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):
The town of Telluride lies in one of Colorado’s most picturesque valleys. It is also one of my state’s premier ski resorts:
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:
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:
Views and experiences like this on Monday certainly wiped out any regrets that I had when I started this trip.