Centaur Hunting in the Collegiate Peaks


Buena Vista

centaur-crossingThe area:

The ghost towns are scattered throughout this part of the Rocky Mountain range. The Silver Rush turned the homesteading trickle into a flood. The dreamers and schemers dug out virgin alpine forests and used their woody flesh to construct sheds, mills, mines and main streets. Tent towns popped up all along the newly carved train lines. Many towns didn’t make it, and their rickety boardwalks were consumed by the landscape. Buena vista is one such town to survive the and thrive amidst the stampede west.

Like so many mountain towns, Buena (pronounced like the “beu” in beautiful because double meanings are always fun) Vista was a landing zone. The real action is out in those vistas. They are called The Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range. Mountains Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Harvard tower to the west of the town. You could see more of Colorado’s famous 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet tall), but these mountains are so massive that they cover up the view.

Of course, there were people here who have also named these mountains. They are the Tabeguache Ute. The Moache and Capote Ute bands also would have been in the area at times.[i] For them, these mountains are embedded in their creation. There are two more 14’ers just to the south of Buena Vista, Mountains Ouray and Chipeta. Ouray was chief of the Umcompahgre Utes and Chipeta was his wife.[ii]

If you have been to Colorado, then you have seen many Uto-Aztecan words. They are everywhere. Pagosa (Water that smells like sulfur)[iii] Springs, Tabeguache (a Ute Tribe), and Sawatch are just a few examples of Ute names still alive in Colorado. In fact, the Spanish word saguach comes from Sawatch and they both mean “blue-green” place.[iv]


The Herbs:

Natural Mystic Wellness Center
204 E Main St, Buena Vista, CO 81211

Cosmic Brain Buds 70% (I), 30%(S)
Grade: B+- should have been an A, but the buds were entirely too small.

There are not any recreational shops here in Buena Vista, but there is a lone medical dispensary. It sits right next to an old-timey mountain tavern and is called Natural Mystic Wellness Center. It is nice and pretty and clean from the outside. Yet, I could not really tell if it was a ganja shop or not. The façade looked like I was walking into a massage center or an acupuncture studio. It could have been a naturopathic Doctors office or an aromatherapy place too. I had to triple-check the green cross on the window before I walked in. (but that is not always going to lead you to the right place either).

It wasn’t much clearer when I got inside. In fact, I was even more confused. It really didn’t help. The aromas of a ganja shop were there. But smell alone was not enough to rule out a massage or acupuncture studio. It was not until I was able to verify with the receptionist that I found the right place.

After all the formalities were finished, we headed to the display room. They had a ton of herbs. 40-50 varieties maybe. There was at least ten of each of the Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid varietals. They kept them in glass jars and weighed each order out, which is a huge bonus in my book.

The Cosmic Brain Buds have one hell of a name and came budtender recommended. The few nugs that are fullly intact are dense as a baby pinecone. Their meat is a strong purple color that made me feel like I was taking a color blind test when I looked into the jar. There are all sorts of colors, but purple really stuck out.

The Cosmic Brain Buds burned clean. The growers really know what they are doing. The budtender said that they cure for up to 8 weeks. This cool, dry mountain air is the perfect environment for a nice long cure to take place. It is far superior to the cures that growers in the industrial district in Denver have to deal with: swamp coolers and humidifiers are often needed to fight the incredible heat that these dry rooms face. These Buena Vista buds are far from those big city worries, and it shows.

The most fantastic thing about this place, however, is the big playground in the sky right outside their doors. The snowcapped mountains can blur the separation of land and clouds. 8 of Colorado’s 14ers are in the area. Buena Vista sits in the valley that the mighty Arkansas river carved out. It is indeed a beautiful view.

There are wilderness areas all around here. A short drive north will take you to Twin Lakes and a segment of the Continental Divide Trail. Or, you can go south and head into the San Isabel forest for some natural hot springs action and a creek-side soak all year long.

If water is your thing, then the Arkansas river is raging and ready for the best you got. This area is brimming with river rafting companies. You could also bring your own raft. Be ready, though, because this river has some serious attitude. Parts of it are the most dangerous level, class V. People die rafting this river every year.

If you don’t want to go that extreme, you could just wade into one of the tamer parts of the river and do some fly fishing. Get some of that River trout and let the shower of praises from your family for your killer instincts. Get wild in these hills.


[i] Email correspondence with Liz Cook, Environmental Educator of the History Colorado Center.

[ii] http://www.ouraycolorado.com/about-ouray/history

[iii] http://cozine.com/1995-august/translating-ute-place-names/

[iv] http://cozine.com/1995-august/translating-ute-place-names/