There could be nothing remotely spiritual about a mining town, right? Or about a coal-fired smoke-spewing steam train? Maybe if you’re into country music?

Let’s start with the train. As a feat of engineering, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is just as impressive as the brick structures built by the ancestral Puebloans. No earthmoving equipment, no helicopters, just men and mules and dynamite.

Here’s Silverton. Yeah, it’s turned from a mining town into a cheesy tourist town, but it’s still pretty amazing. It’s at 9300 feet above sea level: on a day when it was 85 in Durango (at 6500 feet) and over 100 back in Dallas, Silverton was 57 degrees. And where else can you eat an elk burger in a former bordello???

This is some of the scenery from the train. Not quite as spiritual as actually being up there on the mountain, but it’s close enough. And this way I didn’t get altitude sickness, which I did when I climbed Flat Top Mountain (at 12, 354 feet) in 2004.

This is the Animas River, which begins high in the mountains north of Silverton and eventually becomes part of the Colorado River. According to Wikipedia, the name is shortened from the Spanish Rio de las Animas Perdidas, or River of Lost Souls. Don’t know about your soul, but if you fell in your body would be lost – there are some pretty impressive rapids along the river, and the few kayakers we saw this high up were all wearing full wet suits.

There’s just nothing like being out in nature, taking in the beauty – and the power. Plus this was such a contrast with the dry, hot desert of Hovenweep we saw the say before.
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