Touring Iconic Monument Valley

Deep Within Monument Valley

Deep Within Monument Valley

We’ve delighted in exceptionally warm and sunny weather these past five to six weeks here in Colorado. And the colors have been glorious. A cold front blew in over the weekend, however, and now most of the trees are bare. It’s been raining a lot these past twenty-four hours and although the peaks are capped in white, our mountain landscapes appear ready for a big snowstorm. Let’s hope the fluffy white stuff starts piling up from here on out and that we have a great ski season in Telluride and the rest of Colorado.

Until that happens though, many Coloradans will be heading to the desert; it’s not far for most of us and it’s a great way to extend summer. Plus, the crowds of tourists have dispersed, which makes experiencing these wondrous places of nature more enjoyable. I’ve taken some of my best trips to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico during the fall and spring and I’m sure I’ll hit the road to one of my favorite Southwestern destinations within the next few weeks as well.

Monument Valley Is Calling Me

Monument Valley Is Calling Me

Touring Monument Valley with Goulding's

Touring Monument Valley with Goulding’s

Less than a four-hour drive from southwest Colorado, Monument Valley, one of America’s most spectacular sites, is one of my top choices. Situated both in Arizona and Utah, the panoply of sun-baked reds, russets, ochres and golds of the monuments appears even more magical beneath the burnished glow of autumn. In Touring the Southwest with My Parents, you can read about a trip I took to this part of the West with my parents during fall a while back. My parents loved it although I think they might have thought I was a little crazy with all my oohing and aahing. But at least I didn’t let my commentaries interfere with the solitude one feels at such an awe-inspiring place.

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Ten Reasons You Should Take the Durango Blues Train

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Blues on Board

Blues on Board

Oh Yeah!

Oh Yeah!

Me Sipping Wine Before Boarding

Me Sipping Wine Before Boarding

1. It’s more fun listening to music when you’re in motion than on solid ground.

2. The Durango Blues Train is put on by Steve Gumble, founder of the renowned Telluride Blues & Brews Festival; he and his staff know how to create memorable events. On the Blues Train, you can hop from car to car and rock on to great music from bands and solo acts from all over the U.S.

3. Not that you need an excuse, but this great train excursion gives you a reason to visit the fun-loving Western town of Durango, Colorado. Be sure to spend the night at either The Rochester Hotel or The Strater.

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A Scintillating Sanctuary in Phoenix

Sultry Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa

Sultry Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa

Elements:  Where the Quality of the Views Rival the Food

Elements: Where the Quality of the Views Rival the Food

It has been cold, rainy, snowy and windy here in Telluride, Colorado all week. I don’t mind because we always need moisture in the West and it’s also good catch-up-at-my-desk weather. But still, I can’t help daydreaming about more sunny, hot-as-a-baked-potato-fresh-out-of-the-oven environs.

I’m letting my thoughts drift to the desert, the Sonoran Desert to be exact, which I’m sure is in glorious bloom right now. Heating up nicely, too. I enjoyed a terrific visit there–within greater Phoenix/Scottsdale/Carefree–last summer with my mom, my fourth trip to that part of Arizona since I was young. And each time, I love it even more. Yes, we went last summer. It was a sunbaked sojourn and we reveled in it. (You just have to make sure you’re not basking in the sun during the heat of the day.)

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Adventure Travel Love for You and KOTO

Hiking Mt. Wilson:  Adventure Travel at Its Best in Colorado

Hiking Mt. Wilson, a 14er: Adventure Travel at Its Best in Colorado

I think it’s so cool that we have some of the best adventure specialists based right here in Telluride, Colorado. It makes sense, since Telluride and the outlying region provide the perfect terrain for heading out and exploring the great outdoors whether you’re cycling, hiking, skiing, fishing, climbing or jeeping. Some of these guiding greats have done so well in the region that they also conduct tours beyond southwestern Colorado, as far away as the other side of the globe, in fact.

A few of these companies have generously offered tours to KOTO’s current fundraising campaign. I’ll be chatting more about these adventure specialists on tomorrow night’s Travel Fun, a special live edition of my talk show on travel, which airs Thursday, September 17, A LITTLE EARLIER THAN USUAL at 6:20 pm mountain time.

I have been doing this show for almost eleven years and you can find many of my interviews posted on my blog as podcasts. If you have enjoyed Travel Fun, I encourage you to contact me to make a pledge or a donation. You can also show your love by snatching up one of the below tours at a deeply-discounted price. Thanks to Lizard Head Cycling Guides, Telluride Mountain Guides, Telluride Adventures/San Juan Outdoor Adventures and Telluride Offroad, here’s what I have to offer:

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My Mom: A True Original

My Mom:  Mary Ellen Trigger Rogers Clemente

My Mom: Mary Ellen Trigger Rogers Clemente

“I was great for telling stories,” my mom, née Mary Ellen Rogers, told me as we sipped frosty beers and munched on chips and salsa in an old cowboy bar in Scottsdale, Arizona. “When I was a  young girl, my neighbor had a beautiful horse called Suntan,” she continued. “I dreamed of having a horse, so I started telling the story that Roy Rogers was my uncle. It was a plausible story, since my father was from Wyoming and, of course, my last name was Rogers.”

As I listened to my mom recount this tale—one that I had heard before but was relishing even more beneath the sweltering summer heat of Arizona here in this beloved watering hole where so many had come before–I sensed that she had lived this story so much that she almost believed it to be true. “When I was in the sixth grade, I had a leather belt with letters that hung down, spelling out TRIG. You know, as in Trigger, Roy Rogers’s horse. I was tall with long, bushy, blond hair, so I did sort of look like a horse.”

“I remember people calling you Trig,” I said.

“Yes, a few people—those that are still alive—still do,” my mom added as she scooped up the chunky salsa with her tortilla chip.

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Two Brief Stays in Santa Fe

The Cathedral Basiica of St. Francis of Assis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

My boyfriend, Steve, and I have managed to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico—an almost six-hour drive from Telluride, Colorado—twice within the past year and a half and we’re already plotting our next trip. (That one will surely include exploring the ski mountain.) Each trip was short—only two nights a piece—and we didn’t even step foot in one of Santa Fe’s amazing museums, but still, we felt far from cheated. For us, it has been enough to just chill and breathe in the heartwarming, southwestern ambiance for which this town is known. Just like going to Paris and whiling away time in a corner café instead of scouring the Louvre, in Santa Fe during both stays we just strolled around and admired the beauty of this magnificent city, the oldest incorporated state capital within the United States.

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For Off-Season and Year-Round Enchantment: Taos, New Mexico

Contemplating Nature's Beauty at Hacienda del Sol in Taos

Contemplating Nature’s Beauty at Hacienda del Sol in Taos, New Mexico

Ahhh-hhh, off-season. Anyone that has lived in a resort town knows the true meaning of off-season. Whether it occurs in the winter or summer, spring or fall, this lull in peak travel times provides a much-needed respite from the busy-ness of high season. In Telluride, Colorado it means tons of available parking spaces, no lines at the Post Office or grocery store and a certain quietude akin to a ghost town, something that delights some and bores the heck out of others.

Most don’t mind this downturn of activity, since many take advantage of our seasonal slowdown (during the spring and fall) to go off and seek fun for themselves elsewhere. Since the mountain closed two weeks ago, we’re in the throws of off-season now, also referred to as shoulder season and in the case of the spring off-season, mud season.

Many people take off for exotic locales for as many as six weeks travel; others find their bliss within a two- to six-hour drive from our southwestern Colorado mountain town. Indeed, we’re located just a few hours away from some of the best recreation around in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, all sunny and warm destinations this time of year where spring arrives with the intensity of the desert sun.

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Telluride, Monument Valley and the Oscars

In Living Color:  Monument Valley

In Living Color: Monument Valley

How about those Oscars? Wasn’t it a great show? I was thrilled that I had seen most of the films nominated for an award here in our little mountain town of Telluride, Colorado way back in September. Yes, just as in recent years, many of the movies that gained high acclaim from the Academy of Motion Pictures were shown here in T-ride—either as premiers or sneak peeks—during the Telluride Film Festival (TFF) long before they were officially released. Telluride’s selection of films seems to be filled with Oscar contenders more so than the lineups presented at other renowned film festivals in New York, Venice and Toronto.

Much of the Oscar buzz takes place before and after this annual awards show. I was thrilled to tune into CBS Sunday Morning, one of my all-time favorite TV shows, to see Monument Valley:  Mother Nature’s scene stealing movie star, last Sunday. It was a wonderful segment that featured the extraordinary sense of place of this iconic site and the many Oscar-worthy movies filmed there including “The Searchers,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump” and many more. This majestic landscape has appeared in dozens of films as well as countless commercials. Almost a half a million visitors go to Monument Valley every year, largely because of the prominence it has enjoyed in the movies. Thanks to Harry Gouding and his wife, Leone (known as Mike), film director John Ford discovered Monument Valley and its perfect setting for great western movies and feature films. This was highlighted in the CBS piece although Goulding’s Lodge and its terrific Trading Post Museum, which also showcases the history of movie-making in the area, were scarcely mentioned.

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