After three days in Telluride it was time to pull anchor and make my way to Ouray, where I’d spend another three days of mountain bliss before hightailing it to Colorado Springs.
Telluride is literally only 10 miles from Ouray, that is, if you don’t mind jeep trekking through Himalayan-like terrain to get from here to there, otherwise it’s a 50 mile 1+ hour drive by car.
I opted to go south so I could swing by Mesa Verde and visit the cliff ruins, then take a quick peak at Durango before finally settling in at Ouray.
It made for some gorgeous driving too, so much that I really had to make a concerted effort not to keep stopping all the time. Eventually the terrain started to flatten out and I reached the Mesa Verde park, thinking my time here wouldn’t amount to more than 15 minutes of gawking at the ruins. Um, not quite.
After I got the map from the park ranger at the entrance, my jaw dropped when I saw it would be a 20 mile drive just to get to the FIRST site. 20 miles!??!!? Uggghhhhhhhh…
I was already here though, so I bit the bullet and continued to meander WAY up there, where the roads hugged the cliffs and swung sharply in all directions. The views were so hypnotic I had to slow to a crawl at times lest I find myself driving right into open space.
Eventually I reached the core of the park, stopping occasionally to look at some of the Pueblo pits that were still preserved, and taking pictures of the Cliff Palace that could be seen from the distance. Unfortunately you have to take a guided tour to visit the site, but there was another set of ruins called the Spruce Tree House that was self-guided. Works for me.
Getting down there was pretty easy, the walkway was well paved and located behind a tourist center/museum. It’s a steep incline though, so be prepared to heave and ho when you have to walk back up again. Oy.
Even though I spent MUCH more time here than I originally planned, it was fascinating to walk through these ruins and imagine a life without iPhones, cable TV, pizza and indoor plumbing. On the upside though, at least eHarmony didn’t exist either.
I finally left and cruised onward until I arrived at Durango for lunch, the site of the famous Durango-Silverton Railroad too. Unfortunately those train rides literally last 8 hours round trip, so I never did get a chance to take a trip while I was close by. Ah well, gives me something to look forward to for next time.
Durango seemed like an average modern town that just happens to enjoy close proximity to the San Juans, with the usual stretch of national retail stores and food chains. Pretty clean too, at least compared the crap towns I usually see on Long Guuuyland. There was no compelling need to stick around after lunch, so I continued north and onward until at long last I arrived in Ouray.
I have to say, as far as taking a lazy drive goes, this is probably one of the best areas of the country to do it. The only thing missing is the beach, but since I hated the beach I wasn’t missing anything at all really.
I don’t doubt that I’ll be able to return here in the future, but I do pray that the next time I visit, it will be to stay for good.