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North of Gallup, New Mexico and southwest of Denver, in the Mesa Verde Country of Colorado, the city of Cortez at first glance looks like it has gone to pot, literally as legal dispensaries dot the street corners. In reality it is the gateway to adventure. The Mesa Verde National Park beckons hikers and bikers while the Dolores River and McPhee Lake welcome water lovers for boating and fishing. The Anasazi Heritage Center, Cortez Cultural Center and archeological finds at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument are unsurpassed for learning about the pueblo tribes that inhabited the area for over 700 years.  Cultures are converging here due to California’s mass exodus and the escalating real estate prices in local areas like Durango and Telluride. The cultural mix is cultivating fine cuisine. A yummy yak burger at The Farm Bistro and Lounge had us yukking it up along the Conquistador Golf Course, rhyming like a Dr. Seuss book. We had to track the yak back to the farm where owners Tom and his wife led us through the pastures sharing the knack of raising yak. These shaggy Tibetan creatures eat a third less than beef cattle and have gentle dispositions.

Conquistador Golf is a municipal layout among cottonwood trees. Fairways cross ponds and cascading streams where water fowl play and bullfrogs serenade with an ever-changing view in the distance of Mesa Verde as the sun shifts its hourly shadows.

Small towns like Dolores and Mancos showcase the area’s history of timber and mining. For an escape from the hustle and bustle of cities, a complete range of campsites avail for tents or glamping to behold the starry nights thanks to low light pollution. More comfortable lodging in town includes Baymont by Wyndham with an indoor pool that kids love and free buffet breakfast. Stroll Main Street for shops and more restaurants. Go to Stonefish for Sushi and Asian fare. Try the Loungin’ Lizard for fish tacos and lettuce wraps. The Moose and More ice cream shop is popular for dessert.

Hit the road for amazing views. The San Juan Skyway through Telluride, Ouray, Silverton and Durango is known as “The Most Beautiful Drive in America,” while the more arid 114-mile Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway delivers archaeology and culture in the heart of the high desert Colorado Plateau. Yes, Cortez is a gateway to adventure.

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