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February 23, 2011

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Southwestern Colorado



Destination: Southwestern Colorado

Let your summertime adventure begin in southwestern Colorado, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover a treasure trove of travel experiences like the Telluride Yoga Festival and Crested Butte Music Festival.

If organized events aren't your thing, though, don't worry. There are plenty of other activities to try like four-wheeling, wildflower hikes, and fly-fishing.

So forget the beach and come along for some real summertime fun! We're going to practice downward-facing dog, go four-wheeling to a gold mine, and listen to Beethoven in a barn while drinking beer. Bet you've never done that on vacation!

Getting There
The most convenient way to start your journey to southwestern Colorado is to fly into Montrose Regional Airport. It's a small field, so you'll have to hop a feeder connection from a major hub such as Denver or Salt Lake City.

Rental Car
There is vast territory to explore here, so you'll need a rental car. Don't bite off more than you can chew and exhaust yourself with too much driving. A good rule of thumb is no more than seventy-five miles in one day.

Read your rental contract and decline any automatic-toll options. If you're not careful you'll end up paying twice for tolls--or worse, get charged for non-existing ones, too.

The quintessential little western ski town of Telluride has been hosting an annual yoga festival since 2007. The event continues to expand because it offers small, intimate classes that meet the needs of beginners and experts alike.

In 2010, the event attracted over 300 yogis from all over the world. Since class size is limited, it is advised to register and schedule your workshop(s) in advance. To register for three full days of yoga, meditation, kirtan, and performances in a breathtaking location, log on to:

I'd recommend staying at the new Capella five-star luxury hotel in Telluride. Capella is a boutique resort property with 84 guest rooms and 11 suites. The guest rooms are furnished in a rich mahogany decor and the Burberry wool carpeting in feels divine underfoot. The bathrooms are outfitted with marble and stainless fixtures. Electronic amenities include an LCD flat screen, Wi-Fi, and iPhone/iPod music dock.

The hotel is uniquely staffed to accommodate each guest's needs on a one-on-one basis. Before your arrival, your private concierge will contact you in order to insure that all needs and special requests are fulfilled during your stay. This service is amazing, and I recommend you take full advantage of it. Another great amenity is the private and secure underground parking garage that is separate from the rest of the valet parking. (Perfect for owners of luxury vehicles!)

Standard Room: $251.
Deluxe Room: $335.
Contact: 970-369-0707

You can't go to Telluride without checking out Allred's--the views are simply stunning. From Capella, go past the skating rink and bear right; you'll see the gondola that will take you to the summit where Allred's is prominently perched. It's a perfect place to have a cocktail before heading down the backside of the mountain on the gondola to the quaint village of Telluride proper. At 10,500 feet, you'll feel like you're sipping your favorite beverage in heaven! If you decide to stay for dinner, you will not be disappointed. The dining room is massive, with flying trusses and stone pillars all supporting 20-foot plate-glass windows. There isn't a bad table in the place. We sat at a table with expansive views of the valley and began our meal with a Caesar salad made with baby romaine hearts, Marcona almonds, smoked tomato, and a fresh asiago crouton ($12). For my entrée, I enjoyed the roasted organic chicken cacciatore with mixed peppers, organic mushrooms, San Marzano tomato, and roasted garlic ($32). What really shone was the amazing wine list. We started a tour of the list in the Russian River Valley with a Williams Selyem Pinot Noir and continued with a superb Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, then ended with an over-the-top Brunello di Montalcino. Ouch! Waiter, hide the bill!

Onyx is located in the Capella hotel overlooking the ice rink. It reminds me of the Four Seasons in New York City but is much more chic with sleek, minimalist decor. The elegant sheer tapestry drapes sway gently in the summertime when the French accordion doors are open, bringing the outdoors inside. Kudos to Horst Schulze for this wonderful, innovative, and versatile design.

We started our meal with the heirloom tomato salad accompanied with fresh mozzarella, basil, saffron, and onion marmalade ($14). I decided to sample the catch of the day to see how fresh the fish would be in Colorado at 8,200 feet. Turns out the fish is flown in every day, and the Atlantic cod with fresh vegetables was what you'd expect from the finest restaurants in New England—go for it! I'm glad I did. Top it all off with the Oreo cookie chocolate parfait and a nice frothy cappuccino and you'll be ready for a romantic stroll around the village.

Breakfast 8 to 10:30 a.m.
Dinner 6 to 9 p.m.
Closed for dinner Monday and Tuesday.

To get anywhere in this part of the country, you need to have a rental car and the patience to drive long distances. Next, we're off to Ouray. Take Rte. 145 to Rte. 62 until you hit Rte. 550 going south.

When I first heard of the Million Dollar Highway I thought they had made a mistake, because one of the most famous residents living alongside the road is a billionaire! You may have heard of him--Ralph Lauren--and his Triple RRR Ranch. It's amazing. Forty-five miles of perfectly manicured fence like only Ralph can spec outlines the property. If you get the chance, stop along the road to see the famous teepees that are in all the RL ads. I could have sworn that I saw Darryl Hannah, too. Actually, the road got its name from a weary, dusty traveler that vowed never to take the gravel road again, even if you paid him a million dollars. No worries--today it's a beautifully paved road and it goes from Silverton to Ouray. The journey offers unbelievable southwestern Colorado vistas at every turn. Note: The road twists and turns, and eighteen-wheelers share Rte. 550 with you. Be careful.

Ouray is an old gold-mining town located in the San Juan Mountains. In fact, some Florida entrepreneurs bought the old Tom Walsh mine and struck the mother lode again! Not so bad when gold's over $1,000 an ounce.

We stayed at a quaint little bed-and-breakfast called the Black Bear Manor. Relax outside on the patio, sip some tea, and plan your next adventure. I especially liked the third-story library with its 360-degree view of the river, surrounding countryside, and the town below. Breakfast is served each morning, and they were even kind enough to blend up a protein shake on the fly for us.

Rates: $99-199
Rooms: 9
Seasons: Year-round

This tour was billed as a little scary, but actually it's not. We went through On-Road Tours, which is the largest and most reliable company that offers excursions. You'll board a customized four-wheel-drive open-air Swiss Army red jeep that holds up to 20 people.

The trip will take you up into the rugged mining country above Ouray to see the remnants of historic gold mines and, at the summit of the mountain, walk through fields of some of the most beautiful wildflowers, including Colorado's state flower, the white and lavender columbine. We also saw the famous Coors beer waterfall that appears in all of their ads and on their label.

Yankee Boy Basin is the most popular tour.
Prices: $60 per adult and $35 per child 4-12.

From Ouray, take Rte. 550 north to Rte. 50 east for the Crested Butte Music Festival. Plan two and a half hours to get there. The music festival attracts some of the most talented musicians and conductors from all over the world. In 2010 Jens Georg Bachmann stepped up to lead the gala performance at the last moment. The venue is as interesting as it is creative. The event is billed as an opportunity to listen to Beethoven in a barn while drinking local microbrew beer.

The Ein and Lynch Barn located just south of town hosts the event in their indoor riding ring, which accommodates about 500 people, about 30 horses, and some musical barn swallows.

Bachmann conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in a very unusual way. He walked the audience through each movement and explained its significance as each section of the orchestra highlighted the key parts. Breaking down one of the most renowned musical arrangements in history this way sheds an enormous ray of light on Beethoven's intent. At one point, the oboe and flute were playing mockingbird calls at the river bank. The little barn swallow seemed to steal the show when suddenly, at the exact moment of the mockingbird movement, he belted in some notes of his own and the conductor halted the performance to give him a bow and gracious encore request.

Festival Dates: August 12-14, 2011
Contact: 970-349-0619

You can't really go to Crested Butte without trying your hand at some world-class mountain biking. In fact, just before my excursion, we bumped into Gary Fisher, the father of the sport, who hails from Marin County, California. We rented our bikes from Crested Butte Sports and set off for a great two-hour ride just outside of town. The terrain is varied and people of all skills can find the right path to fit their abilities. Bring plenty of water and some rain gear, as the summer months are known as the monsoon season in Colorado. We did get caught in a few torrential 10-to-15-minute downpours followed by some amazing rainbows.

Half-Day Adult: $45
Half-Day Child: $12
Helmets: $5
Bike Lock: $5

We had the privilege of staying at the West Wall Lodge. This is a unique property where each unit is a private residence that the hotel manages. We stayed in a spectacular spacious two-bedroom unit that the owners had decorated professionally using an upscale modern yet comfortable western theme. We opened the door and felt at home immediately. We especially enjoyed the modern kitchen, complete with granite countertops and the cut pine pole deck furniture.

The king bed was luxuriously comfortable. Luckily, we were situated on the second floor. At one in the morning, the neighbors across the street called out, “Look out, there's a bear in the dumpster!” to the young ladies passing by. Then the bear growled and moaned and the girls screamed. All this drama was exciting, but no one was hurt. Just the doors were pulled off the dumpster shed. The West Wall Lodge is well worth considering, and I'm sure that the ski-in, ski-out access during the winter makes this a place that should be at the top of your travel plan list.

One- or Two-Bedroom Unit: $482-660 per night
Three-Bedroom Unit: $923 per night
Four-Bedroom Unit: $1,259
Contact: 888-349-1280

If you time it just right, you can plan a fly-fishing trip to the Black Canyon. Timing is key and is determined by the Stone Fly hatch. If you can get there while this is going on, you'll have one of the best and most productive fishing expeditions of your life.

I'd recommend Cimarron Creek Outfitters and Bob Burke as your guide. He'll set you up with all the gear you'll need including backpack, water bottles, and floatation gear to float across the Gunnison River to reach the prime spots to catch rainbow and brown trout.

Getting there is half the fun. You will have to hike over a thousand vertical feet to get into the canyon and access the river. The descent is much easier than the ascent. In fact, leaning your weight forward and having the right hiking boots is essential. Be careful: I nearly lost my balance with the 40-pound pack on my back. This would have been a serious fall.

At the bottom of the canyon is the Gunnison River. We used floatation devices to gain access to the far side of the river. Once there, we slowly and methodically hiked along the bank while casting upstream for the fish.

We caught a dozen rainbow and brown trout, all medium-sized that were feeding on various small flies and insects. I had just missed the Stone Fly hatch by a week…serious anglers book Bob's time way in advance and stay in Montrose until the hatch begins.

Canyon Creek Bed and Breakfast is a special little place where you can rest your weary head after a long day of hiking and fishing. The proprietor, Kendra Gallegos, is a native of Montrose and learned the hospitality business on Martha's Vineyard. Her warmth, generosity, and enthusiasm will not be lost on you. She truly loves what she's doing and you feel like you're part of her family. She painstakingly remodeled the Canyon Creek B & B with her husband. The rooms are small but each one is creatively named such as The Chiptea, the Monarch and Idarado. We especially enjoyed the home-cooked breakfasts she joyfully prepared.

Rooms: $135 per night
Contact: 970-249-2886

Chuck Taylor loves adventure. Whether it’s single-handed, deep-sea fishing 75 miles off of Montauk, flying, or hunter jumping equestrian, Chuck is an adrenaline seeker. He is also an avid photographer and has photographed over 100 golf courses from around the world. A self-proclaimed entrepreneur since 5 years old, Chuck holds four patents and founded Great Marketing Ideas, LLC and Threshold Media, Inc. He conceives, implements and manages consumer marketing initiatives and promotions for national and international clients including: Titleist, Sports Illustrated, PGA TOUR, Coca-Cola and Time Warner.

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