Saturday, July 09, 2011

Still traveling and having fun....

The Black Canyon was a fantastic place.  The Gunnison river drops a lot more per mile than most so it has carved a very deep, narrow canyon over 2,700 feet deep in places.  We drove along the southern rim and walked to the various view points.  One we especially liked was the Painted Wall.  Different types of lava was forced into cracks in the stone giving a sort of abstract art look to the wall.

You can see the river running waaayyyy down there.  It looked pretty rough.  The North rim is accessible but we didn't go there. The South rim was easily accessible.

Thursday we drove from Montrose to Durango but thanks to some good advice from the manager of our campground we avoided Colorado 550.  550 is a notorious highway, narrow with severe drop-offs and not nearly enough guardrails.  Everyone who knows me knows I'm a coward about heights and my wife is only marginally better.  Not going via 550 was an easy sell.  Instead we took 550 down to Ridgeway then west on 62 to Placerville then south on 145 to Delores then east on 184 and 160 to Durango.  There were a couple uncomfortable miles but that was it.  Nothing tough at all.  There was one high pass but that's just a matter of climbing the hill.  As long as your vehicle is in good shape it's no problem.

Friday was our day for the Durango to Silverton train.  The train is an old steam locomotive that takes you from the 6,500 ft (1980M) Durango to 9,300 ft (2835M) Silverton.  There are actually three trains a day leaving at 08:00, 09:00 and 10:00.  It goes really slowly over the 50 mile (80 km) journey so there is time for photography.  We took over 175 photos!  You get two hours in Silverton - an old silver mining town amazingly enough!  It's enough to have lunch and check out the tourist traps.  There are about 500 permanent residents so it isn't a large place.  550 runs through it; it's the only paved road in town.  The train journey was a beautiful trip.  We chose a one-step-up-from-the-bottom class of travel.  It was $140 a person (wow!) but we felt it was worth it.  There are open cars and closed cars.  We chose a closed car; and when it started raining about half way up the mountain that choice seemed pretty smart.  The woman hanging out the window just in front of us was a slight negative.  There was one other downside:  we got on the train at 09:30 and got off at 19:00.  It was a long day.

 Two seats on one side and one on the other.  Quite comfortable and kind of old time style.  They had a concession car that sold soft drinks, wine, mixed drinks & junk food. 

 For the most part we followed the Animas River criss-crossing it on mostly modern bridges.  A docent said that the river is running at about 130% of it's normal volume.  There is usually rafting on the river but because of the high water they are only rafting in the quiet areas. 

There were plenty of sharp turns on the trip.  This photo is taken from our car; about the tenth back from the engine.  The railway company has done a lot to reduce the danger of fire from these old steam engines.  First they have filters on the exhaust then they have mist-ers that extinguish as much as it can.  One of the boxcars following the engine has water and pumps for firefighting.  Finally, they have another engine (diesel) following along behind, mostly out of sight(!), with more firefighting equipment.  They get to use it too, along the rails we saw occasional black spaces of a couple square yards (meters) where a small fire had been extinguished.  They don't do all this out of altruism.  In 2002 the train was closed down and lost $4million in revenue due to fires in the area (NOT started by the train).  They sure don't want to start anything though.

Today is a day of rest.  Reading email, writing to friends, just resting.  Gotta go.  Hope you are having as good a time as we are!


Croft said...

We were in Durango back in the 60's on a road trip. We could not afford the train back then but did treat ourselves to a night in one of Durango's historic hotels.

I love that kind of country!

JoeinVegas said...

Ahh - getting you interested in trains.