Homeward bound, we picked Durango pretty randomly for our overnight stay. But by the time we finished checking into our motel we were already pondering staying for an extra day. Nestled in the mountains of Colorado with the Animas River flowing through it, Durango exuded an outdoor persona that naturally resonated with us. The forecast for clear sunny skies and temps in the 60s clinched it. Vacation wasn't over just yet.
The warmth of the welcome we received from our innkeepers, Nigel and Tammy, set the tone for our whole visit. Their enthusiasm for the area was infectious, and we left their office armed with recommendations for runnng along the river, cycling up the hillside, hiking the trails for views of the city and their picks for the best food in town. We followed every one of them.
As an encore to our active outdoor pursuits we took a drive up the San Juan Skyway. It quickly ascended into the mountains and became a narrow twisty windy road through two mountain passes with constant up close mountain views. Cut from the side of the mountain in 1880, it is considered one of the most scenic drives in the US. While it was 65 degrees when we left Durango, the temperature quickly dropped to 37 and we found ourselves in pristine deep snow territory. We couldn't have picked a better day for the drive, with deep blue skies as a backdrop to the mountaintops and dry pavement. In slick conditions, the road is treacherous.
Not wishing to retrace our route in the dark, we traveled only as far as Silverton. The real dramatic experience is the passage between Silverton and Ouray, known as the Million Dollar Highway. Its unprotected cliff dropoffs are said to be entirely unforgiving of driver error, and the views equally dramatic. Since we had already fallen in love with the SouthWest, we added that to our list for a return trip.
Dinner plans became trickier the second night due to the weekend popularity of the vibrant historical downtown area. Noting open tables in Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen, where we had an excellent meal the night before, we opted to repeat rather than wait. We felt right at home, being shown to the same table where Dave our waiter remembered our names. My Butternut Squash Risotto Cakes equally rivaled the Cauliflower Steak from the night before. Clearly my kind of place, and yet Rich was equally enamoured.
Throughout our stay, we marveled at Nigel and Tammy's hard work to restore an older motel. Our freshly remodeled room was evidence of their endeavors, and we were there to applaud when they raised the new Adventure Inn sign to signal the new name and identity. We left with a longer list of things to do and see, and a promise to return. You don't find hospitality like that just anywhere.