Friday 4 August 2017

Day Nine - Ouray to Durango via The Million Dollar Highway - 70 Miles

Yesterday I wondered if it was possible to overdose on incredible landscapes, and if it were, today would be the one that pushes me over the edge.

Today's drive was along the 'Million Dollar Highway' - no one's quite sure how it got that name. Was that what it cost to blast this road into the side of Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass? Or is that what they earned from the many silver mines this road gave access to?

I do know for sure it's the amount you'd have to pay my wife to travel on it (she's not good with heights).

It's slightly more than two cars wide, with a sheer drop off one edge (and no barriers) and cliff faces on the other. The speed limit was 25mph, and I wasn't going to exceed that, that's for sure. Nor was I going to try to take any photos as I drove along.

It's only 12 miles long, but it's an incredible, exhilarating drive, taking you to the pass at 11,000ft (that's two and a half Ben Nevis). At the top there's a still operating mine and an atmospheric ghost town.

It's another 60 odd miles down to Durango, and no less stunning. Pine trees, alpine meadows, small cabins nestled into the hill sides. The road still had its fair share of switchbacks, but was an easy, wider drive.

Durango is much the same as Ouray - another resort town with a western feel, with many attractive buildings dating from the 1900s. I warmed to it immediately as I walked into the centre from my motel. While waiting at a crossroads, a deer nonchalantly walked across the car park and stood beside me, nibbling the bank's ornamental shrubs. While this was happening, a tiny little steam train crossed the junction - a classic American train with its balloon stack funnel. This is my kind of place.

Tomorrow I'll be getting that little train and retracing my steps back up the mountains to Silverton, hub of the silver mines. Another day of incredible views, this time without having to drive them!

That's it for today - an early night, as I have to be at the train station by 8.15am!

Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
862 Main Ave, Durango, CO

I came to this place expecting to eat pizza - the USP of this place is that everything is cooked in their wood fired ovens. But I took a turn towards the Mexican - having olate corn followed by fish tacos that were almost as good as the ones I cook! So okay, I didn't stress their ovens overly, but had a delicious dinner none the less. Highly recommended.

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