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WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
Rafting on the Animas river.
Hiking along the Purgatory Flats trail.
A roadside hot spring.
An outstanding Mexican restaurant.

I WENT BACK TO DURANGO. With my step-daughter Kim and my granddaughter Kara. I wanted to see Smelter Rapids, to see how much the water had risen in the ten days since I’d last been there. To read my earlier Durango blog, click HERE. The Animas River had risen – and was now 7,000 cubic feet per second – highest flow rate for many years. The major rafting companies had stopped running Smelter Rapids because they were class 4 and the risk of a raft overturning was too high.

THE FIRST RAPID IN SMELTER was constructed artificially by placing huge boulders in the stream. I believe the purpose was to enhance the kayak races they have every year. However, the boulders caused a back-wash eddy circulation so that if a person got caught in there, they could be trapped and go round and round in a kind of whirlpool.

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Kara at Smelter Rapids in high-water. Click to enlarge then back-arrow to return to blog article.

But private rafters could still run Smelter Rapids if they chose to take the risk. As we arrived there, we saw a young man in a wetsuit run up and ask his girlfriend if she knew where the others from the raft were. He was shaking all over and clearly agitated. Their raft had overturned in the rapids and his three buddies were missing. Then the girlfriend shouted and pointed – one of the rafters was climbing out on the opposite shore about 100 yards downstream. The remaining two rafters were nowhere to be seen, so the man turned and began running downstream to look for them. I never did hear the result, but hoped they were safe.

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This sequence of two images shows our raft breasting the class 3 rapid.

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That afternoon, we laid our money down, put on a wetsuit, and jumped into a raft. Our guide was a big fellow with a bushy beard. The first rapid we hit was a class 3, and I thought we were going to tip. It was scary. The two pictures show it all.

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After that first one got our blood running, the rest of the one-hour trip was awesome — buck-jumping the rapids and taking in the terrific scenery. A totally enjoyable trip. I recommend our rafting company called Mild and Wild.

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Ranchland just north of Durango.

CASTLE ROCK TRAIL. The next day we drove north into the mountains, looking for a short hike a few miles before Purgatory, the ski resort. It was called the Castle Rock trail. We found it but we couldn’t get across the stream, which was raging with new snowmelt – yes even in late June!

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Kara on the Castle Rock trail.

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Kara and Kim among the firs and aspens on the Purgatory Flats trail.

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SO WE REDIRECTED TO THE PURGATORY FLATS TRAIL which starts across the road from the Purgatory ski lifts and goes steeply downhill through stands of firs and aspens.

The view of the West Needle mountains was superb. Two engineer friends from Durango, Phil and Debbie Loftin, introduced me to this trail six or seven years ago (when we were working together on a coalbed methane project in the San Juan basin).

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Kara and Popper-Ian with West Needle mountains beyond.

 

 

After a couple miles we got to Purgatory Flats which was cut by the flooding Cascade Creek. We lunched there beside the rushing river and explored the rapids before heading back. We stopped during the steep hike out to view a waterfall and gorgeous little flowers.

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I call this the rainforest waterfall – right beside the steep exit trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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African violet (maybe?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful five-armed flower. Anyone know what this is?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DRIVING BACK TO DURANGO, WE STOPPED TO LOOK AT A NATURAL HOT SPRING – right beside the road. As an active spring, water is seeping out continuously. At the turn of last century, the water was captured in a sizeable pool and made into a commercial business, touting the usual healing benefits of such waters.

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Kara exploring the roadside hot spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The last evening we ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant called Nayarit. Seafood fajitas… one of the most flavorful Mexican meals I ever had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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POST-SCRIPT.
As explained about La Plata canyon in the first blog, Durango began as a mining community, particularly silver in the late 1800s. Thus the name of Smelter Rapids. The poem below from the book of Job captures this beautifully.

Durango is where the popular steam train departs and chuffs its way up to Silverton. It’s a fabulous day-long ride, especially in mid-October when the aspen leaves are at their golden best.

Durango is a short drive (two hours I think) to Mesa Verde, the best-preserved ruins of the Ancients (sometimes called Anasazi) in the USA.

Durango is also only about an hour away from Pagosa Springs, where you can find one of the best commercial hot springs in the west.
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PS: I write blogs about a curious mix of three topics: Inspiration and Hope, Science and Energy, and Health and Hiking. Something for everyone!
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The Gray Nomad ….. Read and plan a trip.
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Mortals put an end to the darkness;

they search out the farthest recesses
for ore in the blackest darkness.
Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft,
in places untouched by human feet;
far from other people they dangle and sway…
They tunnel through the rock;
their eyes see all its treasures.
They search the sources of the rivers
and bring hidden things to light.
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But where can wisdom be found?

Where does understanding dwell?
No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living…
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God understands the way to it

and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
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And he said to the human race,

“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
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[Book of Job, chapter 28].

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2 Responses to Hiking toward Heaven: Durango Deeper

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  2. Thanks again Ian, You seem to always seek out the great places and enjoy them. Thanks for sharing. Pictures are inspirational. Also thanks for the wise words from the Book of Job, also inspirational.

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