Sunday, July 25, 2010

Days 5 & 6~Durango~A Wild Hair

The first thing that George wanted to do today was shoot video of something.

Can you guess what George would want to videotape?

Three guesses:

1) The picturesque Durango countryside?


2) His very lovely wife?


3) The local Wifi McDonald's?

No, again!

Of course, it's none other than the D&S train!
He wanted to capture the sound (and video) of the train departing the depot on its way to the Tall Timbers Depot and Silverton.

He shot video and I took some pictures.

This is the train switching tracks so it can
back up and hook to the rest of the cars.

A much different D&S train!

After our D&S photo shoot, we wandered through some of the downtown shops again. We thought about doing some more hiking but we weren't sure if there were any decent trails in Durango, and it was already much hotter than the day of our Piedra Falls hike.

We finally decided to go to Mesa Verde National Park and tour the ancestral Puebloans cliff dwellings. If it's too hot to hike, why not wander around in a desert atmosphere instead! When we approached the park, we were told that there was a bad accident on the road leading up to the cliff dwellings. The clean up would leave us sitting for at least an hour so we opted to forego that adventure. Not a problem!

Driving back to Durango, I got a wild hair, and suggested we pack up and drive to Colorado Springs. George was on board so we went back to our room, gathered our stuff, and headed east.

It was approximately 300 miles
and took us four hours or so.

I posted on Facebook that our wild hair was taking us to Colorado Springs. In response, my friend, Crystl V., left a comment suggesting that we check out Manitou Springs, and the nearby train that could take us up to Pike's Peak! A train? That's right up our track!

We had to head back to Texas the next day, but before we did, we explored Crystl's suggestion. It was a great one too, especially the Manitou Springs part! It's a very hip, artsy, funky town, and I loved it!

The streets were filled with many very cool shops!

A pottery contest of some sort
was taking place under a pavilion.

Check out the bike this guy is riding!
Now that's what I call front wheel drive!

We bought tickets for a 1:20 ride on the Cog train to Pike's Peak, so after a very yummy lunch at the Townhouse Lounge, we headed to the nearby train station. The train climbed the mountain very slowly!

The critters were close to the
top of Pike's Peak, and the snow
and scenery were at the top.

It was cold & windy up there too!

We saw cars arriving at Pike's Peak, and decided that if we ever had to do it again, we'd drive because we would probably see more that way!

When we got off the train,
we headed back to Texas!

It was a fabulous trip!

We both loved it, and can't wait to go back!

My favorite parts of the trip: Zip lining, hiking, and Manitou Springs.

George's favorites: Zip lining and hiking!

With Durango Smiles,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Durango~Day 4 ~ Pagosa Springs and Hiking to Piedra Falls

We decided to check out Pagosa Springs on day 4. As soon as we got into town, we stopped at the Visitor Center. One of the first brochures we saw was for Driving Tours & Hiking Trails, and we decided hiking might be fun.

After lunch and some shopping, we decided on the Piedra Falls hiking trail and headed out. It was a 23-mile drive through the middle of NOWHERE to get to the hiking trail.

On our way to the trail, we spotted
this path. It led to the edge of a
cliff so we stopped and walked down.
The dot at the top of the path is our vehicle.

The path led us here.

Notice the chains on the edge where
a rock climber climbed up or down.
I had some fear of height issues here!

As we drove toward the hiking trail, I was a little worried about running into a bear. Since we'd been in Colorado, we heard bear stories from our zip lining Sky Rangers. They walked a mile to work and back, and ran into bears nearly every day. We saw posters in stores about dealing with bear attacks, and it seemed bear talk was every where.

About the time we arrived at the trail, I remembered that I was wearing a brand new pair of WHITE Easy Spirit SLIP-ON Sneakers.

Isn't that what all the experienced hikers wear?

I took comfort in knowing that I could pull them off quickly in the even that I need to beat up a bear with one (or two). These hiking sneakers could come in very handy!

Easy Spirit sounds hikey too, doesn't it? Hikey is my new made-up word. It's a good thing they were white too because I would need my feet to be color coordinated with the snow if we ran into a blizzard. I don't want to look down in the middle of a whiteout and see a hot mess on my feet!

Okay, seriously--I had no idea we'd be hiking when I left the room that morning.

When we arrived at the trail, there were about seven or eight cars there. Between the fact that there were other people hiking, and I was wearing my quick-draw shoes, I abandoned my bear fears.

As we walked the path, we passed families with children and other folks. Not one of them had on White Easy Spirit Slip-On Sneakers. Morons!

A babbling stream on our hiking path.
It reminded me of me.
George trucking along.
Notice he's wearing white sneakers too!
His don't slip off easily for bear beating though.

Approaching the falls!
Think Pink Panther music.

Here it is, Peidra Falls.
Not exactly Niagara Falls but another one
of God's amazing creations nonetheless!
It sang a beautiful, powerful, gushing song!

We paused at this tree...
(pause pause pause pause) our white hiking footwear.
(pause pause pause pause)
(blah, blah, blah, blah)

When we got back in our vehicle
and headed out, we saw these deer.

And cattle in the road too.
I LOVED hiking and I want to do it again! It was refreshing and the weather was perfect! We picked an easy, short hike (20 minutes or so each way) which was good because it was after 4:00 when we got to the trail.

We would like to go hiking the next time we go back. Next time, we'll be hiking-boot ready and a longer hike would be nice! We've got our eye on the Piedra River hike. We saw the spot where it starts, and it is just past the cliffs where we stopped and took pictures above.

Here's the description of that hike:

The upper terminus of the trail begins on the Piedra Road about 16 miles north of Pagosa Springs. After crossing the Piedra River, you will notice the trailhead parking lot ahead of you on the left. The trail starts on the canyon rim and then descends to the river. Sheer cliffs rise on both sides for over several hundred yards. (I think that's the cliffs in the pic above.) This is an easy trail for young and old alike if you only go the 3.5 miles to the foot bridge across the Piedra. For a longer hike, follow the river for another 8.5 miles. The trail passes several cool box canyons to end at the bridge on the First Fork of the Piedra Road. Shuttle a vehicle to the First Fork Bridge for the longer hike.

I'm thinking start early, pack a picnic lunch, and take the longer hike.

Next up Days 5 and 6!

Hiking a Smile,

Friday, July 23, 2010

Durango~Day 3~A Trip to Silverton and Ouray

The Durango & Silverton train that took us to zip line is named that because, get this, it goes from Durango to Silverton and back every day! How clever! Since we didn't ride the train all the way to Silverton, we decided to drive to Silverton the next day.

On our way, we stopped at various
lookout spots to take pictures.

The drive was beyond picturesque! Something gorgeous was around every one of the many turns along the way! At one stopping point just above Silverton, we could see the railroad tracks below and hear the train whistle.

Of course, we waited for it so that we could take pictures from that vantage point. We took quite a few pics but I'm only posting one. I don't want anybody to be on train picture overload since the previous posts were full of train photos!

While waiting for the train at the above location, we talked to a guy who lives in Wasilla, Alaska. He was born and raised in Silverton. I asked him which place had more snow, and I was a little surprised when he told me Colorado!

Below is the entire town of Silverton.
At this point, we were only a winding
curve and descending hill away!

We're there!

We walked all over town and shopped!

Silverton is quite small with only three main roads, and eight or nine crossroads. As far as I can tell, there's only one way in and out of town too.
I could truly feel the old west as we wandered the streets. I pictured cowboys riding into town on their horses and tying up in front of a saloon. I was completely intrigued and even more so when I got back to the room that night and read about The Badlands of Blair Street in the literature. Blair Street is one of the three main streets. It's an outer street and located on the southeast side.

Behind mining, saloons were
Silverton's second largest industry, and i
n a three block section on Blair Street, there were 34 saloons and bordellos! I can't imagine! Some of those had to be pretty small places! In addition, there were gambling houses.

Most of the miners were young and single, and spent their time and money on Blair Street. Gambling and bordellos were illegal, however, as long as the activity stayed to the east of Greene Street (the middle road), most of the residents overlooked it.

Train again!
Of course, we had to have
a pic of it stopped in town!
I don't know if you can see it or not but the tracks end where the train is stopped. How do they turn it around?

The town's three churches were
all in the same area, and
two blocks over from Blair Street.

The Wyman Hotel and Inn.If you're interested in some Wyman history,
local activities, or the like, click here.
This pretty stream was on a
little dead-end side street!

On our way out of town, we spotted
this stage coach. I wish we'd have
seen it earlier so we could have
taken one of the $5.00 rides!

After leaving Silverton, we drove to Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway. It's a 23-mile section of US 550 but the 12-mile stretch just before Ouray was the most harrowing experience of my life!


It was frightening and truly tested my FEAR of heights. I failed the test, and I don't care! It was a nightmare! I zip lined without fear but this highway was an entirely different story!

The road zigzags back and forth on the edge of a cliff with very few guard rails! In fact, in many instances, the edge of the cliff was where the line on the right side of the road should be.

There wasn't an inch of wiggle room!

When I could actually look (and that wasn't often), the scenery was breathtaking. Unfortunately, the drive was stealing my breath, not the scenery! To read some reviews about the Million Dollar Highway, click here.

Finally, we stopped just
Ouray, and here it is!

Ouray is a little bigger than Silverton.

These were parked on
the side of a building.
I thought they were very cool!

We got to Ouray around 4:00 in the afternoon. Bands were beginning to play on outdoor patios and the main street was buzzing with folks. A TV station was broadcasting from the street. Ouray was a stop for groups of bicyclers on a journey through Colorado, and the TV station was reporting on them.

Initially, I couldn't shake the thought of having to drive back on the Million Dollar Highway. I eventually calmed down after realizing that we'd be driving against the mountain on the way back and not on the edge. It's still scary but much better!

We wandered through a lot of stores but only stayed in Ouray for an hour or so. I would like to go back when we can spend more time but not on the Million Dollar Highway!

Click here to go to another post that has a video of the Million Dollar Highway. I watched many YouTube videos but I couldn't really find one that did true justice to that section of highway. The link to the video above gives you a fairly decent idea though!

Next up, Day 4!
I'll try to get it posted soon!

Simply Smilin'

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drive from Silverton to Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway

This YouTube video is obviously shot from an RV and most of it is not on the scary side of the road. ( I think they may have started filming after they finished the scariest section.) You can get a pretty good idea of what it's like to be traveling next to the edge of the cliff after they go under the first bridge. They have some good footage of the other side of the road!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Durango ~ Day 2 ~ Zip Lining with Soaring Tree Top Adventures

Yahoo! This was the day we were scheduled to zip line with Soaring Tree Top Adventures. I was really looking forward to it but I confess that when I first woke up, I vacillated between nervous and excited. After all, I was going to jump out of trees tethered to a cable! It's just not my typical day.

To top that off, let me tell you here and now that I'm afraid of heights! Big time! I can't even watch a TV show where someone is on the edge of a building or a cliff or even standing on a little bitty foot stool.

I get panicky!
I hyperventilate!
I break out in a sweat!

Even writing about it here causes me to envision that I'll tumble out of this desk chair and plummet four feet to my death! Right in the middle of typing a sentence!

I don't know why my fear of heights doesn't apply to zip lining though. I think there's something about the security of the harness that makes me feel better or perhaps it's the coziness of the gorgeous trees that erases my fear. After all, I do love trees and maybe their beauty takes my mind off of falling.  I don't know.

By the way, just for the record--my nervousness quickly gave way to complete excitement before we even left the room! It was a little cool outside but the sun was shining. Perfect weather for soaring through Ponderosa Pines and Aspen trees of course!

There is no road access to Soaring Tree Top Adventures. The only way to get there is by taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train. We love trains so that was right up our alley, or should I say right on our track.

The train departed on time at 8:15. When I booked it, the gal told me to sit on the right side of the train because it was the most scenic and we did. It was an excellent and very true tip!

This was the view from our seats inside
the train--Hollywood memorabilia
from movies that featured the train.

A train photographer took our picture.
You know what song I hear
when I look at this picture?

Sunshine on my shoulders,
Makes me happy!

John Denver singing in my ears!

I cozied up to the window,
opened it wide,
and took pictures of the
extraordinary views all the way.

I leaned out the window to take
this pic of the train moving
very slowly around the bend.
No fear either!

I love it!

Stunning countryside around every turn!
The closer we got, the more the sun disappeared leaving us with skies that were quite overcast but we didn't care!  To us, it was still perfect weather for zip lining!

After a captivating two-hour train trip, we arrived at our Soaring destination, the Tall Timbers Depot.

We were greeted by a group of Sky Rangers that would fit us into our harnesses and guide us throughout the experience. The first thing we did was fill out the legal stuff and pick out our lunch. Next, we were fitted into our comfy harnesses and educated about what to do and what not to do.

The starter tree was conveniently connected to a small building. Inside, we climbed a few steps, went out a door, and crossed an iron walkway that took us to our tree top starting place where I was about 8th in line and George was right behind me. They hooked me to the cable and told me to go.

I flew exactly like a bird connected
to a wire, hooked to a cable,
linked to a harness and
it was great fun indeed!

The first few trees were shorter spans so
that we could get accustomed to the ride.

On many of the zips, we got 
to go first or second.
After a few zips, it started to rain a little. We even had a few seconds of hail but it never felt very cold or interfered with our Soaring experience! To us, it was still perfect weather for soaring through Ponderosa Pines and Aspen trees!

This is Aspen Alley, a very long
and narrow clearing of trees.
I'm the pink dot
in the middle.

George zipping in Aspen Alley.
Does he look laid back or what?

I had George take the camera
with him which explains why
he's not in many pictures!

Zippity do dah,
Zippity aye,
My oh my!
What a wonderful day

Our lunch was quite tasty and especially
the homemade ice cream for dessert!

The zips after lunch all
crisscrossed the Animas River.
Can you see the zip lines running 
back and forth above the river?

Off again!

George snapped a picture of this show off
as he passed him going the other way!
As we neared the end, the sun came
back out for our train ride home.

In the end, there were a
total of 24 zips and 32 platforms.
It was an awesome, very fun experience,
and I want to do it again!
In one of the pictures above, I refer to the folks with their backs to us as "employees" but instead of Sky Rangers. Whoops! I wasn't about to redo that collage since I just now discovered it. 

We asked one of the Sky Rangers when was the best time to come when it wouldn't be crowded. He told us that they're open from April through October, and suggested September because it might still be warm. He added that May or the beginning of June is good too. Their busiest time is from mid-June (we just beat the rush) through the end of August.

Before we started zipping, they told us they had a guest video camera that we could pass around to take video of each other which they later post on YouTube. Apparently, they only select a few minutes of video to post from the entire day, and it just so happens that I'm the only person on the video that you actually see zip line! I was quite surprised! At the very end of the video, you can catch a quick glimpse of George walking through the woods in front of me. Other than that it's me zip lining, and a family from Alabama (Cowboys fans too) talking.

The video is below! I'll post Day 3 of our trip soon!

With Soaring Smiles,