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.
Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz
Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.
His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.
Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.
It was the aftermath of a breakup.
“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.
In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.
So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?
Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.
In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?
You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.
The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.
It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.
Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?
I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.
How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?
It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.
Had you recorded like that before?
It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, were like that: recorded at home and more stripped down with the production and just making use of what we had. The last three albums were full bands or went to a really professional studio. This is how I made records way back.
Why did you decide to do it this way?
The songs mostly had an acoustic feel, and I sing in my living room a lot. I have this open, high ceiling. So I play my guitar and sing in my living room a lot. I think it sounds cool in there. I thought we could make a cool recording there. I liked the idea of making this intimate album in my home. It was a comfortable, cozy way to make an album.
So everything about this album seems more intimate that what you’ve done in the last few years.
Yeah. Definitely. Everything is. There’s only four musicians on this album, and one of those is my roommate who did knee slaps.
I also noticed on the album credits was an oatmeal container.
So I bought a plastic egg shaker because I thought I maybe wanted to some percussion. But it just didn’t sound that cool. I was like, well we have oatmeal around the house. There wasn’t much left in one container and so we shook it and it was a way better shaker sound, you know?
The inspiration for these songs were the feelings that linger after a break-up. Was there a cut-off point there since emotions always evolve, especially in these instances?
It’s a process. A relationship ends and we all go through the phases. Months go by and you change how you feel. The me that wrote those songs and recorded them months back is a different person. I’ve evolved in the process.
Did you have to simmer to write these songs or was it immediate?
I wrote the first song like a month after. I was trying to write again because I write in cycles. I had just put out an album at the beginning of last summer and when I’m in album release mode I’m not writing as much. But when that’s over I want to write. This time I wanted to write again and I had a fresh reason. I find it a little uncontrollable. I’ve never not written about any breakup I’ve ever had. It’s just part of the territory of being writer. I haven’t written anymore since I wrote those. I’m in album-release mode. I think I decided I’m done with these songs on this album. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to get it out. This part of my life is completed and now I will write a bunch of songs about U.S. presidents or something like that.
I noticed on your social media you like presidential biographies.
Yeah, I do. My friend Jeffrey Foucault is a songwriter and he gave me a LBJ biography. I really liked it, so I thought I’d give George Washington a try and I just kept going.
How many are you up to?
I’m almost done with Grant, so 18.
So far do you have a favorite based off of biographies?
Grant has been really interesting. Lincoln was fascinating. Martin Van Buren. Great sideburns.
Back to the album. Do you think the listener can hear an evolution throughout the album?
Yeah, those songs were written at different times, so probably. I’d say it’s a snapshot of what somebody goes through, or at least what I went through. But I think what most of us go through after a breakup.I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.
I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.
You can purchase Darkness in the San Juans at johnstatz.com.
Denver’s Wes Watkins dynamic new future-funk EP is from another planet
Future-Funk Party Starter | Wes Watkins
Dreams Out from Denver’s best kept secret Wes Watkins wears so many musical hats it needs a rack; downtempo G-Funk homage and sweltering nee-Soul / Rn’B are all over this release, all covered with a thicc pop glaze and a penchant for electronic-sonic experimentation that keep every song fascinatingly adventurous while maintaining a danceability and groove that easily, easily warrants multiple listens. Don’t sleep on this one.
Lo-Fuzz Folkie | Hoi Ann
The beauty of Hoi Ann’s Tangenier lies in both what you can hear and what it may want you to not hear. Lo-fi folk and bedroom-pop are easily tangible on its surface, but the buzzy electronic tones that sparingly flourish the 5 songs of this release lie low and create a unique aural atmosphere for listeners, like hidden secrets for your ears only.
Indie-Punk Sweeties | Gestalt
The pop-punk shred-bois in Gestalt are back at it again; The irresistible combo of the Get Up Kids earnest midwestern-emo and smart pop-punk wit of the Wonder Years is strong on the tracks that encompass LongBoix, as is an acute fondness and growing appreciation for the finer indie rock of yesteryear. Well I guess this is growing up.
Psych-Rock Screamcore | Gone Full Heathen
On their criminally good self titled EP, Fort Collins heavies Gone Full Heathen friggin dare you to try and trap them in a single genre. Nice try, but they’ll just chew right through your puny ropes using a gnashing blend of crushing stoner-rock laced hardcore punk and overdriven psych-rock / post-metal induced bite like the righteous rock and roll wolves that they are.
All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!
The Haze Craze for Lazy Days
There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.
Within those styles, however, are varying styles.
For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.
For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.
Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.
Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.
You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.
What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.
Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.
That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.
Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.
NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.
Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.
WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.
Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.
So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.
On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.
At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.