july 10, 2019
Forget what you know about tiny dwellings and fall in love all over again with this authentically-replicated Sheepherder’s wagon. Set on a quiet homestead outside Dolores, Colorado, two witty and welcoming teachers open their home to curious travelers, many of them drawn to Mesa Verde National Park nearby.
And when I say they open their home, I mean quite literally. Access to the guest-reserved bathroom is through a sliding door that is accessible at all hours.
The bathroom is very lovely by the way—squeaky clean, terra cotta tiles, nice quality soap. And in a way, an overnight here doesn’t feel like an Airbnb experience at all. It feels like a stay at a family member’s house.
And if you’re overly humble like me, you might feel a bit bashful here at first despite the gracious welcome by Wendy who is genuinely warm and purposefully direct. The thoughtful amenities are numerous. Inside the wagon, a jug of chilled water is paired with an antique porcelain wash basin and rolled-up towels. There’s a two-burner gas stove for making coffee and teas which are also provided. There’s a cubby built into the exterior that houses kindling and newspapers to get the fire pit going.
Exhausted after a cold nights sleep (28 degrees F in late June) camping at Black Canyon of the Gunnison the night before, we asked for local picnic advice as our big evening plans. Wendy directs us a trail leading to Escalante Pueblo, Ancestral Pueblo ruins that are easily viewed at the top of a half-mile paved path overlooking McPhee Reservoir. The site is part of the Anasazi Heritage Center and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.
Numerous signs caution hikers about the black bear and mountain lion activity. Our trusty machete nearby just in case (not that we’ve ever had to use it), we grilled bison burgers on a small camp stove, sipping vodka from our YETI tumblers and watching the sun dip below the mesa.
Chatting with Wendy and her husband, Paul, we learned more about the diversity of the guests they host, including a couple from Norway who had left just before us on a multi-week road trip across the U.S. We learned of their lifelong dedication as teachers, the carefulness of talking politics in this more conservative area of Colorado, family members in the military, and a food column Wendy used to write called the Parsnippet which despite its popularity came to an end in their local paper amid, sadly, more budget cuts. We talk about the end of local journalism, and all of it makes me realize that Wendy and Paul would make fantastic neighbors.
After saying goodnight, Wendy wheeled a red wagon with a cooler and placemats to our door. The next morning we woke up to fresh blueberries, homemade yogurt, and an assortment of every sort of topping one could want including toasted coconut, a personal favorite. Everything was stored in glass jars, neatly labeled. A tasty cranberry nut loaf wrapped in waxed paper was included too. We took turns eating it while feeding nibbles to their three sweet farm dogs as we sat beside a gushing stream.
There are only a few more months to enjoy a stay at Stump Henge in 2019 as Wendy and Paul will end their hosting season promptly on November 1st. Please visit @travacurio on Instagram and Pinterest for more inspiration on curious, unique, and off-grid finds across the globe. We welcome comments and travel suggestions, the stranger and more remote the better, through our email list.