I was really looking forward to returning to Colorado and exploring a few more mountain towns. Here’s where we stopped and what we liked:
Grand Junction, even though it’s right next to Colorado National Monument, doesn’t feel like a Colorado town to me. It’s too big and sprawling, too dried out and desert-y. Colorado National Monument feels like Utah. North of the town, there’s a lot of energy industry stuff happening. It’s no sleepy ski town, that’s for sure. It felt a bit like Cortez – an outpost from Arizona / Utah within the border of Colorado.
We restocked in Montrose on our way to Gunnison and Crested Butte and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Montrose is right on the edge of where the mountain towns begin. To the east, there’s Gunnison and Crested Butte. To the south, there’s Ouray and Telluride and some of the best roads in Colorado.
Gunnison provided books and barbecue. We arrived just in time for a late lunch at Lee’s Filling Station, a Kansas City-style barbecue joint located in a food truck next to a gas station (evidently this is not a rare setup). My brisket was amazing. Lisa’s pulled pork was fantastic. But the best bit was the dogs begging for a bite.
We didn’t spend much time in Carbondale, but its cute downtown got it placed on our “must return to” list. Overshadowed by Aspen, I imagine.
Leadville is interesting. To the south, it’s sprawl and industry. To the north, it’s sprawl and industry. But it has an amazingly historic and wonderful downtown. It’s also on the “must return to” list. I kinda want to do the Leadville 100, the “Race Across the Sky.” Icarus, I can relate to that guy.
Central City is an old gold mining town, supposedly the richest square mile in Colorado. Now it’s a really weird casino town. There are only a handful of residents. Old, historic buildings have been connected to form a massive casinopolis. It’s odd and cute. Nearby Black Hawk is even more extreme. Their main casino is a high-rise skyscraper. We haven’t seen a skyscraper in a long time. It’s out of place in the Rockies.
Outside of town, people mine river rocks with two-stroke contraptions. Later, we’d learn my friend’s uncle did this for an entire summer and made bank.
Notable for being the home town of Coors beer. We didn’t time it right to stop for a tour, so we’ll have to return.
Bolder marks the other edge of the mountain town border. Boulder feels more like a nice suburb than an old timey mountain town. The college here takes center stage. We found the library to be very nice. There was an art fair happening. People had warned us that Boulder was a trustafarian town. We saw a little of that, but I think Portland gets top trustafarian honors.