“La Veta is always on the cusp of being discovered,” said Jonathan Evans, who along with his wife, Beth, owns Shalawalla Batik Studio and Gallery/Gift shop in La Veta, Colo.
La Veta is absolutely a hidden gem nestled at the foot of the West Spanish Peak in southern Colorado. It sits in the fertile and lush Cuchara River Valley along Highway 12, otherwise known as “The Highway of Legends.” It is an area immersed in ancient history, legends, beautiful vistas, a thriving art culture and friendly people.
Beth and Jonathan Evans at Shalawalla are one of the many local artists in the town. Their gallery is filled with their own fascinating Batik art as well as other artist’s jewelry and clothing. Batik is a modality of art produced by using wax and dyes, building color from lighter to darker. Jonathan does brilliant likenesses with Batik and Beth creates intricate landscapes with a pointillism (tiny dots) technique. They also offer private or impromptu classes for adults and children.
April Buchschacher owns and operates The Painted Horse Gallery on Main Street. Buchschacher had been coming to La Veta for 40 years. Her uncle was the pastor of one of the local churches. She and her family moved to La Veta a few years ago after vacationing there from Texas. Buchschacher began to paint as a way to relieve stress. Her gallery offers wine and canvas classes, private events and she always has a table set up for anyone who wants to stop by and paint.
If you stop at the Francisco Fort Museum you might be able to talk director Bob Kennemer into a tour. You can be privy to his wealth of information and knowledge of the history of the La Veta area. He might tell you of the legend of the Wahatoyas, “the breasts of the earth,” as the Spanish peaks were named. He can tell you about the first settlers to the sacred valley, as well as the significance of the Santa Fe Trail, as you tour the original fort that was the foundation of the town of La Veta.
PEACE AND QUIET
Annalee Hickey of Bachman and Associates Real Estate said, “People come here so they can have peace and quiet.” She also said, “When you go into the surrounding national forests and trail systems, you’ll be alone. You can go hiking around in the woods for two days straight and never see a soul. There’s just not many places like that.”
Many of the older buildings in the town are built with sandstone mined from a local quarry. The old bank building’s fame and glory is that it was only robbed once. There is virtually little to no crime in this quintessential town and it is a very attractive and affordable place to live. There is plenty of lodging with multiple bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals through Cuchara Vacation Rentals.
There are abundant outdoor activities in La Veta. Thousands of acres of national forest and trail systems that attract hikers and campers from all over the globe. There is fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing at Wahatoya Lakes State Wildlife Area, and nearby Lathrop State Park as well as other numerous streams, rivers and mountain lakes in the area.
Cuchara ski area was located 12 miles south of La Veta on highway 12 and was opened in 1981 with two double chairlifts and a rope tow. The ski area was developed by a group from Texas and funded by Summit Savings and Loan. From 1985 to 2004 it was bought and sold, opened and closed five more times. It took four years in 2001 to 2004 to alleviate various liens on the property. In 2001, the forest service revoked their special uses permit which enabled them to operate, once again forcing a closure. In 2017, The Cuchara Foundation bought the property in a tax sale. They then gifted it to Huerfano County, with the objective to turn it into a year-round county park. It is now called Cuchara Mountain Park and offers hiking and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. Perhaps the ancient Indian legend that says, those that desecrate the valley will never prosper, had come to pass. Now the scars from the old ski runs can heal and slowly be taken back by the mountain.
For such a small town, the population rarely goes above 800 people, there is a lot to see and do, but the star attraction is the Spanish Peaks.
The two granite cones raise up from the valley floor and can be seen for miles in every direction. They are the only mountain range of the Rocky Mountains that run from east to west. From an aerial view they resemble a wheel with spokes protruding from their center. These spokes are called dikes and were made millions of years ago from the earth’s molten core filling in cracks and crevices.
The Devil’s Staircase is a massive dike wall running up the side of the west Spanish Peak. Legend states that it is the route Satan took to overlook the world and plan his takeover.
The Spanish Peaks predate the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains by more than a million years. Indian legend says that the ancient Gods lived at their feet and petroglyphs and pictographs have been found in the Spanish Peak territory. They remain a mystery. They are indecipherable by experts, and their origin has yet to be determined.
La Veta is a town you can fall in love with. It is an affordable, laid back destination to visit or put down roots in. It boasts industry in ranching, lumber, construction and tourism. From the thriving art culture, the many festivals throughout the year and ample opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts, there is always something to occupy your time. It is a hidden gem of southern Colorado. Discover La Veta. ❖
— Hall is a freelance writer from Platteville, Colo., when she’s not writing she is riding her horse in the mountains. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.