With a western slope trifecta, the paltry towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss, and Paonia, with a combined population of just under 3,000, are communities with kind hearts and a big ambition to stay small. Located within the North Fork Valley region of Delta county, the area has a unique charm and simplicity that continues to attract homesteaders and of course, tourism. We were invited back to the area to housesit on a llama ranch and didn’t hesitate to accept! It’s the kind of place where time slows and a neighborly wave can be expected from just about everyone you pass along the way.
The region has a unique semi-arid high desert climate with a view of the West Elk Mountains to the east and Grand Mesa to the north, but my favorite landmark is Needle Rock, located in Crawford; the remnant of an extinct volcanic plug that forced its way through the earths crust, 800 ft up straight up about two million years ago. Just over the ridge of Needle Rock stands the MadDog Ranch, once home to singer Joe Cocker (1944-2014). I can certainly see why Joe found this place so appealing.
No matter where you drive in Delta county, the views are captivating from any direction, even along the roadside. There are nine wineries, one craft beer brewer, a brandy distillery, and the largest collection of organic farmers in Colorado. The glorious sight of blooming fruit trees and grape vines winding their way to the sun, while fields are spotted with white wooly lambs gives one the sense of purpose on our beautiful planet. Along the way is Hotchkiss, a quaint place with a mid-town gem, Mary Hockenbery’s Church of Art, a funky approach to spotlighting local artists of the Western Slope.
We visited the Paonia local brewery, #RevolutionBrewing, a one room tiny house tucked along Grand Avenue, the main drag through town. The minute we stepped foot in the door we could feel the heartbeat of Paonia was gathered in one room. We were immediately welcomed with a tasty brew, The Hair of the Three Dog Night, a special batch brew that seemed to be a local favorite. The vibe was incredible, like a village instead of a town; there were moms, dads, kids, grandmas, grandpas, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbors, local politicians, and us…the curious tourist, all congregated for a common goal, a home brew. Paonia was indeed a true gem; with it’s own film festival and local performing artist #JeneveRoseMitchell (who appeared on American Idol), culture and art are very much a part of this small town’s charm.
We’ve decided the western slope of Colorado is certainly high on our list of favorite places. It’s rough and rugged landscape is intoxicating and invigorating, just like the people who call it home.
Where the west was one…
Eric and Lori