Carson National Forest looks like stock footage from a John Wayne movie– except the brush with which mother nature has painted the lush trees and clear streams far exceeds the capabilities of Technicolor. The breeze was crisp, and the air clean. We stopped on two different mountain peaks to stretch our legs and take in the views, which were impossibly endless. Half way into our journey, we ended our steady climb and began descending into the valley below.
You know, it’s pretty amazing how quickly landscapes can change. One minute we were knee deep in the sage-covered high plains of New Mexico, and the next surrounded by tall pine trees and green meadows. The change happened, quite literally, in a few minutes time– almost as if the sign welcoming you to Carson National Forest was a hard line beyond which the two distinctly different landscapes could not exist. On one side stereotypical northern New Mexico, the other southern Colorado. This tour marked the first time in my life that I noticed how prevalent this immediacy of change in the natural world truly is. The blurry line that exists between two different regions is only so for a split second. Blink, and you would almost think that you had either slipped into or awoken from a dream. I thought it to be an interesting and poignant metaphor for life as you grow older– the times of transition growing ever shorter as you barrel headlong through the years laid out before you.
I’m a sucker for landscapes. They make me think.
We made it to Durango at 3 PM, and in order to save a few bucks we had decided to camp for the next two days while we were in town. Our campground was just north of the city, nestled between the banks of the Animas River and the tracks belonging to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It was comfortably lush and green, and after taking a few minutes to scrape the rust off of my Boy Scout brain, I had the tent set up and our sleeping bags unraveled. We relaxed for an hour in the late afternoon sunshine, and then headed to our gig in town.
Serious Texas BBQ (their name is deserved– the food is better than 99% of the BBQ joints in Texas, and I say that having eaten at most of them, fully aware that many of you reading these words will instantly think me to be a fool. Trust me, as a veteran of The BBQ Circuit, which is what many of us in the Texas Music scene refer to it as, this place is really and truly fantastic) lies along the banks of the aforementioned Animas River. It’s scenic rapids run through most of downtown Durango, and the white water rafting enthusiast in me was pining to wet a paddle amongst its eddys and rapids. I was told that the river was down a bit from it’s optimum rafting level, and so my pining waned enough to focus on the show that was ahead. We set up on the beautiful outdoor stage, and played our first of two shows in this picturesque location. The crowd was great, and the staff was fantastic. It was an early show, finishing around 10 PM, so we headed back to the campground with a few local brews in tow. Cards were dealt, and the day came to an end.
A day without travel is always a welcome thing while you’re on the road. Excited by the prospects of exploration, we headed to Trimble Hot Springs to start our day off in the relaxing pools of naturally heated spring water. After a few hours of mineral recharging, we headed into downtown Durango to see the sights. Our chosen destination for lunch, Steamworks Brewery, was the home to some fantastically top notch beers– if you go there opt for the sampler to get a great handle on their range and ability, especially if you love a good craft beer. Wandering, bellies now full, we hiked a couple of blocks to Main Street, where a classic car show was in full effect honoring Fathers Day. Holly and I took unicycle lessons and failed miserably. Rodney panned for gold, shoulder to shoulder with the other 10 year olds in the crowd (he got to keep his very own nugget of Fools’ Gold… he was excited!). Realizing that none of us had a future in gold or unicycling, we spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the cars and marveling at bands playing through a completely solar-powered PA system. The sun and the miles of walking were taking their toll, so we decided to rest up for a few hours before the gig.
Rested and ready, we finished our second night in Durango, bidding goodbye to our new friends at Serious Texas BBQ. We again opted for the solitude of the tent, rather than the entertainment of a bar, and slept well through the night… well, almost… an elk woke us from a sound sleep with a call that sounded more like a banshee than a living, breathing animal. After a few tense moments, though, we realized that we weren’t being visited by spirits from beyond (that would actually come a few weeks later, in Arizona) and settled back into a peaceful sleep.
The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out on the Million Dollar Highway bound for Salida.