Oh, how I miss my mountains! I grew up in a small town near the New Mexico/Colorado state line. My childhood weekends were spent driving and hiking through the southwestern Colorado mountains, and growing up I never thought there would come a day when I wouldn't live within a drivable distance to them. Alas, move away I did, but my love for the mountains never changed. Luckily, my family still lives there so I get to visit my beloved Rocky Mountains almost every time I visit home.
Every Fourth of July for as long as I can remember, my family packs up into a couple of cars and takes what we call "the loop." This is a daylong drive that takes us from Durango, Colorado through Cortez - Rico - Telluride - Ouray before circling back down through Silverton and ending back in Durango. It's an absolutely gorgeous drive, but one that really takes a lot out of you if you don't get an early start. This year, we were a little pressed for time so we settled for the shorter drive to Ouray and back.
Our first stop was in my favorite little one house town, Silverton. This small town was established in 1874 as a mining camp for the several silver mines that were scattered around the nearby mountains. It's one of the highest towns in the United States, sitting at just over 9,300 feet above sea level.
The nearby mines have been long abandoned, but Silverton still attracts people from all over the world because of its connection to the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. In operation since 1881, the narrow gauge originally functioned to deliver supplies to the miners in Silverton while transporting the minerals and silver from the mines back down to the more cosmopolitan Durango. While it has always served to some extent as a passenger train, these days it almost solely serves to take tourists and locals for a scenic trip through the beautiful mountains. We were lucky to arrive just as the trains were departing, which gave my young nieces a thrill! It also cleared the town out for us - no waiting in line for lunch for this family! Yay!
Speaking of lunch, how perfect is this menu? You know you're near my hometown when you find references to green chile, elk, and buffalo all on one page! YUM! It's one of the few restaurants in town, and definitely my mother's favorite. My dad is less enthused (I think he just misses his sopapillas). ; )
One fun fact - Silverton becomes very desolate in the winter months. The highway is usually impassable, rendering its residents sometimes stranded until the snow melts or is cleared. Olympic gold medalist, Shaun White, took advantage of the fresh powder and isolation by making Silverton his home as he prepared for the 2010 Winter Olympics (for which he took home the gold). Pretty cool claim to fame, little Silverton. You can read more about Shaun's secret half-pipe and watch the video here.
More to come about my day trip to the mountains!
Until next time ---