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Keeping Tradition Going

The Heart of the House in Mesa Verde Country

on: Feb 24, 2017

When you visit here, your experience is defined by the culture and history of this magical place. But equally important is your home away from home; where you rest your head each night after a day of fun and adventure. Here, meet three of the people who define Mesa Verde Country’s hospitality legacy.

Life Imitates Art

Peggy Cloy was a single mom and established artist in Seattle. She was an unlikely candidate to purchase a 40-acre Mancos property with aging cabins. But 25 years ago, that’s exactly what she did.

“My friends in Seattle thought I was stark raving mad,” she says with a laugh. “It was pretty wild when I got here.”

Willowtail Springs, now a nature preserve, has a four-acre springfed lake and dozens of species of birds and wildlife. Peggy set about restoring the cabins and the outbuildings with the same gusto she brings to her painting and sculpture. Now married for 16 years to Lee, a martial arts master, the two run this destination bed and breakfast that includes three cabins and two studios: one for art and one for Thai Chi.

“The land and the buildings are united; it’s like they’re one,” says Peggy. “People feel like they’re in an altered universe.”

Hospitality Pioneer

Dick Kirkpatrick, 85, started his second career in 1977 with the purchase of the Bel Rau Lodge, a Cortez motel that is now known as The Retro Inn. The family had regularly visited this Mom and Pop operation from Seward, Alaska—where he worked as superintendent for the Alaska Railroad—a 30-year career.

In fact, they felt so comfortable at the motel that they moved in permanently. Each family member had a hand in running the business, from front desk operations to housekeeping. “We hung our sheets on the line and people loved it,” says Dick.

Now under new ownership, the hands-on approach lives on with the motel’s reinvention as the whimsical Retro Inn. Vivid paint colors and throwback decor characterize each unique room. And a life-size replica of Elvis and the classic travel trailer out front make for fun family photos.

Innkeeper Extraordinaire

Tiffany Neely is a wife, mother and adventurer. She explains that she grew up in the lodging industry, where her mom was a head housekeeper. Now she’s the general manager of one of the most popular lodges in Cortez, the Turquoise Inn and Suites.

She and her family still visit Mesa Verde National Park regularly. They also love Hawkins Preserve and the Carpenter Natural Area. And speaking of family, Tiffany gives a nod to Best Western, a company that values a family-friendly lifestyle for its employees. She works from 7 a.m. until her seven- and ten-year-old get out of school.

“It’s my calling,” says Tiffany. “If you’re a people person like I am, there is no better career.”