I first fell in love with Durango when we visited two and a half years ago on our honeymoon trip. It was my birthday, and we had that kind of epic, wonderful day that can set a place up for disappointment on return visits. This return visit didn’t disappoint, but it did throw me into a bit of an introspective funk. I was pretty sure I knew where I wanted to live when our trip is over, but now I’m not so confident. It’s all Durango’s fault.
In Durango, you can carry your skis or snowboard over to the municipal lift downtown and take a few runs after work. When you have more time, you can drive to one of many nearby serious hills for a day of skiing. In Durango, you can walk to, say, 3rd Street or 9th Avenue, and find a trailhead where separate hiking and mountain biking trails climb up into the hills above the city. Or you can hike the Colorado Trail: starting in Durango, it’s just 487 miles straight through to Denver. Or anything in between.
In Durango, there are endless dirt roads to explore, winding through the public lands that surround the city on three sides. In Durango, every downtown back porch features a kayak and at least one mountain bike. In Durango, you can take a river rafting trip starting from downtown or kayak on any of the surrounding rivers.
In Durango, you can visit the historic downtown and find lots of quirky shops, restaurants, and bars. There’s a strong local community vibe, with residents organizing things like cash mobs to support local businesses. There’s a community clean up day (May 25th) to prepare for the “opening” of the tourist season. There’s a farmer’s market each week with a huge variety of goods for sale. There’s even a top-your-own fro-yo place where families drop $20 a go on personalized sundaes.
Durango is also home to the best used book store in the world, Southwest Book Trader. When you walk in, at first you’re overwhelmed by the masses of books, closing in on you from all sides. Then your attention is drawn by a yellow sign, that asks, in all caps, “Attention Browsers! Please try to leave the stacked piles in the condition which you found them if you can. Thank you.” Here, finding a book either takes serendipity or a conscious effort to overcome the musty air and precarious stacks, but when you find the book you want, you feel victorious.
Durango is a great home base from which to explore the desert to the southwest and the mountains to the northeast. From Durango, it’s a few-hour drive to Canyonlands, where the Maze and the Needles areas can be thoroughly explored on weekends. From Durango, you’d always be able to catch drifts of snow in Bryce Canyon or calm weekends in Arches, because you’re there when the tourists are at home.
I want to be a Durangoan. I feel comfortable there, as if I already lived there. As we drove and hiked around, Paul and I were both mentally planning trips we’d take with friends and family when they visited. And that’s the problem with Durango, and it’s a big one. Durango is thousands of miles away from most of our friends and family. Thanks a lot, Durango.