Saturday, June 14, 2014

Durango, Colorado - Rocky Mountain High

After all the RV issues and long drives to dealerships, I decided to settle in for a couple of days and enjoy Durango.  What a nice western town.   Its nestled in the narrow Animas Valley at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. This is an out of the way place that's several hundred miles from any big city. An old mining town that got started in the late 1800's, it's now a hip laid back place to live with a college and a big tourist destination.

The center of town has many of the historic buildings restored with boutiques, eateries, bars, hotels, and souvenir shops.  The town has done well managing the tourist demands.  All the franchise chains are on the outskirts and the main road skirts around the town center, so the central town maintains its historic charm.  Its got a nice mostly free transit system for getting around and central parking area.  Rafting, mountain biking, 4 wheeling, skiing and the Durango-Silverton Railroad are the big draws.  Here are some pictures of the down town area,

We stayed at the United Campground, 4 miles north of town and its on the free trolley line so you can avoid having to drive and park in town. The town runs a free trolley every 20 mins that will take you back and forth into town.  The campground has full hook ups, showers, laundry, a store, and a pool.  It also fronts the railroad line so you get a birds eye view a few times a day when the narrow gauge to Silverton goes by.  The nightly rate with tax is $39.  A little pricey but its a good location.

Our campsite at United Campground in Durango
We spent our first afternoon checking out the town and getting our tickets for the rail ride to Silverton.  The rail line is a narrow gauge line that was built and used for mining in the early 1900's.  Its now a tourists trip with restored cars and coal fired steam engines.  You have a few choice for tickets.  There's a train and bus option and a few different class cars.  The basic car (open air condola) is $85 per person.  You sit nine across on bench seats with no other amenities.  We chose the Rio Grande car.  Its in the Deluxe category at $135 per person. Its still an open air car but its 2 people per seat (which is like a car bench seat), all free snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, and you get a hostess who will fetch drinks, snacks, and tell stories along the way.  Its easy to move around in this car and get good views.

We took the 9:30 am train.  Its an all day affair.  The ride up to Silverton is about 45 miles up the Animas Valley and it takes 3.5 hrs one way, with a 2 hour lunch stop in Silverton. Its  a very scenic ride, perhaps one of the most scenic things to do in this country.  Its 3 plus hours of jaws dropping Oh-my God views.  It tops most National Parks.  I took almost 200 pictures and shot about 30 mins of video. Here are a few pictures and this link Durango & Sliverton Railroad Train Ride will show a video of our ride.

J. Dawg in the Rio Grande car
Cav with hostess Kasey

Silverton is a small town at 9,300 ft elevation. Its an old mining town, but now it caters to the railroad, 4wheelers, and skiers.  Its got one paved street and plenty of food choices for tourists. We ate at Handlebars Bar & Saloon.  It was an eclectic place and the food was very good.

Cav at Handlebars
I highly recommend the train ride.  Its pricey but it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures.  The only down side to the train ride is the coal dust and cinders. It gets all over you.  My hands were black with coal dust and we both needed showers right after getting off.  We really liked Durango. It would be easy to spend a week here.

Now its off to either Monument Valley or Mesa Verde.  With the vehicle issues we're totally off schedule so stay tuned.

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