Pagosa Springs is an emerald oasis nestled up against the San Juan Mountains. It’s lush in the summer, and in winter, a delightful place to enjoy hot springs and skiing at nearby Wolf Creek. Despite the year-round allure of the steamy pools, the town has a laid-back vibe that keeps it from feeling too touristy. There are swanky hotel accommodations at The Springs Resort and Spa and serene creek-side campsites in the San Juan National Forest, so choose your own adventure.
With a light rain falling on my tent, I slept soundly and was up early looking for sunshine. Summertime activities in Pagosa Springs revolve around the San Juan River. Early in the season when the spring snow is melting, white water rules. Rafting the river when its flow tops 400 cubic feet per second is a serious sport. It’s best to take a rafting trip or white water kayak lessons from a local outfitter like Pagosa Outside. Later in the summer, the river slows, and tubes are the way to go. You can rent them from an outfitter and take a shuttle north of town for a two-hour float. Or, to do it on the cheap, just rent a tube ($25 for the day) and follow the locals.
As the sun grew higher in the sky there was a circus atmosphere of costumed racers, decorated bicycles and ridiculous inflatable animals—which participants would be using to float the river. At the start, competitors loaded up the provided water bottles with their adult beverage of choice and set off, slowly, in costume, down the bike path for a 4-mile ride along the river.
This parade of absurdity rode a loop around the park. I sat watching in awe and wonder, then decided to join the fun and float the river with the racers. The slow and bumpy journey was punctuated with people riding various novelty floats, like killer whales and piranhas. I think I even saw a guy float by riding a giant tiki pole.
When the contestants finished at the park, there were awards and barbecue and live music. It was the perfect end to a weekend of solitude and silliness in Pagosa Springs, a town that I can assure you does not take itself too seriously.
“Travelin’ On” • Norah Jones • Little Broken Hearts
“WHALE” • Yellow Ostrich • The Mistress
“Love in the Dark” • YACHT • Shangri La
“Angela Surf City” • The Walkmen • Lisbon