Durango

Man, we’re nailing the winter adventures this year!  Usually I’m a huge wimp in the winter, and the weekend adventure momentum wanes as the days get cold and dark.  But not this year!  We’ve had some amazing snow, I bought a warm puffy coat, and we’ve managed to get outside almost every weekend.  Hells yeah!

This week, Jordan had a work meeting in Durango, CO, which luckily butted up again our days off.  We drove out a couple days early for a weekend of trains and cross-country skiing.  We visited Durango last summer and had a great time, but the town is really incredible during the winter.  The mountains are coated with thick, powdery snow, the skies are bluebird clear, and the historic downtown is full of great breweries and restaurants.  I’m sold -- Durango is awesome.

On Saturday we cheesed it up and rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad.  It’s totally a dorky old-lady tourist trap and I loved it!  The DSNGR was constructed way back in 1882 to haul mine ores, mainly silver and gold, from the San Juan Mountains.  It twists and turns between steeps cliffs along the Animas River from Durango to the tiny mountain town of Silverton.  As the mines played out and the mining towns turned towards tourism, the route became a scenic passenger ride.  It was registered as a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s, and the 1920s locomotives used to pull the trains are still 100% coal-fired and steam-operated.  During the winter, the train runs 26 miles through the San Juan National Forest to the Cascade Canyon Wye.  It was a gorgeous, cheeseball winter wonderland.  We twisted along the icy green Animas River through a steep, snowy, pine-coated canyon.  Pretty, pretty.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

chugging through the San Juan National Forest

looking dooooown at the Animas River

We made it back to town for an epic dinner of sushi and dumplings at East by Southwest followed by beers at the Durango Brewery.  Sweetbabyjebus, this town has amazing food!  We had bubbly good wood-fired pizza at Fired Up Pizzeria and out-of-control breakfasts at the Durango Diner and Oscar's Cafe.  Seriously, we're talking life-changing hashbrowns with green chillies and cheese.  Green chillies are like the ketchup of Durango -- I need to find a vegetarian recipe, pronto!  So as much as I love Utah's red rocks, the remnant ex-Chicago-dweller in me really misses great food, real beer, and ornery nightlife.  Durango manages to perfectly nail the balance between fun outdoorsy activities and a real vibrant town culture.

beer from the Durango Brewer

On Sunday, we rented cross-country skis at the Ski Barn (great staff and supercheap $15 rentals,) and drove 18 miles north of Durango to Haviland Lake.  Jordan had cross-country skied before, but this was my first time.  After an awkward learning curve ('Why do my skis keep falling off?!!") we hit our stride.  Superfun!  It definitely takes more coordination than snowshoeing, but we could really zoom once we hit groomed trails and the frozen lake.  Well, we thought it was frozen.  We were feeling pretty badass as we glided across the snow-covered ice, until Jordan stopped:  "Wait.  It's getting kind of slushy," and we scooted back to shore.  Crisis averted.

On our way back to town, we stopped by Trimble Spa and Natural Hot Springs for a soak.  Trimble has two saunas and naturally heated mineral hot pools.  The water is rich in sulfate and calcium bicarbonate, and comes out of the ground at a toasty 123 degrees Fahrenheit (the pools hover between 104-111 degrees.)  Trimble's large pools aren't as pretty as the small, natural-looking tubs at Orvis, etc., but the water temperature was perfect.  Seriously, is there anything better than soaking in hot water after you've been running around in the cold all day?

Yet again, Durango gets an A++ rating.  It's a great, friendly town with loads of stuff to do in the summer and winter.  We'll be back!