Coming to Telluride

Coming to Telluride

Autumn, Rudy’s Trail

“Where will you spend the night?” Rico was concerned because I was getting a late start. It had snowed the night before in Aspen, and because I was traveling on a motorcycle I had delayed my departure for the Canyonlands until the roads cleared a little. “Oh, I guess I’ll stop in Telluride.” Someone had talked about the Telluride Bluegrass Festival at a musical get-together in the garden of Le Select in St. Barths the previous winter, and I had read an article about the skiing in Telluride some time before in Outside Magazine. Now it was after noon on a late October day, and I was on my way to camp outside Moab, Utah. Rico said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Then, a meaningful pause, followed by, “You’ll never leave.”

In the 23 years since, I’ve laughed about that conversation countless times, a bit amazed at the prophetic statement. To set the record straight, I grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in Eastern Washington, and some of my earliest memories are of lying awake on a warm and quiet summer night, listening to the sound of a lone car on the highway, nearly a mile away, the sound eventually fading, carrying some unknown person to an unknown, probably exciting destination. I’ve been told I would lie on my back in the yard for hours as a toddler, watching the airplanes on their cross-country routes. After flying fighters in the Marine Corps, I flew Boeings for Northwest Airlines for over 33 years. So I guess you could say I have wandering in my blood.

How then to explain coming to Telluride and never leaving?

I’ve thought a lot about it. When I woke up that first morning at the New Sheridan Hotel, the sky was that intense autumn blue you hardly ever see anywhere else, the temperature was about 15 above zero, so I  waited in bed for it to warm up a little before going for a run out to the mine. By the time I got back, I had made up my mind: got to talk to a realtor. I found Steve Catsman, who was happy to drive me around the area. At the end of the second day we had located a piece of vacant property on Wilson Mesa with an in-your-face view of Wilson Peak, directly to the south, and a one bedroom condo in Gold King (now Eider Creek) Condominiums. I didn’t sign on the dotted line- I decided that the adult thing ( a bit unusual for me) would be to get away and consider my decision out from under the spell of Telluride.

Then I came back and signed on said dotted line.

I recall coming over the top of Lift Nine the first time that first winter. With the upper Bear Creek Basin and surrounding peaks greeting me, I thought, “Clint, if you ever get so blase that you can take this for granted, just take a gun and end it all.” I still feel that way.

There are many things that make Telluride home for me. Of course there is the skiing, definitely world-class, and there is the miles and miles of public land to wander. On top of that, the cultural liveliness of the town, in spite of its diminutive size, is way beyond what one might anticipate for a place this size. I’ve heard my musical heroes from the stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, at the Telluride Jazz Celebration, from the stages of the Sheridan Opera House and the Michael D. Palm Theatre. I’ve even had the opportunity to open for the Carradine Brothers and Arlo Guthrie at the Opera House.  The Telluride Repertory Theatre has mounted some great plays over the years, and because Telluride is such a small town, even never/evers like me have a chance to participate.

All these are factors as to why Telluride is home. But let me close with one more brief tale. Yesterday, Sus and I went out for our normal hike mid-morning. The fall leaves are gone now, but the perfect autumn weather is hanging in, and the views from up Eider Creek and down Mill Creek Road were as jaw-dropping as ever. Then it was back to our house to work on our new project: Telluride Inside… and Out. There is a lot of work getting up to speed with this cyber world, and getting content on the site. Daughter Kimm, our tech, seems mostly amused at pulling us Luddites along. The work is stimulating and the learning is good for my old brain. But by late afternoon, with many hours of having my head buried in my MacBook, with an occasional heartbreaking look at the mountains out of my office window, I shut down the computer, changed into my running clothes, announced to Sus, still at her computer, that Gina the dog and I were going for a run.

There is a steep trail up a small canyon just west of our house, that leads up to a patch of red rock cliff overlooking the San Miguel Valley. I sat and surveyed my kingdom for a few minutes before continuing the run along the top of the ridge. I stopped again at a rock along the trail where Sus and I often sit to look over the place we call home. Our hyperactive dog, having had a good run, was happy just to sit beside me in the fading light of the October afternoon.

And I realized that all of the external reasons I give for loving living here, though good reasons, pale beside the simple fact that this magic place, this Telluride, is my home.   

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