In the early spring, I worked closely with Texas Lifestyle Magazine editor, Julie Tereshchuk, to plan solo trips that would appeal to Texas Lifestyle Magazine readers. We wanted experiences that would not only be interesting to solos, which is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry, but also to those who would plan to travel with friends or family. When I mentioned the idea of spending the night in a tipi in Colorado, Julie’s response was a classic one, “It will be a great story Haven, but better you than me.”
And so, months after my revered editor’s premature death, I was in Colorado as we had planned all those months ago to spend the night in an authentic Native tipi. I was in the San Luis Valley at the base of the majestic and spiritual Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range at the Joyful Journey Hot Springs. After checking in with the busy, yet personable and unharried staff, I ventured my way to the row of four tipis. It was unseasonably cool and raining. With a chill in the afternoon air, I walked up to the tipi which was much larger than I imagined it would be and opened the flap of fabrics coming together to make a door and did exactly what Julie would likely have done upon realizing my mistake: I laughed out loud. And in that moment, I felt her presence on those sacred grounds as I quickly came to realize that in the communication with the staff, I missed the essential part about bringing my own bedding. The tipi was stately, ornately painted on the exterior, and authentically held together with tall pines, but on the inside there was nothing more than a couple of empty cots. Plan B quickly went into place and the Joyful Journey staff was true to their name – they were filled with joy and talked about this all being part of the journey.
I was encouraged to stay and soak in the natural hot springs which felt luxurious in the inclement weather. Joyful Journey reminds me of the thalassotherapy spas in Europe – void of pretention, naturally authentic, and focused on intention.
About a month later I returned, prepared with bedding and blankets, and this time with my dog in tow who was also welcome. Joyful Journey lays the foundation for whatever journey you want to take. And once you are on their grounds, that will make even more sense to you – it’s as if your personal journey is unveiled in its essence. Native Americans consider this location to be one of the most sacred and energetically healing places in North America. They say the natural springs here are encoded with the energy of the earth. The natural pools come from the travertine springs often topping out at 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but Joyful Journey maintains multiple pools at a variety of temperatures depending upon preference but never hotter than 108 degrees.
For a solo experience, it was one of the best. It is easy to be social at Joyful Journey and it is equally easy to set boundaries and escape to your own, private space. The journey is yours. The soaking experience is communal yet private and respectful. A labyrinth draws walkers throughout the day and evening. I happened to be entering the sacred circle as a woman was leaving, clearly emotional and teary. I stood respectfully and without saying a word as our paths crossed, I embraced her in a long hug – something I had never done before with a complete stranger. She received the hug without saying a word, then nodded and walked on. Something was shared, perhaps an intention was born or validated and my sense was this type of exchange was not uncommon on these grounds.
There is a pathway that leads to a private yet open space for reflection and meditation or simply to take pictures of the endless firmament as the mountains seem to move and undulate under the canopy of the sun’s color display. Meals are included and while they would not be considered to be gourmet, they are hearty, tasty, and well-prepared and served by a staff who not only makes sure you have everything you need but are sure to point out the bounty of snacks and pre-prepared foods if you want.
The night in the tipi was one that as a solo, I will be forever grateful for experiencing. Would I do it again? Perhaps. The tipi’s cots were not conducive to a luxurious night’s sleep and the mixed soundscapes of coyotes, owls, and semi-trucks hauling potatoes from the nation’s largest expanse of potato farms did not necessarily add to the comfort. Yet, the cacophony of sound and activity added value to the experience. Had I slept without interruption, I would have missed the soul-moving moment that must be experienced to fully appreciate. Never would I have imagined the light show that would come to life through the canvas of a tipi. Lying on the cot I watched as the stars twinkled and shown through the canvas, a dance of light in the darkness, a 360-degree virtual ballet of stars encircled me. Our Native brothers and sisters spent their lives in tipis, communing with Mother Nature, no doubt listening to similar sounds of coyotes and owls, as they watched the light show through the hides of their tipis. It is an experience that I will remember forever and made all the more special to experience the feelings and vastness as only a solo traveler can.
Joyful Journey does not limit its guests to staying in tipis. There are also yurts and hotel rooms to choose from – depending on the journey you want to experience. But in case you plan to stay in a tipi, it is advised that you bring your own bedding.
Cover photo courtesy Mountain Studio
Haven Lindsey resides in Taos, NM. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories. She was recognized by NPR for her solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Haven is working on her second book, a follow up to, ‘The Blue Dog and The White Horse Adventures on A Texas Ranch’, a children’s book about the friendship between her dog and a horse.