Colorado Stories and Tips

Day One

Just over the Colorado border Photo, Colorado, United States

A couple of weeks ago we explored the Rocky Mountains, and, at a friends suggestion, decided to also take in the scenery around the Durango and Vallecito Lake area. This time we had four full days, and the same two small dogs.

The northward drive to Colorado from our Santa Fe home was spent mostly on the rolling route 84. It was a much more scenic option than the I-25 we traversed last time. And, just over the border we got our first glimpse of the craggy peaks and pine forests broken up by alpine meadows dotted with purple and white flowers.

Looming overhead are unusual rock formations, one of the most bizarre being Chimney Rock, located within the San Juan National Forest and Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Roughly a thousand years ago the Pueblo Indians created permanent structures (totalling 200 individual rooms) and a couple of dozen work camps around the twin spires. The Chacoan-style Great House atop the Chimney Rock’s high mesa is thought to have been constructed to take full advantage of the lunar cycles. Every 18.6 years (the last was 2007) the moon rises between the dual rock formations.

For lunch we stopped at the first restaurant coming into Pagosa Springs, Junction Family Dining at 401 E. Pagosa Street. My burger and fries were barely average, and my better half’s club sandwich was soggy. The waitress was distracted or hated her job, we couldn’t decide. The only positive was that they allowed dogs on their deck. Our Westie would like to note that my taste buds are "undeveloped" when it comes to burger.

In Bayfield, as recommended by the owner of the cabin that we rented, we stocked up on supplies. Either right next door or across the street (E. Colorado Drive) are the grocery, bakery, gourmet and butcher shop, and wine/liquor store. The last stop before heading towards the lake was the wine shop. I was curious about Colorado’s wines and inquired about which was best to the clerk. Unenthusied, she replied, "Colorado has a growing wine industry. Any is as good as the other." I selected one of each to test her theory later.

We checked in and received keys to our cabin. What a splendid view from the deck. We could look right down at the rippling waters, and across to the pine-covered mountains. Then we discovered the usual "dog friendly" cabin cycle. The cabins are erected as "luxury" cabins, a decade later they are rented as "rustic" for a couple of decades, then for forty years, or until a land developer comes along, the cabin is rented to dog lovers.

Inside I discovered the flooring, faux paneling and kitchen cabinets from Grandma’s 1974 mobile home. We were surprised that this cabin lacked a fireplace because when you think of a mountain cabin that’s the first amenity which pops into mind. More startling was the nearly-obsolete stove and gurgling toilet. We’d make do. They did allow dogs, which was wonderful as the "heated" cabins had their heat supplied by one small plug-in heater which you had to stand nearby to feel anything. The dogs became foot warmers once we went to bed.

That night for dinner we did manage to make a pasta feast on the two-burner stove. To accompany we opened up the "table red" from Plum Creek. I endorse the clerk’s statement about Colorado wines.

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