Summer Uncompahgre Wilderness Love

I’m fresh back from a mountain adventure trip in Colorado with my husband and four awesome kids. Pretty much my very favorite thing to do in the entire world – is jaunting around on mountain tops in crisp cool air with my kids, husband, and English Mastiff. So I’m all bright eyed, bushy tailed and the happy lady this week and I’m sincerely hoping the alpine glow doesn’t melt too fast in the sizzling Houston heat. 

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Me and my 13 year old daughter at 11,000 ft. 

Nestled in the area known as the “Switzerland of America,” is the greenest, bluest-sky topped, waterfall-sliced, and of course highly peaked landscape also called the Uncompahgre National Forest. It’s an eyeball-rub-inducing place, since the views and colors are so rich your eyes can’t believe what you’re looking at is real. And it’s a wonderful place to share with nature alone, your family or loved one – with a new trail, lookout, or little mining town characterized by an old fashioned candy store around each corner. I’ve been to many parts of Colorado, and I love Aspen and Snowmass, but this was my first glance into the “Little Switzerland” and I was super smitten. Just west, the forest turns to red rock and high desert terrain, and just east it bumps into the San Juan National Forest. It’s a small hidden wonderland, lightly traversed, and thunderstorm watered to the greenest green your eyes can register dusted with designer worthy wildflowers in every shade of the rainbow. It feels thousands of miles from US megacity life, but if you live in Houston it is about an eighteen hour drive (about one good Audible novel), or a two hour flight. We drove, and so glad we did, because we became lost in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and the fascinating and knock-down humbling life story of olympic athlete and war hero Louis Zamperini. Nothing has ever made life seem as precious as hearing his testimony of survivorship as a POW in WII Japan. 

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I kept this on my lap as we navigated the insanely gorgeous San Juan Skyway – an essential since most roads were far from cell service 🙂 And also because I love maps.  

We spent a few unplanned days in Telluride, because we loved it there so much. We hiked to the hydroelectric plant built by Nikola Tesla (my son’s favorite scientist) and to old abandoned mines to the intrigue of the entire family.

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Gorgeous in a haunting kind of way, Bridal Veil Falls and the hydroelectric plant.

The town, views, weather, food, and overall experience was golden. Oprah just bought a new home  there, and it’s no surprise to me that billionaires live there; it’s quiet but lively, secluded from the main Colorado ski-strip traffic, and did I say it’s insanely gorgeous already? Yeah, I did, but it’s that gorgeous. 

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From the mine near Tesla’s plant and Bridal Veil Falls at sunset
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Little Valley Dweller: Telluride
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Blue Columbine Wildflower hanging on a ledge.

Some really cool reasons to love Telluride, Colorado:

  • Instant jaw dropping views & probably the most gorgeous airport landing strip in the country.
  • If you’re a music lover, they host more music festivals than anywhere in the country. Pearl Jam was arriving as we were leaving…
  • One of the nation’s most dog-friendly cities! Your canine pal is welcome in restaurants, shops, parks, and even rides the gondola with you.
  • Great restaurants, food trucks, high end grocery stores brimming with organic produce. We had amazing kabobs at a food truck, Steamies Burger Bar (really good) and couldn’t stop eating Brown Dog Pizza‘s garlic knots and spinach dip on our last night. We didn’t have a good meal while we there, every meal was awesome.
  • The cold, meandering San Miguel river winds through the town and has beaches for kids to play on and is perfect for rafting and fishing.
  • Bikes are the #1 method to get around on.
  • Trails are everywhere. High peaks accessible by foot in about an hour hike on some.
  • Cute Victorian architecture (most of it original) gives a unique Scandinavian feel to the town, which was settle by Scandinavians, Germans, and Irish during the mining boom.
  • Fantastic boutique shopping, but my favorite store was Alpen Schatz. It imports authentic Swiss gear, pet goods and apparel and I quickly snapped up a handmade leather alpine rescue collar for our Mastiff.
  • Deer, elk, prairie dogs, and (squeek) marmots are everywhere. 

So if you’re looking for a diversion in summer or fall, add Telluride to the wish list. Your dog will thank you too.

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Streetside Great Dane statue posing in Telluride.

And finally, if you’re adventurous, there’s a place near to Heaven (literally and figuratively) nearby that you can hike to and even camp (at about 12,000ft high) though there’s no official site or host there (my favorite kind of campsite) and it’s called Clear Lake -it’s just outside Silverton. You have to have a stomach that can handle a harrowing mess of the tightest possible switchbacks for a five mile climb up a 4×4 only cliffside road, but it is worth the heart rate hike once you arrive – it’s like paradise. The sky literally glows behind the mountains at night – and the stars act like they are showing off just for you with a spectacular show. We camped there with our family alone, the place all to ourselves from around 6pm until the next morning and the starry show is permanently burned in my memory now. A million times, worth it! Happy summer traveling…stay tuned because next post I’ll delve into the pared down skin and makeup routine that kept me going in five minutes or less in the unforgiving dry air.

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The blue water basin at Clear Lake, CO

Final thoughts: