Published: October 20th 2009October 20th 2009
We've had two really amazing days here in Durango! Driving here from Limon, the scenery changed from flatland to the mountains that we mostly associate with Colorado. Durango itself is a little over 6,000 feet in elevation. On Monday we took the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway; left at 8:15 am, returning at 5:30 pm, with a 2-hour lunch stop in Silverton. When we boarded the train from the quaint little depot, we weren't quite sure what to expect, but boy, were we in for a treat! First of all, this time of the year the deciduous trees are all shades of gold. There are several different types of trees, but mostly cottonwoods. Some of the trees just seemed to glow, as if lit from within. And in the higher elevations, the contrast between those trees and the evergreens was just stunning. The train follows the Animas River gorge, gradually climbing over almost 3,000 feet. At one point the train was on a narrow ledge hundreds of feet above the river. Remember that scene in "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid" where they jump off the cliff? That's where it was filmed. We were just like little kids when the train went
around a curve and we could see the locomotive. The train stopped a couple of times to take on water. There was one open gondola car, but I can't imagine riding in that one during this time of year. Tom had his window open much of the way in order to take pictures, and I was surprised at the amount of black soot flakes that collected on my white sweatshirt. There was also the unfamiliar smell of burning coal, too......not really unpleasant, just different. But the train sounded like we expect a train to sound, and when we were lower we could hear the sound of the river, too. Silverton is a historic mining town but now its main business is tourism. We had a good lunch before boarding the train for the return trip. The man I was talking with is a retired Union Pacific police officer who now volunteers at the Durango-Silverton museum. He used his passes to ride up on the engine; normally, it costs $1,000. As we got closer to Durango, it was amazing to us how many people would stand and wave at the train as it passed by. Our plan for today was to
go to Mesa Verde National Park, about 30 miles from here. We were a little hesitant about it because there was at least a 50-50 chance of thunderstorms and rain today, but we decided to try it anyway. This park is one huge archeological site featuring the pit houses and cliff dwellings of the ancient Puebloans. The Park's presentation moves along a timeline so that it's easy to see the advances and changes that occurred. The pictures made the structures look like little dioramas, but in real life they were much more impressive. It's just amazing to see how people found a way to live in such an inhospitable environment, and in fact, make some aspects of it work for them. For example, the cliff dwellings had a southern exposure which would make it warmer in the winter, and the cliff overhangs would shelter them from the sun's rays during the summer. The mysterious nature of this people's history is intriguing, too. There is a wide range of actvity levels available in this park: exhibits and viewpoints on flat paths off of a driving loop; a fairly intact cliff house adjacent to the museum; the museum itself; ranger-guided excursions into
a couple of the dwellings that involve much climbing and crawling, and all types of hiking/exploring for the truly able and adventurous. And as we were driving out of the park, like a seeming benediction, we saw a group of five wild horses grazing. For lunch we went to the Durango Diner, another entry in our "Roadfood" book. Since we didn't eat until fairly late, and we are still so full, probably won't have but a snack for dinner. Well, we are headed for Santa Fe tomorrow, and so our next blog will be from there. Today, October 20, marks two months. Love, Tom & Nancy
ps: it began raining heavily just as we left the Diner.....how's that for luck.
There are more photos below