Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crestone Baca Spiritual Highway

Go to MapMyRide: Crestone Spiritual Highway

This scenic route, a part of the earlier described Loop around the Baca Grande, takes one by some of the spiritual centers Crestone is famous for.


The route begins at the entrance of the Baca Grande, a short distance from the town of Crestone itself.


After a mild climb, you pass the Enlightenment Stupa on the 55 acres of Yeshe Rangsal (Self-Cognizant Wakefulness). Climb the driveway to visit the stupa. The view of the valley and the mountains from the stupa as the sun goes down is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. (More information: www.pundarika.org)

Not far from the centers.

Road changes from tarmac to dirt/gravel as we enter the Spiritual Highway proper. The road has no official name on the map so those who live here refer to it as the Spiritual Highway.



Choying Dzong is the retreat center for the Yeshe Khorlo Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist organization.

Next up is Chamma Ling, a Bon retreat center founded by Tenzin Wyangyal Rinpoche. Bon is the indigenous religion of Tibet founded by a Buddha preceding Gautama Buddha. This retreat center has dark retreat cabins where meditation practitioners will remain in complete darkness for up to 40 days. By eliminating the overlay of the visual world, aspects of mind normally hidden reveal themselves to the practitioner.


Proceeding further, The Haidaikhandi Universal Ashram entrance. There is a wonderful little store with spiritual items as well as a beautiful temple. The practitioners seem very welcoming. This is a functioning ashram very much off the grid.

Spanish Creek along the way.

Is that my nose? Next is the Crestone Mountain Zen Center founded by Zentatsu Baker Roshi, the first American roshi.

Shumei, a fantastic center, built by the Japanese. Beautiful architecture, organic farming... A beautiful vision...

The Crestone Center
is the home of the Shumei International Institute (SII), a newly established non-profit corporation created to promote spiritual growth through interfaith activities, the practice of Natural Agriculture, and the sponsorship of cultural events.

Similar to Shumei’s Kishima Island in Japan, the Crestone Center will serve as a retreat for Shumei’s members. The site also will be an international venue for cultural, environmental, spiritual, and interfaith activities. In addition, symposia focusing on Shumei’s special concern with art*, spirituality*, and the environment* will be hosted at this facility.

The end of line. You can turn back to return to Crestone. Veer left and bike the steep grade to the second large stupa. Turn right to continue on the Loop around the Baca Grande.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loop around Baca Grande on the Spiritual Highway

Go to MapMyRide Map: Loop around Baca Grande. Ignore the Westcliff reference. Crestone is so off the grid, MapMyRide doesn't seem to know where to place it. Like Shangrila, Crestone is a self-hidden kind of place. Crestonians like it that way.

Here are some pictures of the different road conditions to expect on the loop.

The Loop starts here.

Tarmac for around 3 miles.
The Stupa. Stop here for some incredible views.

Changes to Dirt/Gravel Road as we enter the Spiritual Highway. The retreat centers are along here.

Washboarding along the Spiritual Highway. There was usually a flat way to the far left and right.

The phenomenon you refer to is known as "washboarding," a wave-like pattern on unpaved roads that might more aptly be called speedbump hell. As you've observed, the ruts occur with striking regularity, belying a chaotic event like erosion.

According to Tom Pettigrew, a Forest Service engineer, the cause is an unlikely source: your car's suspension. (Well, maybe not yours specifically, but it's not innocent in this matter, either.) A vehicle's suspension system distributes the shock and energy of road irregularities with a bouncing rhythm called harmonic oscillation. At each downstroke, the wheels exert extra force on the road, causing the particles in the road to either pack or displace at regular intervals. Once a pattern of ruts starts to establish itself, it becomes self-reinforcing due to what engineers call forced oscillation. The next car hits the same irregularities in the road and bounces at the same rate, causing the pattern to become more and more defined. Forced oscillation overcomes minor variations in oscillation rate that might otherwise arise due to differences in car weight.

Wouldn't variations in speed affect the washboard pattern? Sure, which brings us to another critical part of the feedback loop: you, the driver. Drive too fast on a washboard road and the downstroke exerted by the car wheels may meet the road at a point where a bump is ramping upwards. You know what that means: You bounce off the ceiling. Instinctively most drivers slow to a speed at which the downstrokes coincide with the troughs between bumps, reinforcing the pattern.

Washboarding is inevitable in any unpaved road that sees fairly heavy traffic. The only way to avoid it is to: (a) radically redesign how automotive suspensions are made, (b) give up suspensions altogether, or (c) keep off those dirt roads. Reference.

Spanish Creek. One of the Streams along the way.

Shumei. A spiritual tradition that places emphasis on natural beauty, spiritual healing, and organic farming. Crestone is one of the few places around the world chosen for a retreat center. If you stop by, they will give you a tour of their organic farm, and they will perform jorei, a form of spiritual healing, if you request it. Remember, shoes off at the door.


A 360 video from Shumei.

Some sandy patches past Shumei. The road is also a bit rougher.

Turning off the Spiritual Highway, as we go by the German house, the road is blocked by big rocks. Your bike can pass though. This is private property so quickly and quietly traverse the slope to the road below.

For a shorter trip you can turn back here and return to Crestone.

Down the road past the German house.


Back to tarmac on Camino del Rey as we descend into the San Luis Valley. This area is known as the Baca Grants.


360 video from the Grants.


Continue on tarmac on Wagon Wheel as we loop back across valley.

Same stream as we loop back. Spanish Creek I think.



Back to dirt/gravel on Spanish Creek Road.

Turn on Co Rd T and return to start.

Biking in Crestone and the Baca

In travelling though Colorado, I chanced to see one of the Biking events where all these colorful riders trekked up the side of the highway, huffing and puffing up the mountain. My first reaction was to silently scoff at them with the thought of how jock they must be, but secretly I must have been impressed. Anyway, the thought came to me last year that the distance from the cabin to the eateries of Crestone was really quite optimal for a bike, even if there was a bit of a climb on the way back. Being from Houston, climbs at 8500 feet altitude were a bit intimidating. But I figured I could walk the hard parts. Anyway, on impulse I looked at the classifieds in the local Crestone Eagle paper, and there was a bike advertised.

It turned out to be an first generation Cannondale mountain bike of 19 in., in rideable condition so I bought it for $125. I took it to the Absolute Bikes in Salida, an hour away, and they tuned it and put some new tires with a tread for tarmac and gravel roads.

There was a lot of huffing and puffing, and walking, and eventually a new Super granny gear, but I was sold on biking Crestone. I bought a Raleigh Competition GS for Houston, to build up my stamina, and that worked, so this year, 2012, I can really bike about the Baca.

Upon reflection, I am impressed with how much I depended upon others for learning about biking, especially Grant Peterson, and his thinking, which in his new book, Just Ride, revolves around the concept of being an Unracer. More on this later, perhaps. Anyway, I feel I should give back, at least a little bit, so I put together this blog on biking in Crestone. My intention is to provide the kind of information that you might find useful if you find yourself going to Crestone for a spiritual retreat and you are a bike rider. You might not know how congenial Crestone is for unracer bikers or for racing bikers for that matter. That is, going to Crestone, bring your bike.


Crestone and the Baca Grande

You may find yourself in Crestone one day, perhaps because you are on a Buddhist or other meditation retreat. Wikipedia says there are 14 spiritual centers here, but I believe there are more. Quoting from Wikipedia,

A number of spiritual leaders have remarked upon what they perceive as special qualities of the area. The name of the nearby Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains are one indication of the early impression the area made on settlers. Thrangu Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama, has stated that in part because Crestone is near the Continental Divide with waters that flow in both directions, it is a particularly auspicious place. According to Buddhist scholar Reginald Ray, another high-ranking Tibetan Buddhist lama, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, told him "Crestone is one of the two or three places on Planet Earth best suited for retreat practice."

I should mention that the energy is particularly powerful here, too powerful for non-practitioners to want to stay very long! Like Sedona, and Shasta, this place is wonderful for practice. With the stupas and all the prayer flags, it will remind some of Nepal and Tibet.

Crestone is a place to contemplate, both one's Enlightenment nature, but also the natural beauty of the place. The Japanese contemplative tradition Shumei places great emphasis on natural beauty, and they chose Crestone to build a multi-million dollar spiritual center.