Silverton, Colorado - Gunfights, Mountains And A Train
By Steven Gillman
Silverton Colorado is one of those little mountain towns that you have to spend some time in to really enjoy. You'll love the scenery if you come by way of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gage Railway. The canyons and mountains you'll go through, and the sheer drops to the river below are breathtaking. But the train stops in Silverton for just a couple hours before returning to Durango, and if you are lucky you'll miss it and hang out for a while.
If you come by car, don't just drive down the old-west main street and continue on up to the ghost town of Animas Forks for a few photos. Stop and stay a while. Where else can you see a gunfight in the streets, camp three blocks from downtown, and look up to see snow-capped mountains in all directions in June?
We are sitting in our room at the historic Silverton Hostel as I write this. A hostel, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is a place where you rent a bed for the night - a great idea for a single person who likes to meet other adventurers and travelers. You share a bathroom and kitchen. This hostel is somewhat of a hybrid run-down hotel and rooming house, with beds, private rooms like the one we have, and space to pitch a tent in the backyard.
The sign at the front desk says to pick a room - the keys are in the doors. You can then call to find someone to pay, or pay when you see the manager later. In fact, in case you miss the manager, there is an envelope on the back of the door in each room. Just leave your money in that, the note says.
We ran into the manager, which was good, because she informed us that wireless internet was available. That saved us a trip to the Avalanche Cafe (although we'll have to visit in the morning for their excellent green-chili omelettes). Checking in didn't require any paper work other than signing the credit card slip. We heated up some food in the kitchen and met a young man who had recently traveled through my wife's native Ecuador.
Later we watched the gun fight that is put on in the streets for tourists. Tonight we hope to be dancing at the Bent Elbow Saloon, followed by whatever other bar has live music. The last time we were here we danced to the music of "Too Little O2." Their original music ranged from Greek dance tunes to reggae to rock and the blues. The locals and outsiders all had a great time. There is something about being isolated and at 9300 feet that seems to help people get along.
Other Things To Do And See Around Silverton
If you like big wilderness, this is the place. The nearby Weminuche Wilderness Area is the largest in Colorado, and has hundreds of miles of hiking trails. It includes several "fourteeners," (mountains over 14,000 feet) that can be climbed without equipment. Much of the area is above timberline, and it is full of alpine lakes, waterfalls and wildlife.
Twenty-three miles away, at the northern end of the "Million Dollar Highway," is the town of Ouray, where you can soak in some of the best hot spring pools in the state. The highway itself is an adventure, with drops of hundreds of feet sometimes just inches from the edge of the road. The scenery is incredible, but should be described to the driver.
Jeep tours starting in Silverton will take you to the high tundra, as well as to old mines and ghost towns. You can rent a four-wheel drive vehicle yourself and take the amazing "Alpine Loop." At the moment (mid-June) you might still have some issues with snow on some of the many passes you'll go over.
Back in town, you can sing karaoke at the Silverton Brewery and Bar, if it is Friday night. We were there last night, and the songs ranged from Rocky Horror Picture Show music to country, hard rock and Selena (in Spanish). The last was sung by my wife. I guess the $3 margarita was stronger than we thought.
Copyright Steve Gillman. Get the free
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