Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

By: Jim Kilpatrick | The Surveyor | July 29, 2021 | Local News

Elephant Head wildflowers

Summer is time to travel. The viral mess had delayed our normal traversing of the state so now was the time to indulge. We love to drive in Colorado and we have gone on many happy road trips. Santa Fe, NM is our favorite long-distance getaway. To us it feels like visiting another country. I think it is the unique adobe architecture that invokes that feeling. We just drove down after a brief stop in Colorado Springs. We had our favorite lunch at La Plazuela restaurant in La Fonda Inn. The main floor is open to the public to stroll through. It has restaurants, shops and art worth seeing. Just wander in and enjoy the architecture. Sadly Santa Fe is just a shadow of its more flourishing past. I pray this nation will recover what we have lost. We always enjoy the art and the history in Santa Fe. La Fonda is on the oldest hotel corner in America.  The City records note that where La Fonda sits today is the site of the town’s first inn, founded by the Spaniards in 1607. The building today was rebuilt in 1922 and incorporates the original outdoor dining patio. It has hand-carved beams, stained glass skylights, terra cotta tile, hammered tin chandeliers, and a 25-foot cathedral ceiling. It’s like a world away in the next state.

The skies of New Mexico are always beautiful in summer with the building clouds and we had a good refreshing shower as we drove through Chama, NM, to Pagosa Springs and on to Durango. Southern Colorado has the lingering heritage of the Paleo Indian cultures before the Spanish influence, in both Chimney Rock and Mesa Verde. I won’t elaborate here about them, but in the fall we love to stay on top of the Green Table of Mesa Verde, at Far View Lodge and hear nothing but the wind and birds. Shiprock in the distance evokes old 50s cowboy shows to us. One of my favorite novelists of the Old West was Louis L’Amour. I think my father-in-law owned most of his 89 cowboy novels. Seriously, you can still buy his whole collection online for just $125.00. Louis spent summers in the cowboy town of Durango. L’Amour sold over 200 million copies as of June 1988 and another 120 million have sold since his death. He was editing his own memoir the afternoon that he passed away from cancer. Just get one of the Sackett series books to get you in the mood for a visit to the southwest corner of Colorado!

Durango is a nice town. Its cowboy and mining past has given way to being a college town. Wolf Creek Pass to the east and the Million Dollar Highway to the north keep it pretty secluded but the adventurous are in for a treat if you venture there.

Check it out:

Our two days in Durango provided me with a fishing trip behind the Purgatory Ski area on a 12-mile dirt road, for a sub-species of Colorado River Cutthroats. 25 of the wild native fish made my day. My wife is a wildflower enthusiast and spotted Monkshood, fringed Gentain, Elephant head, and Solomon’s seal.

From Durango we took US route 550, and on the Million Dollar Highway which began being built in 1880 but was not completely paved till 1935. From Purgatory Ski Resort past to Cold bank Pass 10,640 feet, by Molas Lake and Molas Pass, to Silverton. Silverton is a town started in 1874 by wild and wooly miners, and sits at 9,814 feet in elevation. I think of it as the Sturgis of Colorado. It was a cool 54 degrees on this July morning. From Silverton you drive the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. Driving toward Red Mountain Pass 11,018 feet, you see avalanche sheds, avalanche shoots and no guard rails. You can usually see marmots, our western groundhogs sunning on the rock cliffs. We passed still occupied cabins that had no visible road access. Ouray is literally tucked up to the mountains but going further north you see the more arid western part of the state.

Each late July we try to drive over McClure Pass from Delta toward Marble, down to Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Along the way Big B’s fruit stand is our regular stop for Palisade peaches and Big Jim mild green chilies. This road goes through the tiny farming town of Hotchkiss to Paonia Reservoir. The Reservoir is sparsely used but is a good place to have a picnic along the way. On our bucket list is a four wheel drive over Kebler Pass which turns at Paonia Reservoir and goes to Crested Butte. On top of this pass is one of the largest living organisms in the world, an Aspen grove that is literally connected by the roots. These trees are clones of one another, and are considered one giant organism that covers miles. Utah has a grove that also vies for the largest aspen grove and Oregon has a fungal patch that is said to be bigger. Well, I’ll settle on seeing the grove on Kebler Pass one of these days.

I remember taking our adolescent daughters to Marble, Colorado. The Marble mine here is where the marble was mined that was used in the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Did you know Colorado has a marble mine that produces marble as good quality as Italian marble?

Our last night was spent in Dillion before journeying back across Rocky Mountain National Park to Loveland.  A road trip can show you the wild and woolly, the high and harrowing, the beautiful and always breathtaking that is our Colorado. Please venture out for yourself. Thank God I live in such a place.

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