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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Southwestern Colorado: Mesa Verde‏

October 3rd, 2009 · 4 Comments

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When I started this road trip to Southwestern Colorado, I had two regrets.

I wanted to stay at Orvis Hot Springs, one of Colorado’s few clothing-optional hot springs resorts. But they had no rooms available until late in October.

My drive Monday from Montrose to Mesa Verde National Park took me within a couple of miles of the hot springs. Naturally, I stopped to look around and see if they had a day-use option. They did and I took it.

Wisely, everyone soaking in the hot pools opted out of their clothes, and of course I did too. The day was perfect for a nude outdoor soak, with clear skies and dry weather in the high 70’s or low 80’s.

Actually, a soak for an hour, rather than staying for a day or two, was just what I needed. Photos were of course not an option.

My second regret was missing the height of the aspens changing color in Rocky Mountain National Park. But Southwestern Colorado showed me more aspens changing color to yellow and orange than I had ever seen in my whole life. I photographed about one and one-half billion of these aspen trees, and this was my favorite shot (thanks to a clear day and my new 300mm lens):

Aspens near Telluride

Aspens near Telluride

The town of Telluride lies in one of Colorado’s most picturesque valleys. It is also one of my state’s premier ski resorts:

Downtown Telluride

Downtown Telluride

All along I intended to visit Mesa Verde National Park on this road trip. Here the Ancestral Puebloan people — formerly known by the politically incorrect term “Anasazi,” lived from 500 to 1300 AD. They lived in cliff dwellings of which Mesa Verde National Park preserves more than 600, the largest number in North America.

But until Sunday I figured that I would stay in a motel a few miles away in Cortez or Durango. But then my friend Tom Schulte emailed me to recommend that I stay “overnight in the park at Far View Lodge so that you can photograph at sunset.”

I didn’t even know that Mesa Verde had a lodge in the park. None of the three other national parks in Colorado have one. But as soon as Tom told me about Far View Lodge I called to make reservations there for Monday and Tuesday nights.

As soon as I arrived late Monday afternoon I visited one of the cliff dwellings, known as Spruce Tree House. With about 114 rooms and eight kivas, it is the third largest cliff dwelling in the park and the one that is best preserved. The Ancestral Puebloans built it between A.D. 1200 and 1276:

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

Close Up of Spruce Tree House, Including One Kiva

Close Up of Spruce Tree House, Including One Kiva

Only after exploring Spruce Tree House did I check in at Far View Lodge. By that time the sun was setting in the far West. Noting Tom’s advice as well as the buildup of clouds heralding a spectacular sunset, I made sure to set up my camera in time to capture this scene:

Sunset from Far View Lodge

Sunset from Far View Lodge

Views and experiences like this on Monday certainly wiped out any regrets that I had when I started this trip.


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Posted in: Hiking

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Dorey // Oct 15, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Beautiful pictures, David. Thanks for the reference to Orvis Hot Springs. I’m going to go there some day. By the way have you ever hiked to Conundrum Springs near Aspen? The trailhead is about six miles outside Aspen off Castle Creek Rd. There are two pools there. They call them “hot springs” but they weren’t that hot to me, but they were clothing optional. There is something about being naked in a warm body of water just above tree line.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Oct 15, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Dear John,

    Thank you. I haven’t made the nine-mile high to Conundrum Hot Springs, although I read about it in the key resource, “Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Southwest.” I’ve been to three of the clothing optional hot springs in Colorado and don’t know how to rate them because they are so different. Orvis is a civilized sort of resort, easy to get to once you get to Ridgway. Strawberry near Steamboat Springs is clothing optional only after dark and I was there one morning ( ). Except for the lack of accommodations, it is perfect. Valley View in the San Luis Valley ( ) is a really rustic resort, but like Conundrum, the water is not quite hot enough for me (I like it at about 102 degrees). You’ve got to get to all of these along with the clothing optional hot springs in New Mexico:

    Black Rock near Taos
    Stagecoach (Manby) near Taos
    McCauley near Santa Fe
    Jemez near Santa Fe
    Ten Thousand Waves near Santa Fe
    Faywood between Silver City and Deming
    Melanie north of Silver City
    Wildwood near Gila National Monument
    and perhaps others, including one that I loved in the middle of a five-day backpacking trip down the Gila River in the Gila Wilderness in 1977.

    Best regards,


  • 3 John Dorey // Oct 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Hi David! I see you were out at S Boulder Creek today. Love the photos.

    Thanks for the reminder of the hot springs in NM. You are a weatlh of information as usual. While researching I found this website:

    Hope that appears as a link. It was very helpful website. I’ve also added White Sands to my list of hiking places. May not be clothing optional, but at least shoe optional when running up and down the dunes.

    Take care, John

  • 4 David Mendosa // Oct 15, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Dear John,

    That’s a great list! But remember, it’s likely that not all of them are clothing optional.

    Your link led me to a neat link in the “Denver Post” about the top 10 things to do in Colorado ( ). In the five years I’ve lived here I have done most of them. Climbing a Fourteener is still on my to-do list, and Mount Bierstadt is the one I have been planning to climb first (I have driven to the top of Pike’s Peak, but I guess that doesn’t count).

    Riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is also on my agenda (I was planning on riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, but I had an operation in the Durango hospital that day).

    Rafting the Arkansas River is something that I hadn’t considered. But I did raft the Green River about 30 years ago, and that was an incredible trip.

    In one of the newspapers extra suggestions they recommend the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs. I’ve missed it so far, but that is also high on my list.

    When I go these places, I will certainly taken my camera along and report on my experiences here!

    Best regards,


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