Chili Dog Road Trip Part 2: Off to the Mountains
Chili Dog Road Trip Part 2: Off to the Mountains – Cottonwood Pass, Crested Butte, and the Taylor River
Lily and I took off on state highway 287 west of Denver, and headed toward Crested Butte. We decided to go over Cottonwood Pass, and on the way stopped for a light lunch in Buena Vista and a good soak in the hot springs at Cottonwood Inn. Just after heading down from the pass, the sky, which had been turning a dark shade of bruised purple, opened up to pour buckets of much needed rain in the parched mountains. Just past the Taylor River reservoir, the construction slowed us to a halt, and we noticed how every single flagman we saw had a beard down below his belly. We joked about how this must have been part of the interview. “You look like Rasputin? Good, you got the job!” We smiled at each one and waved. They all appreciated that gesture, as I’m sure it wasn’t so much fun for them either, getting splashed with heavy mud by all sorts of vehicles.
Taylor River Canyon
We checked into Harmel’s Dude Ranch near Almont, Colorado for two nights, in a cabin right next to the Taylor River. (harmels.com ) This place is paradise, not only for fly fisherman (of which there were many), but also for two travel weary girls wanting nothing more than to sit inside a cabin in the rain (versus setting up a wet tent) and rest. In fact, when we checked in, a happy young man handed us a map of the grounds, and circled the good fishing holes on the map. “You ARE fishin’, right?” Reluctantly, we admitted that we weren’t going to fish. We were just going to…relax. "That’s a good thing to do here too!” he offered cheerfully.
Fly fisherman's heaven
That night we made dinner in our cabin, again from garden fresh veggies from the cooler and a roasted chicken we had purchased in town. Perfect. A couple of beers, the sound of rushing water over boulders, and a warm dry bed in which to sleep. Thank you. But have you noticed? Still, no chili dogs. We were beginning to wonder about the dubbing.
The next day we met my friend Barbaloosa in Crested Butte. Her actual name is Barbara, but I haven’t called her that in years. Barbaloosa is from the Chicago area, but knows Crested Butte like the back of her hand. It was just pure coincidence that we happened to be in Crested Butte at the same time. We picked her up in her cabin, also nearby the Taylor River, but not at the dude ranch. We also discovered that she was paying about one-fourth of the price we were. But hey, we were at a dude ranch. Not fishing. Not riding horses. But never mind. Anyway, the three of us spent the day being tourists in Crested Butte, a beautiful and quaint old mining town turned ski resort town north of Gunnison in the East River Valley. We spotted a cute little hot dog stand named “Two Guys With Wieners”. We even had our picture taken in front of it. And we thought about returning to it to eat lunch there, as in chili dogs. But we didn’t. We continued to be good girls and we had a delicious salad at a local farm to table restaurant. My heart ached for a dog, though. I almost made up an excuse to go back there. But I soldiered on.
Two guys with Wieners - yes, they had chili dogs
Barbaloosa and Beckerloo in Crested Butte
That night we had every intention of heading back into town to possibly chow a chili dog and definitely hear some live music. During our walk earlier that day, we had noticed several venues offering acoustic folk music, our favorite. Mother Nature had other plans for us. A huge thunderstorm rolled in, the lightning was fierce, and the thunder claps shook us and made us scream. The rain cascaded in sheets, like we were looking out from under a waterfall. There was no way we were driving anywhere that night, least of all on unfamiliar mountain roads. So, we stayed put and relished in our glory: we were wearing sweatshirts and jeans when all of Chicago was sweltering in 104 degree heat. After the thunderstorm subsided late into the night, the temperature was around 49 degrees up there in the canyon. We pulled an extra blanket out and went to bed early, still dreaming of the chili dogs that we never had that day. Dang it.
Lily at Lake San Cristobal, CO
But, behold! The next day offered us a reprieve! We headed to Gunnison and south through Lake City to Creede, Colorado, where Johnny Depp was reported to be making a movie. We truly went to Creede hoping for a star sighting. We thought about knocking on trailers, but we knew that his was bound to be way out in the middle of nowhere, not conveniently located near town. But what we DID find was a dog house. A roadside dog house, specializing in CHILI DOGS! Even though we resisted, actually walking up and down the main street trying to find an alternative, we ended up back at “The Best Little Dog House in Creede”. Lily did not order a dog. She ordered lemonade, which tasted like sugar water with chemicals. That should have been a clue NOT to order the dog. But, I couldn’t resist. I ordered a chili dog with cheese, and added raw onions. It was real messy. But it wasn’t real good. I guess Creede should just stick to Wild West movie shoots. Forget the chili dogs. My stomach didn’t feel so good for a few hours. But we saw some nice country on our way from Creede to Taos. Some real nice country. And we honestly figured that that was the end of the chili dogs. I certainly wasn’t going to order another one…
Yes, they have chili dogs in Creede
Becky Burns, our Soulful Traveler editor, is an educator
living in the Chicago area. Her column will give you insight and
inspiration, taking you to the core or essence of the travel experience,
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All photos courtesy and copyright Becky Burns