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   Durango Vacation...

This page contains numerous images from our Fourth of July Trip to Durango, Colorado and the surrounding areas. We took a different route to and from Durango -- essentially making a large loop through three quarters of the state. Doing so we experienced a variety of terrains from towering and evergreen covered mountains, to desert like canyon lands and expansive alpine farming valleys.

We started Thursday by taking the now familiar I-70 from Denver/Boulder to Grand Junction on the western slope. Interstate 70 cuts through the heart of the Rockies and passes near Breckenridge, Vail and other well known ski areas. The drive between Breckenridge and Vail was particularly beautiful as was the drive through Glenwood Canyon where I-70 is beautifully nestled and partially stacked -- it is the most expensive section of Interstate in the country. The terrain changes drastically as you approach Grand Junction as the land flattens out into desert like hills and mesas.
Just Southwest of Grand Junction about half way to Durango lies Colorado National Monument, a National Park featuring miles of red sandstone canyons and interesting "Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner" looking rock formations.

Colorado National Monument

At Colorado Ntn'l Monument

Independence Monument

After leaving Colorado National Monument we picked up U.S. 50 which merged into U.S. 550 at Montrose, Colorado. U.S 550 is known as the "San Juan Skyway", a nationally recognized scenic highway which makes a high alpine loop through the beautiful San Jaun Mountain Range, the geologically youngest mountain range in the Colorado Rockies and thus the steepest and most dramatic. The San Juans are characterized by sharp red peaks rich in oxidized iron. The drive between the Ouray and Durango is justly acclaimed as one of the most beautiful in country. One is struck by the dazzling lush views that surround you in full 360 degree panorama. Unfortunately, a camera can never capture the full majesty of the area.

The San Juan Skyway

Red Peaks of the San Jauns

More San Jaun Skyway

A San Jaun Lake

Yet Another Vista

Friday we experienced another great way to see the beauty of the area by taking a ride on the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railroad, an authentic steam engine train that follows the original route used by miners in the 1800's. Its is a breathtaking ride, especially when the rails are hugging the cliffs of canyon walls while you look down at the mountain stream below. Its a long ride and fortunately the kids took a nap during the middle of trip allowing Sheila and I to fully enjoy the serenity and spectacular scenery.

Durango-Silverton Railroad

Authentic Steam Engine

On the way to Durango

Kids Enjoying the Ride

A View from the Train

Hugging the Cliff Wall

Saturday we drove to Mesa Verde about thirty minutes Southwest of Durango and the site of 800 year old Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings. There are dozens of ruins of dwellings throughout the expansive canyon area. In fact, the Four Corners area has one of the highest concentrations of archeological sites in the U.S. They are quite fascinating when viewed up close. Afterwards we took the kids swimming at the Durango Recreation center which featured an indoor water park complete with a full size flume slide which Brendan and Ethan both loved.

Cliff Palace - Mesa Verde

Brendan Climbing

In Front of Spruce Tree House

In Front of the Ruins

Descending into a Dwelling

Exploring the Ruins

Sunday, the Fourth of July, we hung out at the Durango Mountain Resort where we were staying. We rode the chair lift (Brendan in my lap) numerous times to access the half mile long Alpine Slide which winds down the mountain dropping over 400 vertical feet. Both kids loved the slide (you ride on luge like sleds). We also went hiking up on Durango mountain and hung out in our private hot-tub. Finally, we went into town for a nice dinner and obligatory fireworks.

Durango Mountain Resort

Riding the Alpine Slide

Brendan Makes a Wish

On Durango Mountain

Coming Down the Chair Lift

Fourth of July Fireworks

Monday we started the drive back home, but took a side trip out to Yankee Boy Basin which is known for its outstanding beauty and excellent display of wildflowers. (click on the Sheila and Ethan picture below to appreciate - thumbnails don't do justice) Unfortunately, we were a few weeks early for the best wildflower part of the season. The drive out there was an adventure, portions of which required 4 wheel drive. Fortunately, the 4-runner was up to the challenge -- don't try it in one of those pretend SUV's with car sized tires and limited suspension travel. In many places (as with the mountains in general), the road drops off several hundred feet. That is the case in the picture below, where the road is barely wide enough for one vehicle and going over the edge is certain death.

Road to Yankee Boy Basin

Yankee Boy Basin

Sheila and Ethan

Ethan - Yankee Boy Basin

Flowers - Yankee Boy Basin

Finally we settled in for the long drive back to Denver/Boulder. Instead of going back on I-70, we took U.S. 50 East and picked up U.S. 285 shortly after Monarch Pass which carried us Northeast back to home. We were struck by the diversity of terrain and saw parts of the state we had not seen in any of our previous travels here. Compared to I-70 it was a very peaceful and serene drive. Did I mention horses everywhere -- we must have seen five hundred horses between all the ranches in the Durango area and all the farms/ranches along U.S. 285.
We highly recommend a trip to Durango in the Summer -- unfortunately without any major cities nearby, the area is destined to be mainly enjoyed by people from Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. (We met quite a few people from Phoenix which is the same distance away from Durango as is Denver and their closest major ski area.)