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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?