Cortez Days and a Weekend in San Juan National Forest

It wasn’t just our awesome experience building with Montezuma County Habitat that made our 2 weeks in Cortez so pleasant, it was also the relaxing pace of the area and the proximity to the national forest. Despite the town being on the small side the fact that it was in Colorado meant we had multiple breweries to choose from. We started with the highly-recommended WildEdge Brewing Collective and really never looked back. Though we tried a couple other places on our weekend off, WildEdge’s excellent beer, comfortable bar seating and couches, and friendly service made it our go-to place in the late afternoons to read books or do computer things when the temperatures climbed into the mid-90s and the RV air conditioner no longer could keep us comfortable despite the ongoing roaring over our heads. In the course of multiple trips and by ordering several flights we sampled literally everything they were brewing at the time as well as any bottles of their previous selections. Though known for their sours (which were phenomenal) the other offerings were also stellar, especially the porter and 3 out of 4 of the IPAs. Even styles that I don’t normally gravitate to, such as the Wit and the Belgian pale ale, were excellent and would have been worthy of a pint had I not been so enamored with their other beers.

The other thing we enjoyed most about the town itself was the walk-ability, a product of our RV park being located next to large open spaces and some quiet neighborhoods. Abby and I took full advantage of these places twice a day, stretching our legs for a few miles at sunrise and sunset when the heat wasn’t so bad.

The proximity of the San Juan National Forest just to the north of Cortez was also a huge bonus. Our two weekend days were spent exploring some of the areas we’d missed on previous trips, stopping to take multiple shorter walks but also spending a fair amount of time driving around to pinpoint where we’d like to do some longer hikes in the future. Our longest excursions were hikes in the aspen-covered mountains north of the cute town of Rico and a pair of walks in the high country around Lizard Head Pass. I don’t know what to say except that I am completely enthralled with the mountains here – not only the colorful, jagged peaks but also the lush valleys between. Nothing I’ve seen in the San Juan Mountains has been anything short of spectacular, but I don’t see how anyone could argue that these views were anything short of perfect.

We also spent an afternoon hiking the McPhee Overlook Trail that follows the rim of the Dolores Reservoir. Sitting at just over 7,000 feet, the trail is much drier and more sparsely wooded than the higher elevation hikes we’d sampled in the mountains just to the north, but there were some really interesting rock formations along the edge of the water that we enjoyed checking out and the nearly-constant views over the reservoir to appreciate. As happens in the mountains in August we witnessed some heavy cloud cover moving in about 1 o’clock, but I for one relished the moody backdrop it set as we crossed a mile-long stretch of inland prairie grass before we emerged back to the shoreline. Once we got back to the trailhead we decided to hit up the local Dolores River Brewing Company where Tom snagged a pizza and I indulged in a flight in which the Red Beard Ale and the Snaggletooth APA were standouts.