Friday, October 17, 2014

Ode to Durango

At the base of Mt. Engineer
Oh Durango, why do I feel like singing and breaking out into a jaunty dance every time I think of you? 

I had actually never heard of you until early this year.  Maybe that is because you are tucked way down into the Southwest corner of Colorado, closer to Santa Fe than to Denver.  Yet perhaps it is that very remoteness that has kept your charm intact, years after the mining operations upon which your town was founded packed up and left.  Thank goodness our honeymoon Western road trip gave us the opportunity to pass your way.

About those mining town remnants.  That train running between Durango and Silverton- very cool, though I could do without the loud steam engine noise every half hour.  Clearly kids get a kick out of the horse drawn carriages running up and down Main Avenue, a rare street of bustling activity that actually lives up to its name.  And never have I stayed at a historic hotel like the Strater.  The petit rooms and antique d├ęcor is charmingly retro, making me think to a time of women wearing bustles and men sporting mustaches un-ironically.  But it manages the historical nod while providing service that is on par with any modern, first-class hotel- an impressive feat.

The Strater Hotel in Downtown Durango

Oh but you are more than walk back in time, Durango!  In fact, you do everything possible to inspire visitors to walk, run, hike, bike, and even kayak through the nature that surrounds you.  Hiking in the San Juan Mountains was filled with dramatic peaks (Mt. Engineer) and hidden enchanted bodies of water (the eerie cyan-colored Ice Lakes).  And when we chose to stay closer to town, running along the Animas River was a splendid opportunity to take in the city vistas on a 7-mile supremely well-maintained path shared with bikers, walkers, and disembarking kayakers.

One of the Ice Lakes near Durango, CO

For a place so remote, you are no country bumpkin.  In keeping with the grand Colorado tradition of beer making, you offer multiple destinations for sampling local suds.  Despite its ubiquity, we weren’t crazy about Ska Brewing, but loved the opportunity to sip through a variety of beers as part of a sampler at the Brew Pub. 

Homemade pastries at Jean-Pierre Bakery on Main Ave.
Dining selections are just as impressive and varied as the beer.  Dinner at Seasons, where we ate a salad with arugula, cherries, and delicious cheese from local producer James Ranch and chicken saltimbocca with house-smoked bacon, was on par with any big city farm-to-table restaurant.  And just when we started feeling a little overwhelmed with Americana, we needed only to take a walk to Himalayan Kitchen to get our fill of Nepali food including some delicious yak (local, Colorado-raised) momos.

Momos at Himalayan Kitchen

And if all that wasn't enough to inspire others to visit you, Durango, I have read you get 330 days of sunshine a year!  (Cue soggy Seattleites booking their next vacation.) 

Durango, you are the sort of town that makes me want to pen an imaginary letter of gratitude, so thankful am I that treasures like you still exist in America, just waiting to be discovered.  That is just the sort of happiness filled town you are- the singing, dancing, eating, hiking, merry-making kind of place.  Cue the music. Duran-gooooooh!

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer currently on her honeymoon, en route to a new home in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell