. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vacationing in Durango and Silverton

We spent a few days vacationing in the Durango, Colorado area this week with family. We stayed up at the Durango Mountain Resort in a vacation rental that fit our family of 12. 
View of a little creek outside our rental balcony
The area is absolutely beautiful, located in the San Juan Mountains with the Animas River running through the valley that was formed by a long mountain glacier. The Durango valley is surrounded by tilting layers of sedimentary rock formed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods (570-65 million years ago), representing episodes of deposition and retreat of ancient seas. Sandstone and shales have a reddish tint to them in places. All this is rested on the granite bedrock (1700 million years ago).
Sedimentary Rocks

We explored Downtown Durango on a couple of different days. Downtown has a lot of cute shops and good restaurants, including Steamworks Brew Pub (try the Lizard Head Red!), Cold Stone Creamery, Durango Coffee Company, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and notably Ken & Sue’s, where we were spoiled with great food and service when celebrating our parents’ 50th anniversary. We tasted wine at the Four Leaves Winery and enjoyed the Pinot Noir and apple-infused Riesling the most. Lastly, we hopped on the Animas River Walk and enjoyed strolling along the river. We walked about a mile of the seven mile walkway.
Steamworks' Lizard Head Red was delicious!
Strater Hotel, Downtown Durango
Me at the Animas River
We took a day trip to Silverton, an historic mining town full of nice little shops, located at the edge of a volcanic caldera that erupted 27 million years ago. We took a tour of the “Old Hundred Gold Mine” just outside of town in Galena mountain, 1/3 mile in and 3,000 feet underground at an elevation of 12,750 feet and a temperature of about 46 degrees inside. Gold was claimed there at the turn of the century in about 1898 and was mined by various companies until the early 1970’s. Our tour guide explained the hard rock mining process and equipment used throughout the years.
Ready to enter the Old Hundred Mine
I'm a hard rock miner! Where's a quartz vein?
We drove the winding road from Silverton to Ouray and enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the drive, especially the Red Mountains, before driving back to the resort. The Red Mountains are a complex system of volcanic flows that have been altered due to Late Tertiary (approximately 1 million years ago) hydrothermal activity. The iron oxides are shades of red, orange, and yellow against the white and gray clays, and are absolutely beautiful.
Red Mountain #3 
On the way out of town on the drive back home we stopped at Chimney Rock National Monument, a sacred place for the Ancestral Puebloans over 1,000 years ago at the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains. On the 1/3 mile Great Kiva trail we saw an evacuated pit house and great kiva. The ruins are one of the highest elevation Ancestral Puebloan sites and is the northeastern-most Chacoan outlier. (Note: price of admission not worth it unless you do both the self-guided and tour-guided trails).
Chimney Rock

Also on the way home, we stopped at Echo Amphitheater (back in New Mexico), a favorite place to take a break on the drive and see the beautiful, colorful rocks of the box canyon. (See blog post Ghost Ranch for a description of the rocks in this formation.)
Echo Amphiteater

It was a fabulous vacation and we had so much to celebrate. The house is too quiet today now that we're back and everyone has left. I look forward to next year’s vacation with my parents and my nephew's graduation, when we'll be together again.