Trot Over to Durango, Colorado
The 1888 Strater Hotel is a Durango landmark. Louis L’Amour loved the hotel and insisted on Room 222 above the Diamond Belle Saloon because the music put him in an “Old West” mood.
Doggone it! You just won’t find a more dog-friendly town than Durango, Colorado. That was the inspiration for a road trip with our dog Roxie, who loves the car and hates to be boarded. But whether you travel with a pooch or without, Durango is a great destination.
Making Hay out of History
While Native Americans Camped And Lived Along The Animas River For Thousands of Years, it was the mineral wealth in the mountains that brought many new people to the area. The coming of the railroad in 1881 fueled the boom, and the railroad is still doing so today. But instead of hauling miners and ore, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad takes tourists on scenic excursions from Durango through valleys and canyons, along the Animas River, to the old mining town of Silverton. The Durango depot, built in 1881, is one of the oldest buildings in town. Don’t miss the Railroad Museum behind the depot. It’s full of railroad history, memorabilia and a great model
Another historic attraction is the 1893 Mission-style Powerhouse, one of the earliest alternating current electric plants in the world. Now it houses an interactive science museum in and amongst the old generating equipment. For a fascinating history tour of the plant, call ahead and make sure someone will be available. My docent, 13-year-old Liam Foster, was articulate and patient as he explained the components of the three-phase AC system – he tossed around terms and names like a French chef flipping an omelet. When he said, “Of course, you know who Tesla was?” I simply smiled and nodded. You don’t get to be my age without knowing when to keep your mouth shut!
The whole downtown area is a hotbed of history. Armed with a great little guidebook, “Walking Durango,” Roxie and I followed a mile-and-a-half route past interesting old buildings. Several of the downtown stores offered doggy treats to Roxie, but her favorite spot was the Durango Coffee Company with two bowls of water on the sidewalk. One was labeled regular, the other, decaf.
ZZZZs and Noms
No Place Was Friendlier Than The Rochester Hotel, a 15-room boutique hotel in an 1892 building. Two of the rooms are pet-friendly. Be sure to reserve in advance and they’ll be ready with a comfy pet bed and a “Wagging Welcome Package” from the Durango Tourism Office. They’ll even steer you to good doggy day care if you’re taking the train ride or checking out Mesa Verde.
Our bed was every bit as comfy as Roxie found hers to be. And our room, like all the Rochester rooms, was decorated with pictures and posters from movies made in the area. Also in the room was a cool little book, “Hollywood of the Rockies,” with insider stories about the many movies (and their stars) that have been shot here.
The breakfast was super and the location couldn’t have been better – two blocks off Main Avenue – quiet but close to the action.
There are over four dozen eateries in the historic downtown area alone, ranging from snacks and sandwiches to fine dining restaurants. We tried Seasons Rotisserie and Grill – a good choice. The menu changes seasonally and the chef makes maximum use of local products when available ... and that includes local rainbow trout.
Another night we tried El Moro, which is located in a historic saloon. The menu was one of the most intriguing I’ve encountered. For appetizers we chose garam masala dusted scallops and pickled shrimp. Jack’s a lamb fan, so he opted for the lamb burger on a potato sage bun, and I couldn’t resist the grilled cheese sandwich with local James Ranch Belford cheese, Gruyere, tomatoes and house-cured bacon. For dessert was muscato-raspberry gelee topped with vanilla whipped cream (think Jell-o that struck it rich and bought a chateau on the Loire). The menu changes frequently and the gelee isn’t on the current menu, but maybe it will be when you visit!
In the Neighborhood
Think Colorado And Think Skiing – except we were there in July. Never fear. Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort has plenty to offer.
The ski lift is great for getting a beautiful view of the mountains, but for those who are more adventuresome, it’s a way to get you and your mountain bike to the top for an exciting bike ride down. The resort has 10 bike trails for peddlers of varying abilities. You can also get off the lift about halfway to the top and slide down the quarter-mile-long Alpine Slide – or take the round-trip on the lift.
Other summer activities include zip-lining, miniature golf, disc golf and hiking – or renting a Diggler scooter. Some children were tumbling around like gerbils in large colored balls on a pool while others climbed overhead on a ropes course. One of Durango’s July highlights is the annual Music in the Mountains festival, with the majority of concerts performed at Durango Mountain Resort.
Overnight guests can enjoy the swimming pool and foosball, shuffleboard, Wii, movies and board games in the game room, an exercise room and day spa. Pets are allowed in some units at Purgatory Lodge, one of several choices of accommodations on the property. The only problem with pups in the summer is the cleated metal outside steps – safer in winter – are rough on tender paws. Roxie required carry-on service.
Whether you stay on the mountain or in town, activities and attractions can keep you as busy as you want to be – or just relax in some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere. Make no bones about it, Durango is a great destination. Roxie gives it four paws up!
Getting There is Half the Fun
It’s an 11- to 12-hour drive from OKC to Durango, drivable in a long day, but we decided to take a quick detour to Santa Fe. The sprawling pueblo-style Buffalo Thunder Resort north of town sits scenically at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Its many amenities include a large casino with headliner entertainment, an elegant spa, indoor and outdoor pools, plus a 27-hole golf course. Beautiful Native American art is on display throughout the facilities. Foodies will find everything from fine dining to snacks in over half-a-dozen eateries. Add pet-friendly and you have a complete package!