The San Luis Valley is a study in contrasts, evident in the 7,000-foot elevation gain from the low-lying valley floor to 14,345-foot Blanca Peak. The Great Sand Dunes are reminiscent of the Sahara Desert. Fourteen-thousand-foot peaks, the spire-like Crestone Needle, and its neighbor Crestone Peak - pride of the Sangre de Cristo ("Blood of Christ") Range - are the natural landmarks for the valley's eastern boundary.
Vast expanses of wild, rugged hills make up this country. The city of Grand Junction - so named for the confluence of two rivers - is the gateway to the wilderness and Utah's rugged terrain. Just east of Junction is Palisade, a valley lush with peaches and pears that abuts the 50-mile-wide flat-topped Grand Mesa, bursting with recreational activities. To the north are the Book Cliffs and eventually Dinosaur National Monument. Grand Mesa National Forest boasts 300 lakes and reservoirs.
"No life or spark"
The Colorado capital of today is a far cry from the cattle country of a generation ago. The growing city with a small-town ambiance has become a full-fledged metropolis. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, for instance, is nearly as big as New York's Lincoln Center. Denver is the center of finance and commerce in the Southwest, the nation's fastest growing region. The new families have reclaimed old downtown neighborhoods, such as historic Capitol Hill.