Randy Mankin
Randy Mankin
Kathy and I spent last week on a family vacation in Colorado where the weather was cool and the scenery was breathtaking.

It was the third year in a row for us to stay in Pagosa Springs which we used as a hub from which to explore the southwest part of the state.

Last year the area was suffering through a lingering drought that even canceled the town’s annual 4th of July fireworks show. Not so this year. The San Juan River was running through town bank high and at such a rapid a rate that it was impossible for anyone to safely float the river on an inner tube.

I’m sure that frustrated the vendors in town who are normally busy this time of year renting tubes and ferrying bus-loads of patrons back up the river after they had floated lazily downstream. The fireworks show was great, though, and a cool breeze picked up just in time to drive away the mosquitoes.

Snow still clung to the mountain peaks to the north and east of Pagosa Springs. The house we rented for the week faced east toward the South San Juan Mountains offering a spectacular view.

One day trip took us north and west from Pagosa Springs as we drove a loop from Durango to Silverton, Ouray, Telluride and Mancos. If you’re ever in Silverton stop in at Handlebars Restaurant and try the chicken pot pie.

As beautiful as Silverton was, the mountains around Ouray and Telluride were even more so. Almost every twist of the road brought oohs and ahhs as the towering mountains, encircling lush green meadows, were punctuated by rushing streams and glistening water falls. Bridal Veil Falls at Telluride was perhaps the best of all.

Passing through Las Vegas, New Mexico on the way north we listened as a jazz band played from the gazebo on the old town plaza. Nearby stood the historic Plaza Hotel where we enjoyed a delicious dinner. Across the corner from the hotel is a building that was used as a set in the TV show Longmire. As an ardent fan of the show, I had to walk over and pose for a photo in front of the door that still bore the lettering and gold embossed star of the Abasaroka County Sheriff’s Office in Durant, Wyoming.

Numberous TV shows and movies have been made in and around Las Vegas. A giant mural still adorns the side of a commercial building depicting a cowgirl welcoming everyone to Calumet, the fictional town that was the setting for the 1984 movie Red Dawn.

Most recently, some of the buildings on the plaza were repainted and used as sets for a movie in which Las Vegas is supposed to represent Roswell, New Mexico.

Farther north, we passed through Taos, going and coming, and spent some time at the historic Pueblo where tour guides explained the history of the place and vendors offered for sale a wide array of products ranging from custom made jewelry to fry bread.

Just west of town the Rio Grande Gorge is a must see for those passing through the area. The river, surging southward out of the mountains, has cut an 800-feet deep chasm through the Taos Plateau.

Almost due north of Taos in Colorado is the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. It features dunes that tower 800 feet above the valley floor. The contrast of gigantic sand dunes bracketed by snow-capped mountains is striking. Then there’s Medrano Creek, the little stream that flows out of the mountains and courses past the dunes. It offers a beach experience without having to travel to the ocean.

I’m leaving out a lot, but I do have to mention that during the trip my internal clock never reset to Mountain Time. That meant I was always up early which allowed me time to make a pot of coffee, then sit on the front porch and watch the sun come up over the snow-capped peaks.
As we loaded up for our trip home, I found myself wanting to stay. As much as I love West Texas, and I truly do, I wanted another day in the mountains.

Monday morning meant heading back to the office and another work week. Still, I have the memory of standing on that same front porch early one evening as the sun sank in the west. The valley was falling into darkness, but the snow on the mountain peaks to the east still gleamed in the light of the dying day. It was a wondrous sight.