Another Sunday meant another dilemma. We haven’t been hitting church much lately. For some reason we end up traveling a lot on Sundays. Or the work of finding a church proves too overwhelming. Or we’re just too tired. Insert a litany of excuses here… It’s not something I’m proud of and my intent was to change it this week. I had even scoped out a church back towards Durango that looked like a good fit for us.
Then I got up Sunday morning, made coffee, and wandered down by the lake. I moved to where a small run-off powered brook came babbling over rocks into the lake, stepped across to a rock in the middle of the current, and searched my Bible app for verses that mentioned water. While gazing across the mirrored water at the trees below and bluffs above it hit me - quite hard - that this day, in this location, was no day to need to seek the Creator in a building. I was already in a sanctuary. I lingered a while, then - both refreshed and out of coffee - wandered back up to roust the family.
My other goal for this day was to make a daytrip up to Silverton, a drive of about 30 miles each way. While this wouldn’t get us to the famed “Million Dollar Highway” portion of highway 550 it would take us up steeply graded curves and run us up to our record elevation for this trip. Molas Pass lays between Durango and Silverton and is at an elevation of 10,910 feet. Silverton is a small little ex-mining town nestled up in the mountains at 9300 feet (actually making it one of the highest towns in the US). These days it’s mostly a tourist town, serving as the northern terminus for the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train, with restaurant and trinket shops lining it’s main street. There are also numerous Jeep trails in the area but these are typically snowed shut until late June.
Now, I have to point out that MsBoyink has been struggling with elevation changes. We were camping at roughly 8K feet and she’s had days of just being tired and feeling “funky”. I could sense that she almost wanted to stay behind and just have the kids and I make this drive but knew this area is special to me, and joined us armed with double water bottles and snacks for the trip.
The drive up was…awe inspiring. It was the most beautiful drive we’ve had yet on this trip. Soaring mountain vistas, abundant pines, water rushing over rock faces, curvy, hilly - all on a perfect day with sun and just enough clouds in the sky to make pictures even more beautiful. We stopped at the pass to take a few pictures, Miranda made a small snowman, and MsBoyink reclined in the truck. Descending down into Silverton was like flying into an HO-scale train layout. I was especially happy with how the tow/haul mode works on our truck with the Alison transmission - it might not formally be a transmission brake but it sure functions as one. I never felt like I had to ride the brakes anywhere, and even while working the hardest the transmission and engine temps barely moved.
I parked the truck on main street intending to just visit a couple shops with the kids (we needed a fridge magnet and a bumper sticker for this stop). MsBoyink wasn’t doing well and initially was going to stay in the truck but at last minute appeared on the sidewalk to join us.
We wandered down to find a helicopter parked on the street, amidst all the fire trucks and equipment out for display by the local fire department. At first we were just going to wander by but I had to go ask if the helicopter was normally parked in that spot. Turns out the department was having an open house, and we enjoyed a good 45 minute conversation with one of the firemen about their equipment, the number and types of calls they get, and how they function in the wintertime. I think if we stayed later we could have had hot dogs - but the female members of our group were less enamored of the big toys than the male ones, so we wandered on. We caught the train coming into town, this end feeling much more “vintage” with the train coming right down the dirt street. We found our magnet and bumper sticker - and also found a place selling the state magnets we also collect but were behind on.
But - by now our bellies were rumbling. We had brought some snacks in the truck, intending to be frugal during our visit. But, MsBoyink’s birthday is on 5/16 and we knew that was going to be a travel day. The lure of celebrating her birthday with a meal out in a location like Silverton overcame our desire to be frugal, and we started looking for a restaurant. There were a small number that looked interesting, but one had a live piano player kicking out some classic-sounding honky tonk tunes. Sold!
Once we had placed our orders I slipped the player (Dale) a tip and mentioned that we were celebrating MsBoyink’s birthday. Dale was cool about it - just nodding. I returned to my seat, and then started to wonder if I had made my intentions clear. Dale got up and walked by the table, paused, bent down, and just said one word:“Name?”. I grinned, said “Crissa” and he walked on. The rest of the story is on the video attached to this post. MsBoyink played along like a champ - especially considering her discomfort at the altitude. Totally an unplanned way to celebrate her birthday - but as it turned out quite a nice one.
We made the drive back home marveling again at both the scenery and how many people passed us, too busy to slow down and take it in.