Monday, September 29, 2014

Trails and Rails the Final Chapter. The Rail

 After our trip through the high mountains and a filling lunch it was time to catch the train home. The train however is not your ordinary modern one, this is 1800s Narrow Gage Steam Locomotive and cars. The Railroad was built to bring gold and silver ore from Animas Forks to Durango for processing. Once the mines closed down the tracks were removed between Animas Forks and Silverton, now the train is used to haul tourist and goods between Silverton and Durango. Sheryl and I thought it would be fun to catch a ride on this piece of history and her birthday was the perfect opportunity.

 Sheryl patiently waiting in the train car as I run around getting some last minute pictures before departure.

 The train follows the Animas River out of Silverton with high cliffs to one side.

 And the river to the other. The scenery was amazing as you can see.

 Being a steam engine we did actually have to stop for water part way there.

We had a great day out and did some very unique things for her birthday and one she won't soon forget.
Tomorrow we leave our little slice of heaven here in Colorado (actually the park is closing for the season) and travel into New Mexico. The weather was great for most of our stay, cool mornings and highs in the 70s, sure beat the 90s and 100s we escaped. We'll be heading down to desert area of Aztec, NM, only about 50 miles but a world away from the San Juan Mountains. We have reservations for a few days to allow us to check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument before continuing west.
Thanks for following along and we'll see you next time from, Hopefully Sunny, New Mexico.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Trails and Rails, Part Two. Animas Forks Ghost Town

 Continuing one from part one, we descended into the old mining ghost town of Animas Forks deep in the San Juan Mountains. The town began in the 1870s and continued until 1910 when the gold mining operation was no longer profitable. Animas Forks is believed to be one of the best preserved ghost towns in the country and is worth the trip to see it.

Preservation of the town is ongoing, it is not being changed in any way, only general upkeep and repairs as necessary to preserve it's history. The town is reachable by 2wd vehicles from Silverton, however the closer you get the rougher the road becomes, you just have to be careful and drive slow.
From Animas Forks our tour was almost complete, an easy drive back into Silverton along CR 2 and past some still amazing scenery.
One arriving back in Silverton, it was a leisurely lunch with new friends as we awaited the next leg of our adventure. So stay tuned and we'll wrap up Sheryl's big day out in our next post.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Trails and Rail, Part One, High Mountain Passes

 Yesterday was my Beautiful Brides 28th birthday and I wanted to do something special for her. She wanted to take a train ride on the historic Durango/Silverton Steam Train. So I did her one better and put together a 4X4 Adventure and Train Ride to celebrate her special day. The adventure started with a shuttle ride from Durango to Silverton, where we changed over to our 4X4 Vehicle (more on Mild to Wild Adventures later). Once loaded up, we began our assent out of Silverton on CR 110 towards Corkscrew Pass and Hurricane Pass.

 Even though these are county maintained roads, they are maintained primarily for the 4X4 traveler. The roads are very rough and actually require 4 Wheel Drive in many places.

 The view from Hurricane Pass. Below is an un named alpine lake, the waters were a combination of deep blue and turquoise as well as being crystal clear and burrrrr cold!

 Most of our route took us above tree line. Here the road leads us to California Pass.

 California Pass is the highest pass along the Alpine Loop. Our route this day took us on a shorter version of the 65 mile loop, but every bit as scenic as the longer version.

 Our view to the north from 13,000 plus feet.

 Looking down into California Gulch from the Pass and our next destination.

 Road through California Gulch towards Animas Forks Ghost Town. (more on Animas Forks in the next post)

 Head waters of the Animas River. This little stream will turn into class 4/5 rapids and a pretty large river as it descends below Silverton and into Durango.

 One of the many abandoned mines along our route.

One of the many scenic vistas we enjoyed.

I had been wanting to take our Jeep out to this area for a very long time, however, with much research the question still remained on if a unlifted Jeep Liberty could make it. Now after seeing the trails our Jeep would have no problem, so I may head out there one more time before we leave on Tuesday.

We had a great time, as a matter of fact, such a good time and so much adventure it can't be put into one post, so we will be breaking it up into three. Stay tuned for Part II, Animas Forks Ghost Town.
Thanks for riding along and we'll see you right back here next time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Million Dollar Day Out

 Along the Million Dollar Highway that is. U.S. 550, (nicknamed the Million Dollar Highway) begins as you travel north out of Durango, CO. This day Sheryl and I took the 550 for 70 miles from Durango to the small mountain town of Ouray, with a stopover in Silverton. The Hwy begins as four lanes for several miles.

 Then narrows to two lanes, sometimes with shoulder, sometimes not, but most always with at least a few hundred foot drop off.

 You will travel over Red Mountain Pass (named for the iron stained Red Mountain) and make your way through and by the Yankee Girl Mine. The Mine was the largest along the 550, now it is just one of many abandoned mines in the area.

 What's left of the Yankee Girl Mine town.

 Not long after the mine, you begin the decent into Silverton. Originally built to support the many mines in the area, is now mainly the beginning of the hundreds of miles of Jeep and Hiking trails in the surrounding mountains.

 Heading north out of Silverton you pass by this old abandons mine building.

 Being Fall the Aspen Trees were in full Fall dress.

 About half way between Silverton and Ouray, the mountain become more rugged (notice the lack of guardrails)

 Bear Creek Falls runs under the Hwy just before entering Ouray.

 Ouray is another small town nestled in a beautiful valley. The town is the northern entrance to the Alpine Loop Jeep Trail area.

 Another abandon mile along the  route. Missed it on the way north, but noticed it as we headed back.

 Somewhere behind those glowing mountains lies our RV, yes we still have a bit of a drive home.

The sun was going down and some dark clouds started moving in. This scene presented it 'self to us as we rounded a corner and I just had to get the shot.

The route is beyond words to describe it's beauty and definitely one of the most scenic drives in the country. Should you ever find yourself in this part of he country, it is a must do. That being said, it is very steep with many tight turns, not recommended for large RV travel, unless you have a diesel with plenty of power and a exhaust brake.
Thanks for coming along on our adventure and we'll see you right back here next time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A walk in the Wilderness

 The Weninuche Wilderness to be precise, and the walk was more like a hike. This adventure took me into the wilderness along the Vallecito River. I only had a few hours to get as far in and back out as I could, as this was a last minute decision.

 The trail takes you up very quickly along switchbacks on the west side of the mountain.

 The trail circles round to the east side of the mountain with more switchbacks and then on a more gradual decent towards the river. The river from here is still 500' down this Cliffside.

 The first view of my elusive prey.

 Once at the river, the trail follows pretty close along it's banks. I followed it for a mile or so in hopes of finding a waterfall, but alas none were to be found. However, what I did find was a wild and beautiful Rocky Mountain River.

 I stopped at various spots along the river to photograph it.

 Some were a easy step off the trail to the rivers edge and some were a scramble down a 50' ledge.

But after all the shots were taken, I was able to just kick back on a boulder in the middle of the river and enjoy the scenic beauty for a bit before heading back out.
The Weninuche wilderness is approx. 500,000 acres in the southern San Juan Mountains of Colorado. I must say the area is beautiful and very rugged as you would expect. The trail was quite rough and almost did me in, and that was only a 6 or so mile hike. I guess the fact that I haven't really hiked a trail like this one in almost 7 years and just being a tad (or more) out of shape didn't help matters any. However, it was well worth the physical struggle to see such an amazing place!!!

Thanks for taking the time to visit and we'll see you here again.