In 1953 my grandparents Paul and Opal, took a four year old Me on a very memorable road trip. They came down from Colorado Springs to pick me up on a tour through Colorado. The first stop was at a town I vividly remember by its smell, Pagosa Springs. The natural mineral hot springs put out a distinctive “rotten egg” sulphur aroma that indelibly left its imprint on my olfactory memory. This week the moment I pulled into Pagosa Springs the file was opened into 67 years of numerous visits in this most special 7345’ mountain valley, tucked on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, and 62 miles east of Durango.
The first night of that road trip with my grandparents was spent at a ranch up Blanco Basin, owed by Red and Ruby Sisson (historic settlers in this valley). From 1912-14 my grandmother Opal taught school in a one room school house in that valley. She got room and board with 30$ a month salary. Opal was 21 years old, and was in the first graduating class from what is now The University of Northern Colorado (Greeley) that “allowed” women to go to college. I have very distinct memories of sleeping by a pot bellied stove and a visit by a black bear. From Pagosa we went to Mesa Verde, The Million Dollar Highway, and finally The Black Canon of the Gunnison. We did stop by Paonia, Opal’s childhood home. We made the trip in a brand new Gold Chrysler Imperial, which was about as big as an aircraft carrier and had a backseat as big as my bedroom.
In 1984 Mary Kay and I began a 36 year relationship with this magical place when we ‘bought in’ at the Wyndham resort here. It is on a ranch Wyndham bought from Art Linkletter in the 70’s. We have been here dozens of times. Our kids skied at Wolf Creek, we have hosted family gatherings, shared it with numerous friends and family nearly every year. We have been to the annual Blue Grass festival and returned home smelling of ‘mineral springs’ for days.
This 2020 Pandemic year Wyndham Pagosa opened two weeks ago with all sorts of Covid protocols. We decided we would go, knowing that there would be no hot springs, meals at local restaurants, or casual browsing through the galleries. Three days ago I read about a “new comet” named NEOWISE which passes by Earth every 6600 years. We decided to get up at 4am to catch a look. We were not disappointed. There is no light pollution here and the mountain sky provides a clarity that no city can touch. There it was spraying out it’s tail in the NE sky, just over the tops of San Juan peaks. I filled another Pagosa memory today in my brain and heart.
My Grandparents planted seeds that grew over a lifetime…I hope I am doing the same.
Onward and Upward,