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CHANCES are if you have been to Colorado you will have viewed its magnificent scenery from the slopes of one of its many renowned skiing resorts. Visiting prior to its seasonal snowfall, my vantage point was not on skis but four wheels (Jeep and golf kart), two wheels (segway), horseback, zipline and foot.

There were moments when my breath was taken away metaphorically by the vistas, such as on the mountainous drive from Durango to Ouray via Silverton, and literally when ziplining across the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs.

There were moments to reflect with awe at man's ingenuity, at the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, cave dwellings built around 1,000 years ago, and at nature's power and capriciousness, exemplified by the geological wonder of the Great Sand Dunes in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

And there were moments to consider there were just not enough moments to do everything, which saw me unable to add train to my list of modes of transport. Missing out on a three-and-a-half hour ride on theDurango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad through the Rocky Mountains was partially assuaged by an invite to return and act as stoker on this 130-year-old line.

The museum in Durango explains the history of the railroad, created to carry silver and gold ore through the San Juan mountains. Aged locomotives add lustre to the memorabilia collection whose stellar presence is the boxcar from which burst Paul Newman and Robert Redford during the making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The resourcefulness involved in the railway's construction is detailed here, while at Mesa Verde National Park, some 35 miles away, the inventiveness of the Ancestral Puebloans has fuelled speculation and wonderment ever since the discovery of the archaeological phenomenon that is the Cliff Dwellings, the architectural summit of the civilisation's 700-year inhabitation of the site. How they built such structurally sound and intricate dwellings with primitive tools is a source of amazement, and the inhabitants' sudden departure from the area a source of constant conjecture.

What is transparent is the appeal of a park which National Geographic Traveler lists among its 50 “must-see” places of a lifetime. The elevated position of its award-winning restaurant, the Metate Room, affords stunning views across to New Mexico and Arizona.

A cloak of darkness was thrown across the vista, heralding an evening spent on the verandah of my Far View Lodge room. Here I gazed at the stars and thrilled to the frequent piercings of the silence by eerie cries from the wildlife. I had seen eagles and deer during the day but bobcats, coyotes, bears and mountain lions were also out there, providing a soundtrack to an evening I will never forget, their cries the script to a stark drama involving both hunter and hunted.

I took the role of the former at Ridgway,just a short drive from the former mining town of Ouray, as Dan, below, from Rigs Fly Shop tutored me in the basics of fly-fishing in the Uncompahgre river, albeit with captured prey being returned immediately to the waters. If Dan's patience was tested it never surfaced, unlike three trout which I managed to land.

I could not ascertain whether Hollywood legend John Wayne fished the same waters during the making here of True Grit but where our paths did cross was at The Outlaw Restaurant in Ouray,over whose bar hangs a hat given in gratitude for the many nights he enjoyed there. I also emulated John by riding horseback in Colorado although sadly not at the Wilderness Trails Ranch in Bayfield, close to Durango, where time was again my enemy.

However, my overnight stay here in their log cabins offered a glimpse of a relaxing environment where a day's riding or trekking ends with a meal served in a family atmosphere and always followed by entertainment.

I had ridden leisurely on horseback through the Garden of Gods, in Colorado Springs, where the background of staggeringly beautiful red sandstone formations, including the Sleeping Giants and Kissing Camels, made it easy to imagine I was a genuine (pronounce that gen-yew-ine) cowboy.

In the afternoon I met the real deal in ranch owner John Drover, a former rodeo “clown” whose numerous injuries led him to the safer part-time occupation of segway tour guide, these two-wheeled machines being a lot easier to control than a four-legged beast.

A drive up to the spectacular Seven Falls is great fun aboard a segway and offers a modern slant on the viewing of timeless natural beauty.

My favourite vehicle is a golf kart, since a bad day on the course always beats a good day in the office, and so a visit to The Broadmoor, home to several major events including, most recently, the 2011 US Women's Open, was always bound to delight. A graph of my scores will have resembled mountains. However, my appreciation of Colorado would be represented by a flat line on the maximum value. Colorado should be on everyone's list of “must-visit” states.


Road trip, Colorado

Published: January 21, 2012

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