We arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado two days ago, eager to discover if the bike trails were as incredible as we’d heard they were. Our Friday outing began in the small community of Laporte, just north of Fort Collins. The Poudre (pronounced poo-der) River Trail would lead us 9 1/2 miles downstream along a beautifully maintained concrete trail, eventually reaching Fort Collins.
Saturday we rode a different segment of the Poudre River Trail, joining it just south of Windsor, Colorado and aiming ourselves toward the town of Greeley, roughly 12 miles away.
This was another easy ride for Reg, but for someone who hasn’t really ridden a bike much in the last 30+ years (like me), things were beginning to feel a little sore. We turned around after about 10 miles, found a spot for a picnic lunch, then returned to our starting point, convinced that the area bike trails are some of the best we’ve ever seen!
A quick trip to see North America’s tallest sand dunes, including the 755 foot Star Dune, was today’s outing. Driving toward the entrance to the park, the Sanger de Cristo mountains dominated the skyline and left me wondering just how impressive sand dunes could be in comparison.
Three days in Durango, Colorado allowed us to experience a range of weather conditions. Cold nights, windy days, a brief bit of snow while we picnicked and finally, a beautiful spring day. The high point (literally) of our stay was the hike we took up The Animas Mountain Trail with college friends Emily and Rich. A great day and a long overdue visit!
Sunday morning Durango faded in the distance as we drove east, aiming for the highest mountain pass of our trip…so far. Today was new territory for us and the scenery did not disappoint.
We’ve got Minnie back on level ground for the next two nights, parked in the little town of Alamosa, gateway to Great Sand Dunes National Park. More adventures to come.
A little over 2 weeks ago we waved goodbye to friends Chris and Judy as we left our campsite near Bend, Oregon. We had 4 days to reach Sedona, Arizona where we had reservations for 2 weeks of hiking and biking among the red rocks. Twenty minutes into the drive, Reg began lobbying for a change of plans. Temperatures were hovering in the 90s in Sedona…a little warm for outdoor activities. “We should go to Colorado,” he said. I put up a fight, but after a few more heated miles, we canceled our first week in Sedona. And so our journey began, and that’s how we ended up spending our first night here. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
The following morning we cobbled together reservations for 3 more nights on the road and 5 nights in Ouray, Colorado. The plan was to then head down to Arizona and salvage the last week of our Sedona reservation.
We spent one night in the Brigham City, Utah KOA (Kampground of America chain of parks) and then 2 nights in the KOA in Grand Junction, Colorado, where, as you can see, Reg began to relax after a frantic three days. Since Grand Junction wasn’t part of the plan, we weren’t sure how we’d fill our day until we discovered nearby Colorado National Monument. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
Then it was on to Ouray (pronounced You-Ray) Colorado and more surprises.
We weren’t expecting a fall color trip, but were thrilled to see our first high altitude change of season. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
Another National Park that was never on our radar was Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Not far from Ouray, we decided to make a day trip out of it. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
We drove along the “Million Dollar Highway,” a 25 mile length of route US 550 between Ouray and the historical mining town of Silverton. The history of the name varies depending on the source. Some say it refers to the million dollar cost of building the road, others claim it refers to the amount of ore mined from the area. My favorite explanation tells the story of a traveler who was so overcome with vertigo that he insisted he would never travel the road again…even if he were paid a million dollars. The drive offers spectacular scenery including an overlook of what’s left of the Red Mountain Mining site where an historic silver boom took place from from 1882 a 1893. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
When it was time to leave Colorado the Arizona temperatures were just not cooling off. We made the decision to turn around and return home. Disappointing, but there was still more to see. Making the best of it, I snapped photos through the windshield as Reg battled some gusty winds. This really is a beautiful country. If we hadn’t changed our plans, we would have missed this.
While we never reached our destination, we still enjoyed a memorable journey…and for us, that’s what’s important!
We huffed and puffed our way along the gentle Riverwalk Trail in Colorado’s upscale mountain community of Telluride. At an elevation of about 9,500 feet, we appreciated the relatively flat terrain. There was plenty of scenery and fall color to enjoy, and a beautiful little town park where we stopped for our picnic lunch.
After lunch we made the short drive to Mountain Village, a resort ski town where everything looks new and luxurious. It was here we took the free Gondola ride that connects the communities of Mountain Village and Telluride.
The gondola system was designed and built to promote clean air and discourage people from driving between the towns (like we did…oops). It opens early in the morning and runs until late at night, carrying skiers during the winter months and hikers, bikers and tourists during warmer weather.
So there we were, hanging high in the sky on our way to the high point of the ride – an elevation of 10,500 feet. The views were astounding. And then…we headed straight down.
Carryoncouple decided this was a much easier to travel than lacing up our boots. We could get spoiled!
What better way to learn the lay of the land than to walk the perimeter…and that’s just what we did today in Ouray (pronounced You-Ray), Colorado.
Trail guides vary, listing the circular Perimeter Trail as 5 1/2 – 6 miles with 1,600 feet of elevation gain and loss. All promise spectacular views.
The trail took us through tunnels, across numerous bridges and through some gorgeous fall color. There was a bit of climbing, mostly at the beginning and end. We chose to walk counter clockwise, saving our glimpse of the waterfall until the end.
All in all, this was a good days hike. By the time we reached our starting point we were hot and dirty and tired…but in a good way!
Highway 550 connects Durango to Silverton, paralleling the famed narrow gauge railway.
You may have trouble imagining a Toyota Prius as a roller-coaster car, but that’s how it felt today. It took us over passes topping 11,000 feet, through tunnels covered with rocks and ice, and within a few feet of sheer drop offs at dizzying heights.
Guard rails? Nah. Sweaty palms and white knuckles? For sure.
We were surrounded by peaks of more than 14,000 feet in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains as we traveled from Durango to Moab, Utah. A few other vehicles joined us for the ride.
Spring has not yet struck this aspen forest near Durango.
We stopped for coffee in the old mining town of Silverton, at more than 9,500 feet.
Look closely to see the narrow road descending from an 11,000-foot pass.
I'm proud of my amateur status, thank you very much!
In 1860, centuries after the Puebloan culture disappeared, the discovery of gold and silver in southwestern Colorado brought a flood of new settlers to the Animas Valley and what would soon be known as Durango. Many were hoping to strike it rich while others earned their living supplying necessities for life in the mining camps. It wasn't until the Denver and Rio Grande rails reached Durango in 1881 that the population exploded.
The discovery of Mesa Verde in 1888 and its designation as a national park in 1906 created the beginnings of the year round tourist industry we all enjoy today. Durango has managed to retain its Wild West charm while offering travelers and outdoor enthusiasts an array of lodging, restaurant and services.
The Animas River Trail is a 7 mile paved pathway that runs through the city winding its way back and forth across the Animas River.
We took advantage of beautiful weather and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the Animas River Trail.
We have loved our stay at The Durango Lodge. Clean, quiet, affordable and just one block from Main Street.
Cliff Palace was the most spectacular ruin we saw today.
The Anasazis, now referred to as Ancenstral Pueblo people, built some of the most impressive North American structures during the 1100s and 1200s in what is now southwestern Colorado. Known as Mesa Verde, the villages were built beneath cliffs using sandstone.
Circular kivas were used for ceremonies. The Pueblo people lived in the cliff dwellings for only about 100 years. There are several theories about why they left: Drought, crop failures, or perhaps political problems?
It is about a 45-minute drive to the national park entrance from Durango, then 20 miles of mostly climbing to the museum and trail heads. By mid-April, when all the trails are open, Mesa Verde could easily provide three days of exploring.
The 20-mile drive from the park entrance provides spectacular views.
Spruce House is the best-preserved of the cliff dwellings.
The 2.4-mile trek to Petroglyph Point, shown in the photos below, was a cliff-hugging, up-and-down path that required us to register at the trailhead just in case. We might have walked past the petroglyphs if there had not been a small sign leading us to look to the wall above.
The Petroglyph Point walk provided some expansive vistas.
These petroglyphs have survived the elements for about 800 years.
The walk back provided settings reminiscent of the top of Half Dome in Yosemite.