Telluride, O Telluride!

Driving along Hwy 145 on my way to Telluride reminded me of driving up to Stevens Pass on Hwy 2. Towering green mountains were all around me while the Dolores River flowed alongside the highway. Sometimes it would open to a pretty green meadow blanketed with yellow flowers (which were probably weeds). Shortly after I got over Lizard Head Pass at 10,222ft of elevation (by comparison, Stevens Pass is 4,062ft), I arrived at the cozy little town of Telluride. As I crept along the town’s main drag, people filled the streets going in and out of all the little shops and restaurants. I noticed the center driving lane which would normally be used as a turning lane was used more like an extension of the sidewalks. There were a few big carriages of flowers and something else that took me by surprise – a woman standing in front of her easel, painting. There were several of these painters in the middle of the road, painting! Wow, I like this place already!

I continued toward the opposite end of town where the only campground in Telluride was located. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to stay since it was first come first served. It looked like slim pickings when I entered the campground, so I got myself in the first spot I came across where it looked like I could fit. Turned out, I managed to snag the last RV spot. So, I paid for two nights, still not sure what my plan was. Plus, the campground had no hookups.

Like any other first day into town, I scoped it out. I knew there was reasonable mountain biking here, as well as, a downhill bike park and a FREE gondola (for bikers as well)! When I read about all this though, it was a bit confusing of how everything was laid out and how to access certain things. I almost didn’t come to Telluride at all because I worried getting around would be a hassle more than anything.

After talking to people at a few of the local bike shops here, I got a better feel for how to get to the trails and how to utilize the free gondola. Some of the trails could be accessed by taking the gondola up to the San Sophia station which is also where the DH bike park is, or you could bike along a paved path for a few miles out of town in either direction and get to the trailheads that way. Hiking and biking trails were completely accessible without driving!

When I arrived in Telluride, the weather was fantastic. Mid-80s and blue skies. I was thrilled to be out of the 100-degree heat. The following day, I decided to hit the bike park. It only has about six trails or so, but they’re all either blues or blacks and really fun! And you can’t beat a free gondola ride back to the top! I got my fill after about two and half hours of doing lap after lap. And that was when I decided I needed to extend my stay in Telluride. Telluride is awesome!

The campground had a maximum stay of seven nights which worked out perfect because 4th of July weekend was coming up and it was better to have a spot secured for the holiday at this point. And as it turned out, Telluride was the place to be on July 4th.

The following morning, I set out on the Prospect Trail. I had heard this was a must-do. I took the gondola to the San Sophia station and started the ascent into the woods. I soon began scaring myself silly with the thought of running into a bear. The campground did a good job of reminding me that I was in bear country with signs posted everywhere of how to avoid running into a bear and what to do if you do run into one. I think there was even a billboard outside the office that said “Bear Sighting! – Info here” with a tri-folded pamphlet. Great. Being the worrywart that I am, I half expected this to be like Whistler where it would be unusual if I didn’t see a bear! As I pedaled through the forest, I ran through the list of things the signs said to do: Make noise, talk, sing, go in groups. Well, couldn’t do the group thing and I certainly wasn’t going to be the jackass singing down the trail (deep down I wish I had the courage). If only I had a JammyPack! Fortunately, my bike has an obnoxiously loud hub, so between my noise-making hub and clearing my throat REALLY LOUDLY, I was satisfied I could make myself be heard. It wasn’t too long before I started to run into other riders, so that put me at ease as well.

There was an option to add a short loop which I heard would get me some extra really fun downhill, so I decided to go that route. Although, had I not been following another group who knew where they were going, I surely would have gotten lost. The signage was nonexistent at some intersections and there were a handful of intersections that weren’t on the map. Once the trail started going down, though, it was much easier to follow, and I was soon grinning from ear to ear. It was like riding back home again. This was the first time since I left Washington that I’d ridden on dirt and roots. It was fantastic. And it was a beautiful day!

The following day,Thursday July 2nd, I took a rest day. I did laundry and walked around town. That night, a thunderstorm moved in. Friday morning, the campground was soaked from last night’s rain and the sky was still dreary. Looking at the forecast, there was a chance of thunderstorms for the next 3-4 days. What the hell?! I have now been in thunderstorms in Troutdale, Zion, Bryce, Durango and now Telluride! I don’t know if this weather is normal for these areas this time of year.

I decided a little bit of thunder and lightning wasn’t going to stop me, so I decided to do a hike to Bridal Veil Falls. By the time I stepped out the door, the skies had turned blue again, and it stayed that way my entire hike. On my way back which was around noon, I thought I’d take a little break, eat some lunch, then get another bike ride in. Around 3pm, I was getting ready to head out and noticed the clouds had turned gray again. Humf. Alright, well, I’ve got my rain jacket and some extra layers, so I’ll be fine. It’s not like I haven’t ridden in rain before. Just as I was about to step outside, I heard the all too familiar pitter-patter of rain on my rooftop. I put on my rain jacket, said goodbye to kitty and headed out. The drizzle turned into a sprinkle. The sprinkle turned into a light rain. By the time I got to town which is maybe a quarter mile away, it was an all-out torrential downpour! I pulled over to the sidewalk and looked up at the sky. This wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. Hanging my head in defeat I turned around and headed back to the RV.

I was excited to spend 4th of July in Telluride. I heard they plan a slew of events for the day. First, they set off three dynamites in the mountains at 6:30AM (I capitalized the AM on purpose). At 11am, the parade kicks off with a fly-by of two fighter jets, then everyone heads to the Town Park for a BBQ put on by the Telluride Fire Department. At 9:30pm, the fireworks begin.

I thought I’d get to bed early Friday night so I could get up real early Saturday, go out for a bike ride and be back in time for the parade. When 9pm rolled around, I took my melatonin (my nightly sleeping remedy), and just as I was about ready to turn off the light, an alarm went off. Not a phone alarm. A real “get your ass up, you’re in danger” alarm. I sat up, my heart pounding. I stared at the smoke detector. It wasn’t blinking. I looked at the carbon monoxide detector which was right next to my bed on the ceiling. It was blinking. Shit! I scrambled out of bed, pulled it off the ceiling and took the battery out so it would stop yelling. Then, I immediately opened some of the windows. Now what? The sticker on the carbon monoxide detector said to vacate the area and call 911. I’m not going to call 911! So, I called Mike. Thank god, he answered.

I told him what happened. “Do you have anything running?” he asked.

“Just the fridge on… on… the… thing…” I couldn’t find the word propane. The combination of melatonin and adrenaline were at odds and I couldn’t think straight. Or was it carbon monoxide? I finally mumbled, “propane”. My face was feeling flushed and my nerves were through the roof. The thought of having to stand outside with my cat in the cold, with nowhere to go was overwhelming.

“What’s wrong with you? Why do you sound all weird?” Mike asked. I explained that I had taken my melatonin, so I may be drowsy from that. “Well, turn off your fridge and the propane tank and air out the RV,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Right, a simple solution. I turned off the fridge and the propane tank, but my foggy brain thought I was still in danger. “I might die!” I said, half joking.

“You’re not going to die,” he assured me.

We spent the next 30-45 minutes going over the symptoms of carbon monoxide, what the possible scenarios could be as to why the alarm went off and what I should do. Mike’s conclusion was that either there was something wrong with the fridge (which didn’t make sense because of the way it’s installed), or, the more likely case, the detector was faulty. But more importantly, we concluded that as long as I didn’t have the fridge running for the time being, I, at least, would live through another night. Somehow, I managed to get some sleep.

Another thunderstorm rolled through during the night. At 6:30 in the morning, sure enough, three dynamite blasts echoed throughout the valley. I felt the boom in my chest and abruptly awoke. Shortly after, I heard a couple arguing with each other. He wanted to know where his f’ing money and cigarettes were. She didn’t know where his f’ing money and cigarettes were. Ambling through the campground, they repeated the same question and answer. Then, two or three obnoxiously loud diesel trucks roared as they left the campground. All this before 7am. By 7:15 I was out of bed. Exhausted from the dramatic happenings of the night before and the unwarranted raucous in the early morning hours, I had no desire to go on a bike ride.

I conferred with Mike again about the carbon monoxide detector. We agreed that I should buy another one. And as a test, put the old detector and a new one side by side and see what happens. Before I knew it, it was 11:00am and time to go watch the parade!

The Telluride parade was a low-key, fun, community driven showcase. After the parade, I stopped by the Ace Hardware store and purchased a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. When I got back to the RV, I put the old detector back on the ceiling and propped the new one next to it.

That afternoon, another good dose of rain fell while everyone was hanging out at Town Park. Luckily for me, I just hunkered down in my RV. The weather cleared up in time for the fireworks, so I cozied up in my camping chair outside my RV in preparation to watch the display. Right around 9pm, I heard a faint succession of beeps. My ears homed in on the sound. Could it be? I scurried into the RV and sure enough the old detector was going off and the new one wasn’t. Therefore, the old one had to be faulty. What a relief. I don’t have to worry about dying!

At one point during one of my many gondola rides, I met a couple from Durango. I asked the husband if all these thunderstorms were typical for this area. He said, yeah, especially at these higher elevations. But they usually don’t roll through until the afternoon. And that’s what I was just starting to realize.

When Sunday morning came, I was determined to get one last bike ride in since that was going to be my last full day in Telluride. I got up nice and early to beat the ever so annoying thunderstorms and hit the Prospect trail by about 8:30. I only saw two hikers the entire length of the ride. I wasn’t as worried about the bear situation as I was previously. I was sure the dynamites and fireworks scared them off and sent them running for miles. Poor bears.

Author: Debora Schwartz

I am a traveler, a writer, an outdoor enthusiast and a tiny house dweller.

7 thoughts on “Telluride, O Telluride!”

  1. Sounds like a fun place! Good idea having a carbon monoxide device! I can’t beleive all the times we could of died camping in rv’s years ago. I’m not to sure what dynamite sounds like, but one 4th or New Year, we were at Keoki’s house in Niu when our friend Dave showed up. He was a welder by trade, and made a device using a cut off 6 foot oxygen tank. He had it rigged to fill with oxygen and then a pull switch would ignite it. BOOM!!!! it fuckin rattled the neigborhood. He did it twice before he called it quits. Hope you get some more riding in!

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  2. Looks like a sweet place! Nice view too! Have you thought of stopping at Ketchum/Sun Valley or Whitefish on your way back, yep I’m thinking about your way back.-Rachel

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