There was no question his birthday would be spent in Telluride this year.
Our longtime friend Maguire had recently moved to the area and nothing could have kept Chad, my gracefully aging betrothed, from celebrating his birth in this Southwestern Colorado town. So, we collected our friend Heather and drove the five hours from Denver to the San Juan Mountains, where this town of some 2,200 residents is snuggled deeply into a box canyon.
It was my first trip to Telluride, which sits at over 8,700 feet, and I knew only of its reputation as a popular winter resort. I knew we would be going “out on the town” at least one evening, so I had resigned myself to a night in the ski village, which, I figured, if like most others, would mean drinking over-priced cocktails and dancing to loud tunes in over-filled, tight quarters where toes become casualties.
I wasn’t even close.
Saturday evening, after some birthday barbecuing on the deck despite chilly weather, our group of celebrants wandered to a gondola lift that connects the town of Telluride to the ski village up the mountain. I am terribly claustrophobic and knew riding this would be no small feat. However, the promise of a beautiful aerial view of the lights of Telluride beat out my fears and we began our evening adventure.
Our particular gondola seated eight and was transparent from top to bottom. The nearly 10 minutes in that little box flew quickly as the lights of the town were mesmerizing. The trails were brightly lit and the forested mountainside, abandoned in the night hours, exuded serenity as we passed above.
Once at the village I was surprised to note the quiet that surrounded us. We made our way to a bonfire flaming high in the courtyard, being watched by a solitary figure. Soon after we joined him, other night-wanderers found their way over.
The night air soon filled with jovial laughs and bouts of off-key renditions of popular songs. A bottle of Crown Royal whisky surfaced and was passed to anyone willing to call out the “secret password,” which was openly shared with the group: a loud roar of “HOO-ah!!”
As the bottle emptied, we made our way back to the gondola, with the magnificent canyon view again keeping my attention focused along the way back to town. Maguire veered us into Last Dollar Saloon, right on Main Street. The feeling here was much more that of a local neighborhood bar than tourist destination.
Music flowed from the jukebox that still allowed for conversations without straining one’s throat. As we ordered drinks my eyes widened at the very generous pouring of vodka into my glass. It was official: this was not the resort town I’d envisioned!
Our final stop was Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, another bar on Main Street, which has been a Telluride staple for over 20 years. The first matrimonial dance Chad and I shared had been to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the song of the same name, so we had to check the place out.
We walked downstairs to a basement club and were greeted by live music of The Ethereal Plane, a self-described trip-rock, dance-fusion funk band from the Boulder area.
We set up camp at a bar corner in The Mushroom Lounge, a space adjacent to the main room complete with seating and a pool table, and ordered the last drinks of the night. We visited with some locals and enjoyed music wafting in from the open doorways.
In the early a.m. hours, we walked the two blocks back to Maguire’s pad. I glanced down at the flyer I had picked up from our final watering hole, and looked forward to future nights out on the town in Telluride.
If You Go
Town of Telluride
Last Dollar Saloon
100 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride
Fly Me to the Moon Saloon
132 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride
Sheri L. Thompson is a freelance writer/photographer. She lives in Denver. She is a fine arts graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and a journalism graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.