The Crestone Eagle • August, 2020

The La Garita Trading Post reopens

by David Lee

Crestonians and Baca-ites are well-acquainted with La Garita and the La Garita Caldera. The Caldera formed about 28 million years ago (the largest explosion ever documented) on the west side of the San Luis Valley.  It gave rise to the spectacular rock formations of the area, including Penitente Canyon, Carnero Creek and the Cochetopa Hills.  Penitente is known for its dirt bike trails and sheer rock climbing. The good gravel road up the Carnero watershed takes you over Carnero pass, and past the Great Springs on the way back to Saguache. 

New owners Alma and Marlin Sauder, with children Lizzie and Jerome. photos by David Lee

Settled for agriculture in the 1850s (and home to the Utes and other tribes for millenia), La Garita was the northern-most Roman Catholic Parish in the valley, and it had a post office from 1874-1972. The fine San Juan Church was originally built in 1879, and the present building replaces one burnt down in 1924.  The La Garita Trading post was established by 1913, and the post office moved there soon after. Over that time, the Trading Post was a friendly stop for residents and visitors, known for its excellent hamburgers.  Jerry and Bonnie Nusbaum owned it for many years, but Jerry shut it down after his wife passed away in 2018. 

The news is that the Trading Post has been purchased by a family well known to Crestonians: Marlin and Alma Sauder and their nine children.  The Sauders have been delivering high quality dairy products, beef and poultry, and fresh produce at the Kiosk since 2012, a couple of years after moving from Kentucky and purchasing their farm. The Sauder farm is five miles northeast of La Garita. 

Marlin and Alma saw the Trading Post as an outlet to sell their produce and a challenging business opportunity for their older daughters, Esther and Lizzie.  They re-opened the premises in late May and are presently open Tuesday through Saturday.  The Trading Post is both a restaurant (open for breakfast and lunch 6:30am until 2pm) and a retail store with drinks and snacks, open until 8pm on the same days.  Breakfasts include a platter with eggs, bacon, sausage and home fries, and breakfast burritos and sandwiches.  Lunches include sandwiches, panini, and burgers.  The bread and buns for all offerings are baked on the premises, and they also sell home-baked pies and cookies.

They are off to a good start; half of their business is from local residents added by visitors to Penitente Canyon and other recreation sites in the area. The purchase included a hoop greenhouse behind the main building.  They hope to add more self-grown produce from the greenhouse, and eventually more home-grown meats from the farm. In this time of social distancing, sit-down dining is available in a large adjacent dining room, as well as outside tables. This is an historic building, and their counter, with its windows displaying commodities for sale, suggests the store’s long service to the local community.