On my last day in town, I hobble out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to catch the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a sightseeing steam train that serves as one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. We plod alongside miles of unspoiled Animas River Valley, at times coming so close to a lip of rock shelf that I find myself leaning away from the edge.
After a two-hour voyage, I step off the train into a tree-lined valley that houses Soaring Tree Top Adventures, the world’s longest zip line course, which is so secluded amid 180 acres of pristine land that the only ways to reach it are by rail or helicopter.
The course is ultra eco-friendly — stainless steel cables attach to towering ponderosa pine trees without penetrating their bark or impeding their growth. After being fitted for harnesses and getting a crash course in safety, our group heads to the first of 27 spans.
Without a doubt, the first one’s the hardest. Stepping off the edge of a floating platform into nothing goes against every instinct I have, but by the third go-round, I do it without thinking. The staff of Sky Rangers — guides who connect your harness to each line and keep you from smashing into anything — is shockingly friendly. The Sky Rangers know your name by the second platform, your hometown by the fourth, and your life story by the time you reach the behemoth quarter-mile line that serves as the course’s grand finale.
I take the train back into town, then walk a few blocks for dinner at Steamworks Brewing Company, one of four microbreweries in Durango. Instead of ordering a pint with my pizza, I opt for the beer sampler, which includes a collection of six of Steamworks’ signature brews. My favorite, Colorado Kölsch, is light, refreshing and slightly sweet.
My last hours in Durango are a blur. I remember curling up in my bed at the Rochester, a 15-room boutique hotel that celebrates the city’s Hollywood history with posters from films such as City Slickers, Around the World in 80 Days and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, all of which feature Durango in at least a few scenes. I vaguely recall toting my bags toward the front door in the morning, cursing myself for waking up too late to partake of the complimentary breakfast.
And then, suddenly, I’m on a plane, getting my last gazes at a postcard-perfect city that, for all its big-time excitement, is still a small town at heart. And that’s just how I like it.