USA: Colorado – December 2016

Although the main aim of our December trip was to visit Montana, there was no way I wasn’t going to visit my beloved Telluride located in southwest Colorado. The last week of our trip was spent around the Ridgway / Telluride / Durango areas. We unfortunately could not stay in Telluride due to the accommodation prices skyrocketing  since I was last there in 2013. Although still quite inconvenient to reach, Telluride is now one of the best ski resorts in America and it’s definitely easy to tell why. Husband and I don’t ski, but there is still so much to see and do around SW Colorado.

We stayed in a little town called Ridgway where the old John Wayne western movie True Grit was filmed. The town (and whole area in fact) is very reminiscent of the old cowboy and mining days and is steeped in history. Below are some pictures of the Ridgway area.

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DSC_0484 - edit.jpgThe True Grit Cafe in central Ridgway

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DSC_0143 - edit.jpgSome of the local architecture

DSC_0162 - edit.jpgOur favourite breakfast spot – Provisions – which was directly across from our rental

DSC_0160 - edit.jpgThe coffee at Provisions was amazing! 

DSC_0161 - edit.jpgSo were the pastries! 

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DSC_0010 - edit.jpgIsn’t the San Juan Mountain Range just incredible!?

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Obviously a large portion of our time was spent in Telluride, which was about an hours drive from Ridgway, but only because the only access is on a small, winding, one-lane mountain road. In terms of mileage it’s not that far.

I won’t tell you how amazing Telluride is – let the pictures show you! If you know me at all, you are used to me saying at least twice a year how much I miss Telluride and want to go back. I visited for the first time in 2013 with my sister and have been in love ever since. So when I knew we would be in the general vicinity I jumped at the chance of showing Patrick this amazing town.

Originally a tiny mining town, Telluride has gone from mining village to virtual ghost town to bustling ski resort. The 13 blocks of brick hotels and clapboard storefronts look much like they did in the 1880’s. It’s a National Historic District, so all construction must adhere to the town’s “Wild West” image and code. After all, Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank in Telluride!

Connected to Telluride is the ski village of Mountain Village. You get there by taking a gondola over the mountain. The experience is simply amazing and best of all, it’s free!

The pictures below first show the town of Telluride including the amazing houses, then move onto the gondola and the town of Mountain Village.

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DSC_0420 - edit.jpgThis will always be my favourite Main Street! 

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DSC_0412 - edit.jpgThis is where I stayed when I was in Telluride 3 years ago with my sister 

DSC_0384 - edit.jpgIsn’t this restaurant cute!?

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DSC_0246 - edit.jpgTelluride Gondola Station which takes you up the mountain to the ski area and Mountain Village

DSC_0434 - edit.jpgOne of the ski lifts

DSC_0439 - edit.jpgThe view of Telluride from the gondola

DSC_0462 - edit.jpgAnother view of Telluride from the cable car

DSC_0329 - edit.jpgA view of Mountain Village from the gondola

DSC_0349 - edit.jpgThe obligatory gondola photo! 🙂

DSC_0453 - edit.jpgHeading in the gondola to Mountain Village

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DSC_0322 - edit.jpgMountain Village

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DSC_0279 - edit.jpgThe ice-skating rink in Mountain Village

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DSC_0291 - edit.jpgLooking out towards some of the residences in Mountain Village

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DSC_0301 - edit.jpgThe accommodation on offer in Mountain Village

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DSC_0332 - edit.jpgThe view of Telluride from Allred’s Restaurant

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DSC_0473 - edit.jpgA glass of wine at Allred’s which is perfectly located at the half way point up the  mountain between Telluride and Mountain Village.

DSC_0480 - edit.jpgThe interior of Allred’s which has one of the best views of Telluride.

Just outside of Telluride is a road called The Last Dollar Road, which is one of Colorado’s most picturesque back-country roads. This road also houses some of the biggest ranches in the area.

When this road was a mining supply route in the 1800s, the workers probably weren’t too enthusiastic about its sharp turns and bumpy patches. But today, travelers have a whole different attitude. Thrill seekers (and confident drivers) boldly take on Last Dollar with enthusiasm. Have a look at the photo’s below!

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On one of the days we weren’t in Telluride we took a drive to Ouray and Silverton along US Route 550 and the Million Dollar Highway. Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the 19 km south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic— many cut directly into the sides of mountains. During this ascent, the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible. Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves; travel south from Ouray to Silverton perches drivers on the vertiginous outside edge of the highway. In short – it took us ages to drive!

DSC_0058 - edit.jpgUncompahgre Gorge

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DSC_0080 - edit.jpgIdarado Mine trestle

DSC_0023 - edit.jpgMain Street Ouray

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DSC_0046 - edit.jpgOuray County Courthouse

DSC_0048 - edit.jpgSome of the original structures in Ouray

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DSC_0051 - edit.jpgAerial view of Ouray

DSC_0110 - edit.jpgMain Street Silverton

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DSC_0088 - edit.jpgThe Silverton City Hall

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DSC_0121 - edit.jpgSt. Patrick’s Catholic Church – husband of course loved this! 🙂

DSC_0124 - edit.jpgSemi-aerial view of Silverton

We also took a quick day trip over to Durango. We had to again take US Route 550 and on this particular day it was storming which meant the drive was slow and hazardous. We could barely see anything as we were driving. Of course as soon as we reached Durango the weather dramatically improved! 🙂

DSC_0140 - edit.jpgAerial view of Durango

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On our last day in Colorado we took a day-trip into Dunton Hot Springs, which is a tiny huddle of log buildings 25 (some very tough and in the winter inaccessible) miles southwest of Telluride. The only way in is by snowmobile (unless you are staying on the property). We were the first party in via snowmobile so the going was pretty tough – we were cutting through some pretty high snow!

We met our tour group at a tiny town called Sawpit (not even sure I can call it a town – it was pretty much a gas pump and a store) and then rode 40 miles across country to get to Dunton. At Dunton we soaked in the hot springs and then feasted on salmon, quinoa and red wine before driving the 40 miles back again. It was a truly amazing day and a great end to our vacation!

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DSC_0052 - edit.jpgPat enjoying his soak in the iron-rich water

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On our way to the airport I insisted that we stop in at a ghost town called St Elmo. It was another snowy day so we unfortunately didn’t get to see it in full.

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