Durango is the type of town that I love. Maybe it is the New York in me or maybe I am just not very good at relaxing. Either way, I need to keep myself constantly occupied even if it is at the expense of driving my family nuts. Here in Durango, keeping busy is no problem. There is world class fly fishing, whitewater rafting, great hiking trails, epic 4 wheeling, and just about every other thing an outdoorsman would love. In addition to that, Durango is an authentic old western town with a rich history and flavor. Colorado in general treats it tourists and residents well. For example, there is a free trolley that runs all over town. Not only does it reduce car traffic and pollution but I am sure that it significantly reduces the incidence of drunk driving. It has been very nice to take the trolley into town and be able to imbibe freely at some of the great restaurants and brew houses in town. Speaking of restaurants… If you ever come to Durango do not miss the Diamond Belle Saloon. It’s not the fact that it is a authentic old western saloon and restaurant.
It is not the fact that you are served by scantily clad women dressed in period correct brothel attire. It is not even the gun fight that is staged out front every few hours. It is simply for the DIAMOND BURGER. What you ask is a Diamond Burger?? Well my friends, it is far and away the best hamburger that you will ever taste. I am a proud beef eater. I know my burgers and the combination of some pretty serious ingredients makes this the absolute best hamburger that I have ever had and probably one of the top 5 things that I have ever eaten. I am not lying when I tell you that this burger would make a vegan cry for his mama. Take a read of the description here. http://www.diamondbelle.com/assets/pdfs/menus-2013/DiamondBelleDiamondBurgerMenu.pdf
The campground that we were staying in was on the route for the Durango Silverton Railroad which is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the country. The idea of riding a steam train through the mountains sounded great and all, but it was a little touristy for our tastes. We (and by We ..I mean Me) figured that a better way to get deep in the back country would be to take our 4wd Geo Tracker into the mountains of Silverton. Now, I know what past readers of this blog are thinking. Here we go again! Right? Here goes Ed putting his family in harms way again just to do things the hard way. I would argue that taking the road less traveled and doing things the hard way always yields better results.
Even if things don’t turn out as planned we always come out alive with an epic tale to tell our grand kids. For those of you new to the Blog, our adventures at Hell’s Revenge provide a good example of this. Not a week goes by that Kristi or the kids does not tell this story to someone With that said, we had no near misses or life threatening moments. Just a beautiful day in the mountains. This is undoubtedly the most scenic toxic waste site that I have ever encountered. By looking at the pictures and video below, you would never think this was a toxic waste site, but Gold Mining is a dirty business and the whole region continues to suffer from the mistakes of the past. We toured a gold processing facility that closed down in 1991. I am pretty sure that this tour alone took a few years off our lives. In addition to gold, the miners were also processing lead which as we now now is very toxic. To make matters worse a key process in extracting gold from ore involved the extensive use of mercury. The facilities were a death sentence for the poor soles who worked here. The guide told us that not too long ago a former employee who had worked there had told her that 15 of 20 people in her division all had contracted cancer of some sort. The guide also said that the previous tour guide also died of cancer recently. Freaking great!!. Of course she tells us this at the end of the tour. Keep in mind this facility has never been decontaminated!
It remains as it was when the doors closed in 1991. At first I thought the the tour guide was just a little “special” because she lives and works at 11,000 feet which is enough to make anyone loopy, but it turns out that it was simply a case of toxic lead and mercury poisoning that she was suffering from. Good career choice lady!! Duh.
Durango was also a great jumping off point for some world class fly fishing. Just over the boarder in New Mexico is the San Juan River. Not wanting to waste this opportunity learning about the right flies and techniques to use in this area, we decided to get smart and hire a guide for a change.. And what a change it was. No guessing, no struggling to find the right spot or gear. He simply puts you right on the fish with no guess work. Hunter must have landed over 20 rainbow trout. He put his old man to shame. The guide was a real interesting dude named Josh. He was the true definition of a western mountain man. He traps, bobcat, raccoon, mountain lion, and God knows what else. He also raises and rides rodeo bulls. To help with expenses he does some fly fish guiding a few times per week as well. Hunter and I both learned more about fly fishing over the course of this one day than we had in years of trying to teach ourselves.
|Gold Processing Facility|
|View from the Bucket house across to the mine.|