It's so difficult to get up before the Sun on a Saturday, however, today was a going to be an exceptional day. We were heading north to the town of Durango, Co to ride on a steam engine train. First for the both of us. The Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad began making runs from Durango to Silverton in 1881. In the beginning the purpose of the train was to haul the silver and gold from the mines in Silverton. Over 30 million dollars worth were mined in the region. Today, it is a tourist attraction. The original cars have been restored to almost original condition. The seats were upgraded and it does have heat in most cars. We boarded the train at the Durango depot at the elevation 6500 ft above sea level. The train pulled out of the station at 8:45 am. This was the last run to Silverton until May. As you will see in the photos it is a narrow gauge railroad with little distance between the mountains and the Animos River. A dangerous journey to make in the Winter months. It is hard to believe it was constructed within a year. The tracks carved through mountainous terrain and bridges built to cross the river. It is breathtaking. While the train chugged its way up the mountain, reenactment characters told us about the history of the people and the train. And of course, ghost stories were told, since it was Halloween. To stretch our legs we would take walks through the cars. The cars swayed to and fro so walking was a bit of an exaggeration. It was more like wobbling down the narrow aisles. As we ascended the river fell below us. The steep cliffs looked like nature had cut them with a knife. Animos river is a whitewater rafters dream. The rugged rocks formed amazing runs of class 3 and 4 rapids. Mike and I made a mental note to come back during a Summer season to run the river. Several waterfalls cascaded from the mountain tops to feed the river. About half way, several of the passengers disembarked the train at a flagstop to hike the wilderness. How we wanted to join them. The conductor told them don't be late for your pick up on the way back down or the next train won't be until May. We found out that many movies were filmed in the area the most famous was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We saw where the famous jump into the river happened. As the hours pass, the endless wonder of nature filled our eyes and our souls.
The train pulled into Silverton, elevation 9,300 ft above sea level, shortly after noon. About of hundred tourist poured out into the streets of this little Western town. Scattered, we devoured the place like giddy children in a candy store. The tourist season had wound down in September, so many of the stores were closed. A few souvenir shops and restaurants were only open during the two hour layover before we began our descent down the mountain to Durango. The buildings were original with fresh coats of colorful paint. To walk the streets was like stepping back into time. During Silveton's heyday, there were 1100 residents, mostly miners, but it boasted 32 saloons! We ate lunch at The Pickle Barrel. We grabbed a few trinkets and boarded the train for the 4 hour journey down to Durango. With our bellies full, the high altitude and the gently rocking of the train, Mike and I snoozed on and off for the first hour. By the way, the hikers made it back in time. Feeling rejuvenated at the end of the trip we stepped out into the streets of Durango. Halloween was in full swing. Characters young and old bustled down the sidewalks in search of tricks or treats. We made our way to El Moro for dinner. Its innovative chef created an eclectic menu that satisfied our "foodie" taste buds. Even though we were full, I spotted Jean-Pierre French bakery and wine bar. We picked up some croissants for Sunday's breakfast. We dreaded leaving Durango but we had an hour drive back to Farmington, NM. This was a day to always remember.
Giving up sticks and bricks for rubber and road was the best decision Mike and I have ever made. Where the road will take us we don't know but we will explore and experience as much of it as we can. Live for today.
Mike & Kat
Kat left teaching after 18 years to travel throughout the USA with her husband, Mike, who is an engineer for a Power generation company.