Southwestern Colorado '11
- Million Dollar Highway, CO
- Durango, CO
- Santa Fe, NM
- Mesa Verde National Park, CO
- Telluride, CO
Details and Ratings
- Trip Cost: n/a
- Trip Value: n/a
- Destinations Rating: 4 out of 5
- Fun Rating: 4 out of 5
- Overall Score: 8 out of 10
We continued our summer series of road trips with an ambitious trip to southwestern Colorado for Fourth of July weekend. Our base camp would be Durango, Colorado. From there, we ventured to Santa Fe, NM, Mesa Verde National Park, and, finally, Telluride, CO.
Daily Reports and Photos
Mindy and I left Salt Lake City after work and drove to Grand Junction, CO to spend the night. The drive was peaceful. The sunset lighting on the red rocks of eastern Utah was awesome.
The only goal for today was to get to Durango, Colorado at some point. We started the day in Grand Junction and we had about 200 milles of the San Juan Range to enjoy on our way to Durango.
Our first stop was in Ouray, Colorado, which is just an awesome place. The town is about as picturesque as it gets in the United States.
Next, we stopped at Box Canyon Waterfall just outside of Ouray. For a nominal fee, you get to walk on a series of creaky metal platforms through a jagged canyon carved by the obviously incredible power of the water crashing down from above. The waterfall was almost an afterthought because the walls of the canyon seemed to draw most of my attention.
The drive along the Million Dollar Highway proved as impressive as it was the first time I made the same drive five years earlier.
7/3/2011 - Santa Fe, NM
Mindy had wanted to visit Santa Fe, NM, which is not a short drive from Durango, but I couldn't imagine ever again being closer than now, so we resolved to get to Santa Fe despite the distance.
After a long and fairly boring drive, we finally arrived in Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the clouds were threatening and I had no idea where the cool downtown area was, so we ended up wandering around aimlessly for a bit. Finally, we found the artsy downtown area. We just walked around for a couple hours enjoying all the little shops and some of the tourist sites.
It turned out that the rainstorm in Santa Fe that afternoon was very welcome because it helped put out some raging wildfires near Los Alamos, NM.
The long drive back to Durango turned out pretty well. I noticed some impressive mountains I had missed on the drive down, and the sunset lighting on the mountains near Pagosa Springs, CO was impressive.
When we returned to Durango, we went out to a bar to watch some live music.
7/4/2011 - Awesome
We started the day by driving to Mesa Verde National Park to explore some of the Native American ruins.
We had a couple options for our drive back to Salt Lake City. One option was to drive to Four Corners because Mindy hadn't been there yet, and then backtrack and head back to Salt Lake. Another option was to drive north from Cortez, visit Telluride (a place I have always wanted to see), and then drive back to Salt Lake. We chose the Telluride option.
And it was an excellent choice. The scenery along the drive to Telluride was both lush--with lots of trees--and rugged. Telluride itself was a beautiful place, which I had heard before. The whole drive and the area around Telluride exceeded even my lofty expectations for its natural beauty.
To make things even better, on the drive back to Ridgway, a particularly perfect view of the Sneffels Range just blew us away. My view of the Colorado Rockies in general were of mountains much less rugged than their counterparts in the Tetons and even the Wasatch, but the Sneffels Range seems a worthy rival to at least the Wasatch and maybe even the Tetons. The sunset lighting probably helped enhance our perceptions.
We started the last leg of our 6-hour drive back to Salt Lake for good, finally, with only about 4 hours of the day left.
It was awesome to see fireworks in Grand Junction as we drove through. It was not awesome, however, when a Colorado State Patrol officer pulled me over only a couple exits on I-70 past Grand Junction because both of my tail lights were burned out.
The officer didn't give me a ticket, but he instructed me to get off the highway and fix the lights before I should continue our drive back to Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a store open this late on a federal holiday that had the type of light bulb I needed for my tail lights, so we were forced to spend the night at an overpriced La Quinta Inn for the night. It happens.
7/5/2011 - Oops
On account of our the tail light snafu from the night earlier, we woke up very early in our overpriced La Quinta room because Mindy and I had to get back to Salt Lake for work. Despite getting only a few hours of sleep, I was able to make the drive safely back to Salt Lake.