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Crestone, Colorado

Cultural District
Sanctuary House celebration on the labyrinth – William Howell

The San Luis Valley boasts a bird sanctuary, two hot springs, a hot-springs swimming pool, and is simply some of the finest country in Colorado, the Sangre de Cristos Mountains, the Collegiate Range and the San Juan Mountains all visible from our valley, which has some of the cleanest air and biggest skies in the United States. The most valuable commodity here is, perhaps, the quiet. Crestone is the arts & cultural center of the entire area. We have one of the most interesting newspapers in the nation, the CRESTONE EAGLE, a campus of Colorado College, plus a Crestone/Moffat/Baca Business Association. The Crestone Music Festival is now well-known, and its 4th of July parade and festivities bring people from all over. It has several restaurants, the Elephant Cloud Teahouse, a farmers' market, 7 organic growing outlets, numerous growing domes, and is a mecca of alternative building, with house tours to boot. Its charter school is getting a new facility and its community is exemplary, with organizations like Neighbors Helping Neighbors and the Crestone End-of-Life Project offering heartful help to those in need, not to mention our astounding array of truly gifted healers, artists and musicians. But perhaps the main aspect of this tiny international community, which includes the Baca Grande, a large failed retirement community in the 1970s being reborn as a spiritual oasis. In the Crestone/Baca are 7 Buddhist retreat centers (the valley and mountains reminding Tibetans of the country from which they are largely exiled); 3 stupas; 2 Zen centers, a Carmelite monastery of monks & nunks; 2 ashrams; a Shinto center; a Shri Aurobindo Learning Center; 2 churches; a Jewish presence, a Seik presence, a Sufi presence, and Sanctuary House (which honors all the spirituo-religious traditions)--as well as Manitou Foundation, which has donated land to most of our spiritual centers; and the Crestone Spiritual Alliance, an organization bringing the spiritual centers of our area together around issues of common concern. There are also strong shamanistic and Native American interests here that offer the practices imbedded in their traditions.

History of Area

Crestone sits in the San Luis Valley, the largest high-desert agricultural valley in the world. A personal gift from the King of Spain in the 1600s, the land surrounding Crestone was a Spanish land grant. In the 1700s, story has it that a priest dying in the late afternoon looked up, beholding the reddish effect of the mountains at sunset, and said with his last breath, "Sangre de Cristo!" (The Blood of Christ). Thus the mountains at whose foot this international village sits got their name. To get to Crestone, you turn at Moffat, now a blink-of-an-eye town...but this silver mining center had a train station, which meant a way to transport ore and cattle and potatoes, such that, with 4000 inhabitants in the lat 1890s, this whistle stop was being considered as a candidate for the capitol of Colorado. Crestone itself is an old mining town. While its 2000 souls at the turn of the 20th century now number 200, the community energy and purpose have been raised many many fold. The town of Crestone is associated with the Baca Grande subdivision, a population district of some 1200-1500 inhabitants, that the locals call the Crestone/Baca. It has historic buildings. it has a farmer's market. It is scenic to the hilt. And the area is littered with old mines. Not to mention a meteor crater. Plus some tiny one-time towns: Cottonwood and Liberty. It boasts a great Native American connection, for this was once called 'the Bloodless Valley', as it was a place of powwow and healing, with never a battle fought here. There are 3 stone huts that have been found off 'the High Road' that could be several hundred years old. Twelve miles off CO Hwy 17, Crestone is at the dead end of County Road T. It lies at the foot of sacred mountains, the Sangre de Cristos, at the base of Crestone Peak, the most sacred mountain in the world for the Hopi, and has a fine view of Mt. Blanca, the most sacred mountain in the world for the Navaho. Both mountains are 'fourteeners' and in between them rests the haunting terrains of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There is great hiking here, with trails bordering each of our five creeks flowing down from the Sangres. There is wildlife here, with deer and elk and antelope very used to people, as that there has been no hunting in our community for 35 years.

Nearby Places