In Part 1 of our Cortez visit, we spent a lot of time exploring the remains of many ancestral Pueblo dwellings in the area. While we were in the area, we also took a day to visit nearby Durango:
We picked up a free self-guided walking tour at the welcome center (also available online) and explored Main Avenue while learning about the history of many of the old buildings in the area. It was a nice change of pace and a relaxing way to spend the morning. We of course spent quite some time visiting the free Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum which was large and fascinating. They have all sort of exhibits, from original train cars you can walk through, to displays of old padlocks and keys from the era.
We didn’t take the train ride to Silverton, mainly because it makes for a very long day and we would have needed to find a place to board Opie for the day. We knew we’d be visiting Silverton soon (by car) so we only missed out on the train ride (which we’ve heard is fantastic). We also did some souvenir shopping in Durango, something we rarely do given how little space we have to carry new “stuff” around!
Four evenings per week the Cortez Cultural Center offers free Native American dance performances, so we stopped by one evening to check it out. The rear of the cultural center is painted in an amazing 3D mural of a pueblo (photo, above). Even in person it’s hard to believe the back of the building is just a flat stucco wall! Unfortunately one half of the two person duo performing that night was out of town at a pow-wow, so there was only one dancer for our event. She was fascinating to watch and listen to, but we left feeling slightly underwhelmed… I’m guessing with half the “team” missing, the performance wasn’t quite what it usually is.
We also happened to be in town during the annual Cortez Balloon Festival, so we decided to get up early and watch the balloon crews do their thing. The weather was iffy, and the first morning (Friday) was canceled. Saturday morning we could see many balloons from our campground a few miles from the city park where they launched from. Sunday we drove to the park and walked around watching many of the crews set up, inflate, and launch.
We’d never seen balloons launch before and had never thought much about the process, so we it was interesting to see the crews in action. First the balloon is spread out on the ground and partially inflated with regular air via a big fan. Once the ballon has some volume, some hot air is added to lift it upright so the crew can finish getting it set up. Finally, more hot air is added to lift off! Here’s a short video we made of some of the balloons at the festival:
One of the nicest surprises of our two-week visit in Cortez was the Cortez Dog Park. It’s adjacent to the KOA we stayed at, so we made the short walk every afternoon (and a few mornings) with Opie to get him some much-needed exercise.
It turns out the same crowd of local folks meet at the dog park every morning and afternoon, and we quickly got to know everyone and their dogs. On the road we rarely see the same person more than once so it was nice to have a temporary “home base” where we got to settle in for a bit.
Opie was a hit at the dog park, and his big quirk—locking on to a single tennis ball and refusing to play with any other balls—quickly became famous. If another dog managed to get Opie’s ball, Opie was a wreck until we were able to retrieve his ball for him. While the local crowd found Opie’s antics funny, they were always willing to help get his ball back to him.
Chainsaw (photo, above), one of the other dogs in the park, loved being chased around by Kathie. She’d just stare at him for a few seconds and stomp her foot on the ground and he’d take off running! It was great entertainment for all of us at the dog park!
Kiara (pictured above) loved to chase Opie around while he chased the ball. Then when the Princess got tired, she would hop onto the picnic table to get her share of petting from everyone there. We made friends with so many of the people and dogs there, it was tough when we had to leave. It would be nice to visit the dog park again in the future. We already miss Chainsaw, Kiera, Boomer, Albus, and all the other dogs from the park!
Cortez and the surrounding areas have so many different types of places to visit. It’s a wonderful place to see history and natural beauty. We really enjoyed our stay here, and are hoping to make our way back again some day!
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