June 7 – Durango, Colorado

Not in a hurry this morning, the next campground will not allow us to come before 1 PM and since it’s only an hour to Durango, no since getting up tight.

I took off on the bike and rode about 17 miles, a little further to Dolores and again all downhill on the way home. It’s like a little kid at the amusement park, enjoying the ride.

We left Cortez about 10:30 and was going to buy propane on the way out of town. Now you have to remember I am driving this 36 foot box on wheels with a car attached to the end and where you go or where you turn has to be planned out ahead of time.

I had called a few propone places and found one that fit my turning radius and space. And it was on the way to Durango. We slowed down to make a left turn off the busy highway and the gate was locked – whoa! People behind me weren’t happy as I stopped in the middle of the highway and gazed toward the gate – “Don’t pull in or you will never back out”, I thought. So we pulled to the right side and called and they had problems and were closed – off we went.

Scenery between Cortez and Durango began to change to tall pine trees and bigger mountains. It was green and beautiful. Elevations began to rise in fact one time I was over 8300 feet. Hopefully cooler temps.

I forgot to mention that the last couple of days the temp was in the low 90’s. Since we were at 6200 feet, higher elevations hopefully mean lower temps.

Arrived in Durango and elevation was 6500 feet and temp was near 90. Where is my 70’s?

Lightner Creek RV Park is as you might expect, is located adjacent to Lightner Creek. I did not get a site adjacent to the creek but we can see and hear it. Water is flowing fast due to the snow melt. You see its 90 out and yes the snow will melt quickly. There is still snow in the mountains.

The park is in a valley and surrounded by trees – therefore no satellite TV and wifi is minimal. But we have a place to call home for 4 days.

After our ritual beer (oh yes, always have a beer after getting the RV leveled and utilities connected) we took a drive into town. Durango is a historic railroad town with (count them) six breweries. There are lots of shops and restaurants.

I stopped by the train station and bought my ticket for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR) for Thursday. Brenda didn’t want to go after she saw the price (it was expensive but I did save money by washing the RV on my birthday) and her interest isn’t in trains.

We also toured the D&SNG museum that had train cars and historic artifacts from the mining era around Durango. It even had huge operating train layouts to watch.DSC_0048

Carver Brewery was our first stop to celebrate buying the ticket. Good IPA’s.

Wednesday I had heard about the bike trail in Durango and wanted to take a look. I carried the bike (our entrance road to the park is 1-1/2 miles long and very narrow and winding) to a trail head and took off. Did 18 miles and covered the entire off road trail. Still wanted to make 20 so I rode a mile over the same path and came back. Nice trail, runs along the Animas River and great views. Lots of rapids and saw numerous rafters and kayaks.

Returned home and picked up Brenda and we visited downtown to explore. Nice historic town, saw the Strater Hotel where Louis L’Amour stayed often in room 222 to write his novels. Durango is a town where people go to ride the train and go on adventures.

After our tour of town and some shopping we found the Steamworks Brewery (they wouldn’t allow dogs the first time we came) and had a cold one. Home to grill.

Thursday was a day I waited for in anticipation – I hate to admit it, but I didn’t get much sleep last night thinking about my train ride.

Arrived at station about 8 AM (train scheduled for 8:45) and found my car. I was in an open air glass roof car called the Silver Vista. Car could seat 30 but only 4 were scheduled to ride today. It made it really nice to move around from side to side. And the car was restricted to only those over 16 so no kids running around.

The locomotive was K-36 class 480 series steam engine put into service in 1925. It weighed 143 tons and used 6 tons of coal on the way up (uphill) and 1 ton on the return trip (downhill).

The trip was from Durango to Silverton, distance of 45 miles, the tracks followed the Animas River and it ascended 3200 feet in elevation to Silverton. The track was opened in 1882.

The narrow gauge track was laid at 3 foot between rails while the standard track we are used to seeing is 4’-8-1/2”. The narrower tracks allowed the construction crew to lay track on winding steep slopes.

We had a conductor (not the official one but he acted as our tour guide) that gave us a souvenir bag and mug and brought us snacks and drinks during the ride. He also informed us of what we were seeing and what to expect. He gave us history stories that made the ride interesting. We could buy adult drinks at a cost, which he also served.DSC_0144

The guy with umbrella was using it because on the last hour of the trip, it started to rain.  Remember there are no windows.

I was surprised by how many movies were filmed on this rail line, some of the biggies would be “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. In one movie they even had two trains collide right on the tracks. Debris is still there.

I can’t say how exciting this whole trip was for me – just WOW! Seeing the wilderness of Colorado from the train was spectacular. The route was nowhere near civilization (original train carried gold and silver from Silverton) and didn’t stop in other towns. Riding in a car that people of over 100 years ago rode in was also thrilling. They have kept all the cars in original condition as best they can.

We saw fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet high) and canyons and gorges. The pine trees scaled the sides of the mountains and at some locations the tracks had huge drop-offs adjacent to their location.

I have never seen nature so raw and wonderful. It was an experience of a lifetime.

I took over 1200 pictures (and I promise I won’t post all of them on the blog).
I did buy the movie and book, if you want to see it, I would be glad to share. The trip each way was 3-1/2 hours and we arrived home right at 6 PM.

Friday is an easy day (day before we leave), so Brenda did her shopping (next town does not have a Wal-Mart). Later in the day I rode my bike 22 miles on the Animas River Trail. Enjoyed watching all the rafters and kayakers going by. The river is still wild from the snow melt.

Weather hit 92 today again, which seems warm for the mountains. Hoping it will cool off.

Saturday is off for Silverton, Colorado – only an hour away but I hear the road (San Juan Skyway) is quite scary, narrow and treacherous – we will have to see!

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