Black Bear Diner

I complained about a breakfast joint in Colorado last week and promised to tell you about one that I actually enjoyed.

Then I got distracted by a katydid and forgot all about it. So, here we are, circling back to a smallish chain that impressed me with tasty food and service that wasn’t so chain-like.

We visited the Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs for a hearty breakfast before setting out on that day’s adventure through the Garden of the Gods.

Founded in Mt. Shasta, California in 1995, the restaurant serves comfort food at a moderate price. The place was immaculate and the employees were all clean cut folks who made guests feel welcome even while they were hustling to get their work done.

It didn’t feel like a chain even though they’re up to 143 locations in 14 states.

Best of all, the food arrived quickly and was delicious. My veggie omelette came with a side of potatoes and bread – I chose a pancake because I rarely eat them and it was a treat. The maple syrup was especially good.

Comfy booths, a quiet atmosphere and spotless restrooms were a bonus too. Our waitress was friendly without being pushy and took great care of us.

I enjoyed the full experience and would absolutely go back if given the opportunity. Here’s their website if you wish to look for a location near you.

Sam’s No. 3

Travel is an opportunity to get a taste of the local culture and the literal taste of local cuisine. I avoid chain restaurants as much as possible when I travel, choosing instead local joints and small businesses when I can.

This strategy works out great sometimes. Others, not so much.

On my last day in Colorado, we wanted to have a good breakfast and go for a hike before heading to the airport mid afternoon.

Diners are my jam so I was excited to find a nearby diner that had been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives.

It was ok.

I know – how arrogant does that sound?

Hear me out. We had some great meals on this trip including a couple of delicious breakfasts with great service, decent prices and terrific atmosphere. This just wasn’t one of them.

We were there on a Sunday morning and it was understandably busy. We waited about 45 minutes for a table, heightening the anticipation that it would be worth the wait. The menu is huge with plenty of variety so that’s good. The look of the place is cool and I always give restaurants brownie points for atmosphere.

But the food wasn’t that good. Bland potatoes and eggs with some sliced American cheese on top didn’t do much for me. The egg to potato ratio was all wrong as it was a ton of potatoes with two scrambled eggs on top. My friend didn’t love hers either.

However, lots of folks around us seemed pretty happy. So what do I know?

I am always hesitant to tell you about the things I dislike and prefer to focus on the positive. However, this was a valuable lesson that what’s popular isn’t necessarily what’s good for me. What’s not featured on tv may still be pretty awesome.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a Colorado breakfast joint I did enjoy immensely.

Four Corners Monument

The Navaho Nation operates a number of parks including Four Corners Monument Navaho Tribal Park.

This park sits where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. They call this a quadripoint and it’s the only place in the US where four states meet like this. It also marks the boundary between the Navaho Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

This is part tourist trap but it’s also a special place. There’s a granite medallion that marks the exact quadripoint and people line up to have their photos taken here.

On site, you’ll also find Ute and Navajo people selling food, T-shirts and handmade items including some gorgeous jewelry.

I liked it because, for once in my life, I was finally able to be in four places at one time!

This kid had a great approach.

There is an $8 per person admission fee and you are still required to wear a mask in public places on the Navaho Nation Reservation. Get current hours, admission and advisories at their website.

Trail Rooster

About an hour east of Durango, there’s a pull off for a waterfall called Treasure Falls. There’s a hiking trail that leads up the mountain and an infirmary sign that lets you know you’re in the San Juan Mountains. Otherwise, there’s not a lot here or anywhere nearby for that matter.

We weren’t on a strict schedule so we swung in to stretch our legs and have a look. We spent a lot of time in the car this trip so we valued these unscheduled stops where we could see something interesting and unexpected.

Turns out, unexpected is the key word here. I hopped out of the car and headed for the sign only to see this.

It’s a man snapping photos of a rooster.

There appeared to be no homes nearby so I don’t think the rooster had just strayed away from his yard. He was remarkably calm and friendly, following us around, probably in hopes of a snack.

Whether he was lost, dumped or a runaway, he didn’t belong here.

I will be honest with you – we met Mr Rooster on day five of this adventure and I was starting to question my sanity at this point. We had already endured a number of odd experiences and I was sure the altitude had finally gotten to my brain.

I waited for Johnna’s reaction and was somewhat relieved when she saw it too!

I still feel guilty for just leaving the poor guy alone there. I’m hoping he either makes his way home or that someone helps him find a better place to live than in the woods near a waterfall.

But the way, the rooster is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Perhaps crossing paths will bring good fortune my way!!

Western Sunflowers

One of my favorite things about many western states is that you see these sunflowers growing along highways in abundance. Many regions of Colorado are dotted with these lovelies.

These two appear to be admiring each other.

They are such happy flowers. They brighten the landscape and never fail to make me smile so I couldn’t resist grabbing a picture from this parking lot at a waterfall called Treasure Falls.

Helen Keller once said “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”

Great advice.

Mesa Verde National Park

The thing I looked forward to the least on my western adventure is the thing I enjoyed the most.

Scratch that. I didn’t enjoy it so much as I am proud that I did it.

Mesa Verde is home to some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in this country. In fact, it is an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Located in Southwest Colorado, visitors can roam more than 50,000 acres to find important archeological sites and photo worthy vistas. However, if you wish to have an intimate view of the actual cliff dwellings, you have to participate in a ranger led tour.

There are three of these tours. The catch is that you have to be able to a navigate worn stone steps AND climb some ladders.

For one of these tours you must be able to climb 20 foot ladders and the other has 32 foot ladders. The one we chose uses four eight to ten foot ladders to help you in and out of the dwelling area. Did I mention that they’re wooden and resemble Flinstones ladders?

The word chose is rather strong and a bit misleading.

Let’s pause a moment to think about this. I am terrified of heights and absolutely despise ladders.

When I heard about the ladders, I was prepared to jump ship and simply view the cliff dwellings from an observation deck. But my friend quickly shut down that way of thinking. “It depends on what kind of vacation you want to have,” she said. “Do you want to stand and watch other people have fun or do you want to go in and have your own experience?”

That hardly seemed fair. (I giggle about this now).

But we went, we navigated the stone steps and climbed the ladders without any trouble. No need to be nervous at all!

Once in a while, I believe it is healthy to try something that scares you or that pushes your boundaries.

When it was all done and we had climbed out of the canyon, I was quite pleased that I had done it without hesitation, tears or an airlift to safety!

It’s the small victories that make life worthwhile.