Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Durango and the San Juan Mountains

Leaving Mesa Verde, we were excited to be approaching the mountains after so many months of red rocks, desert plants and canyon country, as beautiful as that had been. Our destination was Durango, a railroad and mining town perched at the sourthern edge of the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

Even as we approached Durango, the countryside was getting greener. Colorado had an extremely wet spring (sorry, California) and all the rivers, lakes and streams are very full and high. There was still snow on the high peaks of the San Juans and we could hardly wait to get there. We camped in a lovely campground only about 10 minutes from downtown Durango, but way out in the woods. We hiked some nearby trails that brought us views of the high peaks, but we were still a bit far to say we were IN the mountains. That would soon change.

Durango was a bucket list place for me, or more specifically, the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The DSNGA started hauling ore over the mountains back in the 1880’s. Today it runs for tourists, but it has an authenticity and charm that can’t be denied. The train runs up to Silverton, which is a tiny mining town deep in the San Juans. Three hours up and three hours back with time for lunch in Silverton makes the train ride an all day adventure. We travelled along the Animas River all the way, sometimes perched hundreds of feet above it, and gazed in awe at the beautiful mountains we passed the whole time. The train has beautifully-restored cars and we rode up with a living-history guide who talked about the history of the railroad and the area. We rode back in an open car which made for some fun photo opportunities. We loved this trip on the train and thought it was one of the best things we’ve done in a long time.

We took a hike up to the Animas Valley Overlook--great views of the mountains and the valley below

Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere in Colorado.  These lupines were up the road from our campground near Durango

I got up early to catch the sunrise on the San Juans and wasn't disappointed

We visited Haviland Lake about a 45-minute drive up into the mountains and were amazed at the wildflowers in the meadows around the lake

A coal-fired locomotive on the Durango--Silverton RR. The beginning of a very fun day!

Our living history guide played the role of one of the early settlers in the area

Our train "blowing off steam" as it crosses one of the high bridges over the river

The Animus  River was full and fast! Normally a class V whitewater, it was unrunnable at this time

We arrive in Silverton

Silverton is tiny historic mining town that still has tons of charm

Many backpackers take the train and get off at one of the trailheads along the route, to be picked up days later

It was really fun riding in the open air car for the return trip!

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