Friday, October 1, 2010

When the Grass Looks Greener

Sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate it.

Dennis and I left our homestead in Estes Park on September 14 to embark on a seven day driving excursion along the Western Slope. Mix two parts wanderlust with one part curiosity over lower real estate prices in other parts of Colorado, and you've got a surefire recipe for hitting the road. So, with our packed bags in the trunk and new red Rubbermaid cooler in the back seat of the Honda, we headed south on Route 36 to Boulder, where we picked up I-70. We lunched in Idaho Springs and then drove through Vail and points west to Glenwood Springs (known for its natural hot springs).. At a rest stop just outside of town, we stretched our legs and I photographed the surrounding area.

Then we took Route 82 to 133 at Carbondale.  A detour on winding, bumpy Avalanche Creek Road, off Route 133, took us to a beautiful wooded valley with a lovely stream. Dennis painted a watercolor there.

I planted myself near the creek.

Water like crumpled cellophane wrapped itself around copper rocks and washed over smooth purple stones, sending ripples out to the pebbled beach.

From Avalanche Creek we drove to Redstone, a charming village sixty miles south of Carbondale. We stayed overnight at The Redstone Inn.

After a delicious complimentary breakfast the next morning, we drove about six miles south to a spot on Crystal River. Dennis painted while I took photos and worked on chapter twelve of my novel.

Several hours and one watercolor later, we broke camp and drove on to Marble, known for its prized, snowy white Yule Marble.  

Both the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were constructed using this amazing metamorphic rock. At one time Marble was the third largest industrial city in Colorado, but the marble market died during WWII and the Colorado Yule Marble Company with it. We toured the fascinating ruins of the Marble Mill Site.

We were the only people at the site, and I have to admit at times it felt a little creepy.

Maybe it's the writer in me -- a vivid imagination -- but the setting seemed perfect for a Stephen King story. 

I expected something ominous to jump out at me from behind the marble monolith partially hidden in the trees. I'm just happy we were there in early afternoon and not in the evening. Picture this place on a cloudy, full-moon night; wolves howling in the background

From Marble we drove through McClure Pass on Route 133 to Paonia and Hotchkiss. We stopped to photograph Beaver Ponds, west of the McClure Pass summit.

We picked up Route 92 at Hotchkiss and drove to Route 65, where we headed north  to Cedaredge. Farms on the mesas there are lush and bountiful. After a great dinner at RJ's Steakhouse in Cedaredge and a good night's sleep in a mom and pop motel, we drove south to the Stockyard restaurant in Delta. Great breakfast and a delightful waitress. Farmers and ranchers all around us. The parking lot, especially, had a country ambience.

From Delta we drove to Montrose via Route 550. After a couple of hours in a real estate office looking at property listings, we tipped our hats and traveled on to Ouray, where we had lunch. After a walking tour of the quaint little town, we found a shady spot with a view. Dennis painted a watercolor and I wrote.

Next stop Silverton, for a "Thee Pitts - Again" BBQ takeout. We enjoyed great pulled pork sandwiches, scarfed down on the way out of town. See, it was late in the day and our overnight destination of Durango loomed over an hour away. Just outside of Silverton we photographed an abandoned mining camp.

The first half hour of the drive from Silverton to Durango gave me a bit of the heebie-jeebies. It's a two-lane highway with steep drop-offs and no guardrails. Dennis kept pointing out the beautiful sites below, to which I replied, "Honey, I absolutely cannot look down. This is freaking me out." I kept my eyes straight ahead until the road had properly twisted around the mountains to where the drop offs were on the side of the opposing traffic. Whew! That was close.

By the time we reached Durango, we were exhausted. We found a little motel just inside the city and hunkered down for the night. The next morning we drove downtown and found a great place for coffee and bagels, "The Durango Coffee Company". We took our coffee and food "to go" and headed for the train station. 

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad train has run continuously for 128 years. Now it is strictly a tourist train, but originally it carried passengers and supplies to the gold and silver mines in the San Juan Mountains, and brought the ore back. The locomotive is steam powered. I enjoyed watching the conductors board the excited passengers into the cars. 

I found the anachronism of the engineer drinking a Starbucks coffee too fascinating to ignore. 

From Durango we drove east on Route 160 to Bayfield. We had discovered a house on the river there, through an online real estate site, that we wanted to check out. Kind of a funky place that most people probably wouldn't consider, but it was just the kind of thing we like. As it turned out, we couldn't see the house until the next day, so after lunch we drove to Mancos to check out an art gallery and then back to Durango for the night. An Artwalk was scheduled for that evening, so we strolled through the galleries, and later enjoyed a Chinese dinner. The next day we saw the house. We were tempted, but the price held us back. The deer seemed a little sad to see us go.
After our Bayfield appointment in the morning, we got back on Route 160 and traveled farther east to Pagosa Springs (another hot springs location). We managed to work in some creative time along the way at the border of the Ute Reservation in the Chimney Rock region. 

Dennis surveyed the landscape before finding the perfect scene for a watercolor.

I found a shady spot to sit and write.

We arrived in Pagosa Springs in the afternoon and set up real estate appointments for the next day. Then it was off to an al fresco dinner at Alley House Grille. What a meal! Wow! We shared the humongous house salad and the Ahi tuna. Excellent food. 

After viewing several homes the next day, with no success, we traveled on to La Veta via Route 160. Not far out of Pagosa Springs we came to Treasure Falls. Definitely a photo op.

Later that day we arrived in La Veta, a very pretty, little Southern Colorado town nestled in the foothills of the Spanish Peaks. I had spent a good deal of time learning about La Veta and searching the real estate listings online before we left Estes Park. Dennis is pretty familiar with the town and he looked forward to showing me around. We first drove to Cuchara in the San Isabel mountains, about fifteen minutes away. 

Then it was back to La Veta for a driving tour of the town. Since the town's population is less than 1,000, the tour didn't take too long. We got a room at The Ranch House Inn and, along with our room key, received an invitation to a special church service featuring a guest singer. The church building happened to be conveniently located right behind the motel, so we accepted. It turned out the service was really a concert and personal testimony. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to eat dinner before the event started, and about an hour and a half later we got up and left to find some food. The La Veta Inn seemed to be the only restaurant open, so that's where we ate. It took awhile for our food to arrive, so we munched on cornbread muffins while we waited. The grilled chicken salads we had ordered were pretty tasty.

The next morning we found a real estate office and arranged to view a number of homes the following day. We spent another night at The Ranch House and ate -- where else? -- at The La Veta Inn. 

Before our meeting  the next day, we drove to a nearby gas station to get some breakfast. Yes, I said "gas station" and "breakfast" in the same breath. Seems most restaurants there don't serve breakfast and the bakery, which does serve coffee too, is only open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  (I began to think we were in Mayberry.) On the way to the real estate office we spied a fox. A real beauty.

We looked at a number of homes. I'm guessing ten total, from victorian to contemporary.There are some great deals to be had in La Veta right now. The last house we toured, just a few blocks from downtown, seemed to meet our needs. Heading back to Estes on I-25, which we picked up in Walsenburg, Dennis and I discussed the possibility of relocating. It seemed like a good move. 

After we were home for a couple of days and had spent time praying about our decision, it became clear that we should just stay put. We live in a beautiful setting and there seems to be no reason to make a major change at this time. Our motivation for purchasing a home now is the low interest rates. We haven't found anything here within our financial resources that meets our needs, and we don't want to overspend. Still, is that reason to go elsewhere? Maybe we'll feel differently later, but for now Estes Park is home and we will continue to "count it all joy" while we wait for the Lord to direct us.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13


  1. What beautiful pictures Nancy. The one with Dennis painting by the creek looks like a painting. He should paint that. Love you friend!

  2. Wow, what a travelogue. You should send that to a magazine!
    I'll bet people from all over the world will view this post. I really enjoyed it.


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