Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More from Durango


20170915_174818                                    Durango-Silverton Railway as seen from the Animas River Trail

Our second week here is about to come to a close. As we’ve thought previously, this is a good place to spend some time, and we’re glad we stayed at the Fairgrounds again. You never know who your next-door neighbors might be.

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And we’ve had almost nightly visitors that knock over trash cans looking for leftovers. Unfortunately we have not seen the bear or bears responsible. The first can is very close to our site but we apparently slept right through the pillage. The second can is near the entrance to the RV area. Our neighbor peeked out and saw a bear with its head in the can one night. I wish the county would invest in bear-proof cans, since this situation never turns out well for the bear.

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Durango’s downtown has some lovely tree-lined streets and good looking old houses.

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After our hike in Silverton with Mark and Bobbie last week, Jim was having some Achilles tendon pain but it seemed to go away so a couple days later we decided to play pickleball at the Recreation Center. Not having played since we were at Jojoba Hills back in April, it was probably not the best idea to play for over two hours, but we were having too much fun. After we finished Jim’s leg was bothering him much more, so he’s been taking some time off from walking, hiking and biking. His leg is feeling better each day so he hopes it will continue to improve.

He did manage to replace the torn boot on the Blue Ox hitch, and discovered the beginnings of a tear in the other one. The boots come in a two-pack, so after we struggled with getting the first one on he did the second one without too much trouble. Trying to get the heavy rubber boot over the larger knuckle was quite a challenge, even with lots of silicone spray as a lubricant. After a phone call to Blue Ox with the advice to use pliers with care, Jim remembered he had some with smooth plastic covers and was able to grasp the bottom of the boot and pull it down, then push it on the rest of the way. I think the only injury incurred was a bruised shoulder. Nothing is ever easy.

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As much as I hated leaving Jim home alone, on Monday I drove 40 miles north to Little Molas Lake for another hike with Mark and Bobbie, this time on the Colorado Trail. Jim and I had done a short hike there in 2012 on our first visit to Durango, but we got turned back by thunder and rain. Despite the weather that day it was such a beautiful area I have always wanted to return and was thrilled to finally get the chance.

Although there was no chance of rain we met at 9AM, meaning I had to leave before 8. Not wanting to be late I didn’t have time to stop for photos but the golden aspen leaves were so dramatic in the morning light. I figured I would just stop on the way home and hope they looked as pretty in the afternoon. Good call, since even though I arrived 8 minutes early, as I figured Mark and Bobbie’s Subaru was already in the parking lot. The thermometer registered 37 degrees, a bit colder than I care for, but I was layered up, knowing we would be starting off at 10,800’. We had some good thunderstorms the previous day and on into the evening, and there was still a lot of hail on the ground on the first part of the trail through the woods. The trail gained elevation right from the start so we warmed up quickly.

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Soon we were out on the open trail with abundant sunshine. It was a glorious day, one that really makes you happy to be alive.

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You can see Bobbie’s hiking pole pointing out Engineer Mountain, which they have summited in the past.

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This area was part of the 1879 Lime Creek Burn, a fire that incinerated 26,000-acres of forest. I hate it for the forest, but the barren landscape sure makes for some fine scenery.

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A rare photo of Mark smiling. Can’t remember what I said to make them laugh.

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At the trailhead we met a couple of nice guys from Taos, New Mexico, just heading off on mountain bikes, their first time in the area. They did a lot of walking their bikes uphill, having a hard time with the elevation even though Taos is at 7,000’. We caught up with them several times on the climbs and I think one of them was wishing he had left the bike behind and just hiked instead. We saw them again going back downhill and they were having a much better time.

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A snack break at 4.25 miles, with Bobbie studying her map, led to a discussion about continuing on. I was feeling good since the uphill was not seriously steep, and you know these two wanted to keep going, so on we went.

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When we passed the 5 mile mark I decided it was time to turn back. Bobbie wanted to go on just a bit farther but it was downhill and I knew coming back would not be fun. Thankfully Mark was kind and sided with me. I know this was a very mellow hike for them, climbing “only” 1,500’ altogether, but the distance made up for the lack of difficulty.

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Although all the wildflowers were gone, there still was plenty of color in the landscape.

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Heading back down we passed a thru-hiker on day 41 of his 486 mile hike. He said the worst part of the hike was dodging all the lightning, rain, and waking up to snow. Starting just southwest of Denver, the Colorado trail crosses five mountain ranges, ending in Durango. He was just a few days from the end, and looking forward to the free beer that Carver Brewing Co. gives to those who finish.

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We also met a young couple mountain biking with a cute dog from Jackson, WY. Although Jackson is certainly a beautiful place to live, they were blown away by the trail and the views and said they had never seen anything like it before.

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For more photos and a more literary version of our hike, check out Box Canyon Blog. I also want to thank Mark for not taking my picture when I slipped and fell in the mud Smile

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I was too tired on the way home to stop for photos of the aspens, but I did take a few shots out the dirty windshield.

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Since I didn’t feel like cooking dinner, and having been to Ska Brewery, which we really like, a few days earlier, after I got cleaned up we went downtown to Steamworks Brewing Co., tasty beer and a great quinoa burger with roasted garlic mashed potatoes. A fine end to the day.

Today we move on to Cortez, our last stop before leaving Colorado.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Back to Durango, CO

                                                                  

20170908_083412                                                                            Animas River

Since we had to cross 10,800’ Wolf Creek Pass on the way to Durango, I drove the car separately and  hooked it up when we got to Pagosa Springs at the bottom of the pass. It was the first time we’ve hooked up in months, since every move we’ve made this summer has taken us over high elevation passes, made much easier without the Subaru being pulled behind the Lazy Daze. It’s also easier on Jim not having to listen to me tell him how to drive on those steep winding roads.

While getting the tow bar in place Jim discovered a big tear in one of the rubber boots covering an arm. I used Gorilla Tape to temporarily fix it but he ordered a new one at a local RV place after we arrived. We’ll pick it up today and hopefully Jim can replace it himself.

We stayed at La Plata County Fairgrounds when we visited Durango in 2015 and it hasn’t changed. Still $16.50/night with water and electric but no dump. The  free city dump station at the sewage treatment plant is closed while a new plant is being built, but we hear there is one at a nearby gas station. There are only 6 sites, which have been filled most every night.

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What this place lacks in ambiance it makes up for in location. Just next door is the wonderful Durango Recreation Center, which we’ve used several times. Just behind the Rec Center is the Animas River Trail, an 8 mile paved trail along the river that we’ve either walked or biked almost daily.

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We’ve walked the couple miles to downtown twice so far, once to the Saturday farmer’s market, and another evening to Carver Brewing Company for dinner. We stopped by there for happy hour the day we arrived and were given coupons for a couple free beers since the bartender/manager didn’t charge us happy hour prices. She would have changed it but asked if we were going to be in town for awhile and would we like to come back for a free beer. Sounded good to us. Their IPA and stout on nitro were both very good, as was the very tasty 13% ABV Imperial Russian Stout. With such a high alcohol content we had to split that one.

Yesterday we drove 47 miles north to Silverton to meet up with our Ouray friends Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie. The weather forecast was calling for afternoon thunderstorms so we met them at 9:30 at the visitor center and let Mark drive us the 9 miles to the Highland Mary Lakes trailhead up a rough dirt road with a couple of stream crossings. We always marvel at the places Mark will drive their Subaru.

We were surprised by how much the aspen leaves are changing at the higher elevations.

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Hwy 550 is down to one lane for construction about two miles from Silverton so we got delayed for about 10 minutes. At least it was a scenic spot to wait.

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The Highland Mary Lakes trail starts in Cunningham Gulch at an elevation of 10,700’. You know it’s going to be a beautiful hike when the scenery at the trailhead looks like this.

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The trail immediately starts climbing through the forest, but there were plenty of photo ops along the way for us to stop and catch our breath.

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Bobbie could use some longer legs.

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There were many steep climbs but usually after it would level out for a short time.

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It was surprisingly warm for September at such a high elevation, but an absolutely gorgeous day.

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Well, except for those dark clouds beginning to form.

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Although we were almost to the first lake, Jim decided he wasn’t in the mood for tackling these rocks. Bobbie said it was less than 100 yards of it but to me it felt like a hundred miles across.

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Jim played with pikas while we went on to the lakes.

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Only about 1.75 miles to the first lakes, but it seemed longer due to almost 1,400’ of climbing.

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It was worth every step and gasp for breath.

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Happy hikers Mark and Bobbie. This was probably the easiest hike they’ve done all summer.

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Had the weather cooperated it would have been nice to continue on another mile to Verde Lake. You can also make a loop of 7.5 miles. It thundered just as we were heading to the second lake so we thought it wise to turn back. Luckily we did, as the rain and hail started just a couple miles from the trailhead on our way back to Silverton, hail that accumulated on the road like snow.

We capped off the day with a pizza and beer at Avalanche Brewing Co. It was a great day and we hope to try and meet up for one more hike before we leave Durango next week.

This is why I don’t take many selfies!

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On the way home we stopped at an overlook to take a few more photos. It is just so very picturesque around these parts.

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