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Ouray has curb appeal

My Dad and I took a recent vacation together! It was fun exploring the opposite end of Colorado. My husband and I have lived out here for nearly three years and have yet to tour the 4 corners area. Back in 2015, when I read that Oprah had a house in Telluride, I was dying to check it out. But to my dismay, it was 8 hours away. I sometimes can’t believe how huge this state is, the fact that you can drive 8 hours and still be in the same state.  I know the same goes for Tennessee from east to west, but still; Colorado is huge apparently.

So two weekends ago, my Dad and I took a road trip. Ouray is 6 ½ hours from Greeley and further north than Telluride. At first, I was mad this woman denied our Airb&b request, since she assumed there was more than two of us staying in the condo, but really there wasn’t. So we wound up in the Ouray Manor instead of staying in Telluride.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Dad and I had the entire 8-bedroom manor to ourselves Thursday evening and on Friday, only one other room was occupied! The perks of traveling in the off-season didn’t go unnoticed. We also scored free access to the hot springs just across the road. Twin Peaks offers 24-hour access to those traveling in May, but in June it’s $40 per person.

As we drove into Ouray and the San Juan mountains loomed ahead, I felt good about decision to stay in Ouray instead of Telluride. Over the course of the weekend, we visited Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Mesa Verde near Mancos and Cortez. We also drove through San Juan National Forest and Durango. Here’s a few pics from Ouray, the Brewery and the Manor.

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Is this place not absolutely beautiful?

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I’ve been dying to see Switzerland ever since I was a little girl. I guess I’ll just have to settle for Ouray, as if it’s unattractive and boring. The views from this pull-off give you the feeling of being tucked away in the mountains.

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Dad and I were pooped after driving most of Thursday, so we ate at the brewery and took it easy. The one down side to off-season traveling is how early all the shops and restaurants close, if they’re even open to begin with. We booked it to Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee, so we would have pastries and truffles to snack on for breakfast the following morning.

Downtown Ouray in the Spring is so gorgeous. With all the blooming trees and shrubs and the river flowing through the canals, this sleepy town is slowly waking up.

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You and your Dad might be related if you accidentally have matching backpacks

Dad and I fell asleep pretty early Thursday night after roaming the B&B. Mesa Verde was 2 1/2 hours away, and we wanted to snag tickets to the first ranger-led-tour of the morning.

I could go on and on about how much I loved this park. Mesa Verde’s historical value wasn’t lost on me; I have the utmost respect for the park officials, archeologists and preservationists that worked so hard to keep these ancient dwellings in tact.

So what is Mesa Verde? I stole this from their website:

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

If you’re interested in more information, please follow the link above. It’s too much to explain, but Mesa Verde could be my new favorite national park besides Rocky Mountain. I was in awe of the historical ruins, ancient artifacts and different periods of housing, from the cliff dwellings to the pit houses and mesa top sites. This park is truly spectacular, and I truly feel honored to have toured Balcony House.

Just a brief synopsis of the tour: The ranger led us through a mile-long hike featuring two ladders and a tunnel we crawled through. I almost got stuck with my backpack, but alas I made it through the tunnel safely. Our ranger ended the tour with a Pueblo proverb that brought me to tears: We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our children.

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On our self-guided tour, Dad and I drove the Mesa Top and Cliff Palace loops. Besides Balcony House and the pit houses, Cliff Canyon Overlook marked my favorite spot. Here, you can spot 4 different features across the way if you focus and squint. It’s like an I-Spy game for your eyes, and I loved it.

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This sign gives visitors clues of where to look.

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Can you can find the landmarks in the photo below? Hint: I only captured 3/4 of them.

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Not pictured: Sun Temple towards the right

Dad and I decided to skip 4 corners, since friends informed us that it’s boring and lame and would’ve required another hour of driving, adding two additional hours of driving to our day. We opted for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park but couldn’t find it. More on this later.

We drove back through Durango and stopped for dinner in Silverton. Silverton felt like the epitome of an old western mountain town. The only paved road is Main Street. I couldn’t believe how desolate it was; for the second time this trip, we had dinner at a bar, because food options were so limited.

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I stole this pic from the Internet. We didn’t see this many people when we drove through.

The Rum Bar drew me in because of its name. We loved this place! The owner felt passionately about using recyclable products, in case someone tossed their trash outside. The sandwich, the soup and the drinks were good. The customer service was even better.

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Once we made it back to Ouray, we talked with management at Twin Peaks and gained access to the indoor hot springs. To my delight, it was adults only. And yet again, Dad and I had the place to ourselves.

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Aside from Mesa Verde, my favorite part of our trip was the jeep tour through the mountains. Thank goodness I did my research–the first tour company I found charged $130 per person, while San Juan Jeep Tours only charged $59!!! This was kind of a no-brainer; not to mention, SJJT has been around way longer than their competitors. I’m normally a control-freak and want a say in what we do. Greg took us on a custom tour through Imogene Pass without me asking, and this was what I wanted to see the most. He intuitively understands tourists, and I have no doubt he took us to the most beautiful spots that he could access mid-May without putting us in danger. Greg led our tour and was so knowledgeable and friendly. I highly recommend this tour to anyone interested in visiting the San Juan’s in Ouray. Between Mesa Verde and all the old mine shafts we encountered in the mountains, I felt immersed in two completely different time periods throughout the course of the weekend. To top it all off, the two women staying in the room below us at the Manor took the same tour! And both earned their Masters in Clinical Mental Health. What are the chances?

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Following the jeep tour, Dad and I drove to Telluride. Kooch and Ponder swore this was the most beautiful place on Earth, and I can see why, although I personally gravitated more towards Ouray.

We had Brown Dog Pizza for lunch, and their website speaks for itself. To call it home to the world’s best pizza is not an exaggeration. The Parma Italia won first place in an international pizza contest in Italy, and I was fortunate enough to try it. This Detroit-style pizza converted me to a deep-dish fan. That shit was absolutely amazing.

So back in 2015 as I was surfing Pinterest for places to hike in Colorado, I read about Bridal Veil Falls being the most breath-taking waterfall in the state. When I realized it was 8 hours away, I knew it would be awhile before I could see it in person. My friend’s spoke of Telluride for it’s Pretty Lights shows, tucked away in the mountains. I, on the other hand, wanted to see Telluride for Bridal Veil Falls and Oprah’s house.

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Pics don’t capture the enormity of the waterfall. In person, it’s huge.

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It felt surreal to see the waterfall in person when I’ve imagined visiting this spot for years. I had a moment of gratitude in which I felt especially thankful to take this trip. It’s one thing to dream, but it’s another to turn those dreams into reality.

And last but not least, we have Oprah’s cul-de-sac. I posed in front of her neighbor’s house, and we continued on our way.

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By Sunday, we were absolutely wiped but determined to find Black Canyon of the Gunnison. A billboard in Mancos had us confused on Friday, but as it turns out, BCOTG was on the way back home. So yes, we got to visit not one but two national parks in one weekend!! And now I’ve visited 3/4 national parks in Colorado.

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When Dad and I returned from the mountains, we were greeted with hail in Greeley. I took a video of the storm and sent it to the news. News Channel 9 in Denver picked it up and featured the video online! We also caught my video on the 10 o’clock news, which was cool.

My Dad returned to Nashville on Monday, but we ran some errands together before he left. First we grabbed breakfast at Doug’s Diner. Then, we took Buddy to get his nails trimmed and walked him around Glenmere Park. We also toured Happy Life Gardens for plants but held off on purchasing anything due to the hail damage from the storm.

All in all it was an awesome weekend!! If I had to choose one town, I’d say Ouray was my favorite. But Mesa Verde was equally amazing in it’s own right. I liked this national park more than Black Canyon, but I would recommend both. My two favorite events of the weekend were definitely exploring Mesa Verde and the Jeep tour in the mountains.

That’s all I have for now. In the meantime, here’s this: