Sorry it’s been so long since my last update but things have been very unsettled. I think I’m back on firm ground now, and here’s everything that’s happened!
First, Durango! I owe you all some pictures of the town, so here they are!
The Durango Public Library was a lovely building too! And they had a really clever multi-biome garden that was mostly installed.
The train up into the wilderness and back was absolutely a delight. Everyone working on it was amazingly friendly and knowledgeable about the area and the train itself, which is a restored fully authentic steam train with only minor adjustments for its new purpose: carrying people through the breathtakingly beautiful valley along the Animas River from Durango up to Silverton and then back, and occasionally stopping to let backpackers and rafters get on and off. This is the train when I saw it pass through Durango:
As you can see, it is spectacular. If I lived in Durango I would get a season pass and ride it every freaking day. So, about two and a half hours after leaving Durango the train arrives at a stop where the town of Needleton used to be but isn’t anymore because it was destroyed by landslides after it was abandoned.
What IS there now is a trailhead, leading a half mile through privately owned land to the Needle Creek Trail. You use this little bridge to cross the river:
So! A half mile into the woods from there, and past one lovely cabin, we come to our goal!
The wilderness was an entirely new experience for me. There were no people within miles – the closest was a pair of hikers who got off of the train with me, and from their plan they would be a couple of miles ahead of me, and then take a different trail, before very long. I hiked in about three miles after getting off of the train, until I was a bit above 9,000 feet in elevation and near to the smaller New York Creek, and then made my first camp. I camped under a pair of pine trees, on a nice flat spot next to an old rockslide. Here’re some views from camp:
It was a beautiful night, too – cool but not uncomfortably so, the air fragrant with pine and mountain plants, and the only noises on the air birds and small animals in the brush. Once it got dark, the only noises I heard were the angry chirpings of the squirrel whose home I must have camped too close to. He came to shout at me every couple hours all night, though it wasn’t too disturbing.
I woke up with dawn and packed up my camp. It had gotten a lot colder overnight, and as I was surveying the route ahead on the trail, it started to snow in the upper reaches of the mountains ahead of me. I could see that the snow line was a lot lower than expected, and since I was on my own and the weather was questionable, I decided that it would be safer and more prudent to head back and prepare for another trip less impacted by disaster and weather.
So I headed back down to the train stop and, even pacing myself carefully after my delicious Clif Bar breakfast, made it to the track before the train! I hopped on and finished off my ticket from the previous day by heading up to Silverton and then back down to Durango to prepare for my trip to Massachusetts.
I leave you with a couple of photos of Silverton as the snow came in, and from the train ride back!