Sunday, August 7, 2011

Busy final day of vacation– 4 trails and a train!

For the final day of my vacation, I decided to do 4 short 4WD trails near Silverton.  As I got back into camp the night before, I also heard the train whistles meaning that the trains had started running again so I also wanted to be back in town mid-day to see the trains coming and going.  This made for a pretty busy day, but lots of amazing sights!

I started the day with a 4WD trail to Clear Lake, a turquoise lake up above the timber line at around 11,000 feet.  My guide book said this trail was steep with a number of switchbacks, but easy.   Well, not sure about that last part!  A large boulder had fallen onto the easier part of the road at one of the switchbacks and the only way to get around it was to drive near vertically over a large exposed rockface.  I attempted driving it at a slight angle and slid backwards.  So, I then tried stacking some smaller rocks to make it less vertical. Of course, there were now a few other Jeeps behind me waiting!  But, finally, that did the trick and I was able to continue.


Near the top of the trail was a narrow ledge road that also happened to have a large boulder blocking part or it’s road. The only way around it was to carefully drive around it on the outside edge of the ledge.  So nice to have a smaller, more narrow vehicle in these situations!

We finally made it to the top of this “easy” trail, and took a nice hike around Clear Lake.  Millie, the polar bear dog, also took a very quick swim into the frigid waters.

Thankfully our descent was a bit easier than the climb and we made it back into Silverton for lunch and in time for the trains.  One train was parked near the Visitor’s Center so I got a few up-close photos of each of the cars:


I eventually made it back up the mountainside road to get some shots from above as the trains were repositioning.  It was fascinating to watch them connect and reconnect the engines to each set of train cars to move them around.

Finally, the train blew it’s whistle and headed back out toward Durango.  Looks like a fun train ride to take the next time I’m in town!


After a short pitstop to the motorhome, we were back out to our final adventure of the day— 3 interconnected trails over Hurricane Pass just north of town that started at Highway 550 and ended at Animas Forks.

My guidebook had rated Corkscrew Gulch as “Easy”, but it was much harder than Ophir Pass that had been ranked “Moderate”.  I suppose every rating system can be debated endlessly, but Corkscrew started out as very steep and stayed that way practically the whole trail.  On a few switchbacks, I had to actually pivot turn and back up because the switchbacks were so steep and tight!   But there were some awesome views of the Red mountains, and it was a very fun trail to drive.

Before coming out to Colorado, I had packed a “survival bucket” (a storage bin of supplies to carry in the rear of the Tracker should I get stuck overnight).  Part of that was a toiletry kit.  I thought surely there would not be any proper bathroom facilities out on these trails…well, think again!

I’m not sure who maintained them, but just about every trail had at least 1 nice outhouse.  And not the old stinky outhouses, mind you, but newer eco-friendly ones with minimal smell and plenty of rolls of toilet paper!  Amazing!

After the pit stop, we began climbing up Hurricane Pass. Lots of ledge roads and switchbacks, but absolutely gorgeous.  As we reached the top of the pass, there was still well over a foot of snow in some spots.  Good thing we didn’t try this trail earlier in the summer!

As we came over the pass to head towards California Gulch, I literally screamed “WOW” as I first set eyes on the stunningly turquoise waters of Lake Como.  What a treat!IMG_5550

After a quick photo at California Pass, it was time to head down the other side into California Gulch towards Animas Forks.   I heard a strange sound on one of the hillsides and realized a huge flock of sheep were grazing above me!

Waved to another marmot, and then it was on to see some of the abandoned mines and mills around Animas Forks.

Stopped by the old Eureka townsite on my way back to the RV park.  Eureka is east of Silverton. Another old mining town, it now is BLM land that is popular for RV boondockers with ATVs.  There were nice level sites there along the Animas river, but no cell phone signals, and a long 12 mile drive down a gravel road to reach it.  Still, you can’t beat the nightly rate…FREE!

1 comment:

  1. Something to consider if riding the Durango/Silverton railroad. One can ride the train up and back and have the advantage of morning sun going up and evening sun returning. But, it is an all day event. Or, you can ride the train up and for an additional fee, be bussed back to Durango. That makes for a little more than half a day.

    I chose the up and back option. However, I had my Nikon D300 set too high on resolution. I took 800+ photos going up and filled my memory card. Had to buy a new card in Silverton for the return trip.


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