July 22, 2011 Durango, CO to Antonito, CO

[John here. Due to the extraordinary lack of space and climate control mentioned in Mary’s executive summary, and the fact that the adventures of Clark and Lewis demand Mary’s full creative energies, I am stepping in as guest blogger.]

We leave Durango after having spent a very interesting and relaxing two days. On to our next destination, Antonito, a small town in southern Colorado which is one terminus of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway. We have places reserved on the 10am train tomorrow.

First, though, we must get there. This requires we cross the Continental Divide. this is something we’ve done many times before, but this is the first time by this route. We cross at Wolf Creek Summit on US-160 at almost 11,000 feet. We have a photo taken at the interpretive display at the top. We ponder the fact that such a crossing (at 11,000 feet) was the EASY route. Yeesh. Side note: Wolf Creek apparently did not indicate the presence of wolves, at least the 4-legged kind. It was named after early settler Bill Wolf. Humph.

Mary and John undivided

Even our GPS, Missy, is a little short of breath at this altitude

We continue eastward to get to the town of Alamosa, kind of the hub of the San Luis Valley. We have lunch at the San Luis Valley Brewery downtown. It’s located in an old bank building. At best tolerable food, but good American-style wheat beer, inscrutably named “Hefe Suave.”

After lunch we go see the Great Sand Dunes National Park about 35 miles northeast of Alamosa. Although it’s been in the National Park System since 1932, and given that we are National Park junkies, we have never even heard of this place! Shame on us.

Mary, Clark and Lewis at the entrance to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

These are the tallest dunes in North America. They were encountered by the Zebulon Pike expedition in 1806-07, in another one of Thomas Jefferson’s attempts to probe the Louisiana Purchase and beyond. In the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the dunes are formed by the otherwise protected confluence of two major wind streams. They are pretty darned big, to be sure. But it’s hot, and we’re not sand walking fans any way. So we just see the interpretive displays and go out on the overlooks, take pictures, and let our companions Clark and Lewis have some fun.

Clark and Lewis wisely stay off the hot sand dunes not wanting to become roast duck or fried frog legs

(Astute followers of Today’s Worry will no doubt observe that we have done a lot of dune in the last few years. The Singing Sand Dunes of Kelso CA and the Grand Dune du Pilat in Arcachon France are just two examples.)

We finish with the dunes and head down to our destination for the night, Antonito. There is not much to this town. We drive right past our hotel. It’s a restored (sort of) property on the main drag. The proprietors are very friendly and helpful, but there’s nothing they can do about the fact that the rooms are tiny, there’s no air conditioning, and the street noise persists until well after 11pm. We choose to cancel our second night there.

Our hotel

The main drag of Antonito

Dinner presents another challenge. There are two eating establishments nearby. We choose the Dutch Mill because it is closer and the menu looks a little more varied. The food is mediocre to poor, but the wine pours are, shall we say, substantial.

The Dutch Mill, the best choice for dinner

John peruses the menu

This giant glass of wine for $5 makes me giggle even before I drink it

Looking forward to our train adventure tomorrow!

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