I was first supposed to visit Telluride, Colorado sometime in July. Something came up however and my travel buddy couldn’t make it, so I rescheduled for the same weekend with a different crew, which ended up falling through as well. Since then I’ve been within hours of the place a multitude of times, often with the intention of at least a day visit, but some distraction has always come up and sent me in another direction. So a few weeks ago – almost a month ago actually, wow how time flies! – when a friend from home was up visiting, I decided to take the opportunity to show her the diversity of the area, and finally get my butt to Telluride.
Five of us went up to the place, and were awed to silence by the drive alone as the landscape changed from desert, to rolling farmland, to rocky, high-alpine forests. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains, and honestly did not expect to be as amazed as I was. The aspen trees, the crisp air, even the strikingly harsh lines of those jetted peaks were all things I was used to and expected. What really struck me about the area were the colors.
Of course there was the lush greens and sparkling grays I loved and looked forward to, but mixed in with that silver granite, almost as if it were tye-died in some spots, was my beloved red rock.
In this part of the Rockies, further west than I had ever traveled and still considered part of the ‘four corners’ area that so many beautiful and diverse scenes call home, it as if the red rock is not quite willing to give up its territory. It clings next to the famous granite peaks in swirls and stripes, and sits abundantly in its dirt form in the always-dancing shadows of the thin, towering aspens. This was perhaps the strangest site for me to see, as I’m not used to seeing anything living sprout from that kind of dirt to more than a few feet tall.
The town of Telluride sits at the bottom of the mountain of Telluride. It is easily accessible by car, but there is also a free Gondola to the town that leaves from the ski resort on the opposite side of the mountain. As this was the direction we were coming from anyway, we opted to park at the ski resort and take the gondola into town.
There was nothing remarkable about the ski resort at Telluride, besides the sheer size of the place. It was a number of clusters of newly-built granite and metal buildings, not different from the ski resorts I was familiar with in the eastern part of the mountains. I could have just as easily been at Copper or Vail or Breckenridge. Beautiful, but not unique.
The town of Telluride itself was something different however. As we topped the highest point of the mountain and began to descend into Telluride valley, we were treated to a site straight out of a history book. Unlike the newer, almost urbanized towns I had encountered in my Rocky Mountain visits, Telluride was an old mining town preserved in its golden age. Sharply pointed roofs capped Victorian-style buildings – built up rather than out in order to save space in their little mountain valley, similar to those famous row houses of San Franscico. Upon exiting the Gondola we met with a member of our party who had brought the car to town and drove up an old mining road to the place where the valley met the mountain in an especially dramatic incline. My friend and I waited at the car while the three less exhausted of the group took a ‘quick’ detour – a three-mile hike to a waterfall in the distance. I would have loved to see the falls up close, but I had completed an especially strenuous 10-mile trek the day before with my guest, and wasn’t feeling up for a gravelly walk straight uphill. Besides, we could see the waterfall from the parking lot, and were content with the excuse to come back again.
We didn’t have too much time to explore that day, so we headed to Main Street to find some food before the drive home. Not surprisingly, the scene looked like something straight out of an old western film. Several old saloons lined the street, but despite our curiosity, we decided on Mexican for dinner.
The next weekend Austin and I returned to Telluride by ourselves to stay in a cabin owned by a family friend of his and explore the place more. The day we arrived it was raining, so we returned to town to explore the Main Street and it’s shops and eateries in more depth. At some point during that time I dropped my sweater – an aggravation in any situation but even more so in this one because, not anticipating being in the area through the fall, it was the only sweater I had brought with me on my trip out west. We retraced our steps to every shop and food stop we had made with little success, and I was beginning to sadly come to terms with the fact that I had almost certainly dropped it somewhere on the street and would probably never see it again. Austin was persistent, however, and insisted we continue to follow our old path. Finally, just as the hopelessness of the situation had completely taken me over, he began to smile.
“What?” I asked him, annoyed that he might find any humor or happiness in my situation. He simply pointed ahead, where my sweater was hanging over the sidewalk from a low branch on a nearby tree.
This moment meant so much more to me than maybe it should have. Had the same situation occurred back in Boston, or anywhere on the east coast really, that sweater would have been gone forever – either trampled by dozens of careless passerby, or snatched up for one selfish cause or another. But here, some good Samaritan had not only found the sweater, he had taken the time to think that someone might be looking for it, and placed it in a place safe from pedestrian abuse and easy to spot.
And that is the difference between where I was and where I am.
Austin was so persistent in his search because he grew up in places like this. He always expected the outcome the way it happened because he knew no other way it could. Something about this part of the world makes people live differently. They are friendly and warm and open, and they consider their choices carefully. They aren’t in any hurry to get on to the next place. They aren’t in any hurry to live. They just enjoy. And that’s where I am striving to be right now. That is the reason for all of these big changes in direction for me. And this one, tiny moment in someone else’s day reinforced to me that every decision I have made this summer was the right one, and that I have chosen the perfect place to start this journey.
So thank you, Telluride, for reminding me how beautiful you are, how lucky I am, and how much I have to look forward to.