American adventures on Amtrak- Part 7 – The Rockies and The San Juan mountains, Colorado

Our journey from Denver through to Grand Junction on The Californian Zephyr was fantastic. It was a daytime journey and passed right through the heart of The Rocky Mountains. The scenery was breathtaking, we followed the Colorado River through the majority of the journey and we saw hundreds of people enjoying the river, be it on kayaks, dingy, canoes or just swimming. What was hilarious was something that we had been prewarned about- the “locals mooning” at the train as it goes by – we were in stitches when we saw our first- and it kept the whole carriage amused as we played “spot the mooner” Some did to whilst balancing not their dingy, some from the side of the river, some old, some young – it didn’t seem to matter! Hilarious!

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Photos don’t do the journey justice, so I took a selection of videos, which you can see below:

We arrived at Grand junction, Colorado just n time for a dip at the outdoor pool at the hotel (temperature was 38 degrees at 7pm!!!) and a few glasses of local wine and a meal at the local brewhouse. The Colorado wine didn’t blow us away, but the meal was delicious. There were some interesting sculptures dotted along the High Street, including this one of the buffalo, made out of bumpers of cars!

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Next day we had another big day of travel – we were heading to the San Juan mountain range and up to Silverton by coach, then joining the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railway back down to Durango. Our first rest stop was at the amazing village of Ouray, which is nestled at the foot of the hills, and at the bottom of what the locals call “The Million Dollar Highway”. The town is very small but authentic wild west in style, and had numerous cowboy style buildings from the late 1800s.

2015-08-16 16.30.04 2015-08-16 16.33.41 2015-08-16 16.41.55We met a couple of locals whilst having a drink in Ouray who were excited on our behalf at the prospect of the next leg of our journey. They said that The Million Dollar highway had to be one of the prettiest roads in the world. Well, we are inclined to agree. Our coach driver tackled the steep mountain pass admirably- a few members of our group went pale, but the scenery was simply breathtaking.

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As soon as we arrived at Silverton (named because they used to mine silver there) we knew we were in for a treat. It was so so SO amazing there – really oldey worldly, horse drawn carriages being pulled, old saloon bars, cowboys etc. Absolutely fantastic place, I would really love to go back! We found a saloon bar/restaurant called Grumpy’s – we were enticed by the honky tonk pianist playing. We enjoyed a couple of pints of local beer and a buffalo burger each in an amazing atmosphere.

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Our journey from Silverton to Durango on the narrow gauge railway was absolutely incredible. I still can’t even describe how much we loved it so I’m afraid I’ll have to give you the pics and vids instead!

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American adventures on Amtrak- Part 6 Denver, Colarado

We arrived at Denver Union station almost an hour late, but seeing as it was still 09:00 in the morning no one seemed to mind the extra time in our sleeper cars!

   

  

 We were greeted by a coach and tour guide who gave us a whistle stop tour through the city of Denver before dropping us at our hotel. We were under the impression that we would be able to have an early check in, but sadly this never happened, which did result in quite a bit of waiting around the hotel lobby. John, our tour manager took us on a walk around the city, past the Capitol building with its beautiful golden dome and also the house of  Molly Brown, who was a survivor of the ill fated Titanic.  

 
    
   

   
There was a lovely park which was packed with different food trucks and some interesting sculptures dotted around. Keith and I decided to kill some time by nipping back down to the park and get some food- Keith opted for the Italian beef sandwich and I had a meatball baguette. The sun was shining and we enjoyed a relax in the park, before having a quick look around the Capitol building- we were also allowed up to the observation deck just below the dome. The view towards the Rockies was nice and it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so whilst we waited for our room to become available. 

              
Once checked in we grabbed a nap- and woke to an enormous thunder clap! We had a chill whilst the storm passed over and then headed into town. Word on the street was that there was a great place to try out local Bison, Ted’s Montana Grill, so we headed there first. Keith had the Bison fillet steak and I had slow cooked bison ribs, both served with local corn. It was delicious. So good that we ended up going back there the next da        

We stopped for a beer on the way back to the hotel in The Yard House, a bar that had a huge selection of local draft ales and lagers. We got id’ed again and as we didn’t have our passports a local chap said he “would vouch for us”! It’s very confusing the laws re alcohol here- we are now having to carry passports all the time,something we don’t like to do, some places insisting its the law to id everyone, others not bothering at all. Strangely, you can buy pot here legally though and don’t get me started on the gun law.. 

Friday dawned and we were up early- we’d booked onto the optional extra excursion up into The Rocky National Park. Our guide was a lively local lady full of interesting facts and stories and our driver was an Indian Chief… Chief Jim. The tour was absolutely fantastic, we drove to an altitude of 12,000 ft through the most impressive scenery we’ve come across, with plenty of stops for piccies and refreshments. Up at 12,000ft there was the risk of altitude sickness, symptoms which we incurred were light headed ness, shortness of breath, and feeling very “floaty”. During our trip we encountered herds of Elk, (a deer like animal) and we think we saw an eagle soaring above. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 We returned to the hotel shortly before 18:30, and we had a quick freshen up before heading out for dinner, back to Ted’s Grill, via The Tilted Kilt, a bar where the waitresses dressed in short mini skirt kilts and bras! We met up with another couple on the trip and went for dinner with them and had a lovely boozy evening.

Next stop, Grand Junction, which is right in the Wild West! Can’t wait!