Breaking News – Conference Almost Set!

September snowfall in the mountains above Great Sand Dunes NP&P © Don Laine

By Don Laine —

RMOWP’s 2018 conference takes place in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve area, with headquarters in Alamosa, Colorado. Dates are September 23-26, (that’s Sunday afternoon through Wednesday evening), with both pre- and post-conference activities, field trips, and all the usual instructive and fun activities.

Alamosa is about 235 miles southwest of Denver; 245 miles southeast of Grand Junction, Colorado; 200 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and 140 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, all of which have airports, some bigger than others.

SUB at Adams St.

Student Union Building (SUB) at Adams State ©
Don Laine

Most meals, workshops, and other sit-down presentations will take place in the Adams State University Student Union Building in downtown Alamosa. RMOWP will provide university parking passes for registrants. Those bringing pets need to know that pets are not permitted in the Student Union Building but can be walked on the university grounds. Of course, service animals can be taken anywhere.

The conference will involve some driving – Great Sand Dunes (www.nps.gov/grsa) is about 35 miles from Alamosa – but it will be well worth the effort. Please bring your America the Beautiful or other federal lands passes, as we will be carpooling into the national park and other public lands.

A Registration form was sent to members with the March-April newsletter and will soon be available here, where you can pay through PayPal. RMOWP will not be able to include beer and wine at meals in the meeting room at Adams State University, but you can buy it at reasonable prices from the official Adams State caterer.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR

Cumbres & Toltec train prepares to leave the Chama station © 2010 Barb Laine

Pre-conference field trips to see and photograph wild horses are planned – see “Join Us for a Wild Horse Photo Tour” on page 6 of this newsletter. Also planned is a post-conference all-day trip on the historic Cumbres and Toltec narrow-gauge steam train (www.cumbrestoltec.com) on Thursday, September 27. We’ll drive to the railroad’s Antonito depot and take a shuttle bus to Chama, New Mexico to board the train for the trip back to Antonito.

So what else is going on? The schedule is still a work in progress, but here’s what’s shaping up.

The conference officially begins Sunday (9/23) evening with a welcome from President Kent Taylor, handouts and announcements, and a reception with food and drink, all in Alamosa’s historic train station, now the Colorado Welcome Center. This is also a good time to arrange carpooling for Monday (9/24), which will be spent entirely at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and adjacent attractions. If there’s enough water we can see Zapata Falls, just outside the national park boundary, and we may have an opportunity to see the Nature Conservancy’s famed bison herd. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center on your way into the park for the low-down on how these huge sand dunes were formed. We’ll lunch at the Great Sand Dunes Group Picnic Area, go on a guided ranger walk, and explore the park, making sure we’re back at the group picnic area in time for a barbecue dinner. Then you’re on your own for sunset and full-moon photography.

On Tuesday (9/25) we plan to carpool to Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/alamosa) for a ranger-guided walk, and then head to the Adams State University meeting room for lunch, the presentation of contest submissions, a workshop, board of directors’ meeting, and a general membership meeting. Getting hungry? We’ll chow down before the showcase of selected members’ photography and our always-popular photo critique.

The sunrise photo shoot kicks off Wednesday (9/26), and then it’s the writers’ forum, lunch sandwiched between workshops, the auction, and the conference’s official grand finale with the banquet and awards ceremony.

Late September should have wonderful fall colors, especially along the steam train’s route over 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass. The weather will be cool (downright chilly in the evenings and early mornings). This past September your conference organizers woke up to snow in the higher elevations of Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Lodging will be at the Alamosa Super 8, which has offered us a group rate of $89 per night for one or two adults in rooms with either one king bed or two queens. Reservations should be made by calling the motel directly at 719-589-6447.

Although the exterior of the motel is somewhat drab, the rooms are quite nice. All rooms have microwaves and refrigerators and a hot breakfast is included. There’s a small indoor pool and hot tub. Pets are accepted in a limited number of designated pet rooms for $10 per pet per night and there are several ADA handicapped rooms. Note – cancelations without penalty can be made only until September 8. If you have any problems or questions, talk with RMOWP’s contact there, Manager Jose Rodriguez.