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Archive for November, 2011

 Durango—one of the more famous western towns for tourists in Colorado. There was a large forest fire a few years ago that came very close to town.  Usually the base camp is established near the fire.  During that one, the base camp was right in town.  But the firemen working that one, saved the town.
I was there during the fire that summer and it was pretty scary.  Smoke was everywhere.  And in the dark of the evening you could see the planes spreading the red fire retardant across the skies working to douse the flames.
Since the Durango-Silverton train is a coal train there was a lot of worry about sparks so we did not ride it into the mountains on that trip.  We just did a short ride about 40 min down and 40 min back with a little car behind up putting out fires from the cinders when they started.  The train journeyed along the road out of town and on the way out I saw little “hot spots” of fire here and there.  I was never so glad in my life to get out of a town.  The “hot spots” were even bigger as our bus rolled out of town and when we reached our destination that night, we heard the road had been closed down not long after we had driven out.  That would have been terrible being stuck in that town with the fire surrounding us.
But normally the train is a wonderful ride over the mountains to an old silver mining town called Silverton.  The mines have long been played out and if it wasn’t for the tourist business, Silverton would definitely be a ghost town today.
As you leave Silverton you ride on a 24 mile stretch of mountain road called the “Million Dollar Highway”.   They say there is so much gold & silver dust that was used to make the road, it got its name for that reason.  Others say it cost a million to build.  No matter what, it is 24 miles of switchbacks of 15-20 mph and many people have white knuckles traversing that section to the town of Ouray.  Ouray is another one of those old mining towns and one of the mine owners struck it so rich, he bought his daughter the Hope Diamond.
That night a stay in the town of Grand Junction is recommended.  That gives you a chance to drive the towering red rocks of the Colorado National Monument before continuing your journey along I-70 back to Denver.  Although there are no major attractions, this section of highway is definitely one of my favorites in the country.
The Eisenhower Tunnel, the highest in the US crosses the continental divide and the scenery with all the pine trees is breathtaking.  Once again, whether you do it by train, bus or car, the scenery will blow you away.

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