Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 22 -- Durango, CO

We got up early and drove the road to Silverton.  It travels alongside the railroad for part of the trip but goes much higher for much longer as you go along.  Silverton was getting ready for it’s Fourth of July parade -- reminded us of Boulder Creek and made us a little bit homesick.  We couldn’t really park and shop so we got gas and headed off to our next destination, Ouray, CO.

Ouray, CO

Ouray is seperated from Silverton by a really intense mountain pass.  We got up over 11,100 feet which was exciting.  This drive is why we call our blog The Journey is the Thing -- the drive was the destination in many ways!  Especially since, we got buzzed by 4 airforce jets as we were entering the canyon above Ouray.  They were low and zipping through the canyon sideways.  That would be exciting if you were at an air show and expecting it but we were driving on a high, mountain road with no guard rails and big drop-offs next to us.  Greg handled it fine but the car in front of us had to pull over and calm down for a few minutes after they passed us by.  I think they had buzzed the Silverton parade and were going to do the same in Ouray.  It was very cool.

The road between Silverton and Ouray

Ouray is my new favorite town.  It’s in this steep canyon with amazing red cliffs all around it.  It’s a little mining town with all kinds of charm.  We had lunch at the Billy Goat Gruff biergarten which was perfect -- sausage bites, pretzels, and good beer (for Greg and I!).  Greg was excited about the Elks Lodge BBQ as well so when he was finished, he walked across the street and got some beef ribs.  We joined him when we were done.

Millers at Ouray, CO's biergarten

He was sharing a table with a really nice couple who had grown up in Ouray and were back for the class of 1961 High School Reunion.  They talked to us about life in Ouray and Silverton and what it was like to work in the mines.  We really enjoyed chatting with them.

We had to make a decision then about whether or not to go back to Durango now or to press on and continue our drive.  We had thought about going out to see Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park -- our new friends assured us it was worth the trip so we headed off.

The kids at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a deep canyon carved by the Gunnison River.  Like the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, you approach it from above.  There are amazing views down into the canyon.  We stopped at the first overlook and were amazed by a Golden Eagle flying over us, playing in the wind, soaring and floating above us.  Amazing.

Golden Eagle over Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Greg and Gage walked the 1/2 mile to the visitor’s center.  Ruth and I drove.  We learned a bit about the canyon and drove out to the most spectacular overlook -- Dragon’s Cliff.  You can see the image of two Asian style dragons in this huge cliff.  It’s the highest cliff in the state of Colorado at 2200+ feet.  Gage suddenly got over his fear of heights and spent the whole time staring over the edge trying to point things out to me -- who was turning green from the height.  :)

The road between Silverton and Ouray

The rain found us at Gunnison -- and we drove back to Ouray in a thunderstorm.  The clouds were starting to clear as we drove over the pass to Silverton (thank goodness!).  We ate at the Silverton Brewery and headed back to Durango.  We stopped briefly at camp and then headed back into Durango to watch the fireworks.  It was a great show and a great end to our trip!

Gage enjoying the drive from Silverton to Ouray, CO

Our evening ended quietly enough.  We put the kids to bed in their tent and settled in for a little computer time before bed.  After a little while, someone knocked at the door.  It was a rather frightened man who was telling us that there was a bear in the campground.  They had returned to their site after watching the fireworks to see their neighbors chasing a bear out of their site.  We got the kids inside the motorhome and got flashlights to see what we could see.  The bear had fled immediately when the people got back and hadn’t gotten into their cooler.  Still the folks in Durango are not used to dealing with bears.  Between our camping time in Sequoia National Park and listening to my parents talk about the bears in June Lake, I knew a lot more about the bears than the locals.  All the tent campers abandoned ship for the night and went either to cabins or to nearby motels.  The bear was skulking around in the bushes hoping we’d all go to bed so it could continue to forage in the coolers.  I got a good look at it as it entered an empty campsite -- it was a decent sized bear -- a little taller than the picnic table as it shuffled by on all fours.  While no one was doing the pot-banging, car horn honking racket that are sure to drive a bear away, the bear finally gave up and headed up the hill, back into the wilderness where it belonged.  Our kids opted to sleep in the tent still.  We gave them pots and spoons so if they heard anything they could make a huge racket.  The bear didn’t seem to come back or didn’t bother our kids at any rate!  What a day!

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