In the last month and a half we have spent time in numerous Colorado towns. From Durango to Delta and Alamosa to Aspen, we have used many towns as our “home base” for internet and laundry while living in our car and climbing the surrounding 14ers. Not all of these towns are created equal and some have served us far better than others.

The best places to live on the fringe of society, or as a “dirt-bag climber” as one of the hikers we met referred to it as, need to have the following:

* Cheap Showers – After a long day on the trail (or several long days) there is nothing more rewarding than a nice, hot shower. However, they can be pricey. Most Campgrounds we tried, charged $5 per person for a shower. If you take a few showers a week, that can put a dent in your income-less bank account
* A free, potable water spicket to fill up your 5 gallon water tank – preferably one that you don’t have to sneak up to and quickly fill while no one is looking
* Plentiful, free internet
* A real grocery store to stock up on trail food and other necessities
* Good, cheap dining options to fill you up after all you’ve had was cliff bars and pasta for the last 3 days
* A Laundromat
* And…most importantly – NO Ski Resorts or Slopes nearby. The Ski towns all seem exorbitantly expensive even in the summer months. Sure, they can be beautiful with cute little downtowns, but you pay for it.

So, after traveling from town to town, our vote for the best place to hang around while making your precious dollar stretch as far as possible is…Buena Vista.

With twelve 14ers nearby and no ski slopes, Buena Vista has plenty of hiking and is surrounded by BLM and National Forest Land which allows you to camp for free in most places.

One of the free camping spots just outside of Buena Vista

One of the best parts about this town is that it has 3 of the above criteria in one location: the Wally La-La Laundromat. Wally La-La is, obviously, a Laundromat but it also has free internet and the cheapest showers we found all summer. For $3.50 in quarters, you can get a hot 10 minute shower but since you only really need 5 minutes, we would each take one 5 minute shower which came out to $1.75 each. Their cleanliness is passable but after your 5th day with no shower, you don’t really care. All that matters is that it’s a shower, and it’s hot.

Coin-operated showers at the Wally-LaLa Laundromat

As far as a free water source, in the center of town there is a park with a hi-flow spicket. You can pull your car right up next to it and fill up as often as you want.

James filling up on water

Also near the center of town is a full grocery store – a City Market. Some of the smaller towns have these tiny little stores where you’re forced to go to re-stock and a loaf of bread costs you $6.

And last, but not least, cheap dining options abound. Our pick was Punky’s – a locally owned hole in the wall. They served up amazing chicken tenders and we can both walk away thoroughly stuffed for under $10. Another not-so-uncommon option was Subway. We frequented these all summer in several different towns since they have the $5 footlong-of-the-month which is impossible to beat. After sharing the footlong and grabbing 3 cookies for $1, we got away with a bargain!

Good, Cheap food at Punky's

Also, free picnic spots are less than a mile from town where you can grill or cook your own food