we hit the jackpot because Louisiana Cajun blues/rock musician Tab Benoit was headlining Crest-Fest the night we were in town.  Seriously, what are the odds of seeing someone this talented and well known headlining a music festival in a town of 90 people? 

Trust me, he's back there somewhere. 
Before Tab Benoit’s show, I caught a little bit of a band called Atomga, which is a self-described afro-beat band.  I detected a good smattering of jazz and funk I what I heard, too, so that made me a happy camper. 

Yeah, I know, they don't look like afro-beat, but they really were very good! 
And what Crest-Fest would be complete without a yak burger from the Yak-n-Cracker Café stand?  I can say without a doubt that they served the best yak burger I've ever had.

So, there you go … a few scenes to give you an idea of the character (and characters) that you’ll find in the little town of Crestone.  It’s not exactly a popular or well-known destination in Colorado, but I certainly enjoyed my time here, and I wouldn't mind at all coming back.  The vibe is fun, and the scenery is breathtaking. 

And if you’re looking for a place to stay in Crestone, I’ll cover the Silver Star Bed and Breakfast next time. 

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