Saturday, July 28, 2007

Southwestern Colorado

How things change in four years! Since July 16 we have been in southwestern Colorado—a real tourist area at higher elevations, which attracts a lot of visitors from Texas and Arizona, especially. Since we were last here in 2003, the number of RV parks has grown exponentially. We even found a large RV sales lot along Hwy 149 between South Fork and Creede. People from states where summers are hotter and more humid have been spending one to three months in the Colorado mountains for many years. They used to build or rent cabins. Now I think most of them come in motor homes and large 5th wheels. At 30 feet, our 5th wheel looks small. As we drove through Pagosa Springs and toward Durango, we saw yet more RVs. Then again, between Cortez and Telluride, they seemed to be the favored form of transportation and residence. Now we know why we don't see many of them in state parks and forest campgrounds—there are so many full-hookup parks for them.

Creede is a small community at 8800 ft, once the site of numerous silver mines. As we drove into town we discovered the Creede Wood Carvers Rendezvous was in progress. What a treat! John was able to see the many different ways to carve and buy some wood to do his own work. He had used up all the pieces he brought from the house. The rendezvous was set up in caves (or mine entrances) in the hills at the edge of town.

From Creed we drove over 10,850 ft. Wolf Creek Pass to Durango, a college town and tourist location in the far southwestern corner of the state. At 6600 feet, we found it easy to resume our three-mile runs. And the Animas River Trail in town was a great place to do it. We know we are in Colorado when we see lots of fit people walking, running, biking, kayaking and hiking. We had lots of company during our morning runs. The United Campground is right along the Durango and Silverton Railroad-–the main tourist attraction. While we were there, four trains a day were running up and down the tracks. We joined lots of other campers in watching them mornings and evenings.

We also took a five mile hike on the Purgatory Flats trail down to the Animas River. It was a pretty hike, but we didn't enjoy the jog back to the car through thunder, lightening and rain. That is always scary. We had a good lunch at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango and toured the many shops—but we didn't spend much money.

Next we were on to Mesa Verde National Park, just 32 miles west along US 160. We stayed at AA RV Campground just across the road from the Park entrance. It was a good campground where we felt we were staying on somebody's ranch. We had a great view out our windows. We drove the Mesa Top Loop Road to tour the ruins of pit houses and pueblos. We also hiked down to the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling. The next day we hiked 5.8 miles of the Prater Ridge Trail. It was quiet and peaceful on the Mesa. We saw two young buck mule deer with their antlers in velvet. At one point we looked over the mesa rim and saw a small cliff dwelling. How many are there in the park?

The next drive, over 10,222 ft. Lizard Head Pass to Telluride, then over Dallas Divide to Ridgway State Park, was easily the most beautiful part of our travels this year. We followed the delightful Dolores River Valley. We could see the river was very muddy, meaning they had had lots of rain. The next day we learned it had rained again that night and Hwy 145, which we had driven, was closed by mud slides. We were lucky—the other route to Ridgway through Silverton and over Red Mountain Pass—is even more difficult with a trailer. The rains had put a dusting of new snow on the mountains surrounding Telluride—in July!

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