a thousand bucks, a shot gun and 3 strong women

What can a thousand bucks and a shot gun buy ya?  Apparently, circa 1895, at the West end of the San Luis Valley, near the settlement of Del Norte, Colorado it bought a young Duncan Colville 160 acres of prime ag land along the banks of the Rio Grande.

Looking North to the home ranch at the foothills of the La Garita mountains.
Looking North to the home ranch and the foothills of the La Garita mountains.

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As the story unfolds to us……. a probably restless, no doubt handsome and a most certainly hardy Duncan Colville moved to live within the shadows of the San Juan Mountains leaving behind his family plumbing business in Dumbarton, Scotland.   And why Del Norte, you ask?  Ha!! Strong women, of course.  Duncan’s two sisters, Margaret and Robina, had made the jump across the pond before him deeply digging out a new life by the time of his arrival.   Being a talented plumber,  Duncan quickly acquired work in town, but it wasn’t long before he struck said land deal and commenced to give farming a go.   A seemingly short lived career, it wasn’t long before farmer Duncan threw in the shovel and the bachelor life he was said to be tired of.  He sold the ranch and with Scotland looking a far cry better, plans were soon made to return to the rainy hinterland of his family.  Plans are sometimes made to be broken as before long he met a certain someone who changed history.  Bitten by the love bug, no doubt…. farming suddenly didn’t seem so bad, the winters probably not so cold and the work maybe not so hard. Her name was Susan Knowlton and it was she who put a halt to Duncan’s “get outta dodge” plan. They married, bought another ranch and the rest is the remarkable story of a spirited family we have come to know and love today…. the Colville’s.

Suzanne and Duncan had two children who had four children and from there I simply lose count.  What we do know is that the ranch is currently being run by Davie and Nemonie Colville, 4th generation ranchers and it’s one busy place!!  Over the years the families have bought up neighboring ranches, built a whole lotta houses, raised a whole bunch of cows, had a gaggle of children and today it’s more liken to a small village. The Colville’s have opened their arms to spouses and friends with different backgrounds, beliefs, attitudes and ideas folding it all together with some serious magic.  There is a solid love of the land and the animals and a deep passion of adventure, of travel and of life.  It’s a very cool village.

Handsome Davie and his daughter Seana.  Seana is now 13 and Davie?  Even more handsome?
4th and 5th generations…., Davie Colville and his beautiful daughter,  Syana…. back in the day.  Syana is now 13.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    photo taken by Topher Donahue
Davie and his ranch hand, Martine bucking some certified organic hay.
Davie and his ranch hand, Martine standing atop of some certified, organic hay.
Looking west towards the ranch.  It's grown considerably since Duncan's original 160 acres.
Looking west towards the ranch which has grown considerably in both size and population  since the days of Duncan and Suzanne.

And why are we telling you this story?  Well, it’s because of Duncan Colville and a long line of big old hearts who have given us the sweet opportunity to live on this ranch in the most beautiful place we have ever had the opportunity to live.  We feel to have been greatly gifted.

Crossing the Rio Grande - our cabin is on the right hidden in the cottonwood trees
Crossing the Rio Grande – our cabin is on the right hidden in the cottonwood trees
This is the path that leads to our cabin.  prettiest driveway in these parts.
This is the path that leads to our cabin. Prettiest darn driveway in these here parts.
This is our fiew from the outhouse.  That's Del Norte Peak in the background with a dusting of early season snow.
This is this view from our outhouse. That’s Del Norte Peak in the background with a dusting of early season snow.
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Looking towards the cabin.
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A view of the cabin looking East.
Our front door.
Our front door.  Come visit!!  We have a large sleeping loft awaiting you!!
And one of the best darn campfire gathering places in town.
And one of the best darn campfire gathering places this end of the valley..

And us?  You’re probably wondering if we even have a home of our own.  We really do, we actually have a few of them, but we’re much preferring to rent them out and live in this cabin on the river… which is far, far more suiting to who we are.

Our house in town is FOR SALE!!!! It's a brand new house inside 130 year old walls.  Want it?
Our house in town is FOR SALE!!!! It’s a brand new house inside 130 year old walls. Want it?  Lets talk!
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A shot of the town of Del Norte looking Northwest. We now live at the foot of those mountains in the background.

And the bike riding…. ?  Oh, yeah, right.  In trying to find the words to describe the riding at this end of the valley I’ve found myself following a mental thread that has lead me to realize that a fundamental shift has occurred in both of our riding philosophies.    Sure…. flowy, sweet, single track is undeniably fun and a trail with the hard to find perfect rhythm  is simply hard to beat, but it’s by no means what we seek out these days.  Perhaps it’s the almost 7000 miles of touring, bikepacking and day rides we’ve laid down over the past year and a half, perhaps it’s the thousands of the hours in the saddle that has bore a new neural groove. For whatever reason we have come to know that the mountain bike riding right here, right where we are, is exactly what feeds our spirit. Sure, we have some sweet single track in Del Norte and yeah, we’re slowly getting some world class trails, but what we really seek has been here since the days of Duncan Colville.  It’s the hundreds of miles of two track roads that give us the space to explore daily new turns with not a soul in sight, just us, out solo on a journey that lets the mind expand.  It’s the exploring and the steady, rythmic breathing that is central to life here as we know it.  Who would have thought that with all our travels we’ve come back home to find that for who we are, perhaps for whom we’ve become,  what we desire the most is right out our front door.  Go figure.  I do think it’s what books are made of.

A typical two track surface in the La Garita Mountains.
A typical two track surface in the La Garita Mountains.
Rides with views like this of the Sangri de Cristo Mountains.
Rides with views like this of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
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Desert plants, crazy rock formations and mountains.
The path that leads from the main ranch to our cabin on the river with the San Juan Mountains behind.
The path that leads from the main ranch to our cabin on the river with the San Juan Mountains in the background.

At the end of the day we thank Duncan and whole Colville clan for gifting us a part of their beautiful space here on the banks of the Rio Grande.   Have we given up traveling…. ?  Gary is content staying put for the moment and me, well, content as I am I have a bit more of the travel bug.   I’m gunning to ride the length of Baja this winter when the river is frozen and the Siberian weather sets in hard.   But, for now, what’s to complain about?

 

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22 thoughts on “a thousand bucks, a shot gun and 3 strong women

  1. WOW!!! Beautiful pictures and story!!! Can’t wait to see it in person — hope the Siberian weather waits til after Thanksgiving!!! Love you guys and envy your rewarding and beautiful simplistic life!!!

    1. Hi Rita!! Can’t wait to see you and Clarinda very soon… we are doing everything in out power to ward off the winter until after you leave!!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Woody. Does that mean that you’ll be coming to see us??? It’s been on your todo list for far to long 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Kathy, for your awesome comment! Yeah, life just keeps coming back around. Look forward to seeing you soon!!

    1. Hi you guys… thanks for the comment! Yeah, we’re pretty happy here. Come see us!! Sounds like you had an adventure of your own recently!!

  2. I love how the leaves linger so late along the river. 2-track is unfairly maligned in CO. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it all wrong. A GDMBR coming into DN off North R. Rd. sure would be neat. Maybe a Luders Creek to Embargo route over Boot Mtn? Would be tough, but it sure would be beautiful. Enjoy!

    1. It would ONLY be you to remember the names of campgrounds, passes, mountains and canyons of places you’ve maybe never been?? Thanks for the comment. Bring the family…. come see us!!

  3. Thanks for publishing an update. It is always fun to hear what’s happening with you two. Carol and I hope you will be there when we return early in 2015, but we would understand if the new year finds you somewhere much farther south.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul. We may just be here in early 2015. Let us know when you’re here… we’d love to have you and Carol over for dinner. Farther South will happen later.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Juane! The griz excitement was in the small Idaho segment of the Great Divide. I actually don’t remember seeing any bears on the Hot Springs route at all …. just a couple of moose.

  4. I grew up there on the ranch til my parents sold their part and moved when I was 7. It’s still the one place I feel home and don’t feel restless. I found your page while searching online trying to piece together family history, to understand.

  5. Oh wow! What a treasure. My dad’s family is from Del Norte. We’ve tried piecing together little bits of where our family settled when they moved into the San Luis Valley. I was just there this past weekend with my dad and one of his cousins. His cousin took us to the Twin Mountain area and showed us where my great great grandparents settled. He took me to your cabin and little slice of heaven. My great great grandfather was John Duncan (Sr.), who came to the US from Scotland. John Duncan had married Robina Colville and they settled there in 1890. He eventually left his family, moving to Kirkland, Washington, but his family stayed in the area. We didn’t want to bother you early on Saturday morning but I would love to see your cabin sometime and meet the wonderful people who are the stewards of my great great grandparents home and land someday.
    Deanne

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