Impressions: Duran - goooooo! +
Is it wrong to like a place because it's fun to shout the name with a wholly unnecessary amount of western drama?
I'm going to say no. Though it is potentially unfair to downgrade Bozeman in our "places to go back to" list because "it's not quite as fun to say".
Durango is clearly a town supported by (mostly outdoor recreation) tourism, but it doesn't feel like a resort town. It's a college town, but not like Cambridge, it reminds me a little of Boone, but bigger and a lot more bikeable. The grocery lineup leans heavily toward discount-natural-foods. The preponderance of businesses boast their local status, but it's not "hip", "trendy" or "cool." Old school conservative farmers mix with college bros, dirtbags, outdoorsey professionals, hippies and yoga people. It's a hub for beer, guiding, environmental engineering, oil & gas drilling, farming... and working multiple part time gigs. Downtown homes are generally small, rather pricy, and dramatically variable in condition. It's not that easy to get to (4+ hours from the nearest major airport), but a lot of people are here for access. You can trail run, mountain bike, SUP, or fish from downtown without getting in a car. Just outside of town you can find climbing, kyaking/rafting, all varieties of skiing and tons more running/hiking/fishing. You can go north to mountains or south to deserts depending on your preference. At 6,500' it's hot during the day and cool at night in July. They've got a nice library, a running club and a game shop with Friday Night Magic. Our main complaint was the lack of mechanical engineering jobs... (and a small town lack of ethnic diversity).
It's high on the short list of places we could live for a few years. We'll see if we like Bend as much :P
Huge thanks to Anja and Logan and Ben (and Alex) for hosting us, introducing us to fun people, showing us cool hikes, sharing fishing spots, and hooking us up with random gigs.
After we left Durango, we headed east to Great Sand Dunes National Park, arrived at sunset in a rainstorm and found (free?) parking at a state park campsite nearby. The landscape is outlandish and lovely, but after hiking the dunes with a Colorado Springs Band Camp and lots of Colorado "beach-goers", we drove on to Salida. We'd recommend the park as part of a road trip, but maybe not a standalone destination.
Salida's still cool, unpretentious and full of beer-drinking outdoor sports enthusiasts and artistic retirees. I think every third shop in town is a cute consignment store. I went for a short "easy" trail run and concluded that altitude is still the worst, and I still fail at acclimating. JAMES CAUGHT A BUNCH OF FISH in the Arkansas River. You can check them out on Instagram.
Then we drove up to Leadville and met my friend Rekah and one of her friends from high school for an adventure up Mt. Elbert. It was an adventure because it rained from the 5:30am start until we got back to treeline; we all got soaked (especially Tania in an old track jacket/no raincoat); and we decided to scratch our summit plans 20 minutes from the top when a returning pair of hikers (in full waterproof suits) told us it was snowing on the peak. It was still gorgeous. We warmed up by the time we got back to the cars and all agreed it was a mostly-type-one-fun time. Leadville is also a very cool mountain town, but I don't think we could live there very long.
The Boulder Library is still the best free co-working space we've found.