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
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
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
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.
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
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.