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Residents make the most of Sequim's proximity to outdoor recreation. In addition to park trails, Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, a 5 1/2-mile spit of land with 250 species of birds and frequent whale and dolphin sightings, draws nature lovers. On the rare rainy day, folks might poke in at the Blue Whole Gallery, which shows collections of artists from the region.
Or they might just take in the breathtaking views. Bill Jensen and his wife Carol moved to Sequim from Long Beach, Calif., to get away from traffic, crime and smog, something Bill never forgets when he looks outside and gazes on the Olympics. "Every day when I eat breakfast, I sit facing those mountains," he says. "Three years, and I'm still not tired of looking at them." --By Todd Murphy/Portland
BEST AMENITIES: Olympic National Park, Blue Whole Art Gallery, wildlife and historic lighthouse at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge
NEAREST MAJOR MEDICAL CENTER: Olympic Memorial Hospital in Port Angeles, 25 miles away, with cancer treatment and cardiac services
BEST PLACE TO STAY: Toad Hall Bed and Breakfast, an English country home in the style of the children's classic Wind in the Willows
THE GREAT OUTDOORS IN MONTROSE
This is the kind of place where even Coloradans go to get away from it all. A high desert expanse in the center of the Uncompahgre Valley, Montrose, Colo., is near such world-class mountain recreation areas as Telluride and Aspen. But this western Rockies town, with its 274 days a year of sunshine, manages to remain a quiet, affordable enclave in a rapidly growing state of outdoor buffs.
In addition to downhill skiing, Montrose residents enjoy cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the national forests that abut the town on three sides. In the summer they can hike the challenging trails of the 14,000-ft. San Juan mountains, and camp, picnic and fish blue-ribbon trout streams at any of the 11 wilderness areas that lie within a 75-mile radius. One area attraction, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, was recently elevated to national-park status. With its spectacular gorge, black rock walls and sculpted red sandstone, the park draws visitors to camp and mountain-bike and marvel at the bighorn sheep and bald eagles. White-water rafting is available just outside the park.
Many of Montrose's residents are newly arrived, drawn not just to enjoy the outdoor living but also to escape growth, sprawl and spiraling home prices in the rest of the country. A three-bedroom ranch home in downtown Montrose can be picked up for $130,000.
After vacationing for years in other parts of Colorado, Carolyn and Warren Phillips came to Montrose four years ago from Lansing, Mich. "It's a great life if you like the outdoors," says Carolyn, an avid skier. "You can play all year round here."
Those planning just to visit might start at the Lathrop House, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast two blocks from downtown. When it comes to dining, residents are quick to point out that Montrose's handful of good restaurants aren't up to glitzy Aspen's standards. But they aren't up to Aspen's prices either. That, for the folks who live here, is the point. --R.W. Reported by Richard Woodbury/Denver