Traveling from the low-country of Cortez to the high-country of Silverton, CO at 9,350 feet elevation, was a slow-going affair, but in order to get to views like this …
…you have to endure a lot of roads with signs like this:
The reward, however, is the charming town of Silverton, set into a beautiful mountain-rimmed valley.
The saying is true: “The higher the altitude, the better your attitude!” (insert smiley face)
Silverton is perhaps best-known for its starring role in the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the train pulls into town multiple times a day, depositing happy tourists in search of t-shirts, collectible snow globes, and $17 cheeseburgers.
Our RV site at Silver Summit RV Park had the best possible views of the mountainside, two rushing waterfalls, and the train cheerfully chugging by. Toot toot!
Silverton has a long mining-town history since the late 1800’s, and an excellent mining musuem …
…and where you have a mining town, you have the requisite street of ill repute.
In Silverton, it is called Blair Street and back in the day, there were more than 30 whorehouses that lined this street to give the miners some necessary relief. The present-day buildings give a nod to their heritage.
The town’s Hillside Cemetery has more than 3,300 “residents” but less than 2,000 gravestones. During the flu epidemic of the early century, more than 10% of the city perished all at once and were buried in mass graves. Many of the burial sites have only simple stamped markers like this one.
This particularly touching grave site includes the iron crib of a one-year-old who passed.
All that death made us hungry so we stopped at Avalanche Brewing Co. for some of the best handcrafted brewskis and pizza around.
Check out their cute fence made of skis!
Our most exciting adventure, however, was navigating the Alpine Loop! This 72-mile, 7-hour long adventure takes you on roads that only 4×4’s with 4WD can navigate, up to the highest point of Cinnamon Pass and Engineer’s Pass at 12,800 feet and then back down again. Steep climbs, huge rocks, deep mud, and intense snow made for a lot of excitement!
On the Alpine Loop, you go from the warmest, driest weather ….
…to the most impassable snow-topped mountains imaginable! All in just a few hours!
In many places at the top, the road is about 75% of a car width wide, with sheer dropoffs on both sides. If a car is coming from the other direction, one of you has to back up until there is room to both squeeze by each other! The F-bombs were flying! Divorce was threatened! Prayers were said! Fingernails bitten off! But thanks to Philip’s expert navigating, we made it off the mountain alive.
But truly … it was the adventure of a lifetime!
Along the way, we saw abandoned mines, ramshackle cabins, falling down mills, and remnants of ghost towns from the old mining days up in those hills. In one ghost town, Animas Forks, some of the buildings have been partially restored and you are allowed to tromp around in them.
We loved Silverton, but the Lucky Charm is on the move again …
Next up: Ouray, Ridgway and Telluride!