June 25, 2006

We drove from Telluride to Durango on Saturday the 24th, stayed overnight at the worst motel for miles around, and then took the old-fashioned steam train from Durango to Silverton the next day. We bummed around Silverton, stayed overnight there in a quaint B&B, and returned by bus the next day to rejoin our parked rental car and carry on with the tour of the southwest.

The train up takes 3 1/2 hours to cover 50 miles - the course mostly follows the river. The bus back takes about 1 1/2 hours. We had a very chatty bus driver who gave a running commentary the whole way back, which I managed amazingly enough to sleep through, except for periodically waking up, noticing that he was still talking, and falling back asleep.

You can profitably skip Durango if touring Colorado, but, definitely visit Silverton: charming little old mining town way up in the mountains. They do have a ski lift of sorts, about 8 miles out of town, for "extreme skiers" who may or may not have to agree to ski along with a guide. (That point wasn't clear.) It is clear those slopes are only for the very experienced and very brave!

We also took a great tour of an abandoned mine outside of Silverton. The history is ornate and serpentine, and I won't even try to summarize it here - suffice to say that the only money made out of these particular holes in the ground is from the current Gold Mine Tours operation.

  1. This train burn coal. I couldn't help thinking, they wouldn't let you drive this train through certain open spaces in California.

  2. Animas River

  3. We sat in the covered wagon, thinking there might be stray coal sparks and dust that would get on you in the open wagon, but really, there wasn't any to speak of. Not that flew into our wagon, anyway.

  4. The river winds through the mountains of the San Juan National Forest

  5. The train lets off a huge burst of steam out the side

  6. The river looks cool and inviting on this scorcher

  7. Dad and Gerhard watch the scenery intently from their window seats. Our wagon was almost empty so we all took up posts at windows.

  8. Smoke on the river (isn't that an old song?)

  9. Serious smoke

  10. Breathtaking peaks

  11. Getting close to Silverton - the mountains get steadily higher

  12. Tea, cake and sherry mid-afternoon snack at our B&B

  13. Our congenial and chatty hostess. She recently retired from teaching kindergarten in Texas, and made the huge move to Silverton B&B manager. She lives now (as of a month ago!) in Silverton, year-round, except for November when she returns to her now rented house in Texas and stays in a room put aside for her that she turned into a little studio. She wants us to tell everyone to visit Silverton in the winter so she won't be alone! Silverton is a summertime tourist town; it is still waiting for the ski resort thing to take off. They've been waiting ten years.

  14. All over this part of Colorado, old skis are used as whimsical structural elements. You see a lot of this in Telluride - benches made out of skis, and so on.

  15. If you're looking for peace, it's been located.

  16. Now begins the 10,000 shots of little Silverton, ringed by mountains like Telluride.

  17. Courthouse

  18. Newer construction

  19. One of the two or three long streets that run through "downtown", looking towards the mountains that hold the latent ski resort

  20. Old west - Silverton (as the name implies) is another old mining town, although I don't think much silver at all was ever mined there

  21. The colors are almost shocking in the clear blue summer afternoon

  22. I am not sure why they put an egg on top of the courthouse

  23. If you really want to live in two old train cars in Silverton, you can snap these up for $250,000. They sit about a block from our B&B.

  24. It must be late afternoon on Sunday

  25. The Shady Lady Saloon is quiet

  26. These don't look like tourist traps, but regular ranch horses, led by regular ranch woman

  27. In Silverton, every other building is decorated with American flags (likely for the upcoming July 4 holiday), unlike the Tibetan Prayer Flags of Telluride

  28. I went into many of the dozen or more touristy shops, but my shopping energy ran out before I checked out the Arcade. I did find a delightful blue shirt made in New Zealand or something that I bought.

  29. On our way to dinner, we stumbled on the local brass band. They play every Sunday evening, standing in a circle, dressed up all old-timey.

  30. It's hard to get pictures of people standing in a circle with their backs to you

  31. Early Monday morning, I went for a walk out of town, walking up the road towards the ski mountain

  32. The views were fabulous

  33. This picture makes Silverton look larger than it is - it is actually tiny

  34. I thought I would remember the names of peaks (this information I gleaned while in town), but alas, such is not the case

  35. Ski at your own risk. I liked the admontion to USE COMMON SENSE. You don't see that on official government signs often. It strikes me it might be a good thing to add to many signs.

  36. We happily made the genius decision to take the Gold Mine Tour, about a 20 minute drive out of town. Carless, as we had taken the train to Silverton, our B&B hostess drove us out and picked us up afterwards.

  37. Our tour guide show us some of the old tools

  38. Modern-day miners. Nothing fell on us apart from a bit of drizzle. It's amazing how water seeps through rock, no matter how hard the rock looks.

  39. Our guide demonstrates the sort of lamp the miners used.

  40. The miners used quite a bit of serious equipment to blast tunnels and passageways and then to cart rock out of the mountain.

  41. The loo. Funny stories about how you don't want to toss a lit cigarette butt into the hole where other sorts of butts perch.

  42. We survived the tour!

  43. Farewell to Silverton

Marianne Mueller
Last modified: July 14, 2006 (Happy Bastille Day, all you Francophiles and people who remember that the US and France used to be revolutionary buddies)