Durango

Aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway.

We departed Farmington and New Mexico for a one-day diversion to Durango, Colorado. The two towns are roughly a 60 minute drive apart, but they are as different as Earth and Mars. Downtown Durango is very much a tourist town now, with a plethora of shops and restaurants, venues sorely lacking in Farmington. The latter was a good location for what we wanted to accomplish in the area, but don’t go there expecting a lot of amenities.

The reason for the detour to Durango was to take a ride on the narrow gauge railway that runs between Durango and the old mining town of Silverton. The railroad was originally built to service the mines in the late 1800s, but it is now a tourist thing. You can take it all the way to Silverton, but that is an all-day trip. We opted for a five-hour trip. It stopped in Cascade, which is in the San Juan National Forest. There was a spur that allowed the engineer to back the train up and reverse course. We were able to relax by the river while they did their thing.

The scenery through the southern Rockies was the purpose of the trip, and as the photos show, it was stunning. The train passes through some spots where you could literally reach out and touch the rocks as you pass, as can be seen in the brief video below.

Here are some other images from the ride; obviously the scenery is night and day from what we saw in New Mexico. The shots below were all taken from the train. We rode in the last car, an open air gondola that allowed for good photo opportunities.

Durango, itself, as I said earlier, is very much oriented to the traveler, though it is also home to Fort Lewis College. It is all very laid back in that Colorado sort of way. We stayed at the Strater Hotel, which is a historic property that also dates back to the 1800s. The Western novelist Louis L’amour evidently wrote a lot of his books in the hotel’s room 222. I never read any of his works, but that’s pretty cool.

After the train ride we briefly strolled the downtown, which has a fairly good-sized commercial district. We stopped at the El Rancho bar for a post-train beer. Yes, another old place called El Rancho. It’s very much a locals kind of joint, so that was fun. It’s been a bar for 80 years, the barmaid told us, and was a brothel before that. Later we ate in the hotel’s steakhouse, which was pre-planned. Otherwise we would have wandered around until we got overly hungry. It’s a good town for a layover.

Jack Dempsey evidently had a bout at the bar. He was from Colorado.

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