Tag Archives: Outdoor Recreation

San Juan Scenic Skyway – Part 2

Ouray – Durango

04-Animas Forks Heading south towards Silverton the San Juan Scenic Skyway dramatically clings to canyon walls of the Uncompahgre River. This is the white-knuckle portion of the drive for flatlanders and those unfamiliar with mountain driving. Tunnels, snow shed, waterfalls, rugged red peaks and rusty-orange mine tailings hold our interest as we wind our way to the top of Red Mountain Pass.


One of the richest mining districts in the world around the turn of the 20th century, Silverton was known as a wild town, notorious 11- Silverton Arrivalfor gambling, drinking and the Blair Street red-light district. Today, excitement peaks with the arrival of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in a mighty puff of black smoke. Hundreds of passengers descend on shops, restaurants and bars for two hours of modern day carousing.

During mid-day when the town teems with train passengers, we head to the Old Hundred Mine for an underground tour considered one of the best in the state.15-Mine Tour

Everyone dons hard hats and yellow slickers before boarding the electric mine train. Journeying 1/3 mile into Galena Mountain the one-hour tour is guided by an experienced miner. While he demonstrates the use of jack-leg drills, mucking machines and slusher the reverberating sounds give a harsh reality to the quest for ore.


16-Molas Lake Progress southward to Durango is slowed for photographers wanting shots of Molas Lake, Engineer Mountain, Coal Bank Pass, and Durango Mountain Resort. Could it be time for another soak, this time at Trimble Hot Springs, six miles north of town? Surrounded by landscaped gardens and shady lawns the soaking pools invite total relaxation. Active youngsters and those seeking real exercise gravitate to the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Massage and spa treatments can extend the stay for an indulgent day in the shadow of red sandstone mesas.

Durango serves as commercial, educational and tourism hub for Southwestern Colorado and the entire Four Corners region. Rich in history yet vibrant with youthful energy, the city offers options for all. Kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, fishing, golf – outdoor recreation is a way of life.

20-Strater Hotel Dining choices demonstrate the community’s diversity. One evening we choose Bar D Chuckwagon with barbeque dinner and Western entertainment by the Bar D Wranglers. The next night we’re downtown on the quiet patio of Seasons Grill savoring Alaskan halibut with saffron aioli and risotto cake. After dinner shopping includes stops in outdoor outfitters and art galleries. And, who can resist the ragtime tunes and honky-tonk piano at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel – distinctively Durango.

Heading south towards Silverton the highway dramatically clings to canyon walls of the Uncompahgre River. This is the white-knuckle portion of the drive for flatlanders and those unfamiliar with mountain driving. Tunnels, snow shed, waterfalls, rugged red peaks and rusty-orange mine tailings hold our interest as we wind our way to the top of Red Mountain Pass.

02-Red Mountain

  • This post is a portion of an article by Nancy Yackel first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly.

San Juan Scenic Skyway – Part 1

Ridgway – Ouray


Driving from Denver we usually join the San Juan Skyway at Ridgway on US550, 26 miles south of Montrose. The Ridgway Chamber of Commerce proclaims, “Fresh Air… Wrap Around Views!” In this case it’s not just hype. The surrounding country often serves as Hollywood backdrop and many local ranches are now owned by celebrities. The town successfully maintains its laid-back, friendly atmosphere – a place where we may find a horse tied-up outside the True Grit Café but can also buy a fine morning espresso at the local coffeehouse.

01-San Juan Autumn Ridgway State Park, north of town, offers camping, boating, fishing and even a sandy swim beach, somewhat a rarity in Colorado. South of town Orvis Hot Springs is the first we encounter along the route. Facilities at Orvis include indoor and outdoor pools, massage, lodging and camping. Be aware, soaking and other designated areas of the resort are clothing optional.


Labeled the Switzerland of America, Ouray lies in a tiny valley ringed by 14,000-foot peaks. Settled after gold and silver deposits were discovered in 1875, the town reflects the wealth from those mines in its many ornate Victorian buildings. Restoration and preservation efforts have once again opened these architectural treasures as hotels, restaurants and bed and breakfasts.

 06-Jeep Road The year-round population of 800 swells in summer when visitors arrive to bask in the scenery and outdoor recreation. Perhaps, no where else in Colorado are we so enticed by 4-wheel jeep roads. Some of these steep, narrow “roads” were originally pack-mule trails to the mines. Tour and rental operators open the possibilities for everyone, even if they arrived in the family van. Engineer, Ophir, Black Bear, and Imogene Passes, Yankee Boy Basin, Last Dollar Road, Alpine Loop – destinations seem limitless.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool soaks away the aftershocks of a bone-jarring jeep tour or a day of alpine hiking or rock climbing. Over a million gallons of natural hot springs water at temperatures between 96 – 106 degrees soothes and relaxes.

  • This post is a portion of an article by Nancy Yackel first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly.

San Juan Scenic Skyway – Part 3

Durango – Telluride

Mancos25-Mancos Valley Stage Line

Heading west from Durango the Skyway follows US160 across high desert plains with the La Plata Mountains marching northward. A stop in Mancos for a ride on the Mancos Valley Stage Line harkens back to travel in the 1800s. Riding shotgun atop the horse-drawn stagecoach provides thrills but we’re happy to continue our trip in air-conditioned SUV comfort.

02 - Mesa Verde Sign Ten miles east of Cortez the road to Mesa Verde National Park turns south.

[Click here for a post on Mesa Verde National Park]

Cortez Indian Dancer Cortez

Cortez serves as a gateway to additional Native American and Ancient Puebloan cultural sites. Visits to the Cortez Cultural Center, a day-long tour at Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Notah Dineh Trading Company & Museum, Hovenweep National Monument, and the Anasazi Heritage Center keeps us busy for several days.

North to Telluride26-Lizard Head Pass

From Cortez the Skyway heads north, northeast on CO145. Soon we’re following the Dolores River back into the San Juan National Forest along the most remote section of the route. The unique spire of Lizard Head Peak appears to balance afternoon storm clouds as we cross Lizard Head Pass before descending into the narrow valley that is home to Telluride.

  • This post is a portion of an article by Nancy Yackel first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly.

San Juan Scenic Skyway – Part 4

Telluride – Ridgway

TellurideBarns Near Telluride

The one time boom town almost became a ghost town before its latest boom as a trendy resort and second home to celebrities. Spa treatments and fine dining or a hike to the brink of Bridal Veil Falls and a microbrew – we can do it all in Telluride. With a reputation as the Festival Capital of Colorado special events continue into autumn as aspens turn gold and cold nights precede the season’s first snowfall.Gondola View of Telluride

Vermillion cliffs cast shadows on the highway and the San Miguel River between Telluride and Placerville. The final segment of the Skyway loop heads back to Ridgway along CO62 with the not to be missed views of Mt. Sneffels. The peak was named after a fictional mountain in Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

The San Juan Skyway doesn’t take us to the center of the earth but gives us an incredible journey through southwestern Colorado.

Mountains from Wilson Plateau

  • This post is a portion of an article by Nancy Yackel first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly.

*Colorado Weekend* – June 12-14, 2009

Blues, Brews and Birthday Cake

Run a marathon, pet a llama or down a beer in Estes Park. Celebrate the sesquicentennial in Golden, climb a wall in Denver and feast in Fort Collins.

  • Fiesta Aurora – Aurora, June 14. Celebrate Latino culture with music, dance, art and food at Fletcher Plaza on East Colfax.
  • Climbing wall National Get Outdoors Day – Denver, June 13. Take the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, introduce kids to new outdoor activities, learn to plan inexpensive family outings at Denver City Park. Free.
  • Estes Park Marathon – Estes Park, June 14. Run at altitude – the Estes Park Marathon is the highest paved route marathon in the country. There’s also a half-marathon, 10k, 5k and children’s fun run in the shadow of Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Estes Park Wool Market – Estes Park, June 13-14. From on the hoof to off the loom one of the largest all-natural fiber markets in North America is in its 19th year. Workshops, demonstrations, vendors and competitions for sheep, llama, alpaca, and Cashmere & Angora goat and children’s tent with hands-on activities – something for everyone.
  • Rocky Mountain Brewfest – Estes Park, June 13. Beers from Colorado Craft Brewers and live music.
  • Taste of Fort Collins – Fort Collins, June 13-14. Food from local Northern Colorado restaurants, music, and eclectic array of fine art with proceeds benefit Special Olympics Larimer County and Kiwanis Club International. Wear off some of the eats with a 5k run/walk.
  • High Plains Disc Golf Tournament – Fort Morgan, June 13-14. Watch for low flying objects at two days of competition for professional and amateur disc golf players.
  • Welcom to Golden Arch 150th Anniversary Celebration Golden’s – Golden, June 12. Friday night is one big anniversary party in Golden, a parade steps off down Washington Avenue at 6:30, history themed games and concert by the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra in Lions Park. Thousands of slices of birthday cake and ice cream served before a laser light show after dark. Free.
  • Golden’s Wild West Auto Roundup – Golden, June 13. More than 200 vintage and muscle cars, hot rods and street rods, trucks, original stock and race cars line Washington Avenue for the 18th Annual Auto Roundup. Lots of other activities downtown and on Clear Creek.
  • Greeley Blues Jam – Greeley, June 12-13. Greeley gets the blues two days in June, downtown on Friday – free, Island Grove Park on Saturday, ticketed event with kids 12 and under free.
  • Colorado Renaissance Festival – Larkspur, June 13-14. Harken back to the 16th century with a day at this 33rd annual popular festival. Music, games, entertainment, crafts and food – including turkey legs. Open Saturdays and Sundays until August 2.
  • Old Spanish Trail Music Festival – Monte Vista, June 13. Highlights the music of peoples living along the old Spanish Trail – country, folk, jazz, pop, rock ‘n roll, and Spanish. Held in Chapman Park with artisans, craftsmen and food vendors.
  • Palisade Bluegrass Poster Palisade Bluegrass ‘n Roots Music Festival – Palisade, June 12-14. Acoustic music on the banks of the Colorado River with on-site camping, jam sessions, workshops, artisan demonstrations for adults and children. Of course there’s local wines, micro-brews and food.
  • Parker Country Festival – Parker, June 12-14. Three days of carnival, food, crafts and free music plus a Saturday morning parade in downtown Parker.
  • Silver Cliff Heritage and Mining Days – Silver Cliff, June 13-14. Join in celebrating 150 years of mining in Colorado. Kids can pan for gold, race their stick horses or join the scavenger hunt.

*Colorado Weekend* – June 5-7, 2009

Eat, Drink and Make Music

Sample BBQ, chili, trout, wine and ale, listen to bluegrass and jazz, fish for free, view the Rockies from a hot air balloon or step back to the 1840s – festival season in Colorado kicks into full gear. Enjoy!

  • Colorado Free Fishing Days – Across the state, June 6-7. The Colorado Division of Wildlife allows fishing without a license the first full weekend of June. Bag and possession limits and special regulations apply, check the website for full details.
  • Arvada Trails Day – Bike, hike or horseback ride in celebration of Arvada’s 140 parks and 125 miles of trails, Majestic View Nature Center 10am-2pm.
  • Balloonvista BalloonaVista – Buena Vista, June 6-7. Balloon assents, evening glow, breakfast and dinner, art walk, dog show and kite flying contest fill the weekend.
  • Hang with Dad – Delta, June 6. Fourth annual Fatherhood events including climbing wall, dunk tank, water-balloon launchers, karaoke, food and prizes.
  • CHUN Capitol Hill People’s Fair  – Denver, June 6—7. Denver converges on Civic Center Park for arts and crafts, food and entertainment  – the city’s favorite kick-off to summer, free admission.
  • Denver Bronco Fan Fair – Denver, June 6. A day of orange and blue as fans meet players, coaches and cheerleaders. Autograph and picture opts plus Game Zone and Kids Zone with a special kids only autograph station, tickets at Ticketmaster.
  • First Saturday at the Governor’s Residence at Boettcher Mansion – Denver, June 6. Dancing, music, painting and more honors Discovering Colorado’s Rich Asian Heritage at the free family day from 11am-2pm.
  • La Piazza Dell ‘Arte: Italian Pastel Chalk Art Event – Denver, June 6-7. More than 200 artists turn the streets of Larimer Square into a gallery of amazing chalk art plus Italian food and wine.
  • Elizabeth Stampede – Elizabeth, June 5-7. Rodeo events sanctioned by Professional Bull Riders, Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. Parade, dance and for the younger set Mutton Bustin.
  • Golden Farmer’s Market opening day – Golden, June 6. Continues on Saturdays through Oct. 3 offering fresh fruits, vegetables, breads and flowers. Master gardeners, food booths and free horse-drawn carriage rides.
  • Trout Cook-off – Keystone, June 6. Fishing derby, chef competitions, trout cooking demos, wine pairings and kids corner at this 5th annual free event.
  • Bent' Old Fort - Living History Living History Encampment, Bent’s Old Fort – LaJunta, June 5-6. Participants assume the roles of 1840 trappers, traders, blacksmiths, carpenters, soldiers, domestics and laborers 24-hours a day during the encampment.
  • Limon Railroad Days – Limon, June 6-7. Operating model layouts, swap meet, Limon Railroad Museum, food and fun.
  • Goodguys 12th Colorado Nationals – Loveland, June 5-7. More than 2,000 hot rods, custom and classic cars at the Ranch, Larimer County Fairgrounds.
  • Manitou Springs Wine Festival – Manitou Springs, June 6. Two dozen wineries pour their specialties in Memorial Park. Tasting tickets $30/person.
  • Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival – Pagosa Springs, June 5-7. A weekend of music at Reservoir Hill Park, on site camping available. Free concert Friday night at Pagosa Spring Town Park Gazebo.
  • Boats, Blues & BBQ – Pueblo, June 5-6. Historic Arkansas River Pueblo celebrates with its 8th annual event including Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned cook-off competition.
  • Snowmass Chili Pepper Brew Fest – Snowmass Village, June 5-6. International Chili Society and microbreweries’ summer ale competitions plus lots of live music. 
  • Telluride Balloon Festival – Telluride, June 6-7. The 26th annual festival sees colorful balloons lift off from Town Park each morning, On Saturday evening tethered balloons GLO on Main StreTelluride Jazzet, free.
  • Telluride Jazz Celebration – Telluride, June 5-7. Three days, two stages, dozens of jazz musicians entertain at this 33rd annual event.
  • Teva Mountain Games – Vail, June 4-7. Professional and amateur athletes complete in seven mountain sports – bouldering to extreme kayaking. Auxiliary events include photography contest, film school and festival and live music.
  • Vallecito Lake Fishing Tournament – Vallecito, June 5-7. Head to Vallecito Lake with rod and reel for a fishing tournament and Saturday night fish fry.

*Colorado Weekend* – May 29-31, 2009

Shake, Paddle and Grow

The last weekend of May looks to be a bit quieter, a respite between Memorial Day and Summer with a capital S. Even so, Colorado paddles, peddles and belly dances, celebrates fiber and roses, and listens to bluegrass and ethnic music .

  • Victory Bicycle Classic – Boulder, May 31. Ride with Olympian Davis Phinney and other cycling legends on either a 40- or 60-mile route, event benefits the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s.
  • International Music Fest – Brush, May 30. From salsa and Japanese drumming to music of Eastern Europe held at the Morgan County Fairgrounds from 11am – 5pm.
  • Izzy Fest 2009 – Durango, May 30-31. Al Mafra Four Corners Belly Dance sponsors dance workshops with Isidora Bushkovski on May 31, performance May 30 at Smiley Theatre.
  • Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park US Freestsyle Kayak Team Trials – Glenwood Springs, May 30-31. The best kayakers in the country compete at the acclaimed Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park on the Colorado River. Winners will qualify for the World Freestyle Championship in Switzerland
  • Clear Creek History Park Blacksmith Demo Day – Golden, May 30. A Golden blacksmith shop first opened in 1859. Watch demonstrations of these time honored skills, free admission.
  • Fiber Fest – Pagosa Springs, May 30-31. Spinning, weaving knitting, felting of animal fibers – alpacas, llamas, angora and cashmere goats, churro and Cotswold sheep, angora rabbits and Scottish cattle – workshops, demonstrations, fashion show and Navajo rug auction fill the weekend.
  • Palisade Parade of Roses – Palisade, May 30-31. Judging and awards, rose workshops, tour of roses, Sunday brunch at Varaison Vineyards & Winery.
  • Bluegrass on the River – Pueblo, May 29-31. Two stages of bluegrass entertainment at the Nature & Raptor Center of Pueblo at this 20th annual event.

Culinary Rafting Adventure – Gunnison, Colorado

Dinner Float Trip

Three Rivers Outfitters – Garlic Mike’s

Rafting Taylor River Combine a scenic float down the Gunnison River with a tasty dinner at Garlic Mike’s for a memorable summer excursion. Begin the adventure from Three Rivers Resort in  Almont at 4pm.

After a 10-mile trip downriver you’ll arrive at the riverside restaurant approximately 5:30 for a feast including focaccia bread with garlic spread, soup or salad, choice of entree from a special menu, dessert and non-alcoholic drink.

Garlic Mike's Logo The dinner float trip is available any night of the week with 24-hour notice and a minimum of four people. Cost is $53 per person, $33 for ages 10 and under. The float trip is perfect for multi-generational family groups.

Garlic Mike Accolades for Garlic Mike’s include awards for best waiter and chef to best restaurant, date place and wedding reception. Owner/chef Mike Busse proclaims this the best Italian food west of Jersey – from which he hails. The restaurant is open for dinner seven nights a week with indoor and outside dining available in summer. For more than a decade Garlic Mike’s has been a family favorite whenever we’re in the Crested Butte/Gunnison area.

Located at the confluence of the Taylor River and East River forming the Gunnison, Three Rivers Resort offers cabin and jeep rentals in addition to outfitting services for fishing, rafting and kayaking. For more adventure they’ll book horseback rides, rock climbing instruction, hot air ballooning, mountain bike and hiking guides or offer trail suggestions for the more independent outdoor enthusiast.

Book your dinner float trip by calling either Three River Resort at 888-761-3474 or 970-641-1303, or Garlic Mike’s at 970-641-2493.

Gunnison & Almont, Colorado

Gunnison & Almont, Colorado

Castlewood Canyon State Park – Franktown, Colorado

Castlewood Canyon State Park

CCSP Sign Castlewood Canyon State Park, once rural and fairly remote, today is nearly embraced by suburbia. As residential development creeps ever closer we gain even more appreciation for natural areas set aside and protected for public enjoyment.

Cherry Creek flows through Castlewood Canyon. In the late 1800s a 600-foot-long dam was complete to store water vital to ranchers and farmers. Almost from the beginning the dam leaked causing concern downstream in Denver. Engineers debated safety issues until the the early morning hours of August 3, 1933 when the dam gave way releasing 1.7 billion gallons of water. The raging torrent scoured canyon walls as it surged towards Denver. A slide show in the visitor center relates the story of Castlewood Dam and the second worse flood in Denver history.

Pasqueflower Castlewood Canyon stands in a transition zone between mountain and plain. Ecologically unique on the rim of the Black Forest plateau, four ecosystems – grasslands, montane shrublands, montane forest and riparian – exists within walking distance of one another. A wide variety of foliage, flowers, birds and wildlife can be found within the park. On our springtime visit we observed mountain bluebirds and photographed pasqueflowers emerging from winter groundcover.

Hiking trails offer access to the dam ruins and Lucas homestead historic sites, the falls area, inner canyon, and rim rock. Several trails interconnect creating loops of two, four or six mile hikes. The paved Canyon View Nature Trail is handicap accessible with excellent canyon viewpoints. To the west the mountain panorama stretches from south of Pikes Peak to Rocky Mountain National Park.

CCSP - Rock Puddle The state park is a day-use park open 8am to sunset. There are two entrances to Castlewood Canyon State Park. The main (east) entrance is off CO83, five miles south of Franktown. Facilities include the visitor center, flush restrooms, picnic areas with grills, group picnic area, amphitheater and paved roads and parking.

The west entrance is accessed off CO86 via Castlewood Canyon Road. This portion of the park is less-developed with gravel road and parking lots, a few picnic tables and pit toilets. Parking at the dam ruins is prohibited, you must hike in (.35-mile trail) from the designated parking area. Rock climbers find challenges in the western section of the park. Biking and horseback riding are limited to the Cherry Creek Regional Trail.

When You Go: Visitors are required to display a current Colorado State Parks Pass, available at the visitor center and self-service dispensers. A daily pass is valid from the day of purchase until noon the following day. Click here for information on an annual pass. Numerous naturalist guided activities,including Canyon Kiddies for ages 2-5, are available each month, call the park at 303-688-5242 for current schedule and registration.

Find It!

Castlewood Canyon State Park
Castlewood Canyon State Park

Colorado State Parks

50th Anniversary

Colorado State Parks

One of my New Years resolutions was to purchase an annual state park pass and visit at least one different park a month. Sometimes we need to break out of our routine and explore in our own backyard. Colorado offers so many opportunities for travel and adventure it had been several years since we had an annual state park pass on the windshield.

annual-state-park-passSince it was the last day of January it was time to get in gear with the resolution. With the forecast of a warm sunny day we headed to Roxborough State Park south of Denver.

The Annual Parks Pass sells for $60. As Colorado residents admittedly over the age of 64 we qualify for the Aspen Leaf Pass costing $30 per vehicle.  Passes are good for 12 full months, not the calendar year. No matter what time of year you purchase the pass it’s good for a full year. Disabled and income eligible Colorado residents pay $12.50. Disabled veterans and those born in 1922 or before receive passes at no charge.

state-parks-brochurePasses allow unlimited access to all 42 Colorado State Parks. Pass holders should be aware that entrance to Cherry Creek State Park requires an additional annual $3 water basin authority pass. The free 2009 Parks Guide is 32 pages filled with useful information: brief description of each park, directions, facility charts and fun facts.

Until yesterday we didn’t realize that 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of Colorado State Parks. Cherry Creek was the first park in the system, opening to the public in 1959. It must be great serendipity that we chose 2009 to become reacquainted with Colorado State Parks.

Passes may be purchased at any state park, online or by calling 303-866-3437.