News for Adventurous Travelers, December 1996
Late-afternoon sunlight fades quickly from the ghost towns along the deep Uncompahgre Gorge, in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. Follow Colorado 550 along the gorge's brick-hued walls as it twists north from Red Mountain Pass through some of the most avalanche-prone country in the Rockies, and you'll come to the tiny 1890s town of Ridgway and Chipeta Sun Lodge.
If you feel like John Wayne as you walk down Main Street, it could be because parts of True Grit were filmed here. You won't lose that feeling as you head two and a half blocks down a side street to the three story, adobe-and-log Chipeta Sun Lodge, named for the wife of Ute Chief Ouray. Innkeepers Lyle and Shari Braund decorated the 12-room lodge with Southwest flair using Mexican tile, heavy pine-log beds, and armoires made of wood recovered from old barns.They had ski-weary guests in mind (Telluride is 37 miles away) when they put a hot tub in the third-floor turret.
Right Out the Door: The Braunds lead complimentary backcountry snowshoe and nordic-ski tours to abandoned gold-mining camps with names like Joker and American Girl, as well as telemark tours above treeline on Red Mountain Pass. Pick up maps and backcountry gear, or ask about heli-skiing trips, at Ridgway Outdoor Experience (970-626-3608), a stone's throw from the lodge. For a rhinestone cowboy type of evening, drop by the Big Barn, a pool hall and music joint run by Dennis Weaver, of Gunsmoke, Gentle Ben, and McCloud fame.
Farther Afield: Chipeta offers guests half-price lift tickets at Telluride, and the lodge is also a perfect base camp for ski-touring the San Juan Hut System (970-728-6935), which can be accessed in Ridgway and follows the northern side of the Sneffels Range to Telluride. Ridgway locals get their kicks by driving ten miles to Ouray to climb frozen waterfalls and then soak in the nearby hot springs.
Bed and Breakfast: Banana pancakes, French toast, and fresh fruit are served in a plant-filled solarium that peers out onto the Sneffels range.
Reservations: Call 800-633-5868. Rates are $65 to $110 per night.