Larry Jordan

Everyone is related, and everything is connected.

Crestone, Colorado

Apr 12, 2023 by Larry Jordan, in The Way
In 2017, we walked the Camino de Crestone, an interspiritual pilgimage in Crestone, Colorado, where we visited many spiritual centers, representing several of the world's great traditions. While there, we engaged in discussions, listened to lectures, and participated in ceremonies.  

Jill and I have been to all seven continents, and we have rarely been to the same place twice, but after we returned from Crestone, Jill wanted to go back SOON. Since that time, we spend one month every spring and one month every fall in Crestone. 

After our first trip, a friend asked us how it felt to be back in the "real world." Jill said, "That was the real world -- beautiful scenery, delicious food, good excercise, great company, powerful experiences, and stimulating conversations." If you think that the real world is bosses and budgets, think again.

Crestone is located in the San Luis Valley, the largest high-altitude desert in North America, stretching around 100 miles long and 50 miles wide. At 8,000 feet, the air is clear and still, and the views feature mountains on all sides.

The town backs up againt the Sangre de Cristo mountains and several 14,000-foot mountains or "fourteeners." We enjoy hiking on the trails and soaking in the hot springs. We also enjoy some of the lesser attractions, like the alligator farm and the UFO watchtower. 

At the spiritual centers, we can bake in a sweat lodge, celebrate Mass at a Carmelite center, chant to Shiva at an ashram, meditate in a zendo, receive energy healings at a Shinto center, and whirl with the dervishes at a Sufi circle. Each of these experiences is powerful in its own way.

We made many friends among people who live here and people who visit here, and we coordinate to meet in Crestone. One of the locals said, "When Larry and Jill visit, they bring people together, and we see people who we haven't seen for a long time, even though we live in the same town."

Although Crestone is the most magical place that we know, the area has its problems. Most of the streets are unpaved, and some of the utilities are unreliable. The architecture is eclectic, which sounds like a good thing until someone erects a silo or a teepee next to your home.

After COVID, there are only two restaurants, both are open only for breakfast and lunch, and one is open only a few days a week. The nearest grocery store, hospital, and pharmacy are located in Alamosa or Salida, and both require a one-hour drive. It can take a month to find a repairman.

Since we have been coming, a few of the spiritual centers have shut down, and some of the leaders at other spiritual centers are aging. Some of our friends, including several prominent residents, have left, because of the harsh environment or their health concerns or the lack of facilities.

Crestone struggles to balance the quirky vibe ("We are all here because we are not all there") with the march of progress. "This place is fragile," a friend said. 

In battles to erect a cell phone tower and to incorporate the development outside of town, the quirky people, a vocal minority, seem to have won. "Inconvenience is a virtue" is the curious slogan that they have embraced. All well and good, until you want health care or jobs or schools for your children.

"Cheap Land Colorado" describes the "off-the-grid" lifestyle here, where many build their homes, drill their wells, and erect their solar panels. Sounds idyllic, but not many people are talking about how to finance necessary public water system improvements with only a few hundred customers.

We host visiting family and friends when we are here, and several have returned. Most recently, we hosted a "friend of a friend," who is a friend now. When we are here, we support the economy, and when we are not, we support several of the spiritual centers financially. Crestone is one of our homes.

The town is a living testimony to the impermanence of existence. As long as there is magic here, we will return, but our crystal ball is not clear enough to know whether Crestone will be a ghost town or nice place to live or a travel destination in 20 years.  We hope for the best, whatever that is.