Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tucked In The Mountains: Salida, Colorado


Searching out the best places to read, write or sip on the Western Slope



Arkansas River

If you haven’t been to Salida for awhile, you are missing out. Not yet as popular or glamorized as some resort towns, I almost hate to reveal that it is a sleeping jewel in the midst of 14,000 foot mountains. When you drive into this once mining and ranching town from highways 50, 24 or 285 it’s easy to zip through with a yawn. But follow the sign to the historic downtown, and you will be greeted by a five block radius of art, restaurants, pubs, antiques, and boutiques.

My daughter and I recently spent a relaxing day exploring this quaint and charming town. Fortunately for me, I happened to park in front of The Book Haven Bookstore starting our visit off with my very favorite attraction. The Book Haven is well stocked with new and used books, and invites you to sit, browse and read at one of the café tables or at the comfortable seating area in the back.

After purchasing a book, we headed down the street charmed by the carefully restored 1900s era architecture. We were delighted by the variety and frequency of art galleries. It’s not surprising Salida is considered one of the 100 top art towns in America. One of our favorite galleries, Bungled Jungle was a quirky mix of laughing, bug-eyed monsters badly in need of dental work. It was impossible to look at these imaginative sculptures and not smile.

Although we didn’t stay for the night, we did take time to check out the recently restored Palace Hotel. The hotel was built in 1909 and housed 44 rooms. The current owners kept the original, gorgeous woodwork but created 14 suites equipped with small kitchenettes. The rooms are exquisite, each having a distinct personality. A few offer serene views of the Arkansas River. The rooms run $120-$165 during the week, slightly more on weekends and offer a light breakfast of freshly ground organic coffee and an organic and healthy yogurt parfait including home baked muffins brought right to the room.

We also checked out the very affordable Simple Lodge, a quaint, clean hostel offering bunk rooms, rooms with shared baths and even a private suite with its own bath. A communal living room and large kitchen table warmly invites guests to relax and enjoy the company of fellow trekkers.

When the stomach growls, it’s time to rejoice. There are plenty of culinary options in all tastes and price ranges. If you’re looking for a great view of the river, The BoatHouse Cantina offers the local Elevation Beer, (brewed in nearby Poncha Springs) and plenty of great burgers, burritos and appetizers.

For lunch, we tried the Laughing Ladies Restaurant, named for the ladies of the night reputed to have inhabited the town in the late 1800s. Surrounded by the original brick, wood floors and tin ceiling, the setting invites you to sit back and slip into an earlier, bawdier era. The salmon, poblano, and goat cheese burger, however, will entice you deliciously back to the present.





Lastly, if you visit, don’t skip the outskirts of the small downtown area. Just across from the local Safeway, we stumbled upon a charming shop called Beyond the Hive, where the owners have been harvesting and selling honey produced in Salida for over 100 years. As a prize for my husband who was left behind, we picked up a small jar of creamed maple hazelnut honey before leaving town.

Salida makes an ideal get-away. Visit during the summer and catch the epic kayaking, hiking, ziplines, fishing and biking opportunities. And after a hard day of play, relax with wine from one of two local wineries. There won’t be a shortage of experiences to savor or inspiration to capture your imagination.

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Photos and post by Julie Luekenga. Julie lives in the high mountain ranching community of Gunnison, Colorado and is a freelance writer published in regional and national publications and a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Writing under the name Julie Luek, she maintains two blogs and is a regular, every other week, contributor to the international writing website, She Writes.


12 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like a great town to explore!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I have never been to Colorado...and I see I am missing out!

Julie Luek said...

If you get this way, especially to Salida, let me know! Wine's on me.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

It's been many years since I've been to Salida! I loved it then and wish I could go back to see the changes... someday! Very cool!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Someday I have to get over there and do one of the wine tasting tours and do some sight-seeing. Seems crazy to live on the Front Range and admit I've driven through the Western Slope on I-70 but never stopped anywhere but Grand Junction.

2busy said...

Totally sounds like my kind of vacation place. Just beautiful!

Chiseled in Rock said...

Bucolic!

mlswift.me said...

Wonderful post that made me want to hop on a plane and head to the mountains. That stream (river) was so clear, the town quaint, and the food, appetizing!

Perfect writer's retreat!

Julie Luek said...

It is an amazing little town in a gorgeous location. I can't wait to go back and spend the night and give more attention to all the galleries. There were so many different mediums represented-- oils, crafts, fabric, recycled art, sculpture. And there were so many different restaurants to choose from and so little tummy room! Plus, I want to go back when someone else is driving so I can sample more beer...

Yolanda Renee said...

After this week, I could sure use a vacation and that sounds wonderful! Love the artistic aspect, what a wonderful way to spend several days, just soaking it all in...ahh!

T.J. said...

Oh wow. I haven't been to Salida in more than 20 years. I see we need to return and say hello!

Demetria Foster Gray said...

Wow, Julie, have you strayed from fiction and burst into travel writing? This was beautifully done and served it's purpose of enticing me (the reader) to hop on a plane and make a visit to Salida. Kudos, my friend.