Living Simply in Durango, CO & Simply Climbing in Cascade Canyon

Added on by taylor reilly.

I arrived in Durango, CO around 2 in the morning and drove straight to the Forest outside of town and the only camping I immediately found was a site that was $14/night, standard for colorado, but still expensive for only 6 or so hours of sleep, and there was no dispersed camping that I found.  I needed to get on my computer and the internet for the entire next day. So, I planned on going to a coffee shop for most of the day to work using the the internet and depending how much I got done maybe get a cheap hotel for that night to continue to work. Exausted from summiting Massive Peak earlier that day and driving, I needed to crash asap.  I looked for a private campground in or around town, and the only spots I found were at RV parks and cost around $40 for a tent pad! I knew could get a cheap hotel for close to that.  Exausted from trying, I did what everyone else on the road does when they need a a cheap quick place to camp, I crashed in my truck in the Durango, Wal-Mart parking lot.  I despise the Wal-Mart corporation, but I love that their parking lot is a free campsite, so nice of them.

I woke up the next morning and headed straight to find the cheapest hotel room with free wifi I could.  Pretty quickly I found Days End, Durango at $45/night! Super Deal! It's not the General Palmer Hotel, but it would make do as an office for the evening and night and I could repack and clean up.  Also, the staff was hospitable which is always welcoming.  I couldn't check-in until 11am, so I headed to find a coffee shop on Main Ave. I ended up at Steaming Bean Coffee Co. where I had breakfast, coffee, and worked using their free wifi until about 3pm.  It's a chill shop, I like it. From there I went and had lunch on the Animas River that runs through town, which reminded me of summers on Texas Hillcountry rivers, except for the -50F water. You won't find me swimming in there. After lunch, I headed to the hotel, checked in and proceeded to work non-stop, writing and editing photos on my computer until long after midnight. The next day my friends from Texas were going to arrive, and I had plans to take them up to the mountains for some camping and their first time rock climbing outside on real rock.  I hadn't climbed since bouldering at Bishops Cap in New Mexico. Also, Moab had turned into more of a 4x4 scouting mission than a climbing trip, and I hadn't had a climbing partner on the road.  So, I was excited to climb and get on some ropes, even if I was guiding beginners.

After checking out of the hotel the next morning, I shopped at some outdoor gear stores around town and had a beer at El Rancho Tavern, where a highschool buddy and I had drinks as minors about 10 years prior.  I knew it was the bar as I walked by, but only from faint memories of pooltables in the back.  I really like that bar. Eventually my friends arrived from Zion NP and I met them at the City Market, so we could pick up groceries for dinner that night.  I suggested that we drive north 30 minutes on 550 to Cascade Canyon where we could climb and have free forest camping at the same location, and get out of the lower elevation heat of Durango.  My friends were ready to cool off after a hot week in Zion, so off we went.

I hadn't been to or climbed in Cascade Canyon, since the same trip with my highschool buddy where we boozed at El Rancho 10 years back.  I knew most of the climbs in the Canyon were harder than beginner level, but I remembered seeing a kids climbing class being taught near the waterfall at the top of the canyon years back and figured those routes would be doable for my friends.  Also, I checked my "Durango Sandstone" paperback guide book I had from years prior, that apparently is not in print anymore and confirmed some easier routes in the canyon.  I'm glad I hold onto important things like books.

We arrived at Cascade Canyon and went straight to climbing.  When we arrived at the climbing area my friends were amazed at the beauty and power of the Cascade Creek waterfall at the top of the canyon. I love that waterfall.  I had my buddy who had belayed top-rope a couple times before give me a simple belay up to a ledge where I was able to setup a toprope on a 5.7 crack.  All of them gave it a go including myself.  By the time we had all climbed, we wanted to get out of the canyon and drive up to Scout Lake to make dinner and watch the sunset.  It was really nice to feel as satisfied as I did even having just climbed a 5.7 crack on toprope.  It had been to long since I was on a rope.  I really need a devout climbing partner with me on the road.

After climbing, we drove on classic Lime Creek Rd around the backside of the mountains for an awesome view of another canyon. Then we drove back to Scout Lake.  There we had dinner, fish and salad, my first home cooked meal in a while.  Then went back to camp and drank around a campfire until we all crashed out.  It was just a simple cragging day for me, but my friends had an awesome new experience rock climbing and camping in the forest.  I enjoy nothing more than to show others a great time climbing, camping, and hiking in the outdoors, so I was more more than satisfied and content with the day.  The next day we said our goodbyes and they headed back to Texas and I drove north towards Ouray, CO. on the "Million Dollar Highway" 550.  At least that is where I thought I was going.