Once upon a time I made a yearly pilgrimage to Colorado, something that was essential at the time because being in the Rockies leveled me and restored my spirit and provided inspiration for another year. Some years Mother and I went together, some years David joined us. Back in the day we pulled a pop-up trailer along and spent time at favorite campgrounds between Gunnison and Durango for the most part. I learned to drive mountains pulling a trailer behind and I learned to back that trailer into the tiniest of slots. Every year we would venture a little outside the beaten path to check on different areas (the year of Rocky Mountain National Park was a winner; the year I just had to go to Aspen because that's where John Denver lived and we got stuck behind a cattle drive on a back road that never seemed to end and never got us anywhere and we had to back track and go through Grand Junction and then we got to Aspen and it wasn't all that inspiring, not so much).
We always kept the Gunnison to Ouray to Durango loop in the schedule regardless because we all loved those three places. I defy anyone to drive Taylor Canyon above Gunnison and not fall in love with the Rocky Mountains and the tumbling rivers. I defy anyone to spend time in Ouray and not come out of the experience with a fresh outlook on life. I defy anyone to stand on the edge of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and not feel overwhelmed by the wonders of nature we have in the United States. I defy anyone to spend time in Durango and not spend the remainder of their lives grinning when they hear a steam engine whistle.
But there came a year when Mother was no longer physically able to make the trip and our routines changed. David began traveling with his new partner in life and I began making genealogically inspired trips based on ancestral origins. I did make one last trip to Colorado by myself (well Bebop went along so it wasn't totally alone), driving the familiar route and staying in cabins. That was 21 years ago. That's a mighty long time ago. I've seen the Rockies from 30,000 feet while flying to Salt Lake City and Seattle, but that's not the same as standing in the foothills and looking up at their majesty.
So when David and Karen suggested I fly out and join them on a portion of their trip west this year, I let them talk me into it. They had decided to make part of the trip the Durango/Ouray/Gunnison loop as a tribute to vacations past and I could not resist the temptation to see how things have changed in 20 years. Besides, it has been a rough couple of years and a little spiritual renewing seemed in order.
So yesterday morning I returned to Mecca. I don't like flying, so I can't say the first day was particularly renewing, especially since I was negotiating airports by myself for the first time. But things just fell into place through the course of the trip, convincing me that the powers that be were in favor of this journey. I still wasn't overly excited, because getting ready for the trip and making arrangements for the furry kids and getting a roof put on at the last minute had been making it hard to think ahead very far.
I kept looking out the plane window, looking for snow-capped peaks, but apparently we flew on a route that kept us in New Mexico most of the time, because it was boring terrain and I ended up concentrating on (and gumming up and back-tracking to fix) my knitting. But then I felt the engines beginning to shift down and the flight attendant strolled by remarking that we would be landing in 20-25 minutes and I glanced out the window.
And there was home. Green, rolling foothills and cabins perched on their tops. I finally began to feel the anticipation of returning to my old stomping grounds.
As we drove from the airport back toward Durango, I finally got to see my mountains and as soon as we turned onto 550 headed north, I knew exactly where I was and what turns to make to get to downtown Durango. It's changed, but it's the same underneath.
We're doing things a bit differently this time. No campgrounds. We don't know when, if ever, we will get back this way, so we are indulging ourselves and staying in places we always admired but couldn't really afford. (We may be paying for it for awhile, but we decided it's time to carpe diem.)
First stop is 2 nights at the Strater Hotel in Durango. We walked up and down the shopping district last night before having some really nice New Mexican style food for supper. Today we are riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to Silverton, something I have not done since my very first trip to Colorado. There should be some really great pictures to share in the next post.
|The Strater Hotel|