I took off for Durango around noon on Friday, October 9th. It was a beautiful Fall day — sunny, warm and blue skies and only a six hour drive ahead of me. I thought about camping while I was there, but decided to pamper myself with the luxury of a bed and a daily shower. The Super 8 was a very nice place to stay. I’ve stayed at all kinds of hotels over the years and even worked at one in college cleaning rooms. With that being said, my idea of hotels is a bit skewed. As long as it’s clean and safe, I’m good. The staff was very nice and the complimentary breakfast was not gluten-free friendly, but they never are. My traveling tip for this is always bring your own instant oatmeal. They usually have fresh fruit or yogurt, but that doesn’t fill you up for very long.
On Saturday morning, I ate my gluten-free instant oatmeal and headed out to Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde “offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States,” according to the park’s home page. The park offers a few different tours inside the dwellings and depending on what time of year you visit, the number of tours are limited. While I was there, there was only one tour available, The Balcony House tour located about 20 miles (one hour drive) into the park.
The Balcony House tour was pretty amazing to get a glimpse of how people lived so many years ago. They weren’t so different from us. They wanted a safe place to live, protected from the elements and room to grow. Plus, they had a spectacular view! Getting in and out of the dwellings was not easy and I can’t imagine how they must have carried things in and out. The tour started out with descending several metal stairs to a trail along the canyon wall until we reached a 32 foot ladder we needed to climb to reach the Balcony House. Now, I should back up. When I purchased my ticket, the nice ranger explained to me that I would need to climb a 32 foot ladder — no big deal, right? Before the tour started, Ranger Chris from Kansas, began to explain the tour to all 50 of us. His version was a little more intense than just climbing a 32 foot ladder. I actually think he made a few ticket holders nervous and were reconsidering their decision to go on the tour. He explained to us that once we got down the stairs and through the locked gate, there was no turning back. As he continued, once up the 32 foot ladder, we would need to squeeze through a very tight space which would be followed by another ladder and several stairs to get to the other side of the dwelling. Which would then be followed by another tight squeeze, drop-offs and crawling out of a two foot space with another ladder and stairs with a chain rope waiting on the other side to get back to the parking lot. I really wished I recorded it because it made me laugh once I was back in my car. His version was definitely more exciting.
Here are a few pictures of my visit:
After the Balcony House tour, I drove around the park and got out once in awhile to view a few of the other dwellings that could be seen from the park road. It really was a beautiful day and the landscape views were amazing. (The images never seem to do it justice.) The mountain sides were covered in deep reds, oranges and browns with a bit of yellow here and there. Fall is such a beautiful season.
Once I made it back to the entrance of the park, I headed to Durango and in search for dinner. The number of gluten-free options in Durango was awesome! I almost want to move there just to have so many different places to go eat at.
Where did I eat?
726 1/2 Main Avenue
Phone: (970) 247-1081
Open Daily – 11am – 9pm
Taste the Happy!
After arriving in, I headed downtown to Grassburger. Which, I thought was delicious! The gluten-free bun was actually pretty good. I ate the whole thing. It even held together for the entire burger eating experience and soaked up the grease from the burger. The top of the bun had a nice egg-washed coating that gave it a little bit of flavor. I ordered a burger on the gf bun with all free toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and chipotle mayo), plus I added swiss cheese – why not, right? I added a sided of hand-cut french fries dipped in homemade ketchup. The fries were perfect! Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They also served a gluten-free beer which was a nice option to have. It’s rare to go out and be able to have a burger and beer.
505 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301
Phone: (970) 247-2018
Open Monday thru Saturday (Closed Sunday’s)
Lunch: 11:30 – 2:30 pm
Dinner: 5:30 – till close
Tavern: 2:30 – till close
Happy Hour: 4:00 – 7:00 pm
On Saturday night after a long day of sight seeing at Mesa Verde National Park, I headed to The Palace located in historic downtown Durango right next the Durango-Silverton train station. I sat outside on the covered patio and enjoyed the last of the warm sunny day. I started out with a spicy Bloody Mary, which definitely hit the spot and an order of Truffle and Parmesan Frites. I never ate french fries until going gluten-free. Now, I can’t get enough of them. The fries were excellent. They had the right amount of shredded parmesan cheese and you could taste the truffle flavor, but it wasn’t overpowering. The other great things about these fries was they weren’t greasy. Not having a gallbladder, my body thanked for me that.
Since I haven’t had many greens in my diet lately, I decided to order a side Caesar Salad. I’ll be honest, I was very disappointed. The salad was fresh and crispy, but the fish taste in the dressing was way overpowering. I couldn’t eat it. I took a few bites, but it was too much fish and it never got any better. To bad too, I really wanted some greens.
For the main course, I tried the gluten-free Penne Pasta with added Italian Sausage. The gluten-free pasta was good, not great. It tasted like store bought, nothing special. The sauce, sausage and cheese made this pasta dish. The Italian Sausage was spicy and had a generous amount of fresh mozzarella cheese. If I were to go back to The Palace, I would probably order something else. There are many dishes on the gluten-free menu, St. Louis Ribs, Trout Amandine and Chicken Confit to name a few.
Reminder | As with any restaurant, cross contamination can always be an issue. Check with the restaurant to see what their practices are, if you have concerns. It never hurts to ask. This is just my experience and how it affected me.