Entering Colorado definitely marked a new phase of our roadtrip. Goodbye, desert. Helloooo, mountains!
As I know I’ve said before, I really loved the southwest. Nonetheless, I was jonesing to see blue and green again. As my buddy Bilbo once said, “I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains!” Luckily, this is an area in which Colorado can definitely deliver.
Our first glimpse of the Centennial State was at the Four Corners, although admittedly it had to share our attention with three of its neighbors. We continued on to Mesa Verde National Park for a taste of Colorado’s history before driving farther north and deeper into the mountains. Pretty soon, I could barely remember what hot sand felt like or why I’d brought three pairs of flip flops.
It was just evergreen-covered hills that slowly grew into snowcapped mountains, always under a completely cloudless blue sky.
Being two utter non-skiiers, we naturally decided to take ourselves on a little tour of Colorado’s famous ski resort towns.
First up: Telluride. Nestled in a little basin in the San Juan mountains, it’s basically one of those picture-perfect ceramic Christmas villages. I can only imagine how much more adorable it gets with a fresh blanket of snow.
We were actually there on the first official weekend of ski season, but as you can probably tell from the photos, it was unseasonably warm with nary a falling flake in sight.
The winter tourism boom was clearly lagging behind schedule, and we got more than a few puzzled looks from locals who could tell by our hippie van that we were just passing through and seemed to be wondering what could bring us to their town other than black diamonds and fresh pow (<—haha, I have no idea what I’m talking about).
I thought Telluride was unbelievably charming, though. After a week of full-day tours through national parks, it was actually sort of nice to have a stretch of lots of scenic driving with relatively brief stops along the way. Just a different way to roadtrip.
Telluride was formed as a silver mining camp in the 1800s, despite being named for gold minerals which were only found in other parts of Colorado. Today, ski tourism is its main gig, although it also has an impressive arts scene (life goal: go back for the annual Bluegrass Festival someday!) and a historic district that is classified as a National Historic Landmark by the state.
Because the town is snuggled in the canyon formed by the surrounding mountains, the sun dips out of sight long before it truly starts to set, casting deep shadows over most of the buildings while the mountaintops are still bathed in light. It’s a very unusual but pretty cool effect.
All told, we didn’t do much. We spent a few hours wandering along the streets, enjoying the chance to stretch our legs after a long stint of driving in Kokapelli. We popped into the post office to send off our latest round of postcards, gave a last farewell look to the lonely-looking ski mountains, and hit the road again.
At this point, we turned our attention to a rather pressing dilemma. It’s about to get really real here, folks.
Roadtrip confession: we had not showered in six days. It was all in the name of independence, travel, and adventure, and fortunately we are not a smelly people… but it was starting to wear on us.
This is when m’colleague had a most excellent brainwave. We consulted the lore, as always, and she realized that we were not altogether too far from Ouray (pronounced You-ray), another little mining town which happens to have natural hot springs.
It’s also yet another lovely and charming place in itself, but I won’t pretend we didn’t have certain priorities at that point.
We drove into town just as the sun was truly setting, and for the low low price of $9 each, got to shower in a squeaky clean locker room and wallow about in the steamy hot springs pool to our hearts’ content. It was glorious.
We were both glad to feel so fresh and so clean-clean for the next leg of our Colorado adventures… and I’m sure Kokapelli wasn’t complaining, either.