This summer, I was in Telluride for less than a month. When I arrived in the beginning of July, I had no housing set up beyond the first four days. I was still jetlagged, and there was a distinct possibility that I might have to go back to France for 48 hours to renew my visa during that first week. Life abroad is glamorous, no?
I arrived with the attitude that “things will work out,” or rather, “I’ll make them work out so that I can stay here.” As I was reminded when I listened to locals’ stories at the DownLow last week, people sacrifice a lot to live here. My situation was relatively simple in comparison — and temporary.
I ended up back where I lived last summer when I first came to Telluride — The Boarding House. Though I paid for a single, I spent exactly zero nights alone in that room.
One of my best friends from college who I had convinced to join me in Telluride last summer decided to pass through “for a couple of nights” on his way home to Montana. He ended up sleeping on my floor for three weeks. Telluride is hard to leave. Hard to leave and perhaps the sweetest return.
Within two days, I settled into almost the same routine as last summer. I wrote articles in Ghost Town and on the back porch of High Alpine Coffee, spent mornings running (or rather fast hiking) up mountains and over passes, and somehow managed to spend $50 every time I went to Clark’s, even when I tried to only buy zucchini, eggs and bananas.
As a freelancer, I spent fewer hours at the office, but I stopped by almost every day. The Daily Planet feels like a family and with such a small staff of employees, it felt like I had never left. Except, this year, my desk was on the left side of the office where Rob Story used to work. Big transition.
Despite hardly being able to breath after living at sea level, I wanted to run everything that I had last summer. Fortunately, Mother Nature was kind to me, and the high alpine snow took long enough to melt that I was able to narrow the gap between acclimated Telluride friends and myself. Quite the challenging task when people here are essentially part mountain goat.
It’s humbling to watch friends tear up steep switchbacks, navigate chaucy scree fields or bomb down the tree root landmine that is the Ballard Trail. There’s no “easing into” trail running in Telluride. The first time I did Ballard, my outer quads were sore for a week … and I thought running down was supposed to be the easy part.
My first week back, I ran an out-and-back on the Colorado Trail with my aforementioned Stanford friend, Tyler. I’m using “ran with” loosely here — I saw him at the trailhead, near the turnaround point and after I finished. Tyler is a phenomenal runner and also spent the past six months trail running and working places that allowed him to log huge weekly mileage at altitude. On days that he paces me, my only goal is to not pass out.
About 11 miles in, I realized I had probably overestimated my current fitness level. Surrounded by blue sky, forests of pine and rolling mountain passes, the first 10 miles flew by. The next five, not so much. Still, it was one of those days that reminded me why I love to run, and why Colorado is the best place in the world. I could have been in a non-air conditioned room during another heat wave in Paris.
A summer in the San Juans is the best kind of summer. I joined some new friends for a Sunday scramble up Mount Sneffels via Blue Lakes and the southwest ridge. After work one day, a spontaneous run from Ophir Pass to Ruby Lakes finished with an evening at the Opus Hut spent eating cobbler and drinking local IPAs. “There’s nowhere in the world I would rather be right now,” someone said. I couldn’t agree more.
I wrapped up the summer by racing in a town classic of 30 years: The Baked in Telluride Sneffel’s Highline Run. This local loop is 13.5 miles, 4,000 feet of elevation gain and everyone who finishes gets a BIT bagel — the epitome of a good time in Telluride.
My last morning, I awoke to soft pink light and wispy clouds brushed the mountains. The Valley Floor was encased in fog. Everything was still. I drove off into a beautiful sunrise, watching the blue ridgeline of Sneffels and acres of grassland on Ralph Lauren’s ranch illuminate in a pale-yellow glow.
My mystical morning ended with wisdom teeth extraction in Grand Junction. Talk about a 180.
Until next time, thank you, Telluride for another summer of potlucks, avocado toast, too much coffee and never enough mountain time.
I’ll spend the next few years figuring out how to stay a bit more permanently. After all, I need to spend at least three consecutive summer months in town so that I can actually learn how to mountain bike.