Rafting

“Ready to surf? The turbulence sucked and pushed at the same time so we were trapped temporarily facing upriver as the back-wave swirled underneath us, like riding a bucking bronco.”

Surfing the Animas River
Durango Day Two: Rafting, Mountain Biking, Rodeos and Bar D Chuck Wagon.

An excerpt from Book Three in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams.

Packing the fun into the final day in Durango.

Beautiful Animas River Flowing Past Durango

The next morning we walked down two blocks to “Mild to Wild’s” booth off of Main Street to board their bus to the Animas River.

We put in north of town.

Launching Our Rafting Fun

Local river guide, Brad, expertly guided us down the “2 and 3” rated rapids.

This wasn’t his only gig.

Support Your Local Guide

He guides on several rivers and planned to try it year ’round by getting passage to Australia and New Zealand.

With a mountain man look of black hair and black bushy beard, he memorized and quizzed himself with our names.

What a hustler.

The father of a family with us on our raft sold wave runners.

Brad’s interest perked up.

For the several hours he tried to get samples — shirts, hats, leads of equipment from him.

“I’m planning to get into sales he said.”

Meanwhile, we got into a water fight – fun for us, canned and scripted for them.

Prepare to Get Soaked

We soaked another raft, whose guide was rafting his last trip.

Brad barked the orders.

He caught my attention when he told us he thought we were ready to surf.

So we paddled back upriver to a hole.

Ducks in a Row

The turbulence sucked and pushed at the same time so we were trapped temporarily facing upriver as the back-wave swirled underneath us, like riding a bucking bronco.

What’s the term they kept throwing around – “ducks?”

We, all the rafters, kept our eyes peeled for the ducks – about 20 kayakers, shooting the rapids in and around us with their leader.

One “duck” kayaker dumped upside down and bobbed that way for a while.

Right-sizing a Tipped Duck

We maneuvered over to give him a platform for catching his breath while he righted his vessel and tried 3 or 4 times to get back in.

Making up for early morning and slow train delays the day before, we practically ran to our SUV to head out to Hassle Free bike rentals

We jumped at the chance to enjoy mountain biking adventures near the arena where Fiesta Days brought the rodeo to town.

After biking, we changed and retraced our path back to the Bar D Chuck Wagon for dinner

Old Time Chuck Wagon Singing Cowboys

And the show featuring aging Western singers full of themselves, yet somewhat entertaining.

Steps:

(21) Spend the time to find the best places to live and invest. It will be worth your while. The great thing about living where others spend their vacation is the year round quality-of-life.

(32) Plan extended seasonal vacations during summer and winter months. Group destination locations together in regional trips to explore what several bucket list towns have to offer in the general vicinity – with only a week or two vacation time to spend, we recommend organizing your itinerary by travel regions.

Moose

“ATTENTION! Moose In This Area.”

Watch Out For Moose in the Hood
Pop Quiz: Which of the following signs signal that when a moose sees you and walks slowly towards you something bad is going to happen — to you?

An excerpt from Book Four in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Rocky Mountain State.

Moose on the Fridge

All that sight seeing, first in a warm sun-drenched day, and later in a cool, clear mountain evening made us appreciate chilling out in the massively wood-beamed home.

You learn a lot about people based on what’s attached to their refrigerator.

On our annual ski and snowboarding trips to Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierras of California, you find instructions about how long it takes to boil water in the high altitude.

Much longer, especially if you need to feed a dozen starving stomachs.

Kitchen Full of Cookie Monsters

On our hosts’ refrigerator the notice hand dated as 4-17-15 in bold red letters warned us —

ATTENTION! Moose In This Area.  

I expected the Cookie Monster, since this was the kitchen after all.

Rockies and Bullwinkle

Moose, the Colorado Parks Wildlife said, regularly use this area.

It is important that you take precautions to avoid conflicts with moose.

So, I’m guessing you have to pay attention, unless it’s Bullwinkle and Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

Continuing.

What to do if you see a moose — listed four bullet points followed by six more under the heading of Physical Appearance.

Do Wap, Do Wap, What?

They sport “dewlaps.”

Say what?

You know, a loose flap of skin hanging below the neck.

Probably not that many hanging out in Beverly Hills, or that unsightly sagging can be taken care of — just ask one of the “Housewives.”

Blinging Beverly Hills Housewives

Should you approach them?

No.

How about letting pets play with them?

No.

How about feeding them like the bears in national parks?

Yes.

I mean no.

Which of the following signs signal that when a moose sees you and walks slowly towards you something bad is going to happen — to you?

Ears laid back?

Long hairs on hump raised?

May lick snout?

Yup, any and all of them.

Don’t Forget to Tip Generously

If a moose in Beverly Hills charges you it is customary to leave a 20% tip.

In Colorado, not so much.

Run like hell.

Look for something to put between you and the moose.

In addition to finding a slower runner, you should consider the following.

Keep a Boulder Between You and Bullwinkle

Tree.

Car.

Large rock.

Steps:

(32) Plan extended seasonal vacations during summer and winter months. Group destination locations together in regional trips to explore what several bucket list towns have to offer in the general vicinity – with only a week or two vacation time to spend, we recommend organizing your itinerary by travel regions.

Rustic

“Now in the summer there are about 1500 people living here with 2 grocery stores, two gas stations and 4 saloons. In the winter about 400 people, 1 grocery store, 1 gas station and 4 saloons.”

Silverton’s Extreme Winter Sports

Southwestern Colorado: Durango, Pagosa Springs, Telluride and Silverton.

Back to our summer vacation.

Reading between the highlights and headlines.

Checking out high quality-of-life mountain resorts on our bucket list.

Southwestern Colorado Travel Region

We planned our itinerary as efficiently as possible to visit as many up-and-coming resort locations on our vacation as we could.

In the Southwestern Colorado travel region we could check off three already:

Durango, Pagosa Springs and Telluride. And, another innovation growth stage candidate – Silverton.

But there were plenty more throughout the state.

So many towns to visit.

So little time.

And, it would be impossible to visit all the ones on our bucket list.

Over a two week vacation.

So we stuck to our regional plans to sample as many as we could.

The night before at our hotel we found ourselves right behind the Silverton Durango – the Durango train depot and roundhouse — and the hub of the city.

We jumped into the indoor pool before and briefly, and for the first time on our trip, unanimously agreed on the first adventure of the next day.

Durango to Silverton

We planned our first excursion from our “Durango Basecamp” to Silverton.

After missing the early morning train to Silverton, we opted for the bus tour later, instead.

“Stand-by?” For a bus!?

Not what we wanted to hear.

Luckily, a friend tipped us off before the trip.

He owned some property in Durango, had planned to build on his lot, but a divorce came between him and his dreams.

Fast forward years later.

He bought and renovated another home.

We visited him during the summer of 2015.

But, enough about that.

Now.

His recommendation?

Durango Train Station

Take the Silverton narrow gauge one-way, but not up and back.

Try a bus, or maybe a jeep tour.

Because, the train is so sllllooooooowwwww.

And, it’s not like we’ve got a precious vacation day to waste standing in line.

Well, we were still shocked.

We grumbled for a while trying to figure out how to kill about an hour and come back in time to stand by for the next bus.

But as it turns out, after schmoozing with the driver before we boarded we scored some seats after all.

We caught the 11:45, and still had plenty of discovery time.

And, we enjoyed the winding Durango to Silverton road with his local insights.

I guess we lucked out, when the 20-something bus driver announced:

“Unlike the other guides who came to Durango from Florida or Minnesota, I’m an original — born and raised in Durango.

I know every mountain, river, lake, tree, plant and all the local history — so sit back and sleep if you want, but I’ll make the hour trip as entertaining as I can.

Just ask away — any questions.”

Here’s what I picked up from the scenic Q & A.

  • Construction began on the narrow gauge railroad line in 1881 between Durango and Silverton.
  • Nearly a year later it was completed and began hauling mine ores – over $300 million — throughout the years.
  • For roughly eighty years.
  • Durango became cut off from the rest of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in the late 1960s, isolating the remaining narrow gauge track along the 45 mile route between the two towns.
Narrow Gauge Hugging Animas River Canyon Walls

So, today for us tourists, the locomotives operate 100% on coal-fired steam and were manufactured by the American Locomotive Works in 1923 or Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925.

All the coaches are from the 1880s era — many originally build in the 1800s.

The trip hugs the walls of the Animas River Canyon, rises to 11,000 feet and takes you back to the Silverton frontier days through history, forests, and natural wonder.

Downtown Silverton

We endured the Colorado afternoon rain.

Feeding Bus Loads of Tourists Lunch

We lunched, walked the main street, and visited Blair Streets once booming bordello district.

I guess you could say we did what every other tourist did.

We window-shopped.

We snapped pictures of a street that looked like it could have been the backdrop for the “Gunfight-at-the-O.K.-Corral.”

Snowboarder Performing Jump Silverton, Colorado, USA

The bus driver told us Silverton had 300 inches of snow each year and because of avalanche danger nothing was built on the other side of the river.

I loved his line …

“But, kids, there aren’t any snow days, because everyone walks to the one room school which could fit in this bus.”

“Look up on the hill,” he said.

There protecting the mining town was a monstrous statue, Christ of the Mines Shrine, built in 1958 -1959 as a tribute to all those who worked the mines.

Christ of the Mines Shrine

“One Sunday, the only time the mines around here weren’t working, a nearby lake broke through the ground and flooded the mines.

No fatalities, but if it had been on any other day of the week, at least 150 god-fearing souls would have been lost.”

He also said only the hardy stick around in the winter.

“Now in the summer there are about 1500 people living here with 2 grocery stores, two gas stations and 4 saloons.

In the winter about 400 people, 1 grocery store, 1 gas station and 4 saloons.”

He also told us that Silverton sits in a small valley called Baker’s Park, named after Charles Baker who led a small expedition to the area around 1860.

After the Civil War miners began flooding into the area, when it was still Ute Indian Territory — originally their hunting grounds.

And here’s another coincidence for you.

It has something to do with the only way into the area at that time – Stony Pass Trail.

A member of Baker’s original party of prospectors – George Howard, founded a town named after himself.

That’s right.

A long lost ancestor?

Turns out he was quite an entrepreneur.

Here’s how the story is told:

“When George decided he needed to build a log cabin, he put the free enterprise system to work. George hauled in a large stack of logs and set a barrel of whiskey next to it.”

“As the thirsty miners came into the area over the Stony Pass Trail, George would offer them some refreshment.

When the miners began to feel the effects of the free refreshments, George would ask them for a little help on his cabin.”

Before long he was the owner of the first permanent settlement.

In Howardsville.

According to Dee Brown:

“The Ute’s were Rocky Mountain Indians, and for a generation they had watched the invading white men move into their Colorado country like endless swarms of grasshoppers.”

Did they realize what was to become of them right away?

Don’t know.

  • But we do know that the Brunot Treaty negotiated with the Utes ceded the area to U.S. and by 1873 more than 1500 mining claims had been registered.
  • And, as our bus driver told us, Silverton as a town was plotted in a year later 1874.
  • But, in the early days Silverton was hard to reach.
  • With the railroad coming in 1882, getting supplies to Silverton was less of a problem.
  • In less than three decades, as Brunot had pointed out to Chief Ouray, you couldn’t turn away the hoards of get-rich-quick miners if you wanted.

In fact, mining hit its peak between 1900 and 1912 when San Juan County’s population swelled to 5,000 people.

Turning from facts to fun.

An excerpt from Book Three in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams.

Telluride

“QuentinTarantino spent the past winter in Telluride filming his latest project, “The Hateful Eight.” He was joined by a crew of about 150 and actors …

 

I still liked the feel of the town surrounded by the green slopes, mountain peaks and red-rock canyon walls – in Summer. But, what about …?

 

So here was our plan.

Get picked up by Enterprise at 8 am, hit the road shortly thereafter on the scenic route to Telluride.

But.

Our hosts live on a country road.

The Enterprise shuttle driver couldn’t find the house.

No one in their office knew what was up.

Finally, our host dropped us off at the rental office, as he had offered the night before, instead of waiting for some rookie who …

  • doesn’t know the Durango roads or
  • can’t read a map or
  • can’t make the GPS work correctly.

There I said it.

Part two of our plan worked out fine.

Drop off the rental at our Summit County destination in Silverthorne – but for an additional fee.

No problem.

On the backend of our vacation, my brother-in-law volunteered to drive us two hours to the Denver airport, so he could pick up some bulk items at a Costco and see a friend.

2 Hour Commute to Denver Airport

That’s the problem for flying in for a visit to Frisco, Dillon, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and even Vail.

Arranging for that two hour drive from the Denver Airport.

The third local agreed.

Scenic Route to Telluride

The baggage-handler-cyclist, the enterprise cowboy-guy sitting in their lobby, and the Durango Chamber women who had to put up with amateur philosopher, life coach in search of a local flock.

The best route follows 160 west, then you take the 184 shortcut at Mancos and pick up the 145 at Dolores.

So we did.

And, the fluffy white clouds floating in the deep sky-blue wilderness canvas mesmerized us.

Even though we almost touched the border of Utah off in the distance, it was the frequent signs to “National Forests” with green meadows and tree groves that caught our attention.

We passed on side trips to the San Juan National Forest, Anasazi Heritage Center and Rico.

It proved hard to skip places with names like Lizard Head Pass and Ophir.

But we snapped a lot of pictures hoping the windshield glare and passenger-side window wouldn’t throw an unwanted reflection in our moving masterpieces.

We passed lakes reflecting mesmerizing-clouds, small granite peaks, idyllic meadows and dark, dark green fir trees.

Too Many Scenic Opportunities

If you’re like me your mind wanders as you drive between destinations on long trips.

I was day dreaming about our  last vacation trip to this region

We simply ran out of time and skipped Telluride.

This year we skipped a stop in Silverton, because as empty nesters both of us felt the community was just too small and remote for us.

We passed ranches and old mines dotted with buildings in various states of disrepair.

And then a strange incident popped into my head.

One that just seemed odd at the time and remained just that until much later after Donald Trump’s election victory.

Only then did it connect two things political.

Our Durango friends reintroduced us to their life long friends.

And, took us to visit their friends divorced son.

Dennis greeted us at his home which was undergoing a major remodel.

Two things.

We hadn’t seen such gigantic log beams supporting his new roof.

And, we hadn’t seen someone proudly displaying a huge Confederate flag on the top of the roof.

This in contrast to the flowing American flag at the entrance of our friends best friends.

We just hadn’t encountered that before.

On our short vacation it just seemed odd.

We didn’t attach any importance to it

We were totally clueless.

Naively we asked our friends about it.

They glossed it over with a back story that Gen-X Dennis had always been rebellious growing up and in school.

Now, I wonder if they guessed we knew the significance of it.

But at the time we didn’t.

It just seemed odd flowing so magnificently there clearly thousands and thousands of miles from the deep South.

We might have figured it out.

Especially when Dennis’ mother told him to take it down, in that scolding tone all young boys feel in their bones.

But didn’t, although now it reminds me of the headline about the previous election.

Swastika On Campaign Sign Sparks Outrage

On Tuesday, Jeff Widen, a volunteer with the La Plata County Democrats, looks at a Barack Obama campaign sign he put up the previous day near U.S. Highway 160 and County Road 222 east of Durango.

Back then as a memory fragment it just floated disconnected from anything at all.

It disappeared from my dream-memory state as my attention snapped back to the task at hand.

Winding Country Roads

Back to the, well, navigating back country roads.

We drove winding high country mountain roads.

Sometimes meandering.

Sometimes death-defying like those twisting sharp turns along Pacific Coast Highway leading to Big Sur in California.

We climbed and climbed.

Must be getting close to Telluride we agreed.

Then we dropped and dropped.

Must have missed the Telluride turnout we agreed.

On the Big Sur-like twisty downward slope nearing the valley floor we flew past the turn-off to Mountain Village.

Oh well, we shrugged.

Meandering Country Roads

We weren’t here to spend three hours eyeballing golfers nearby.

Where’s Telluride we asked ourselves nearing the wide meadow just like most of the other ones we passed on the way.

Up there?

The sign to the airport pointed the way up on the opposite side of the red rock canyon wall.

On the mountain top?

Like at Catalina Island lying off of California’s Pacific Coast?

Maybe that’s were we’ll find planes and the Telluride Ski Resort?

We found ourselves at the mouth of the canyon.

Maybe the town and resort was at the, well, throat?

We negotiated the roundabout noting signs to Placerville on the 145 for later in the afternoon.

We followed the flow of traffic slightly uphill towards more deep blue skies, fluffy white clouds, low mountain peaks in cloud-shadows and dark green vegetation.

Repairs closed the road to downtown Telluride.

So we parked and walked.

In the middle of the street stood giant flower boxes with brightly colored blooms.

Flowers to Clouds

Reds, pinks, purples, yellows, you name it and it grew there.

Wildflowers?

We photographed similar looking specimens in Durango at Coal Bank.

Wait, what’s that leaf?

Did somebody slip in a marijuana plant?

Up the boutique-lined street off in the distance we felt we spied a ski run with a sliver of snow shining from the lower level, part way down from the peak.

Nope.

Turns out it was a water fall.

Slowly the clues built up to a surprising revelation.

Red Rock Construction

A sign to the gondola off a side street.

Crossing the street and looking back above the rust-colored stone buildings revealed wide trails among the darker green trees.

So, yup.

We missed the base of Telluride Resort when we skipped turning into the Mountain Village entrance.

If our relatives weren’t expecting us hours away, sure, we would have taken the Gondola  over and back, but we chose instead to shop and continue on our own photo tour.

Oh, and find some locally recommended place to grab a bite to eat.

We needed to avoid the long lunch waits.

Side Street Gondola

We butted up against a short deadline to hit the road again.

So, we asked the clerk who rang my hat and t-shirt up at the Paradise Resortwear.

With lunch out of the way we had windows to shop and more iPhone photos to snap.

Telluride spoke to me in much the same way that Balboa Island had those many years ago.

When I first viewed it from the crest of MacArthur Blvd in Newport Beach near Fashion Island.

Sure, Telluride showed off the same Victorian architecture we enjoyed earlier in the morning, but in Durango.

But, the New Sheridan Hotel (the old faded “Sheridan” sign looked down on the newer building next to it) wasn’t as ornate in red brick as Durango’s Strater Hotel.

New Sheridan

It just felt less touristy to me.

More authentic, I guess.

Maybe in the same way that San Francisco’s footprint always felt more manageable compared to New York City or even Los Angeles.

I know what you’re thinking, how can that be?

When in the summer the whole town is geared up for the onslaught of high profile festival visitors.

Over 40 festivals listed in “The Official Guide of Telluride” at last count between May (Telluride Library Arts Festival and Mountainfilm) and October (Telluride Photography Festival).

Telluride Festivals

World famous music festivals — Telluride Jazz Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

And, of course, the Telluride Film Festival in September.

We missed it.

The celebrities.

Even the lead story in one of the Telluride magazines described how

QuentinTarantino spent the past winter in Telluride filming his latest project, “The Hateful Eight.” He was joined by a crew of about 150 and actors including Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walter Goggins and Tim Roth …

You can’t get more touristy than that, right?

Up, Up and Away Above the Canyon Floor

Flaunt it if you’ve got it, right?

I still liked the feel of the town surrounded by the green slopes, mountain peaks and red-rock canyon walls.

But, three hours only left a taste of Telluride.

We need three days, or three weeks.

Next time we’d hook up with local guides to explore the region —

Mountain Biking

maybe not for mountaineering,

but for rafting,

jeep tours,

horseback riding,

glider piloting, and

a spot of fly fishing.

We’d probably spend some time at a spa in Mountain Village.

Even relaxing on a Wednesday evening for The Sunset Concert Series.

Bluegrass Music Festival

And of course we’d enjoy picking the …

Perfect spot to sit, relax and taste the best of our fabulous restaurants have to offer… Whether it’s on main street or a side street, there are restaurants offering a tempting array of cuisines, ambiance and affordability.  It may be the mountain air, the sunshine or epic views, but whatever it is, having a meal in Telluride and Mountain Village is an experience in itself.

An excerpt from Book Four in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Rocky Mountain State.

Senses

First, there’s the San Juan Mountains in which Durango stands 6,520 feet above sea level.  Then, there’s the Animas River meandering in and around the downtown streets.”

 

San Juan Mountains
Purgatory, River of Lost Souls, Silverton – Wild West Mining Heritage

 

Life. Happiness. Passion. Meaning.

See. Hear. Smell

Okay.  Here’s your check list.

You better hop to it, because time is running out and your vacation will end before you see and do everything on your checklist.

Mountain.

Animas River

Check.

Forest, River, Mother Nature.

Check.

Check.

Check.

Hmm.

Life feels good!

First, there’s the San Juan Mountains in which Durango stands 6,520 feet above sea level.

Then, there’s the Animas River meandering in and around the downtown streets.

Cycling

And, of course there is a buzz of activity.

If it’s summer …

Then it’s a gaggle of runners, cyclists, rock climbers, kayakers and fly-fishers.

Fly Fishing
Rock Climbing

If it’s winter

Then it’s skiers and snowboarders in lift lines on Durango Mountain against a backdrop of heavy snowy laden trees and mountains peaks.

Durango Mountain Resort

Sometime in 2002 or 2003 we initiated coverage of Durango.

Because Harry Dent wrote if you’re still freaked out after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City – or for that matter any metropolitan area — consider Durango.

Trade in an Urban Upscale, high density lifestyle, for a more pristine, sparsely populated community.

Could you find work?  Interested in financial planning he asked?

There’s an Edward Jones office already there.

Durango, he wrote, is an example of where Baby Boomers had been discovering “Big Bucks in the Boondocks”.

Not necessarily a welcoming passage for our self-reliant High Country Eagle, David Petersen, who no doubt was sending his manuscript “On the Wild Edge: In Search of a Natural Life” off to his publisher around the time.

From Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde

When we first visited Durango – over a summer a few years before Petersen published his book – we had already driven a long distance  in the dry heat from Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

Trading Posts

We drove out of Montezuma County in the Southwest corner of Colorado and headed for the general vicinities of La Plata, San Juan and Archueleta counties along the southern Colorado border.

Stopping briefly at the Colorado Welcome Center in the Cortez City Park, we realized that you’re at another major crossroad – 555 takes you past the Crow Canyon Archeological Center to Dove Creek and the Dolores River Overlook.

West is the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.

South is where we’ve been on 160.

Northeast on 145 takes us to Telluride through the San Juan National Forest.

East takes us past Mesa Verde National Park, on 160 towards Durango.

We decide to stick to U.S. 160 headed east.

Long Road Ahead

To be honest, I didn’t even consider a time change for Mesa Verde and Durango.

This has been one trip with a lot of driving.

All I had thought about behind the wheel is the next stop at Mesa.

And then a 45 minute drive to Durango, our “Basecamp,” for three nights and two days before pressing on to Denver.

When we drove up the the entrance of the state park, the park ranger told us the park was closing in 25 minutes for the day due to the hour time change between Arizona and Colorado.

What?!

Nooooo!

We pressed on, though.

What else could we do?

Driving a long and winding road we squeezed in a whirlwind tour of the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings.

The ranger said to visit the museum and the Spruce House since we didn’t need tickets or a guide.

Not until we hiked down to the Spruce House, did I begin to appreciate the severely shortened stopover.

We climbed down into a Kiva.

Mesa Verde National Park

And then I forgot about our time constraint.

It was like I was transported into a different world, a different time.

I could begin to use my imagination while driving around the scenic loop.

There we saw rock evidence of earlier communities out in the open on the top of the mesa.

They once flourished.

But, it wasn’t anything that I had expected.

It’s as if as warring tribes or other threats challenged their existence.

Spruce Tree House

Instead of choosing another mountain top, they moved to the cliffs for protection.

At least we had enough time to take in cliff dwellings that appeared in the shadows across the canyons from a turnout.

We stopped and photographed like so many other tourists before and after us — until the rain moved in.

The centuries of inhabiting this area begins to sink in.

Especially when you stand here next to our SUV with digital cameras in hand and gaze out across the canyon to the complex of early Anasazi cliff homes.

It takes an unhurried appreciation for what you’re seeing to hit you.

They were built, what, some 1400 years before the first European explorers laid eyes on the territory.

Anasazi Cliff Dwellings

Or even stepped on North American shores!

Anasazi people — Ancestral Pueblo-ans — lived for roughly 700 years in Mesa Verde, having migrated from the Four Corners region.

Half expecting we’d be kicked out, we spent about an hour exploring, even as exhibits and tours barred any admissions.

Parched.

Bone tired.

How much of this can anyone take?

Suffering from fanny fatigue, we climbed back in our SUV for the last 45 minute drive  –arriving in downtown Durango at dusk.

From my journal –

Durango sits on the edge of a great desert mesa and enjoys warm breezes and cool lush mountain forests.

With a population that grew from 12,500 to almost 14,000 people before 2008 Durango grew at significant rate.

The United States Census Bureau reported a population of 16,887 in the 2010 census.

There’s no missing the San Juan Mountains in Durango.

Durango sits in their shadows.

Durango, Colorado

Wikipedia says the mountains are …

geographically younger than other Colorado mountain ranges – they haven’t weathered as much, so they appear more jagged and captivating, at an elevation of 6,500 feet above sea level. 

As we drive through these mountain roads you can’t help but notice the brown, red, yellow tracings from mine shafts long ago abandoned.

But, I was done with driving by the time we found our hotel.

And finding the Best Western Rio Grand took awhile, especially when the address listed looked to be at the wrong end of a one-way street, a problem we eventually solved.

While eating an early dinner at Farquarhts it’s easy to see how the downtown gets most of its charm from the classic 19th century hotels and its Victorian architecture, saloons and hitching posts.

Victorian Architecture

So much of the West owes its expansion to the railroad, and I guess Durango is no exception.

I love the story our waiter told about Durango being founded when another community across the Animus River turned down the offer to bring the railroad that would link the mines to Denver.

I know.

It’s kind of an accidental incident that turns into a major opportunity – or blunder depending upon your point of view.

Either way, while Durango was founded by the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad in 1879, it wasn’t until August 5, 1881 that the railroad came to the mining and smelting center

Denver and Rio Grand Railroad

Those were heady day in this area — the heydays of the gold and silver booms.

I love the names.

“Purgatory”,

“River of Lost Souls”,

“Silverton.”

They all conjure up images of a gold rush town, you know?

Steps:

(32) Plan extended seasonal vacations during summer and winter months. Group destination locations together in regional trips to explore what several bucket list towns have to offer in the general vicinity – with only a week or two vacation time to spend, we recommend organizing your itinerary by travel regions.

An excerpt from Book Three in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams.

Trailhead 

“The TMTA Huts are preserved by people who seek the peace and solitude of the back country.  Please respect this privacy.”

 

Colorado Vistas
We were determined to scale the last part of our hike so we could look down on the brownish-red rock pile of, well, rocks perched on the very next ridge.

Such a cliche, you know?

Amazing vistas

Ragged peaks in the distance.

Wildflower-filled meadows.

Just off the trail

Step-by-step we hiked a dirt trail taking us in and out of shaded mini-forested clumps of pine trees.

Later on we found out the names of the wildflower photos —

Indian Paintbrush,

Columbine (Colorado’s state flower) and

Lupine.

In the span of just a the few days since we left the San Juan Mountain Range outside of Durango, the quality of wildflowers started to decline in color and vitality.

The season, prolonged by a week or more of showers, was coming to an end.

Hidden in the shadows

Hey, look this was the end of July after all.

At the base of the hike we crossed a weathered brown-gray wood sign with the following description.

“The TMTA Huts are preserved by people who seek the peace and solitude of the back country.  

Please respect this privacy.”

Tacked on below the etched-in description, on a wooden arrow pointing to the left, we read “Shrine Mtn Inn”.

Which in turn pointed us to a washed out-colored meadow with clumps of dark green pine trees.

And to another sign, “Shrine Ridge Trail” anchored in an old decaying stump of a log along the path.

In and out of dark shadows and open meadows we hiked.

Tucked away in the shadows

Small creek beds with white water mini waterfalls splashed out of the darkness onto dark brown rocks surrounded by light and dark green vegetation.

Flowers grew out of grey, burned out tree trunks in the meadow alongside the trail to Shrine Ridge.

Colorado Trail

Tucked away off the trail under more green foliage brownish, reddish outcroppings pointing up at 45 degrees with over a dozen rock layers grabbed our attention.

Oh, ok, my photo-tourist attention.

The trail elevated at a steeper slope, enough to cause us to pause in the shadows under a grove of trees.

We sat on fallen logs to snack on sandwiches, string cheese and water.

Only momentarily.

We became bait for swarms of mosquitoes.

Lingering Snow Pack

Waiting for us near the summit a dirty patch of unmelted snow demonstrated why the rock and dirt valley was so well-worn.

Mounting our final push to the crest revealed more red rock and dirt.

But, looking out in every direction we saw those iconic high elevation meadows and distant peaks spread out before us.

And except for aching muscles and joints and the high elevation which slowed us down, we weren’t going to give up.

Which way?

We were determined to scale the last part of our hike so we could look down on the brownish-red rock pile of, well, rocks perched on the very next ridge.

At the crest of the meadow the direction couldn’t have been more clear.

A gray weathered wood signpost bolted into a wood column simply said, “Trail” with a arrow pointing the way.

Which, of course, must have been to the Cathedral Rock photo op.

Mission accomplished.

Cathedral Rock Vista

We caught our breath, posed for selfies and group shots and realized the hike took longer than planned.

But wait, the lighting in the late afternoon provided more dramatic photo subjects.

So I lingered behind while the rest of the party kept pace with the dogs galloping downhill far ahead.

Steps:

(32) Plan extended seasonal vacations during summer and winter months. Group destination locations together in regional trips to explore what several bucket list towns have to offer in the general vicinity – with only a week or two vacation time to spend, we recommend organizing your itinerary by travel regions.

An excerpt from Book Four in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Rocky Mountain State.