Continued from New Mexico Road Trip from Dallas – Day 5
After driving around extensively with our car on the prior 5 days of the trip, on the 6th day we had put our car to rest. Instead we chose to take a magical train journey on the snow covered slopes of Colorado.
Trip Date: 28th December 2016
We have already visited the state of Colorado during the Fall season. Every place we visited was just gorgeous and so beautiful. From that time, I have wanted to visit Colorado in winter. Having born in India and currently residing in Texas, snow is something which always excites me. I wanted to get a true winter experience in Colorado with snow clad mountains, frozen lakes, warm fireplaces, etc.
My prior Colorado trip was mainly covering the central and northern part of Colorado. So I wanted to explore the Southern part of Colorado during this trip. Since I am not a winter sport enthusiast, I wasn’t interested in things like skiing or spending a lot of time around resort towns. Instead I was more interested in reaching scenic spots and enjoy the natural beauty.
Ever since I was a kid, I have been always fascinated by trains. Who would not like a train journey, correct ? And a train which runs right in the middle of a winter wonderland is just right off my dreams. When I heard about the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR), I was super thrilled and was never going to miss out on the opportunity. My stop at the city of Durango was specifically planned keeping this train journey in mind. Though D&SNGRR was initially built in the late 1800s for the purpose of transportation, however, the gorgeous river and canyon en-route made it more famous as a scenic attraction.
D&SNGRR operates year around trains from the city of Durango. In Summer and Fall, the trains runs up until the station in Silverton city. However, in Winter and Spring, the train makes a U-turn at the Cascade Canyon wye. With a authentic steam engine powering the trains, the train journey can be simply marvelous in any season. They also have a special Polar Express themed train during the winter nights. Sounds like pure fun. We however chose to take their daytime train to Cascade Canyon wye.
You can get on to their website and easily book the tickets. They offer multiples classes of ticket like First, Deluxe and Standard. First class offers comfortable table and chair style seating and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. Deluxe class offers comfortable seating with 2 seats on one side and 1 seat on one side. Standard Class offers basic seating with 2 seats on each side. Due to non availability of tickets, we had booked us on the Standard class. While the whole journey was comfortable, I wish we had travelled on Deluxe class, which would have been little more of a luxury.
The train station is located in the downtown area of Durango. They do have a offsite parking lot but parking there is not free. It is $5 for a whole day of parking. After parking there, we walked to the train station. We were a little early on that day at the station and we went straight to the counter and picked up our tickets. However, the great shock of the day was waiting for us then. We had taken our DLSR camera along with us and only when we wanted to take the first snap of the station did we realize that we had forgot the batteries. Thanks to the super good cameras now present in the smartphones. My phone camera was the one which saved the day for us.
The train starts sharp at 9:45 AM. We were shopping for gifts from the store inside the station until it was time for boarding the train. And also, getting outside would give you a nice view of the whole train and the steam powered engine. We then boarded the train right on time and the memorable journey started.
The first 30 mins of the journey was more on the valley area. Surrounded by house, people, it was more like traveling within the city. The true excitement started as soon as the train started climbing on the mountain side. The first site of Animas river running in parallel along with the train in beautiful.
We were treated to endless views of mountains side clad with snow, canyons, and more river. We never got bored even for 1 sec of the ride and experienced every moment of it. We were able to get a glimpse of everything we had come there expecting to see.
On the train they had a pantry car serving some basic food and snacks. The pantry car was next to our car and it was so comfortable for us to get our refills. We had hot coffee, cider, hot chocolate, etc. through out the day to keep ourself warm. The coffee was especially very flavorful. And for lunch we did not have much of a vegetarian option. We settled for cheese and bean burritos. It was a frozen burrito which was microwaved in the pantry. Taste was very ordinary. However, they also serve fresh pre-ordered box lunches, if you decide to try out.
After about 2.5 hrs we reached the Canyon Wye. They had announced that the train would stop there for about 30 mins. Once we got down from the train, we stepped into a true winter wonderland. Something which I had only seen in movies earlier. A complete wilderness area covered with snow, the river flowing through and again close up views of the mountains. Something mesmerizing.
After taking a lot of photos along with the river, we decided to take the short trail. The trail basically took us to a bridge over the Animas river. A good vantage point to enjoy all the surrounding scenic beauty. 30 mins would just fly like anything. And soon we were back in the train getting ready for the return journey.
A good thing about the return journey is that, the train makes a complete U-turn. Which means that you will get to see a complete new scenery on the way back. I have read folks recommending to take the train one way and return back by bus to save time. However, I would strongly recommend doing the train both ways so that you don’t miss any of the views.
The highlight of the whole journey was the point when the train actually crossed over one of the many canyons. The train track is slightly curved at that juncture. Hence you will get a view of the smoking steam engine riding on top of the deep canyon and a river running deep below. A scene which will be always etched in your memory. Our turn to enjoy this beauty was during our return.
The train was supposed to return back to Durango station by 2:45 PM. However, it took us close to 3 PM to reach the station on that day. Once on solid ground, we decided to head to the D&SNGRR Museum. It was located right on the other side of the tracks from the station. The museum was a collection of a lot of interesting train related artifacts. They also had sone running models of trains, a real engine and a couple of antique cars.
And once we step outside the museum, they have a couple of reindeers as well. On the day we visited there was someone feeding them. After making a very brief stop we headed back outside via the train station.
Since it was only about 4 PM, we decided not to return back to Hotel and instead spend sometime exploring the Durango downtown area. We casually walked through the streets doing a bit of window shopping. Since it was just days after Christmas, they had a lot of Christmas items on huge discounts. After wandering for a while we were tired enough to get back to our Hotel for some rest.
And then when it was time for dinner we decided to go to the Himalayan Kitchen, were we had dinner on the previous night. We ordered a plate of Samosas and a Daal Bhaat Tarkaari. The samosas were just like the Mt. Everest. Huge, had an extremely hard outer shell and not my favorite. However the Daal Bhaat Tarkaari was good with a spread of lentil soup, veggie curry, naan, rice, etc. After refueling ourself, we then got back to our hotel for some well deserved sleep.
– To be continued in Southern Colorado Road Trip – Day 7 –