There’s a road in Southwest Colorado where the rocks take the shape of sculptures, where canyons are speckled by twisted green trees and low-lying mesas are camouflaged by vineyards. In addition to being home to thousands of ancient archeology sites, this is grape growing country.
Located in the western part of Mesa Verde Country, close to the border of Utah, Road G runs from Cortez to Hovenweep, and there are lots of reasons to drive down this winding county road.
I love road trips and I love Americana, and Cortez has more “Americana” architecture on Main Street than I’ve seen in any other Colorado town. From the Cork n’ Bottle liquor store to the Retro Inn, vintage signs are standard fare around town. It gives this part of Colorado a “Route 66” type of feel even though that famous road is well south of the area.
It had been years since Ryan and I visited the Mesa Verde area of Colorado. We weren’t sure what to expect when we sailed into the region earlier this month.
The Anasazi Heritage Center – A Must Stop
Our first official stop was the Anasazi Heritage Center, 15 minutes out of Cortez. I really like this museum because a walkthrough gives the visitor an easy to comprehend history lesson on the area. I encourage everyone to make this their first stop when visiting Mesa Verde Country. Continue reading
If you’re looking for great music in a splendid Colorado location, look no further than the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival on September 15-18, 2016.
Telluride represents the good life no matter how you interpret the phrase. Whether “the good life” means communing with nature, first-rate shopping, high-end dining or simply taking in a indescribably beautiful sunset – you’ll experience it in Telluride.
Attending Telluride Blues & Brews represents an opportunity to stay in Telluride for a few days. Many festival-goers camp, but there are lots of hotels to choose from, both in town and in Mountain Village, just a free gondola ride away.
There are loads of music festivals in Colorado, but very few are held in one of the most beautiful spots on the face of the earth. It just takes one visit to know why Telluride gets on all the “best small town” lists.
The festival features internationally renowned musicians as well as national acts. There’s blues, funk, jam bands, indie, rock, gospel and soul performances.
Do you know Joe Walsh? Maybe you recall his band, The Eagles? I grew up in a household where The Eagles were revered so seeing and hearing Joe Walsh will be a true thrill. He plays the main stage on Friday night (9/16). I’m also looking forward to Jason Isbell who also plays Friday night of the festival.
Other main stage performers include Gary Clark, Jr., The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band featuring Rick Vito, Anders Osborne and Shakey Graves. See the entire band line up for Telluride Blues & Brews here.
And the music never stops at Telluride Blues & Brews. Check out the late night schedule.
World class beer in a world class destination – it just doesn’t get any better. No wonder brewers like to attend this one instead of sending employees to do the beer pouring (I got that bit of info straight from the mouth of a Fort Collins brewery owner).
Of course, beer will be served throughout the festival, but you don’t want to miss the Grand Tasting on Saturday, September 17 from 12 to 3 p.m. Fifty-six microbreweries will bring along 170 styles of beer. I triple dog dare you to try them all.
Hope to see you there, HeidiTown citizens!
23rd Annual Telluride Blues & Brews
September 15-18, 2016
Telluride, Colorado (click to see festival map)
Tickets to various TBBF16 events range from $20 to $199 for a *3-day pass
Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.
As most of my regular readers already know, beer festivals are a dime-a-dozen here in Colorado. So how does one decide which festival is worthy of their patronage? Check with me! Today I’m here to tell you that San Juan Brewfest (August 27) rocks, and here’s why.
Durango’s cool factor is off the charts. It’s brew-factor is also off the charts. There are six breweries and two distillers in this town of 16,000, making it an easy place to find a good drink.
Also, with restaurants such as El Moro Spirits & Tavern, Ken & Sue’s and Jean Pierre’s, Durango is winning the foodie game hands down. Very few towns of this size have this many gourmet food offerings.
In addition to food and drink, Durango offers an array of activities such as biking the Animas River Trail, floating the river, riding the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and so much more.
San Juan Brewfest rocks
San Juan Brewfest is awesome because it’s an excuse to hang out for a day or two in Durango, but there’s more.
The best part, is that San Juan Brewfest is top-notch, and I can tell you from personal experience that its park venue is one of the best in Colorado for one big reason and that’s shade. August festivals get hot and shade becomes a major priority and festival bonus.
Secondly, because Durango is in Southwest Colorado, the San Juan Brewfest attracts a number of breweries from New Mexico that you won’t see at most Front Range beer festivals. This year, there are breweries coming from as far as Oregon, California and Wisconsin. See the entire list here.
In all, fifty-four breweries and distilleries will be at the event along with three bands (see band lineup here).
Last year, we went to San Juan Brewfest as VIPs which rocked. This year’s VIP package includes access to a brewer party on Friday night at Steamworks Brewing Co., one-hour early entrance to the beer festival, VIP area with a catered lunch and private bathroom, and a festival t-shirt. This is a GREAT VIP package and there are a few VIP tickets left.
Durango has a laid-back vibe that I love and so does San Juan Brewfest. I’d encourage you to make this festival your last summer hurrah.
San Juan Brewfest
All proceeds of San Juan Brewfest benefit United Way of Southwest Colorado
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Buckley Park at 12th & Main in downtown Durango
VIP, 12 to 5 p.m. / Upgraded GA 12:30 to 5 p.m. / GA 1 to 5 p.m.
(this is a 21 & over event)
Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.
Last week I was a speaker at a tourism conference in Pagosa Springs, and it was a good reminder of the total awesomeness of this Southwest Colorado town.
Pagosa Springs should be on your must-visit list this summer and here are five things you need to do once you get there.
1. Float the river in Pagosa Springs
The best way to take advantage of a river that runs directly through a town is to float it. The San Juan River is the source of all good stuff in Pagosa Springs and is a big summertime attraction.
The best time to float the river is in July and August when the water levels are lower. Bring your own tube or check out this Pagosa Springs’ website for how to go about floating the San Juan River. Continue reading
Mayor’s note: I’m writing a three-part series on DOing Durango. Part one, focuses on the Durango brewery scene. Part two will focus on food. Part three will focus on touristy, fun activities you shouldn’t miss.
If I had to use just one word to describe Durango, Colorado, it would be “chill.” People are friendly and the pace of life is a few clicks slower than along the Front Range of Colorado. It’s not surprising that this town of 17,000 has five breweries, because nothing says “chill” like relaxing on a sunlit patio with a cold craft brew in hand.
We visited in late April and for the first several days of this trip I was attending a conference, but for the last couple days we played like locals and that meant drinking some really good beer.
I have been behind the scenes at a number of breweries, but have never had on an official tour until we visited Ska Brewing in Durango. Our tour guide was Holly and we were joined by a pair of brewery owners from Fruita. Continue reading
I love trains. If you’ve been a fan of HeidiTown for any length of time you are already aware of my train obsession. I’m not into the technical stuff, but I like the experience of train travel and the nostalgia that comes with it. Train travel forces us to slow down and look around; something we should be doing on a daily basis.
While in Durango last month, Ryan and I had an opportunity to ride the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We boarded on a brisk morning at the end of April. I was gripping my camera and probably sporting a rather silly grin, because I’d been looking forward to this ride for a very long time.
We were happy to discover that a tour group of Brits were in our car. We love the British, and they did not disappoint – proving to be a very entertaining lot.
I suppose this is where I should tell you a little bit of the history. Durango was developed as a railroad town by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1880. The railroad arrived in town the next year, and construction on the line to Silverton began that fall. By July of 1882 the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling both passengers and freight. If that seems fast, it was.
After WWII, the Silverton line was nearly shut down, but thanks in part to a slew of 1950s westerns filmed in the area that featured the train, tourist began flocking to Durango. Today, the train provides year-round service. The locomotives used to pull the train are 100% coal-fired, steam-operated, and circa 1920s.
As soon as the train left the station we moved to one of the open-gondola cars, as did most of the Brits. The open-gondola cars are excellent during warmer months, although you will be covered in a thin layer of coal soot by the end of the day, and by the end of our excursion I’d made the decisive decision never to work in a coal mine.
Do you seek out adventure? Or would you rather soak in hot springs all day? Does rappelling into a waterfall sound exhilarating? Or would you rather sit on a sun soaked, rooftop patio drinking a beer? You can do all of these things and more in Ouray, Colorado.
Ryan and I visited Ouray in March and we fell in love with the town. I hadn’t been to Ouray since my parents made the road trip from the Oregon Coast to Colorado in a Volkswagen Rabbit in 1978. The most memorable photo from the trip is of me at age two, sitting on a snow bank, surrounded by wildflowers.
Ouray is nestled between high mountain peaks, giving it the deserved nickname of Little Switzerland. The town still has many unpaved streets, adding to its unpretentious charm. Here are highlights from our March trip, and I hope that they will help you make the most out of your Ouray experience.
Does the idea of rolling out of bed and into a hot springs pool every morning sound appealing? This experience awaits you at the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings. The Wiesbaden is unique because in addition to a hot springs fed pool, they have a vapor cave, something my husband enjoyed enormously.
They also have a private hot spring called the Lorelei. It is magical, and I highly recommend booking the Lorelei when you stay at the Wiesbaden, and be sure to ask if they are running any discounts for hotel guests.
There are several different types of lodging options at the Wiesbaden. We had apartment style accommodations complete with a kitchen. Eating in is a great way to save money if you are staying somewhere for more than two days.
The Wiesbaden is retro, but has all the accoutrements of modern living such as flat screen televisions. The big bonus is that it is within walking distance of everything downtown Ouray has to offer. Continue reading
When I told people I was going ice climbing in Ouray, they would say, “I didn’t know you were a climber.” I’m not a climber. I had never even sat in a harness until my first zip lining experience in 2012. However, when I was offered the chance to go ice climbing with San Juan Mountain Guides, for some crazy reason I said yes.
On our third day in Ouray, Ryan and I rose early, forgoing our morning soak in the Wiesbaden’s hot spring pool. We dressed warmly and drove the two blocks to San Juan Mountain Guides. Located in Ouray and Durango this company provides guides for all sorts of outdoor adventures, from ice climbing to canyoning.
They also rent equipment, which is good because climbing gear is pricey. A pair of ice climbing boots alone will set you back $700. Our guide, professional climber Dawn Glanc, got us all geared up and we drove the short 5 minutes to the Ouray Ice Park.
This is the only ice park of its kind in the United States, so it truly fits the definition of unique. It’s a magical place, so even if you don’t intent to climb, it’s worth the short drive to see it.
Every January, the Ouray Ice Festival attracts around 1,000 ice climbers from around the world to the tiny town. More and more events are being established around the ice park, including Chicks with Picks, ice climbing clinics. Women are becoming increasingly interested in climbing, a sport primarily dominated by men.
We parked the car and walked up the muddy road to done our gear before heading into the park. The park is owned and managed by the City of Ouray and the nonprofit, Ouray Ice Park, Inc. The ice is farmed, meaning it is manmade using water pipes that are turned on to create nearly 200 ice and mixed climbs ranging from beginning to expert along a mile of canyon.
All geared up in harnesses, helmets, boots and crampons, Ryan, Dawn and I walked through the park, heading towards what’s referred to as The School Room – it’s where they train the newbies. My body grew stiff with apprehension as we traversed the metal walkway hanging high above the canyon.
This is a good time to tell you that I have a fear of heights. I’m pretty good going up a mountain, but I once sat atop a 14er and cried for a half hour when I realized I’d have to exit the peak down a slippery slope of shale. I’m not proud of this little incident, but it proves my point.
By the time we were positioned directly above The School Room I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to do this. Once Dawn told us that we’d need to crawl under the fencing and rappelling down the ice cliff face to get to the training area, I knew for sure that this wasn’t going to happen. The thin metal fence I’d been holding on to during our walk was the only thing between me and a precipice of ice that shot straight down into what I assumed was a frozen river bed and imminent death.
Once he was attached to the rope, Ryan, the athlete in our family and a guy with absolutely no fear, got the go from Dawn. He ducked under the fence and vanished. I stood quietly as Dawn fed the rope to Ryan. For a while the only sound was the soft wind whispering through the canyon and the beating of my heart, now lodged firmly in my throat.
“We can walk down,” said Dawn.
I quietly considered this new plan as Dawn continued to feed Ryan rope. It seemed like a lot of rope. Was this a 500 foot drop off?
“We can also rappel down together,” said Dawn.
And then I realized something. If I didn’t rappel down that icy canyon, the one I was supposed to learn to climb up, the rest of the day was going to be a sham. How could I claim that I attempted to ice climb if I couldn’t make myself rappel to the start of the climb?
We went together, and I’ll admit, it was a terrifying experience, but somewhere in the middle of the rappel my heart rate steadied. I focused on the task at hand, as Dawn instructed. I focused on my feet and finally I was at the bottom of the canyon.
You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the day.
We went on to learn the basics of ice climbing. It’s all fairly straightforward and Ryan got it right way, making two climbs to the top before noon. I wasn’t quite so good, and although I did comprehend what I was supposed to be doing I couldn’t always get my muscles to respond properly.
Dawn Glanc is a gifted climbing instructor and has in incredible amount of patience and understanding. On our hike back up, which was actually another big hurdle for me because it was downright scary, she hooked up my harness so that I felt more secure.
So is this the end of my ice climbing career? Absolutely not. I would definitely try it again and perhaps I’d even advance to a solo rappel. Although before I do ice climbing, I may do some canyoning this summer, another growing sport in Ouray that involves rappelling into water falls. Sounds terrifyingly refreshing.
If I can do this sport, you can do it! If you’d like to book a guided ice climbing trek with Dawn Glanc next winter it’s not too early because she books up fast. Dawn is a pro who travels the world climbing in amazing places like Iceland, Croatia and Greece, so be sure to like her Facebook page to follow her adventures. Also, please check out San Juan Mountain Guide’s online or on Facebook. Lastly, watch for Dawn Glanc at the ice climbing demonstrations at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
This climb was sponsored by the Ouray Chamber Resort Association.
Looking for something to do this weekend in Colorado?
From chili festivals to Oktoberfests, it’s never boring in Colorful Colorado. Here’s my segment for this week – the HeidiTown.com segments air on Wednesdays and Fridays on KRFC 88.9 FM.
Note to my wonderful subscribers: You will have to head over to HeidiTown.com to view the video in this blog post.