I arrived in Durango a little after 2 on a very pleasant Sunday afternoon. My first move was to cruise around the main strip for a bit before finding a parking spot and doing the same on foot. I then called a friend of mine who grew up in Durango and he suggested a few things to do. Most intriguing was a hike up the Hogsback, a very prominent ridge/mountain directly west of town. I should mention that Durango is nestled along the Animas river and is totally surrounded by mountains, which makes for great views in basically any direction. Not too bad. I visited the welcome center and was informed that the Hogsback was closed for the season for peregrine falcon nesting. This was a little disappointing, but I’m not about to get up in some falcon’s business, and the nice clerk gave me many other hikes near town that I could try instead.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in a coffee shop doing some work and left around 6 to move Van Halen to a suitably stealthy location on a dark side street. Fortunately, like Colorado Springs, there were very few street lights and finding a good spot was not difficult.
After a quick dinner I moseyed on over to the Animas Brewing company. There were three breweries downtown that I wanted to check out and my plan was to get to two of them tonight and save the third for tomorrow. Things didn’t quite go to plan, however, because Animas Brewing was such a nice place to be that I spent the whole night there. The beer was adequate in a perfectly comfortable way and the bartender and patrons were all very friendly.
Everyone in Durango is an outdoor person and knows all about the best stuff, and these fine folks were no exception. The bartender told me that Hogsback is never closed for falcon season and showed me how to get to the trail head. He also confirmed the quality of the alternate hikes that had been suggested by the welcome center. I was already formulating big plans for hiking tomorrow!
The man sitting next to me was one of the most interesting people I’ve met so far. I don’t know what he does now, but he used to be a (spicy) pepper farmer out in Virginia and we spent quite a while nerding out over different peppers (although I exhausted my knowledge pretty quick!). I mentioned that I’d be heading through Cortez, CO fairly soon and he told me to check out a place called “Pepperhead”. Apparently they have the best damn stuffed jalapenos this side of anywhere. He also had high praise for a sushi restaurant in Cortez staffed by an amateur pepper farmer. I’m wasn’t so sure about sushi in southwest Colorado, but I admitted to a piqued interest.
Before I knew it, it was closing time and time to head back to Van Halen. To maximize stealth I didn’t use any lights and was comfortable and cozy in bed in no time.
I woke up early the next morning with plans to hike both the eastern ridge (I think it’s called Sugar ridge?) above the city and the Hogsback (to the west). On the way to the Sugar ridge trail head I picked up my first hitch-hiker! She only needed a lift up to Fort Lewis college (which is above town and just below Sugar ridge), so it was a short drive but still pretty fun. I asked her for some local wisdom and she recommended a place called the Thai Kitchen, which I added to my mental list.
The hike up and along the ridge was quite nice. One of the first turns I took put me face to face with an unusually festive rock right off the trail. Clear evidence for the cultural symbiosis between man and mountain. It was an overcast day, but the temperature was good and the views over the whole city and into the surrounding mountains made it all worth it. On the way back I tried to really push myself hard, but was frustrated by a trail that was almost completely ice. The welcome center had warned me about mud, but that would have been preferable to ice. At least you stick to mud! Despite the slick conditions I was able to hike hard enough that (after 3+ hours hiking) I was tired enough to abandon aspirations of the Hogsback. If the trail was anything like what I had just done it was better to save it for another day anyway.
Thus defeated I headed to the library to do some work. Durango has easily the best library I’ve been to so far and I stayed there a long time. I broke up my studies with a walk along the Animas river trail, which goes right through town. On the way back I stopped by a local distillery (not a brewery this time!) and had some vodka that totally knocked my socks off. I usually don’t like any type of vodka, but this stuff had awesome flavor and was very very smooth. I’m glad I stopped in!
After working/walking I decided to trust local knowledge and go to the Thai Kitchen. Guess who the server was! My morning hitchhiker. Now I see why she recommended it. The food was about all I could expect for Thai food in Colorado and was very spicy.
The rest of the night was spent at Carver Brewing Co. Compared to Animas this place was much more of a restaurant type place and the beer was highly mediocre. After one beer I was completely exhausted and decided to skip the third brewery and just go straight “home”. Sleep greeted me like a lover in an empty bed.