In late August, my wife Hailey and I took our daughter Varenna on her first week-long vacation: a swing through Southwestern Colorado to see the state’s absolute best scenery (the San Juan Mountains) and discover some of the blank places on our personal maps (Colorado National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park). This was also a test run: taking a vacation with a child is an all-new thing for us, and we wanted to figure it out in the comfort of our home state.
Rule #1 of road tripping with a baby: allow for a lot of car breaks. Understandably, Varenna would get tired after a few hours of facing backwards, usually alone in the backseat (in fact, I think she did pretty well considering). So, we’d frequently pull over and find something to do. Break #3 on Day #1 was Palisade, Colorado: the peach capital of the Rocky Mountain West, and easily one of the state’s great underrated towns.
Palisade sits on the cusp of the Colorado Plateau, a massive desert that spans across four states and includes such American icons as the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park and Lake Powell. As a result, summers in Palisade are hot. Like put-your-face-under-the-broiler hot. But the Colorado River flows right through the valley, providing an easy source for irrigation. Subsequently, Palisade is awesome for orchards and vineyards, and peaches are what they are known for — not just because “Palisade peaches” illiterates, but because they are explosively juicy.
We found our way to Ball Fruit, one of the many family-owned farms in the valley. To get there, we hopped off I-70, crossed the lumbering brown Colorado River, and wound our way through vineyards (the area is also becoming a big wine producing region).
Without knowing it, we were visiting the same day as the Palisade Peach Festival, so the place was hopping. One of the farm hands, who noted that he was dating the boss’ daughter, gave us a tour of the cooler, the orchard, and the garden patch in the back. As idyllic as orchard life might seem, the heat alone made me wonder how these people do it.
Since we were camping that night, we opted to only buy a bag of peaches and a melon. Had we done this trip in reverse (Denver to Pagosa Springs and then loop back through Palisade) we would have stockpiled on fruit and spent the next few days at home concocting as many sweet offerings as our kitchen would allow. But we had a plan — six days on the road and finish with the hot springs. It just made more sense to unwind at trip’s end…
After splitting an ear of roasted corn and stuffing ice cubes down our shirts and into our pockets (or at least daydreaming about it), we hit the road: onward, to Colorado National Monument for the night.