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Telluride in Box Canyon
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Telluride Mushroom Festival
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Telluride Victorian Home
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Shiprock - 40 miles away
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Leaving the Four Corners, we continued on a portion of The Trail of the Ancients into Colorado, traversing important archeological and cultural sights of the ancient Native Americans.
About 10 minutes into Colorado, I looked out the window, east across the high desert plain of the Navajo Nation and saw a HUGE something on the horizon. There was nothing for miles except this gigantic THING. (See photo. ) It was a long way off which made me realize how very big it must be. No historical marker or scenic view sign gave a hint. Googling - thank goodness for Google on this trip - it was ID'd as Shiprock, a 1600 foot tall rock with religious and historical importance to Navajos
It does look like a old sailing ship from a distance! I estimate we were 40 miles away when the attached photo was taken.
After winding through the San Juan Mountains, with the highest concentration of 14,000 foot mountains in the U. S., we reached Telluride, arguably the most spectacular setting for any town in America.
It sits at 8800 feet in a box canyon, squeezed in on three sides by towering mountains and expansive high meadows. "Alpenglow" sunsets, with the mountains turning red and orange, are famous. You have to get a seat at a rooftop bar well before sunset to ensure an unobstructed view. But my wonderful Larry had booked a condo for our own private nightly show.
On SSI, we love watching the changing light of the sunset on the marsh grass; it was also beautiful watching the changing light on the mountain tops.
The town is filled with colorfully restored Victorian homes from the town's mining days, lots of big dogs (a very dog friendly town), folks who came here in the 60s and never left (think: long grey pony tails...on both men and women), and young people here for the mountain biking and skiing, some barefoot.
Yes. This is Colorado where marijuana will be totally legal in 2014. ( We were 5 months too early!). We didn't see much of that, but Telluride WAS having a very spirited mushroom festival while we were there!! (Pungent bags of gnarly things at every vendor table. ) With only 60 frost-free days a year, they cherish their summer days with a constant stream of festivals, even including a "Nothing Festival. "
The ski village, lodges, etc. are up a mountain at 10,000 feet. So you don't have to drive from mountain to town and back (15 miles round trip) or worry about navigating dark mountain roads after dinner and a bottle of wine, the town runs a FREE gondola that travels 3 miles up and down 18 hours a day! Now THAT is commuting!
The community boasts a ranch for Ralph Lauren and second homes for Tom Cruise, Oprah, and Seinfeld. To serve these folks and skiers who don't want to make the 90 minute drive from Durango, the town has an airport - the highest elevation airport in the country - that makes Glynn Co look like JFK.
Given the challenges of the elevation, the height of surrounding mountains, and a 1000 foot drop at the end of the runway (meaning loss of lift), you don't see many planes coming or going. Chatting with a guy on the gondola who is an airport designer, he explained that as planes take off and clear the runway, the inability to maintain lift means they actually LOSE elevation and disappear from view for a few moments before continuing their climb. Not for me.
Fun, funky town. Not too precious. Not too produced. Great restaurants (2nd best steak after Hays, KS) and an annual sold-out bluegrass festival that we may want to come back for.
Next, we were south into New Mexico, crossing an uninspiring Rio Grande Gorge bridge, the 7th highest in the U. S., just outside Taos. I did get vertigo looking over the edge, but I guess - after all the natural beauty of the past 5+ weeks - this just didn't measure up for me.
However, as we approached Taos, we had to pull over to look at weird houses covered with various antenna- like things and half buried in the ground. Earthships!
In a subdivision called Greater World Community, residents live totally off the grid. No power, water, gas or sewage lines enter or leave the property. They collect, use, treat and reuse their water several times. They rely on solar and wind power. They do use propane, mostly for cooking. Earthships are actually trade marked and are made of natural and recycled materials such as dirt-filled tires (?) and tin cans.
Taos is, of course, famously known for a different kind of construction: The adobe pueblos. The Taos Pueblo, a world heritage sight, has been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. A few families still live here without electricity and running water but most families use their pueblo only during ceremonial days.
The strong cultural pride was very evident in the young tour guide and among the residents selling crafts. The Taos pueblo people resisted the Spanish and Catholic influence for 200 years but cultural cooperation finally evolved. Today, the Taos pueblo assimilate Catholicism into their indigenous beliefs and celebrations.
The pueblos are entirely adobe, built of earth, straw and water. The only modern adaptations are windows and doors, the latter replacing the earlier era holes in the roofs accessible only by ladder.
Interestingly, many of the doors and window frames are painted a bright blue. Tradition says this is to keep away the "evil eye. " This sounds very similar to the Gullah tradition of using the paint "Haint Blue. "
Taos also has the Kit Carson home and museum, an interesting look at the settling of the west and a man who played an important role in it.
Not so great was the scenic byway, "The Enchanted Circle. ". Not enchanting and not as scenic as what we had just left in Colorado.
What WAS great was the food. Two absolutely fantastic restaurants: Love Apple (getting lots of write ups by foodies) and El Meze. Interesting, delicate flavors, locally sourced, with just a gentle southwestern touch. I will remember both for a long time.
Now. Do you know the old Dave Dudley song "Six days on the road?" Well, we've been 6 weeks. Still loving the sights, the beauty of America and each other. But it's time to head for home.