Cuchara Village: During lunch and dinner during the summer the boardwalk that makes up most of the the Cuchara Village is buzzing — which is fitting. Cuchara is the Spanish for ‘spoon,’ and the legend goes that settlers in the canyon found ancient spoons near the river. Native Americans originally settled in the canyon because the soil was ideal for potato farming. Families fill the patios at the Dog Bar and The Timbers Restaurant. Hummingbirds feed overhead and the babbling creek that runs behind River’s Edge Bed and Breakfast is background noise to laughter. During the rest of the day vacationers collect at the mini golf course, ice cream shop or small stores when they’ve had enough hiking or fishing. As far back as 1908 people have been vacationing near the rustic-looking social center for the valley. George Mayes brought his wife to the area for health reasons and thought it would be ideal for a resort. He named named his resort Cuchara Camps in 1908. By 1910 several more cabins were built in the area.
Blue and Bear Lake: Just off of Hwy 12, south of Cuchara, Blue and Bear Lakes are clearly marked with a sign and dirt road. Up five miles is Bear Lake, which got its name from an unusually brawny black bear in the early 1900s. Local rangers set a trap for the trouble-making bear and when they returned the trap was gone. Rangers eventually found the trap in the middle of a nearby lake. It was still attached to the bear. Thus, Bear Lake. There are 14 campsites near the lake as well as trailheads, picnic spots and plenty of good fishing in the Cuchara River and Blue Lake, which can be found along the same turn-off.
La Veta Main Street: It’s unclear what settlers meant when they named the area La Veta (“the vein” in Spanish). A vein of coal? Of gold? The vein-looking dikes that run through the valley? Today, visitors might think the area is a vein of art. Main Street is lined with art galleries from artists who have found a mini Taos in Huerfano County. The La Veta School of Arts offers several art classes throughout the year. Small concerts complement the music festivals that take place in Huerfano during tourist season. Boutiques, a general store complete with a mid-century themed soda fountain also add to the charm of La Veta’s main drag. Main Street is a unique combination of its exploration heritage, agriculture and art settlers.
Highway of Legends Drive: The two-hour 82-mile drive that stretches from Trinidad to La Veta, Hwy 12, takes you through 22 small communities. The scenic drive’s name hails from the stories and mysteries of the area’s history. According to legends, three monks were left along where the highway lies today by Spanish explorers upon their return to Mexico. One monk was said to have discovered veins of gold. He used local native Americans to mine the gold and pack it back to Mexico via mules. But, he was never seen again. Today, the only gold you will likely find is from the changing Aspen trees during the fall. The drive highlights much of the region’s history dating from the Native Americans to the remainders of coke ovens in Cokedale that were used for smelting coal from nearby mines.
Francisco Fort Museum: Located on La Veta’s Main Street, Francisco Fort Museum stands at its original site from 1862. John Francisco and his French-Canadian colleague Henry Daigre built the fort to protect themselves and a small group of farmers from attacks from Native Americans in the region. Soon to follow the fort construction was the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, which sparked the growth of La Veta. The museum has kept much of the original adobe brick, flooring, buildings and cottonwood tree, which was planted in 1878.
Ryus Ave. Bakery: The farm-to-table bakery off of Main Street in La Veta is only open Thursday through Saturday. The rest of the week the staff, plus seven interns, prepare the menu and work the farm. “Farm days typically consist of planting, harvesting, and weeding. Everything’s already pretty established this late in the season so it’s primarily maintenance. All of our produce goes to the cafe and the weekly town farmers market,” said intern Paige DeGeorge. The bakery has been in operation since 1991. Current owners Kristina and Matthew Heim have been in businesses under a year and have transformed the bakery into an eatery complete with a nearby farm and partnership with local ranchers. The menu is always changing with the season, Kristina Heim said. In the winter much of the menu comes from preserves from growing season.
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