Sunday, April 3, 2011

Durango, Colorado

We have arrived. Colorado is one of the states that we have been excited to visit ever since this trip was first conceived. The Rocky Mountains, deep powder skiing, legendary mountain biking... So grab a snack and a drink - this is a long one...

Our first stop was Durango, near the four corners of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Four days later, I can say that this probably my favorite town of the trip thus far. A great main street with loads of good stores, restaurants, cafes and bars that cater to locals and tourists alike; a bike friendly town plus a trolley; an amazing trail system right from town into the San Juan National Forest; a river with trout fishing and white water rapids that flows right through town; easy access to 10000 - 14000 foot peaks and the snow sports that go along with them; an actively oriented population. One of the few places we've been where we've taken a peek at the real-estate section.

My first order of business was to ride the trails. I identified a trail system that started right at the edge of downtown, where the mountain meets the city - the Telegraph trail system. Starting out at 6500', I climbed all of the way up to 7500' before my lungs exploded and I turned back downhill. A great ride, almost all single track, and amazing scenery:

You can see another rider coming up on the trail that I rode to get to the top:

We drove up into the mountains, through Coalbank pass at 10640', where we stopped to marvel at the deep snow that blanketed the land:

Nancy and Kinsey stand on about 4 feet of snow next to a rest house. The slope behind her is popular with skiers and boarders who trudge up to the ridge top and shred back down:

Also popular up top was snowmobiling, back country skiing and snowshoeing. Beautiful mountains:

Our destination was Silverton, a mining town turned recreational destination - pretty quiet this time of year. The tourist season doesn't really get going until May, but it was still fun to visit. Here is the town as seen from the narrow road carved into the mountainside on the way there:

Colorful buildings, fun shops, bars, restaurants. We enjoyed walking up and down main street, and ducked into a cafe for coffee, tea and hot apple pie.

Also, found Gigantor's replacement while in town:

The next day was windy and much cooler, so we went down to Durango town center and walked around, poking into shops...

and had an excellent lunch at a beautiful French restaurant, Jean-Pierre Bakery.

Then we moseyed into another main street establishment, The Irish Embassy, where a full-blown ceiligh was under way. Every Sunday afternoon a dozen or so musicians congregate there and play Irish music. It was really great - as good as anything we saw on Cape Breton!

And then there's Mesa Verde National Park. About 45 minutes from Durango, this is the site of all of the Puebloan cliff dwellings, and they are amazing! Tucked under massive overhangs in the canyon walls, mortared, hand-hewn stone structures were nestled in the nooks and crannies, housing entire villages of 100 or more people. Most were only accessible by scaling the cliff walls, often using shallow dents hollowed into the rock to form a tenuous stairway to the mesa top where all of the farming and hunting was done.

This is the interior of a kiva - a sunken room accessible via a roof hole - an ancient ceremonial underground men's club.

This place really sparks the imagination. At these ruins, more than any others I've seen, I can almost see the Indian peoples going about their lives, grinding corn, tending fires, scaling the cliff walls carrying stones, wood, food, water, tools. It's a unique and remarkable place.

And that's not all...

The Animas River flows through town, and along it is a paved multi-use trail, 7 miles long. Nancy and I rode our bikes along much of it. One section, which has a nice series of drops and rapids, is outfitted with a system of cables and gates, used to set up a slalom coarse for white-water paddling. Here is Nancy next to the river, and some of those gates (not deployed):

We watched a guy run this section in one of these pontoon-style white-water boats. These things can handle the most challenging rapids with ease, so negotiating these little features (class III?) took no effort. Still, pretty cool to watch.

But its not all a bowl full of roses out here on the road...

We took Toby to a local vet because he still isn't putting much weight on the leg that he hurt in New Mexico. Just as we feared, he's ruptured his ACL in his right knee. We'll have the surgery done when we're in the Denver area most likely. Its expensive surgery, and Toby will have 6 or 8 weeks of recovery, during which time he'll be restricted from hiking. Bummer.

Lastly, my maternal grandmother, who would have been 95 year old later this month, died peacefully from lung cancer. It's sad, but not unexpected. It'll be hardest on my grandfather, who, with their poodle, Brownie, will live in their house alone. When Laurel and I were kids, Grandma would watch us during the day. She had lots of toys for us to play with, plus sugary cereal and snacks, soda, and color television, stuff we didn't get at home! We loved her then and always. I fly today to Ithaca, New York, to be with the family and attend a service for my grandmother. Rest in peace, Margaret Albrecht (1916-2011).


  1. Matt...I'm so sorry to hear that your Grandmother passed away. Over the years we have heard you tell so many wonderful stories of your visits with herand your Grandfather. You and your family will be in our thoughts and prayers. If you need anything please give us a call.
    Thinking of you...Theonne, Gene, Austin & Athena

  2. So sorry to hear about your Grandmother, 95 is pretty awesome though, a long life!

    Bad luck on Toby, Foster did the same thing when he was younger and it wasn't long until the other one went as well. Supposedly, tearing the opposite leg is common due to it being used to compensate for the injured leg. Hope you guys end up luckier than us on that one.