In order to get to Telluride, CO from Philadelphia, you have to first fly to Denver. Then, you have several options. The drive to Telluride from Denver is about 6 hours. Alternatively, you can take a “puddle jumper” plane to Telluride’s own airport, which is rumored to be the highest-elevated airport in the country. A perhaps unintended consequence of this is that on hot days, the air in the mountains is even less dense than usual, and therefore can’t support as much weight. This means that if you’re unlucky enough to attempt to fly directly to Telluride on a hot day, you have about a 50% chance of being kicked off the plane to make it lighter. Your luggage, of course, goes on without you (at least, in the experience of one person we met). The three of us along with Josh’s friend, Professor Joe Subotnik from UPenn, decided to take a third route: from Denver, we took a small plane to Montrose, CO. An hour and a half’s drive later, we were in Telluride.
Telluride is a little town located way up in the mountains that seems to be a choice vacation home for skiers, mountain bikers, hikers, and generally those with a significant amount of money who want to get into nature for a while. Of course, Telluride also boasts posh homes and nice restaurants that these adventurers can return to at the end of the day (on a realtor’s sign, the cheapest home went for about $2.6 million). It’s also home to the Telluride Science Research Center (TSRC), a uniquely-located institution that spends a lot of time uniting theoretical chemists. This summer, TSRC is the host of ACTC.
Our first excursion into Telluride took us to the gondola, which runs to the top of one of the surrounding mountains for free until midnight every day. Of course, we had to check it out. On the way up, we caught a glimpse of Telluride’s (in)famous airport on a nearby cliff. “Cliff” is an appropriate word here, as the runway actually ends by dropping off a cliff. As we heard from another conference attendee later, when a plane takes off to leave Telluride Airport, it actually drops slightly over the edge of the cliff before stabilizing and flying away.
At the top of the gondola run, we were let out on a mountain that appears to be used for ski slopes in the winter, but now is a haven for mountain bikers. We walked around and took a group picture on a patch of groomed grass that we hypothesized was intended for weddings. Seriously, if you’re going to get married and have some money to spend, I can’t imagine a more thrilling and beautiful location.
The four of us ate at a Japanese restaurant in town along with Professor Tom Miller from Caltech, and, from our seats, witnessed one of Telluride’s annual events: our waiter told us it was part of the “nothing” festival, where about 30-40 people bike through the main street wearing pretty much… nothing. The turnout to watch was impressive, however. After dinner, the group headed to Smuggler’s, the favorite brew pub in Telluride, to finish out the night with Professor Steve Corcelli’s group, from Notre Dame.