Click for larger imageI spent today riding the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The 121 year old line runs from Durango to Silverton, Colorado (hence the very clever name) and uses steam locomotives built in the 1920's.  Built to supply mining towns and haul away the ore, the line now supplies tourists to T-shirt and fudge shops.

My parents are fans of the railroad and brought us here as children.  I can't recall whether I was more excited by the train or the ghost towns and abandoned mines on the mountains. 

The route from Durango to Silverton follows the Animas River and at times clings to the sides of cliffs while the river thunders below.  Describing the scenery is nearly impossible.  Like Montana and Yellowstone Park, Colorado offers beauty so astounding it can only truly be understood through experience.

Click for larger imageSilverton rests in a valley between mountain peaks reaching over 12,000 feet high.  The valley is astonishingly beautiful:  tall peaks reaching high above the tree line, green forests and meadows, waterfalls and wildflowers  The town, like so many others in Colorado, would be a ghost town save for the railroad.  Three trains deliver hundreds of tourists each day during the summer, arriving in time for lunch and leaving in the early afternoon.

Nearly all the tourists arriving on the train spend their two hour stopover roaming Silverton's main street, browsing curio shops, candy stores and "Olde Tyme Photographers".  While I'm certain there is a certain allure to T-shirts embroidered with "Silverton" which look exactly like the shirts forty-five miles away emblazoned with "Durango" the best parts of the city aren't anywhere near the main street.

Click for larger imageChrist of the Mines gazes down at Silverton from his perch on a hill high above.  For those of us conditioned to breath at the ocean's edge, Silverton's 9,000 foot elevation makes physical effort more challenging.  I hike up the hill to Jesus only to find myself gasping for air when I reach his sandaled feet.  Jesus and I share a spectacular view:  the mountains all around with the remnants of old mines, the buildings of Silverton, the waiting trains and the votive candles placed around the edges of his patio.  I'm the only tourist to make the climb to visit the marble Son of God and I'm glad I came.  (Although I really do wonder if he used a curling iron for that beard...) 

Click for larger imageThe train, like the airlines, has failed to realize a simple truth:  Americans are fat.  The theatres in London's West End closed last year to put in larger seats to accommodate American's expanding asses.  Why then, don't business realize you can't pack three American adults in a bench 45 inches wide (or a single adult in one of those silly coach airline seats)? On the return trip I'm wedged between a 400 pound gentleman to my left and a 300 pound gentleman to my right.  They are as uncomfortable as I am, but the train is packed with heavyset tourists and the only alternative is to stand for the entire three hour journey.  Late I find an empty seat in the front coach near a man possessed of telling jokes that just aren't funny at a volume sufficient to ensure the entire coach hears him.  I slowly realize I forgot to light a votive candle and this may well be retribution.  Damn!  I knew I should be carrying my Saint Tess L'Coil candles!

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July as indicated by a giant Christmas-light flag perched on a hill above Durango.  In the morning, I leave Colorado and head to the land of polygamy and shuttle-rocket boosters.
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