Most of the riders on the bus dozed off for the first few hours. They were awoken by the side-to-side sway of the coach as the road started following the Arkansas River between the peaks of the Colorado Rockies.The terrain shifted from green fields flowing into rolling hills and eventually steep mountains to rocky edges of cliffs rising above us (and some falling below). Even the rocks seemed to change color as we moved further south; red to brown to grey occasionally covered in white snow contrasted against the green pines and crystal blue River. Shortly after crossing the Western Continental Divide and coming out the other end of the Monarch Pass (you may have heard of it on the news being snow packed in the winter) we reached the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway. This particular highway gained its nickname for the fact that it cost approximately one million dollars to build each mile of the the highway. It consists of numerous switchbacks that raise higher and higher into the peaks of the Rockies only to have to come back down at an even bigger grade. Most of the stretch of this highway had the bus traveling with a matter of few feet from the edge of unprotected drop-offs. This may be the first time I heard the click of seat belts being fastened as some of the students got more anxious. However, Clarence did a wonderful job driving the route and we arrived safely in Silverton, CO in time for lunch.
The crew was allowed to spread out for lunch on their own in small groups throughout the small mining town. Many groups ate at a place called the Bent Elbow while others explored various other choices such as Handlebars or Natalia's. Some free time was allotted to shop and explore more of the town before boarding the Narrow Gauge Railroad to Durango, CO.
The train ride takes approximately three hours as it winds its way along the river toward Durango. The group enjoyed the sight of the Rockies climbing high above the tracks on either side. Cameras could be seen throughout the open air train car as students tried to capture the perfect scenery snap, group picture, or even selfie with the river. As we wound our way through the mountains it seemed every turn held another "ohhh", "ahhhh", or "LOOK!" from the crowd. After the first half of the ride they all seemed to settle in to just enjoying each other's company as we neared Durango.
(*Disclaimer: we are sorry if some of the pictures are blurry, a moving train makes picture taking difficult.)
After disembarking from the train, slightly soot covered and very hungry, it was time for dinner on our own in Durango, CO. This charming mountain town offers any cuisine one could want. So naturally many student groups picked to have Mexican food. They could then be seen sauntering about the town checking out shops, listening to live music, or grabbing ice cream. After a long day and early morning the hotel was a welcome sight for all.
All are now tucked in and ready to dream. We are looking forward to adventuring through more of Colorado tomorrow.