Sunday 29 August 2010

Romance in Durango

I've rolled in and out of enough small towns by now, but still never quite know what to expect. The speed limit shifts down, and you either find yourself trundling along a dusty main street or squeezed between a sudden epidemic of chain motels, fast food joints and gas stations, praying for a sign to Downtown.

Restored by the wonderful drive from Silverton, I wind my way into Durango, Colorado. Sure enough the speed limit falls, but by the time the Travelodge, KFC and Taco Bell are behind me, I've already raised a smile to the "Serious Texas Bar-B-Q" and the motel whose sign reads "Free Rooms. Only Kidding." This place was always going to be different.

The best things about Durango aren't exactly unrelated. It sits at around 7,000 feet in the Animas River valley on the edge of the San Juan mountains. Right now it is lush and green. In winter, it is white, buried deep in snow. In contrast to the dusty red of Utah, this feels like a place where people were meant to live; the heavens irrigate the land that provides for them. And provide it does.

With all that rain and arable land, comes good food. The town's 20,000 or so inhabitants are either extremely demanding or incredibly lucky. Bakeries, like Bread. Coffee shops, like Steaming Bean or Durango Coffee Co. Restaurants like Cosmo. A Farmers' Market Saturdays and Wednesdays. Incredible vegetables, biodynamic farming, organic ranches. It's as though the Earth pours forth the very best of everything into one tiny town. And with this, of course, come the comfort and contentedness that accompany all my favourite places.

Most people visit Durango for its abundant outdoor pursuits. Skiing and snowboarding in the winter, mountain biking, climbing and hiking the rest of the time. I sharpen my poles and take off round Animas mountain. There's nothing worse than trekking uphill for an hour and a half only to be confronted by a rubbish view.

Further north I take another hike, this time much higher up, around Andrews Lake, through a meadow littered with ponds and back into the trees. I don't have time to get beyond the tree line, but in the two and a half hours I'm up there, I don't see another living soul. (Thankfully that includes Mountain Lions and Black Bears). Somehow the tranquility feels like an extension of the town, and not an escape from it.

But all the nice views and good coffee in the world don't amount to a whole hill of beans without good people to shepherd you through them. With Erin's mom, Terry, looking after me I can relax and enjoy everything that this amazing little place has to offer. It's far too late now to start the world from scratch, but if you were thinking about it, there'd be plenty worse places to begin than here. I might even go so far as to say I love it...

Terry and I

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