Monday, September 26, 2011

Travel Day To Durango

This post was originally published on May 23, 2011

Saturday morning, we were up early excited to be on the road again. We'd be traveling through brand new territory and couldn't wait to see what the day had in store. We loaded the car and pulled away from our neat little Colorado Springs bungalow at 8:50 a.m. Our drive was 311 miles and would take us along miles of southern Colorado farmland, up and over several high mountain passes and through some really neat little towns which always provide great opportunities for leg stretching.

Our first tentative stop was in the
Royal Gorge area. Royal Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world and sports the 2nd highest suspension bridge. One can walk or drive over the bridge. Unfortunately, the park is privately owned and has been turned into an "attraction" which the owners think very highly of because they charge $25 per person admission. No way were we paying $50 to walk across a bridge which one of us probably wouldn't have walked across anyway. I'd hoped to at least SEE the bridge, but nope, can't do that either without paying. Such a shame to take a natural creation and turn it into a tourist trap that has nothing to do with the beauty of nature. End of rant. We filed that one away and moved on.

Our first stop was in the little funky town of Salida. We were already beginning to see the "old west" feel of the towns. This one builds it's livelihood around the Arkansas River that runs through it. We enjoyed walking around and a quick visit through the Arkansas Headwaters Museum.

The next 100 miles of the trip was through some of the most interesting scenery we've ever seen. As we were driving I asked Bill how in the world I would describe it in the journal. This is what he said: Miles and miles of vast unpopulated prairie as far as the eye can see completely surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges. We were in a bowl of deep green farmland totally encircled by snow covered dramatic mountain peaks. We had come over a 10,800 foot mountain pass and onto the plateau and we would eventually have to go up and over another 11,000 foot mountain pass to get out of it. Some of the most remote land we'd ever seen, but stunningly beautiful. When we would pass a farmhouse, I wanted to go knock on the door and just talk to them about what it's like to live there. Bill never really went for that idea so we just kept moving.

Eventually, we started out of the "bowl" and headed up Wolf Mountain Pass which has the reputation of having more snowfall than any other area of Colorado. Having checked the CDOT maps before leaving Colorado Springs, we knew the pass had been snow covered earlier that morning and quite a bit of new snow had fallen overnight. Technically, we had no choice but to go over the pass and with mostly sunny skies as well as warmer temps predicted, we thought the pass would be clear by the time we reached it. And it was! But again, the dramatic change from green grassy farmland to what must have been 10 feet of snow was just mesmerizing. We just don't have anything in the east that compares.

Heading down into the quaint little town of Pagosa Springs, we knew it was time for a leg stretcher and boy, did we pick a winner of a place to do that. Pagosa Springs is most widely known for it's hot springs. The San Juan River flows through the middle of town and we happened upon a lively River Festival. With the snowmelt, the river was tumbling and we got to see a hilarious "parade" of rafts. Each raft was decorated in a river theme and all the riders in each raft were fully costumed. We had a great time watching and apparently anything goes in Pagosa Springs because we and everyone else got fully "mooned" by one of the rafters. We enjoyed some of the best gelato we've ever had while enjoying the parade, but finally forced ourselves to move on.

Only 50 more miles to our destination of Durango. An easy drive and we knew the minute we entered Durango, we were going to love it. Endora (our faithful GPS) took us directly to our condo and we were wowed. It is in a perfect location on the Animas River with a view off the balcony of the snow covered San Juans in the distance. It's going to be a great comfy place to call "home" for the next two weeks.

We love our "driving" days because it means seeing new things, but this one, we both agreed, was one of the most spectacular we've ever experienced.

Sunday was a typical "day after travel" day. We went to "church" via First Baptist Knoxville's webcast and then walked the Animas River Path into downtown about 1 1/2 miles away. The paved river path is six miles long and is quite beautiful. It runs directly behind the complex our condo is in so it's easy to access and a quick walk into town. I suspect we'll be doing that several times both walking and biking.

It's going to be a great two weeks. We thought Estes Park would always be our favorite place in Colorado, but Durango may have it beat. We'll let you know!

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