Southwestern Colorado and specifically Pagosa Springs have been on our radar since 2009. On a trip through New Mexico in April of that year, we ended up in Taos. Since we were so close and had a few days of vacation left, we decided to swing up into southwestern Colorado. Our last night in Taos, it snowed, and with Ian’s severe allergy to snow, we changed our plans and headed back to San Diego rather than risk further exposure. Fast forward to 2013: Our summer trip had us visiting Park City, Utah and Beaver Creek, Colorado. We were ready to throw caution to the wind and extend our trip into a third week by heading back to San Diego via southwestern Colorado. However, when Ian notified work of the plan, hmm….that wasn’t going to fly, so we went straight back to San Diego via a quicker route.
Rocky Mountain High for a Month
In 2016 we were planning our summer 2017 trip and decided to return to Colorado for the third time. Ann would be off for the summer (and as it turns out, retired) and Ian was working remotely (he could work in Colorado as easily as San Diego), so we planned to spend a month in Colorado. The highest priority was southwestern Colorado. We were able to get ten days at the Wyndham Pagosa Springs, and with that, the rest of the month quickly fell into place. Note: With timeshares, to snag the best spots at peak times (major holidays and summer vacation), reservations need to be made about a year ahead of time.
As 2016 turned into 2017 and our year long trip started taking form, we needed to figure out what to do about the month in Colorado. It neither fit into our plan of visiting retirement destinations or our plan of seeing family and friends (except for our friends in Boulder) before leaving the country. After much deliberation…since it was booked and we both really love Colorado, we decided to leave everything in place and make it our jumping off point.
After a crazy (understatement?) few of months of getting everything ready for our departure, we were looking forward to 10 days of relaxing, enjoying nature, Ian catching up on work, Ann paring down our baggage, seeing a few sights, and spending some private time with each other.
By the time we arrived in Pagosa, it was already dark so we didn’t really have any idea about the setting as we drove to our unit. Opening the door, both of us were a bit disappointed. The unit was smaller than most 1 bedroom timeshare condos and there was no area for Ian to work. After unloading the car, eating a dinner of leftover pizza accompanied by wine, we were feeling a little better. We opened the patio door in our bedroom and received our second surprise: quiet, no traffic noise, no one talking, just crickets and an occasional goose. In the morning, we discovered we had a wonderful lake and mountain view including Pagosa Peak. A not so nice discovery was rat droppings all over the patio furniture. We set to cleaning the patio, rearranging the furniture, Ian appropriating the dining room table for work since we could eat on the patio, everything was looking up. We even found a French restaurant, Tavern Le Boeuf, within walking distance of our unit which had a nice happy hour.
Pagosa Springs is broken down into two main areas: downtown, at 7000 ft. elevation, where most of the businesses are located and uptown, at 7500 ft., where most of the residences are located. We stayed in the uptown area.
Not everything Goes as Planned
The second night, Ian awoke with mild altitude sickness (every time he started falling asleep it felt like he was suffocating). Drinking lots of water, cutting out alcohol, and getting mild exercise resulted in the episode lasting less than 24 hours. We settled into a routine of exploring and increasing our exercise regimen each morning to acclimatize, spending the afternoons in the condo working and watching the thunderstorms that rolled in every day like clockwork. We splurged and booked the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge steam train for Sunday. Then everything came crashing down late Saturday afternoon when Ann experienced a serious nosebleed (most likely caused by very dry air at high altitude and years of using Flonase nasal spray for allergies) that more or less had her out of commission for about 5 days. She was obviously in no shape to take an 8 hour train ride the next day. Luckily when we called the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and explained the situation, they let us reschedule for the following Saturday. Ann’s discomfort for 6 of our ten days in Pagosa put our plans of exploring, hiking, hot springs, etc. on hold while she recovered.
Things are Looking Up
Our time in Pagosa did end on some positive notes. Friday we were able to take a little more strenuous hike in Reservoir Hill Park, relax at Overlook Hot Springs (one of the three hot springs in town) and have dinner at Riff Raff Brewery. (Side note: lots of awesome breweries throughout Colorado!)
On Saturday, we took the Durango to Silverton train and had a great time! The weather was perfect and since we had booked the open air panoramic car, the scenery was magnificent! It was a total budget buster but given the events of the past week, well worth it. Silverton is a funky old Western town, and a couple of hours of walking around was just fine for us.
We made two trips into Durango, about an hour away from Pagosa Springs, the first was to go to the doctor and wander around town, the second to ride the train. Durango, although a nice enough town with lots of restaurants, shops, galleries, etc., and beautiful mountain views (like so much of Colorado!) is not really our kind of place. It’s just a bit too polished, touristy, and didn’t feel real, not to mention overly aggressive meter maids. To top it off, way too many loud trucks and motorcycles going up and down Main Street. At this point, we can’t see a reason to return.
Overall we really liked Pagosa Springs and will probably return in the future, perhaps during early fall. It’s a quaint town that doesn’t seem to have sold its soul on the altar of mass tourism.
- San Juan Riverwalk trail loop. Easy .9 mile walk up and around the river. We used it to acclimatize to the altitude. Some free natural hot springs along the way that you could stick your feet into.
- Reservoir Hill Park. A great wilderness park right in the center of town with trails for any level of hiker, including mountain biking and a disc golf course.
- All the parking in town is free and abundant especially on the south side of the river.
- Three hot springs in town. Ann chose Overlook Hot Springs and I think she made a good decision. It’s less than half the cost of The Springs Resort, and with about 10 tubs (our favorite being the rooftop tubs), it kept us pleasantly occupied for a couple of hours.
- Pagosa Baking Company – Excellent bread and muffins of which we partook three times. They also serve breakfast and lunch and have other pastries.
- Tavern Le Bouef – French restaurant that has a nice happy hour with appetizers that we made a meal out of.
- Riff Raff Brewery – Great beer and burgers.
- Pagosa Brewery – Wonderful salmon fish and chips. While the beer wasn’t our favorite, it was still enjoyable.
There’s also Wolfe Brewery, but alas…too many breweries, too little time.
- Cell service – Unless you have Verizon, fugetaboutit except in the downtown area. While this normally wouldn’t have been a big issue, we had a lot of business to take care of and it was especially a problem when dealing with Ann’s medical issue.
- Traffic – Ian: There’s a lot of traffic going right through the middle of downtown. Ann: Hmmm…. Not really – I think we have a difference of opinion about this. It just may seem like it when you’re sitting in your car trying to take advantage of having cell service.
- WiFi – Some days in our unit, the service was great, other days it was really bad. Normally wouldn’t have been an issue except that we didn’t have cell service.
As noted earlier, although not meant as a possible retirement destination (at least for us, we did meet a couple who had retired here from Orange County, CA), and although the median list price for a single family home is around $400k, a newly constructed townhome could be bought for under $200k. One thing to watch out for is that if the property is not on city water, digging a well may not work because of the sulphur and other minerals tainting the water. Some people need to have water trucked in.
Onward and upward, from 7500 ft. to 9600 ft.
Ian & Ann