Our Little Trip to Durango Colorado

I thought I would do a little change to my blog now. We have traveled so much and I can’t believe I haven’t done this before!!  I should record my trips on my blog, share our family adventures. Not everyone wants to see scrapping all the time :).  So, I missed out posting all our trips from last year (three of them!!!). Maybe I will post about them anyway, if any one is interested :). I will now start with our trip to Durango Colorado and share our wonderful adventure there.

Town of Durango

My husband and I were talking about where we wanted to go this year. We decided that most of our holidays from now on would be exploring the United States. I haven’t explored the U.S. since I was a kid and there are lots of beautiful places right in our own back yard. Going to other countries is wonderful too! But, we think exploring the U.S. is important too.

I told my husband I really wanted to go some place with cooler temperatures this time. We go to the beach a lot and honestly, I’m getting kind of tired of heat and drought. I suggested places like Vermont, Maine, etc. After some research, my husband suggested we check out Durango, Colorado. Go to Old West towns and the Rocky Mountains loaded with history. So, we packed up the kids, got DVD movies and snacks ready for the very long drive to the Rockies while gritting our teeth every time one of them asked “How long until we get there?” Uhm, it’s an 18 hour total drive kids!!  Did you really have to ask 5 minutes into the drive?!

Now we couldn’t drive the whole way, so our first stop overnight was in Roswell, NM. We thought, wow, this place should be fun with aliens and everything! Not so much lol. It was pretty run down of a town, sad to say.  We thought it would have been more popular, but alas, it wasn’t. So, we ended up leaving town early morning to reach our destination a little earlier. The terrain was strange…it went from desert to instantly the wooded Rockies! We thought we would ease into the Rockies, but it hit us like a wall LOL!  It was quite impressive! Granted we saw mountains, but they were here and there…not consistent once you get to Durango.

We rented a townhouse through my husband’s company HomeAway. It was really quite lovely! The owner decorated it beautifully and I loved the fact that it had a fireplace!  It was beautiful during the day in Durango, around the mid-70s F. But, at night it was quite cool, around the upper 40s F. So, it was nice to have a fire.

Master Bedroom
Hubby and youngest in the morning
The first day there, we just spent time exploring the old town of Durango and a little shopping and eating. Our big day was the next day…the steam train!!! We had to order tickets about 2 months before our trip as it sells out quickly. Now we know why! The train goes from Durango to Silverton, an old west mining town. It takes about 3 hours to get there going about 20 mph. The beauty of the train not being able to go much faster is you can take lots of photos! The train was an orginal from the 1880s and our train car had an extra special feature, which you have to pay for…a person who dresses as an old west character. Our character was General Palmer.  General Palmer was the founder of Durango in 1881, I believe that was the year, and was a rail road tycoon. He dressed in character of the old west and told his story of Durango and the train to Silverton. The ride was gorgeous, if not a bit scary at times!
Our steam train
The kids with “General Palmer”
Getting ready for our train ride…fixtures are all original from the 1880s
A shot of our train as it was going around a bend
One of the many views from the train. This one apparently is a very popular shot with National Geographic. This is the Animas River in a canyon.
After three hours, we finally ended up in Silverton. We didn’t get much time to explore there unfortunately. When you get off the train along with everyone else, the restaurants flood because we are all starving lol! So, it took a long time to get our food. But, we did have enough time to get a couple of shots of the old mining town, which still looks like the Old West!!! We also had enough time to grab the boys some cowboy hats lol.
An old stagecoach.
The boys and their new cowboy hats.
We took the train back instead of the bus, which I think was a good thing. Those buses look like the teeter on the edge of the Million Dollar Highway, which we did not go on because of the lack of guard rails and steep drops off the sides of cliffs lol.
The next day we decided to check out some lakes. We can’t go swimming as the water really is too cold and the temperatures not warm enough. The first one was Vallecito Lake. To our complete surprise, the area was still devastated by the wild fires back in 2002. It had hardly recovered at all. About 80% around the lake the trees were burned. They still stand, but the are skeletons. An artist went there and decided to do several carvings out of the burnt out trees as a memorial of the area and fire fighters who risked their lives to put it out. There are areas full of trees, but you can’t see in the photo the full impact of the damage.
One of many tree carvings.
While at Vallecito Lake, I was fortunate enough to look up and see this beautiful eagles nest with babies in it!! I think they are bald eagles! The eagles were one of many animals we saw: Brown Bears, Prairie Dogs, Chipmunks, Deer, Eagles, Hawks and Wild Turkeys.
After that, we headed to Haviland Lake. It’s a smaller lake, but truly beautiful. It was so quiet and pristine.
At Haviland Lake with my youngest boy.
The following day was my birthday and I wanted to spend it hiking. Gotta work off my lumps lol! We actually had a beautiful and easy trail for kids right in our own backyard. It was just lovely and full of Aspen trees.
View of the Aspen trees from our first hike.
My youngest did so well with hiking, we went on a much larger trail called the Colorado Trails and Junction Creek. Both boys were such troopers! But, I couldn’t believe my 4 year old hiked as far as he did without whining or wanting to be carried lol. This trail was gorgeous! We found the frigid creek and played in it for a while. After walking quite a ways, it was lovely to see more cliffs and it was getting more and more wooded. Just lovely, but my youngest ended up with a bit of poison ivy :).
My youngest playing in the creek.  I have no idea how he cold stand sitting in the frigid water!
Walking the beautiful trail.
On our way back to the townhouse to get ready for dinner, I saw this scene and had to get the shot. I loved the dotting of cows, mountains, Aspen and the pond.
The following day was extra special! We made the hour drive to Mesa Verde. Again, just one hour from wooded mountains straight into desert lol. What a fabulous trip that was!! If you all ever make it to S.W. Colorado, you really should check out Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde is full of, OK the drive was a bit scary, beautiful views and the drive through it takes an hour to get to the ruins. The drive back down was hard on my husband, who suddenly got hit with vertigo, so I had to take over the scary drive, but at least they have guard rails!
The ruins consist of cliff dwellings made by the Pueblo Indians back in 1100s and lived there until the 1200s, until a 30 year drought hit them. The Pueblo Indians are still around today, but back then they had a very large community in the cliffs as well as above the cliffs.
If you do take this trip, make sure it’s towards the end of your trip so you are used to the high altitude because the hike is quite strenuous and you have to climb ladders to get out of the cliff ruins…and bring LOTS of water! Our tour guide, a Park Ranger, was quite passionate about the altitude :), as well as the cliff dwellings!
I am not sure if this is actually Mesa Verde or why it’s called that. This IS a Mesa (Table) and it is Verde (Green).
One of the cliff dwellings called Cliff Palace. The circular pits in the ground are Kivas without roofs.
My oldest going down into a Kiva. A Kiva is where families would get out of the heat and talk and just be a family.
Like all good things, our trip had to come to an end. We left Durango a day early to go explore Albuquerque, NM. We will definitely be heading back to Durango sometime during Autumn. We wanted to go do Santa Fe, but it was either booked or too expensive. So, we settled with Albuquerque. It looked great in the photos and reviews about Old Town. But, once we got there, Old Town was full of bad restaurants, souvenir shops and was kind of run down. To give it credit, there were a few cute nooks and crannies within Old Town. There were a few boutiques, art gallery shops and a really darling little Kaleidoscope shop.  Little did we know before hand that Historic Nobb Hill was much more interesting!
Hanging out waiting for Mom to shop.
One of the cute shopping areas of Old Town
But, there was a peak to the short Albuquerque trip…Albuquerque Bio Park. This was something we also researched on. People said it was short and small, but we wanted to do something kid-friendly. The Bio Park has a zoo, aquarium and a botanical garden. We were quite surprised to find it was larger than expected and was an all day trip. It’s not a huge zoo compared to other zoos, but it was really delightful. There were peacocks roaming free everywhere, you could feed the giraffes, there were several baby animals, you could feed some birds from Australia (can’t remember their names). It was wonderful to be able to interact with some of the animals.
Mr. Koala here really was a ham and made sure everyone had the perfect shot of him.
You will hop on a small little train to take you to the Aquarium and Botanical Gardens. The aquarium was quite small actually, but it really doesn’t matter because as long as the kids were completely fascinated, all was right in the world. They did have some wonderful displays. Our favorite was this wonderful sea turtle.
Sea Turtle
Once done with the aquarium, you can head directly to the botanical gardens. I LOVE botanical gardens and have been waiting anxiously all day to check it out! I am a huge plant and flower lover, so this was my kind of thing! The gardens were wonderful!! They were themed, and I think everyone especially loved the fantasy one with the castle, dragon and there was a giant garden…literally! Everything was GIANT sized LOL! The kids loved that one. I also loved the Mediterranean garden too with the Moorish tile work, gardens and fountains. It reminded me of Alhambra in Spain.
Running towards the dragon and castle gardens!
Moorish Gardens
And, that was the end of our trip after a wonderful diner in historical Nobb Hill. We got up at the crack of dawn the next day to head home for a long 12 hour drive so we could all make work the next day :)…maybe that should be a frowning face lol.

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