An out-of-this world roadside attraction

Southern Colorado's UFO Watch Tower

Photos by Michael Mundt

Visitors leave trinkets in the site's healing garden.

     If you ask me, every good family road trip needs a spontaneous side tour. And during the one we took through Southern Colorado this August, the boys had hoped ours would be at the Colorado Gators Reptile Park  as we made our way out of Great Sand Dunes NP.

     But with the dinner hour fast approaching and nearly three hours of drive time westward to Durango, Colo., we opted for a shorter excursion we saw advertised on several billboards along Hwy 17: The UFO Watch Tower.

     Located about 23 miles north of Alamosa near Hooper, Colo., this unique site opened in 2000 as a joke, when owner Judy Messoline gave up cattle ranching. Having heard neighbors’ stories of unusual sightings in the San Luis Valley—and learning that UFO buffs often visited her land at night to catch sightings of their own—she capitalized on her prime location, opening a campground and building the 10-foot watchtower.  

     “At night the sky here is just so crystal clear,” says Candace Knowlan, Messoline’s neighbor who manages Messoline’s on-site Bed and Breakfast, GG’s. “You can see the Milky Way and why it’s called that.”

     Believers worldwide have flocked to the San Luis Valley, revered among flying-saucer buffs as one of the best places in the world to see UFOs, according to RoadsideAmerica.com, a tourists’ guide to all attractions quirky. And Messoline’s tower offers a prime, 360-degree view of this so-called UFO mecca.

     “Since it opened, there have been 84 documented (UFO) sightings here; Judy has seen 26 of them,” Knowlan says, standing in for her friend that day as our guide.

      Once a skeptic herself, Messoline has since embraced her role as the proprietor of what she describes on her site as the first watchtower of its kind. And in 2002, she added the healing garden, where Knowlan says visitors have left “pieces of their energies” as they’ve walked the path.

     “People leave some of their own energy to blend with the energy of the garden,” she says of the eclectic treasures—student IDs, jewelry, sunglasses and more—that adorn the garden.

     This “energy” is built on a premise that’s been confirmed by more than 20 psychics, she says.

     “There are two vortexes here, which are portals to parallel universes,” Knowlan says, designating the “green guy” between the vortices as the “vesica picis,” where two circles—in this case vortexes—of the same radius overlap. (Think Venn diagram.)

     “The what to the what?” I wanted to ask. But instead, I nodded. “Uh huh.”

     “There’s a lot of energy associated with the garden; people can feel it,” Knowlan continues. “There have been reported healing—physical, spiritual, mental, emotional—in garden. When you walk through, you feel the energies.”

     Look, I’ll be honest: I don’t know what any of it means. And I could practically hear my scientist husband’s eyes rolling as he pretended not to listen.

     But you know what? It doesn’t matter if you’re a skeptic or not.

     Perhaps you do believe in alien life forms. Or maybe you think Messoline and her UFO devotees are out of their gourd. (A fact clearly not lost on her, evidenced by the title of her book, “That Crazy Lady Down the Road.”)

     Either way, the UFO Watch Tower served its purpose for us: a fun diversion that offered a snapshot of the kitsch so emblematic of a true American road trip. And the kids were clear believers, searching the night sky for days afterward in hopes of spotting alien transport.

     And I, for one, would love to return for a camping venture just to witness stars unencumbered by city lights and buildings. And who knows? The boys just might bump up the tower’s number of documented sightings to 85. I’d be willing to suspend disbelief on their behalf. At least for one night.

To make reservations at GG's Bed & Breakfast, call (805) 886-6959 or e-mail GGsBnB@aol.com.

To read about the first part of our August 2014 SoCo road trip, click here. Up next? Click here for Part 3: Where history and recreation meet: Durango, Colo.