The centerpiece attraction on the second day of our grip to Great Sand Dunes was actually in Alamosa… involving beer (of course!). During the course of doing research for something at work, my husband discovered a new brewery outside of Alamosa that essentially is a farm-to-table brewery. They grow as many of the ingredients for their beer on their farm and serve it in their taproom on-site. Pretty cool concept, especially as it pertains to both agriculture tourism and beer geekdom!
Based on the hours they’d be open, we decided to spend the morning at the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge just to the east of town. We’ve driven by it so many times and never made the turn to check it out, so it seemed like something fun to do. We weren’t sure what we’d see once we got back there, but if nothing else we’d get a good walk/hike out of it.
The parking lot at the Refuge was empty aside from a lone person who rode in on his mountain bike. Empty trail heads are a wonderful sight, since they often mean the trails aren’t crowded! The refuge had a loop that you could drive or a nature trail that ran along an irrigation ditch that you could walk for a couple of miles. Walking sounded good, so off we went down the nature trail.
The views of the San Luis Valley, the mountains, and the Dunes were beautiful. It was nice for us to get a different perspective on the scenery in a literal sense since we were looking at sites we’re so familiar with from a few miles further south than where we usually hang.
The one drawback to this walk along the irrigation ditch was that it was full of water. Water means there’s bugs. And we’re not talking just any bugs… crazy-big biting horseflies. The flies would not leave me alone. They generally left my husband alone, but not me. At points some were trying to bite me through my hiking leggings! I gutted it out as best as I could, but it was getting nuts between bites that were swelling up and swatting at myself constantly all while wearing my pack with my big camera strapped to the front. My husband even started walking behind me to help swat them off of my back because it was getting that insane!
Given the personal insect invasion I was experiencing, I was walking at a pretty good clip to get back to the trail head. I had my hiking boots on since the trail wasn’t perfectly clear and had a fair amount of tall grass & sticks along the way, though the boots weren’t laced up all the way to the hooks above my ankle as I normally do when I don’t need the extra ankle support. (Do you sense disaster coming yet?)
Well, we got to about 100-150 yards from the parking lot. Shelter from the biting flies was in sight! That’s when the loop on the shoelace of my right boot caught in the unused hook of my left boot, quickly changing my stride length from a couple of feet to less than 6 inches in an instant. I managed 1 or 2 stumbling steps in an attempt to catch myself, but the momentum was too much. I went down. Hard…. with my big camera hooked to the straps of my backpack.
My left knee took the brunt of the impact, but I was more concerned about what impact my camera took. I was uber fortunate because – somehow – I managed to turn my camera just enough that it took the impact towards the end of my 24-70 prime lens that had a polarizer on it. A little dirty, maybe a scratched filter, but both the camera and lens were still working without any problems! Huge sigh of relief… now let’s see how bad the knee is and if I can walk. (Yes, my priorities are a little whacked sometimes when it comes to my camera.)
Unbelievably, my hiking leggings weren’t ripped open. I thought for sure they’d be in tatters with a really badly scraped knee and other assorted bruises. So I rolled my pant leg up to check the damage and – amazingly – not bad, at least in terms of open wounds. However, from the throbbing, I knew I hit right on the top of the shin bone at my knee, so I figured I’d be in for a colorful souvenir from this trip within the next day or so. Time to hobble back to the car for some preliminary first aid. Needless to say, hiking for the day (and maybe the weekend) was over.
We drove into Alamosa and picked up an ice pack and a bandage to try to keep the swelling at bay as we still had another night of camping at Dunes ahead of us. So this became my fashionable look for the rest of the weekend:
With my gimpy leg, the options for activities were limited, so we did what we do best – found a new place to eat and have adult beverages! We drove further west to Del Norte (pronounced “Del Nort” by the locals) to a brewery recommended to us mainly for its pizza. We were not led astray – the pizza was fabulous and the beer was really good too. Another great food find in south central Colorado!
Eventually, we ended up at our main destination at the Colorado Farm Brewery and it did not disappoint. They can’t always grow every single ingredient they need for their beers, but they do grow as much as they possibly can. (Some varieties of hops, in particular, are tricky to grow in Colorado.) They did have a beer that was made with only ingredients from the farm and it was really good. The scenery from the patio at the taproom wasn’t too shabby either. The combo was exactly what I needed for a relaxing afternoon after my clumsy/semi-dramatic start to the day’s adventures!