Monday, July 18, 2011
Day 19 -- Durango, CO
The big excitement in Durango is taking a trip on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad. You leave Durango in the morning and take a 3-1/2 hour train trip to Silverton. The elevation change between Durango and Silverton is nearly 3,000 feet -- Silverton is around 9,000 ft. Silverton is, as you might guess from the name, a silver mining town. Like Bodie, California, it was a boomtown but it didn’t die when the mining dried up -- Silverton is still a “going concern.” The main industry now is tourism as the trains arrive and depart several times a day.
The ride up the mountain is spectacular. The train travels up the Animas River sometimes right down at the water and sometimes at dizzying heights above it. You travel through forests of pine, oak, and aspen. You see wildflowers and birds. If we were lucky, we could have seen wild animals too -- other than the few prairie dogs we saw.
We did see some Austin-Healey enthusiasts who pulled over and waved at us.
There is a concession car on the train and they let you get free refills if you buy a fancy cup with a lid -- we did. When you are at high altitude, you need to stay hydrated!
I was really proud of the Ruthie on the train. She gets a little creeped out by heights -- but only when she is in a vehicle. On her own two feet, she’ll stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon without any hesitation -- but in a vehicle, she’s not at all happy about heights. She did great though on the train and even took a window seat so she could see everything! Gage, on the other hand, had no problem with the heights -- he's way more concerned when he's on his own two feet.
When we arrived in Silverton, we got off the train and hightailed it to the restaurant we’d decided on for lunch -- it was GREAT. We ate at Thee Pitts Again -- an amazing BBQ place. It’s been featured on the Food Network and it did not disappoint. It was crowded but we got a table right away -- our patented technique is for me to figure out what I want QUICKLY and then tell Greg while I go snag a table and he does the ordering. We were starved after the train trip and I was feeling the altitude so a good meal was a MUST! The food was fantastic. We all had different things, shared bites, and loved it.
Then we shopped. Silverton is a tourist town and it’s full of little shops. Some are wonderful with great arts and crafts, some are tacky knick-knack shops, and some are somewhere in between. We didn’t buy much but we had a great time walking up and down the streets.
When you book your trip on the railroad, you have a choice about how to return. You can ride the railroad back (another 3-1/2 hours) or you can take a bus (about 1-1/2 hours). We took the train back. It was quieter and more mellow. We had booked our seats through their Kids Ride Free promotion which meant we were in a car with all families. Thankfully, a lot of them took the bus back so there were empty seats and a much quieter ride home. We relaxed our way down the mountain. There may have been some napping.
As we got closer to Durango, we, of course, started traveling through more inhabited areas. The train is important to Durango so everyone waves at the train as it chugs through town. Usually, that involves waving of HANDS. However, there is another important activity in Durango . . . Rafting on the Animas river. The rafters like to MOON the train as it chugs by the river -- waving their butts at us. We passed two groups of rafters who mooned us as we passed. A group on the shore of the river even got into the act and mooned us. I was NOT ready and didn’t get any of the full moon shots on camera -- but I found one here on Flickr so you can appreciate the moment. It was hilarious!
Before we headed back to camp, we had dinner at a mexican restaurant in Durango. Showers were essential when we got back to camp to wash off the grime from the train -- coal powered steam engines are dirty!