I am a huge fan of traveling and adventures. In this day and age, I think a lot of people associate those two words with going to exotic places and doing more extreme things than they would in their everyday lives.
However, there are many ways to travel and have adventures, and it doesn’t always mean getting on a plane to go to another continent. Zak and I just had three days off together, which was a treat, and we took the opportunity to take a mini vacation over to Colorado, about three hours of driving one way. I think that it can be a huge net energy gain to take short trips like this, just get in your car, drive to a place a few hours away that you haven’t yet explored, and fly by the seat of your pants. I will admit that this trip had another purpose as well, and that was to make our alcohol purchase for our upcoming Grand Canyon trip. You just can’t find a wide selection of good quality, reasonably-priced, canned beer anywhere in Utah, and you can’t really buy it in large quantities. So, that was sort of a secondary purpose of our vacation.
We took off from Moab mid-morning on Sunday and drove east into Colorado, heading toward Telluride. Neither of us had ever been there, and I can’t say I was disappointed. Telluride is incredibly beautiful, lots of cute houses and buildings, and nestled in mountains that were capped with snow and covered with changing aspen trees. If you’re looking for a lively time, a Sunday during the fall is definitely not the time to visit there. However, the low-key day was perfect for us. We grabbed some lunch (BLT for me, grilled rueben for Zak) and worked the NYT crossword at Baked in Telluride, which also has a huge assortment of baked goods, and was the only place open. Afterwards, we hit up the Telluride Thrift Shop, which was a bust, but our spirits livened when the Telluride Free Box was a score. The Free Box is literally just a shelving unit on the main street, where people dump their unwanted stuff. We had some great finds there, and I found myself wishing that every town had a free box or two. We dumped our freebies in the truck and headed out for a hike.
We hiked the Bear Creek Trail, which is right off of a street in town, so its really easily
accessible. Bear Creek dumps into the San Miguel River, which is a major tributary of the Dolores, which is a major tributary of the Colorado. The trail is pretty cruiser, nice and wide, and pretty easy walking. You are walking uphill the whole time, but its not very steep for the majority of it. The reviews on Trip Advisor were mixed between it being easy (the side I would take) and not easy (probably if you’re visiting from sea level and aren’t accustomed to altitude and/or don’t exercise a lot). Whatever your fitness level, the end of the 2.5 mile trail is an incredibly beautiful waterfall. I’m sure the sight of it would be gorgeous at any time of year, I thought is was particularly beautiful now. Only a small section of the massive rock that the falls cascaded over wasn’t covered in ice. Over all the rest of the rock hung beautiful icicles, and parts of the face of it were covered in a sheet of ice that was thin enough you could see the water running underneath of it. The descent o
f this out and back trail was a little bit chilly, as it was later in the afternoon. I think I finally decided fall is my favorite season, and feeling the cool, crisp air turn my cheeks pink while hiking down affirmed that for me.
Once we were back into town, it was really chilly and we were itching for a warm place to sit down, watch football and enjoy a beer. Luckily for us, we stumbled upon the perfect place for that. Granted, it was filled with obnoxious Bronco’s fans, but the beer was delicious. We ate dinner there too, mostly so we could linger in the warmth and watch football. That night we camped south of Ridgway, CO (about an hour from Telluride) at the Blue Lakes Trailhead. It was a pretty isolated spot and perfect for truck-bed camping. The temps that night were in the low 20’s and our ‘down palace’ (2 sleeping bags and 2 comforters) proved itself greatly for the Grand Canyon on this test run. After coffee and breakfast in bed backcountr
y style (jetboil and backpacking stove on the tailgate), we began our hike. The trail was a pretty steep, consistent uphill, and most of the trail was snow-covered, making it slower going than typical. The last mile or so was difficult, as the snow was at least six inches deep. After 3.5 miles, we made it to the Lower Blue Lake, where we stopped to enjoy lunch. We opted not to hike up to the middle and upper lakes, as it was another 2 or so miles, with at least another 1,000 feet of elevation gain, and lots of snow was almost guaranteed.
Once I dipped a toe into one of the pools at the Orvis Hot Springs outside of Ridgway, I knew that our decision to turn around after the first lake had been a good one. The Orvis Hot Springs are definitely a place not to miss out on if you’re ever in the Ridgway/Ouray/Telluride area. Its not very expensive to enter, and its clothing optional, which makes it even better. They have a couple different pools of varying temperatures, as well as a sauna. The bes
t part though are the fantastic views you get of the San Juan Mountains, from almost any place you are located in the pools. The highlight for Zak and I was sitting in one of the pools and watching a chipmunk scampering around, collecting his provisions for the winter. His tiny paws were moving at lightening speed stuffing pieces of grass and leaves into his mouth. It was incredible to watch him, and the pace at which he worked was absolutely jaw-dropping.
After reluctantly leaving the hot springs, we hit up Trail Town Still, a distillery in Ridgway that distills their own rum, vodka, whiskey and gin. This spot had been recommended to us by a couple of friends. The girl working the bar was kind of obnoxious, and they were chargin
g almost seven dollars for cocktails that were not creative or original. Granted, it was a Monday evening, so we were pretty much the only people there, except for 1 or 2 local older men who stopped by quickly to have a drink. I don’t know if I would go there again. We made some quick dinner out in a field behind the bar (pad thai, yum!) and headed north towards Montrose to find a campsite for the night and head to Grand Junction and then Moab the next day.
All in all, mini-vacations are the best, and I highly recommend you take them. You won’t regret it, I promise. Get out there and go somewhere in your backyard that you’ve always wanted to see. What are you waiting for?