Day 6

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Zapata Ranch+Pagosa Springs+Durango

7:30 am check out of Zapata Ranch
Wake, shower, dress, pack, deliver luggage to our van to make the breakfast schedule. After breakfast we will go by vehicle to see bison in the field.

8 am breakfast Zapata Ranch main lodge
An enormous wooden table in the main lodge dining room has hosted many wonderful meals. The room has two sides of windows, a native stone fireplace and a bar for help-yourself beverages. The copious western/cowboy breakfast fuels us for the work ahead. Buffet choices include meats, eggs, yogurt, fruit and ranch-made breads/muffins. Zapata Ranch coffee is  a specially chosen blend selected with great care. It puts the finish on a great meal.

8:30 am Zapata Ranch vehicle tour to see bison
We drive to a 50,000 acre portion of the ranch (Medano) aiming to get up close to part of the 2,000 head conservation herd of North American Plains bison. The herd has scattered and we’re unable to get very close as distances are huge. We see a family group off in distance. Bison live in small family groups of 30 to 100 related females and their offspring. Males roam separately except during mating season. Our tour includes visits to abandoned ranches that are now part of Zapata. Spied the resident porcupine resting up in a tree! Who knew?

Ranching, “working together to live with the land”, connects land as a resource base and is part of our western heritage. Zapata’s goal is to educate, entertain, and inspire others with an intimate look at real life ranching and the conservation work that lies at the heart of living in harmony with mother earth. The Bison Barn, a specially-designed facility, where each fall the entire herd of bison is run through for health checks and vaccinations. In the barn a series of alleys, pens, gently lead the each animal to a hydraulic squeeze chute allowing every animal to be safely examined and treated. Experienced hands on catwalks above the pens direct traffic while others control equipment or administer shots. 2000 lbs males and 1200 lbs females make for dangerous work. At this time decisions are made about which bison go to market, and which bison stay on the ranch.

Visiting here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but many people return year after year unable to get enough of the authenticity. Imagine riding in any direction of the 100,000 + acres -discovering something new every day!

10:30 am drive to Pagosa Springs
All aboard for Pagosa Springs about 2 1/2 hours to the west and south. First hour driving in the level valley floor is pretty tame, but once in the Rio Grande National Forest our route is up and around the mountains. Lots of snow at the higher elevations and Wolf Creek Ski Area ski is in full operation. There are 2.5 million acres of surrounding wilderness and natural forest to explore in this magnificent corner of Colorado.

1 pm lunch at Visitor Center
Located at the base of the Continental Divide and Wolf Creek Pass, Pagosa Springs is one of the world’s deepest geothermal mineral hot springs (Guinness World Record) but is still a relatively unknown gem of a place.Native Americans discovered the curative value of these mineral waters some 10,000 years ago. The hot springs were found by white settlers about 150 years ago and have been providing rejuvenation and relaxation ever since.
Arriving ahead of schedule we meander around town. The San Juan River runs alongside a main street lined with shops and restaurants catering to tourist trade. We lunch and pick up information about the area’s interesting history and activities from friendly staff.

1:45 pm The Springs Resort & Spa tour
The resort is quite posh with a stunning two story lobby. Guests can use the public pools or enjoy 5 more secluded private pools. Spring pools are terraced to overlook the beautiful San Juan River. There are 23 soaking tubs with temperatures ranging from 83-114°F posted at entry to each pool. Best to spend 10 minutes in a pool, cool off, then dip into another. We have an hour to soak in the pools and let our bodies absorb the natural minerals through our skin. Much too short, better to have a full day!


3:30 pm drive to Durango
Westward, Ho! Our target is this mountain town nestled at the southwestern foot of the Rocky Mountains in the “Four Corners” region where Colorado meets Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Drive takes us through the San Juan National Forest and passes close by Chimney Rock National Monument. Located between 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites: Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins, and Chaco Canyon National Parks, Durango has something for all travelers. Train buffs know it as home of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Arts, culture, adventure, western history: its all in Durango.

5 pm check in Rochester Hotel in Durango
Arrive and group splits up between 3 hotels: Strater, Leland House & Rochester, General Palmer. The Rochester Hotel is a small family-owned historic hotel one block off the main street with a small number of welcoming and comfortable rooms. Tea and homemade cookies served every afternoon. “Secret garden” available for relaxing with a glass of wine, if preferred.

6 pm reception Toh–Atin Gallery
We stroll to the gallery, one of the most respected sources for quality antique and contemporary Native American rugs, jewelry, pottery, Kachinas, baskets, southwestern arts. Enjoying light refreshments, we roam room to room examining a wide inventory of arts/crafts. Jackson Clark Jr, an acknowledged rug expert, gives us a wide ranging lesson on the fine points of hand made Indian rugs. He talks about history, wools, weaves, colors, uses, design and symbolism within each sample he shows. Much to know to fully appreciate the final product! Jackson has personal relationships with each of the living artists whose work he sells. He encourages the artists to continue teaching native arts to young folks so skills are not lost.

7:30 pm dinner El Moro Spirits and Tavern
The restaurant’s “Modern Rustic” menu features meat raised and harvested locally, a seasonal menu and specials based on available fresh ingredients. Dishes blend classic, old world preparations with modern cuisine techniques highlighting the quality of the ingredients. The chef, only 22 years old, does amazing things with food. There are a dozen of us at dinner, kinda loud, as we try talking to and over each other.

9:30 pm stop off at Diamond Belle Saloon on stroll back to hotel
Amble over to the renowned Diamond Belle Saloon for an after dinner drink. The crowded saloon is in full swing being entertained by the most famous original ragtime piano bar in the Wild West. Costumed dance hall girls and bartenders transport us back to the turn of the century. There are handcrafted mixed drinks and a full wine menu from which to choose our nitecap.

stay Rochester Hotel
Quickly to bed in our vintage room decorated with 100+ year old furnishings blended with 21st century comfort.

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