Colorado has been in my sites as my summer destination this year since the end of the season in 2015 when the declining temperatures cut my exploration short, sending me back south. This summer, my hope is to travel further north and see some of the areas I didn’t get to explore last time.
But at the same time, I want to also hit some of the places I missed along the way. My attempt is to walk that fine line between revisiting (remembering?) what I’ve missed versus not feeling remorse over what I am missing. That’s a tough one to explain. Meaning I want to go back and see some of the things I loved, without risking the feelings of nostalgia associated with the premise, “You can’t go home again.”
After 8 fast and furious days in the big cities, followed by a couple of weeks of farm chores back in Triple Digit Texas, I came back to the Winnie in storage in Santa Fe, eager to find a place to just park it for a while. Last summer’s over 10,000 miles to Atlantic Canada has had me longing for a slower pace. So I pick one of my favorite towns in the west, Durango. It seems like the perfect place for me to be stationary while surrounded by infrastructure. There are hiking and biking trails nearby along the beautiful Animas River, and a convenient Rec Center within walking distance. I figure it will be the perfect place for me to work on regaining some of my fitness level lost over the winter while holing up on the farm.
I should have had a clue when I called my favorite campground in the town of Durango, and was easily able to book an extended stay. I would soon find out why…
Driving in from dusty dry Santa Fe, it was a thrill to see the lush green mountains again. Passing through Pagosa Springs, I am reminded of the fun times I had there on my past two visits. I hadn’t checked the weather forecast, because I was in it for the long haul. With the nice Rec Center near the campground and activities available in town, I had a back-up plan for when the monsoons arrived.
But as I got closer to Durango, I noticed an odd pink cloud in the distance. Smoke from the 416 fire, raging near the ski resort, Purgatory. But the wind was keeping the smoke at bay. I could rarely detect the smell….until, that is, the wind died. As I parked the rig and got set up, I was feeling optimistic that I may be out of the smoke path. But by sundown, the town of Durango was in a shroud of dusky pink. I couldn’t even see the nearby local mountains. The sun was a hazy orange ball, and everything took on a monochrome look, as if looking through rose sunglasses. By morning, I had a sore throat, and my Winnie smelled like a stale ashtray. I could smell smoke in my hair and on my bedding. I’ve never smoked a pack a day, but I am guessing this must be what it feels like….and certainly smells like.
I had to get out, but to where? Thankfully, the campground was willing to refund my payment, sympathetic from their own inability to breathe. To make matters even more stressful, I was facing the July 4th holiday with no place to go. My Scamp friend Maureen came to the rescue with a recommendation of a high alpine boondock spot at 10,000 ft near Telluride.
Arriving to the clear, cool air was a blissful break. I found a level place to park not too far in, as the rocks and pot holes in the road were brutal. But I was able to find a pullout somewhat out of the flow of traffic. It was cool, it was incredibly scenic and there were trails in every direction. And I finally saw my first wildflowers of the season! But as with most idyllic spots, there’s a catch. No signal.
It’s a fairly long, steep drive down into Telluride, so I planned a day trip to get my “fix.” I brought my laptop, a layer of warmer clothes, and my walking shoes, with the plan to spend the day. Parking was free and abundant at the upper Mountain Village, and the free gondola ride down into town, an added bonus.
My best discovery in Telluride was the local library. They even have a bumper sticker that says “Telluride: Come for the Skiing. Stay for the Library.” I would, almost. It’s likely one of the best libraries I have ever visited. Lots of cozy nooks for reading, comfortable chairs, and even a quiet zone, because unfortunately you still need one even though it’s a library!
I always wonder when I arrive at an idyllic place like this, what will be the driving factor that forces me to leave? Since I am hoping for a slower pace this summer, will I stay the fully allotted 14 days? But something always seems to happen before my 14 days are up that has me hitching up for onward travel. Or, as my dear mother loves to remind me of her own version of Wadsworth’s quote, “Into every life, a little rain must fall….”
In this case, my water pump developed a lovely fan-like fountain spray. I had plenty of water onboard, but no way to use it without flooding the floor. Thankfully, I was carrying a spare on board, but with no mobile tech for miles and no access to information, it didn’t promise much help.
Finally, I move to a lower spot where I can get a signal to try to find a mobile tech. But first, I am going to at least make the attempt.
I continue to be amazed these days at what you can find on YouTube. There for the asking is a 10 minute video telling me step by step instructions on how to replace my new water pump! With that video, along with a half dozen email questions to my brother Don, I have success! As one who got the least amount of the “handy gene” in the family, I am pretty proud of myself. With nothing more than a Phillips screwdriver, a wire cutter, and some electrical tape, I have a new water pump!
Some often say bloggers only blog about the beautiful bits. Thankfully, they are almost all beautiful. But occasionally, there are those moments when I ask myself if it’s worth the challenges, especially as the sole driver, sole navigator, sole travel planner, sole mechanic, chief, cook, and bottle washer. But to my mother’s favorite Longfellow quote of “Into every life, some rain must fall,” I always remind myself, “Yes, but with every cloud, there is a silver lining, and without the rain, we wouldn’t have rainbows.”