Tag Archives: Durango CO

Day 548 of Life on the Road as a Family, Durango to Ouray

Dan decided that he wanted to ride his bike from Durango to Ouray, 66 miles away.  There was no way the kids and I would even consider it, so we wished him well.  He left at 5:30 a.m. on Eliza’s bike, which has 21 gears, weighs 30 pounds, and will fit on the tow vehicle’s car rack when we meet him in Ouray to give him a ride back.  With the additional water, he was probably carrying another 10 pounds of water.  Ouch!

The kids and I left at 8 a.m. to find Potato Lake, supposedly an easy 2+ mile loop a few miles off the main highway.  The website said you needed a 4-wheel drive, but we really wanted to see the lake, so we took our little Fiesta and drove as far back as we could then parked it and got out and walked the road.  There were many other vehicles parked like ours, and rental Jeeps passed us a few times.

IMG_9846I really like this picture because of the kids, the beautiful lake and view,  AND the fact that the unmarked trailhead is behind me, and we didn’t know, so we hiked 8.5 miles round trip trying to find it!  Up and down a huge hill in heat so hot Nate took our handkerchiefs, climbed up to a little creek, and got them wet so we could wear them around our necks.  We kept going because we wanted the exercise and the views were so good we couldn’t stop. The only reason we finally turned around was that we knew Dan was riding to Ouray and we didn’t want him to beat us.

He beat us!  We had to drive up and over the two passes that he rode, and we couldn’t believe he’d done it.  He gained over 7,500′ on both passes and again, our little car could barely make it up these huge mountains. Plus, the road was on the edge a few times and I was scared even driving it.  I couldn’t imagine riding it and having cars pass quickly on my left.  People drove like maniacs, too.  I had a semi pass me on a long corner and all I could do was slow down to let him go and shake my head. Double yellow line at 11,000′.  Crazy.

IMG_0068Here’s the little town of Ouray, nestled in the mountains.  When we were here before we hiked all over town and up into the mountains, but this time we just looked at it and headed to…

IMG_9924Ouray Hot Springs!  Heaven!  The hottest area of the pool was only 103 degrees, but it felt great for all of us. Dan had ridden the 66 miles in 6 1/2 hours and we had hiked the 8.5 miles in under 3 hours, so we were all sore.  We did the slides a few times, but the kids wouldn’t climb up on the water trampoline with me, and I was so nice, I didn’t do it by myself and embarass them.  I did swim laps for a 1/2 mile in the lanes and it was heaven, too, but I knew everyone was ready to head home, so I quit and headed over to them.

We did the 66 miles back to Durango with the windows down, the hot wind blowing in,  and Nate trying to figure out how to shove one more pretzel stick in his mouth.  He made it to 66 and I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.  That’s what this trip of a lifetime is all about – fun, sun and memories made during yet another spectacular day.  Go live your dream.  I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

Day 545 of Life on the Road as a Family, the Durango to Silverton Railroad!


We’ve waited 17 years to ride this train with our kids! in 1998 when Dan and I came through the area, we said, “someday, we will come back here and take our (hoped for-prayed for) kids on this train. And today is the day!

IMG_9474Dan, Nate and Eliza at 7:30 in the morning, ready for our 8 a.m. departure. (They want you there early!)  If you go, buy tickets way in advance for Gondola Car 1, seats 1 – 20.  You get the best view of the gorge and river on the 45 mile ride to Silverton, less coal dust on your face, and you get the sun in the afternoon on the way back.  We were in seats 30-34, so we spent a lot of time turned around looking over the other people’s shoulders for views of the river, but we didn’t care!  People were really nice to each other and the views of the canyon were gorgeous no matter where you looked.  Everyone in our car stood up for most of the day, too, leaning way out to take pictures of friends and the view.

IMG_9508Like this.  Heaven.  Perfect temperature, sunny, no rain.

The railroad track was originally called the Silverton Branch and was built by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway from 1881-1882.  The mineral riches in Silverton (get the name?!) had been their goal since 1876 and men were fighting over who would get there first.  Deep in the San Juan mountains, riding this train is the popular way to see this view.  We saw two kayakers and have a friend who ran it years ago, but it’s even so remote that it’s hard to hike into, so we felt lucky to finally get to see it.  Another friend of mine told me later that he’d never seen the water this high here, ever.  (Thank you Colorado for the wettest May on record.)

The coal-powered train winds and climbs for 3 1/2 hours, with beautiful views the whole way, before you get off in the dumpy little town of Silverton.  It hasn’t had anything good happen to it since we were there in 1998, which is sad after all the growth we saw on the front range of Colorado.  The couple who own the railroad now are buying the oldest hotel in town to restore it and hopefully have it become a destination resort, but for now the town is full of tourist souvenir shops, a few places to eat, and tons of boarded up old buildings.  The railroad runs over 200,000 people through Silverton each year and we did our best to leave some cash for the locals so they can survive the winter.

IMG_9538Mt. Garfield on the trip back to Durango.  Half our car took naps after lunch – it was warm, they had full bellies, and the train really does lull you by rocking.  I took the cutest picture of my family sleeping but they’d be unhappy with me if I posted it here, darn!

IMG_9690The railroad track was originally built as 35 gauge,which is really narrow,  but now it’s 85 gauge.  We saw pieces of the track lying off to the side and when we were on the edge of the cliff like this, I was grateful for the heavier track!

IMG_9747And last but not least, here’s the corny picture taken by the professional photographer on the train that we paid $35 for!  It would have been nice if she would have told me that I had coal dust all over my face, but I still love it because it represents 17 years of dreaming of taking this trip with our kids and it was a perfect day, to be remembered long into our future.