After leaving the Sand Dunes we headed west and rolled into Durango pretty late in the evening. where it was rainy and gross, so we opted for a hotel to not mess with finding a wet campsite in the darkness. Plus, shower! And in the morning another treat awaited in the form of Oscar’s, a cafe where I shoved so much breakfast into my belly and had leftovers for later, and where they make the best hot sauce I’ve had in forever- and luckily they sell it and I have some for the road.

Most of Durango was still pretty much shut down, unfortunately, including the famed Durango-Silverton railway which was high on my list of to-dos but will have to wait for another time. After a quick drive through of the cute town, off we went towards Mesa Verde. We drove past more mountains, cattle pastures, Chimney Rock, and eventually saw the mesa rising from the flat land in the distance.

Mesa Verde national park was the most closed of the ones we visited, so deserves a repeat visit for sure. The bulk of the experience in this park is touring the ancient cliff dwellings which were not open, so we did a brief drive through the park and walked through the old kivas and remains of homes in another area you could tour on your own. Alongside the home remains is a reservoir created by hauling stones and creating mud walls to trap every bit of water in this high, arid spot. I tried and failed to imagine living in this kind of terrain hundreds of years ago. Thank you modern plumbing and grocery stores!

From Mesa Verde we set off to find a spot to camp for a night or two on the way to Telluride. It was a Saturday afternoon so most of the more accessible sites were packed, but Kevin had camped up in the mountains on a previous trip before climbing mountains, so up the narrow, rocky road we went for about 5 miles with a few stops to clear tree limbs that had come down in the rain the night before. Boy did that drive pay off. Wide open space, cool (okay, pretty cold and windy) clean air, gorgeous views, and almost no company save a few ATVers and one other camper and his dog. On an after dinner stroll we spotted a herd of elk in the clearing across the road, which was a special way to end the day.

The next day we went on a hike up to a waterfall at the base of one of the fourteeners he’d climbed up there, and as usual I trailed behind huffing and puffing at altitude, but I made it and we had lunch amongst the skunk cabbage and giant ant hills overlooking the falls and peaks. It was easier to enjoy the whispering Aspens and stream crossings on the way back down when I wasn’t quite so dead to the world.

This was a magical place to spend two nights, but Telluride was calling so back down the hills we went. A few miles up the road we stopped by Trout Lake with hopes of having lunch by the water, but the crazy wind drove us away quickly after just a snack. This turned out to be fine though, because it left me hungry and ready for the delicious pizza in Telluride about an hour later.

Telluride’s views walking down the main street is breathtaking. Sadly not much was open, including the free gondola into town, and of course no festivals that normally dominate every weekend here. I did find some gems like “Popcorn Alley” and a piggy statue, so that’s a win, and we were able to see the waterfalls from afar. Another place for a return visit one day!

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