It was good to head out of the desert and back into civilization as we approached Durango, only an hour ride from the Mission. We came very close to Mesa Verde National Park, which I really wanted to visit, but Alan and the kids were not into more sightseeing. I guess it will have to wait for another trip. We checked into our hotel, Best Western Durango Inn & Suites. We were really hungry and found Gazpacho’s, a good Mexican restaurant someone had recommended. Had a nice dinner and then walked around downtown Durango. It’s a neat old town that smells like leather with all its western shops! We stopped at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a piece of candy, for which we paid dearly. I think it was $7 for each of us to have one piece of chocolate! We did some souvenir shopping but Alan & Coleman parted company from the girls and me because we all wanted to shop for "necessities"...jewelry for the girls and boy stuff for the boys.
In the morning we scheduled our whitewater rafting trip. We had really looked forward to this, even though we'd heard the rivers were running fast and high because of all the snow. Whitewater rafting companies are a dime a dozen in Durango. I found out that all guides need to be licensed, so to me, it didn’t really matter who we booked with. We reserved a trip with Southwest Whitewater. We were going to do a four-hour trip, but decided to do a two-hour trip instead. And am I ever glad we did! This was definitely NOT the highlight of the trip for any of us. http://swwhitewater.com/rafting.html
First of all, the water was absolutely freezing. Second of all, we had to sit up on the rafts, not in them. All of us. Except when we were approaching the big rapids, they had Caroline and Coleman sit down in. It was our family plus two guides. They gave all kinds of worst-case scenarios and of course once again we had to sign our lives away, promising not to sue them when we got killed or maimed as is wont to happen on these trips. The bus trip to the put-in spot was filled with photos of capsized rafts. The guide asked us our names, and after we told her she said, "OK, now if you pop out of the raft, your new name will be 'Swimmer,' and you need to listen to everything I tell you. Oh, great.
Our guides sat in the back and shouted rowing instructions to us. In front of them were Caroline & Coleman, with Emily & Elly in front of them, and then Alan & me in front. The main guide was diagonally behind me, and she steered the raft, and managed to steer our raft at an angle that sent me first into every rapid. Lovely. Everyone can thank me for taking the hit and sparing them from the full force of all the icy water. Our raft would drop way down, almost standing on end, the frigid water would wash over us, and then we’d pop straight up, coming out of the rapid.
They had a photographer along the route who took pictures of us in every rapid. And every photo had me turned around, looking back. Why? I was counting kids, of course. It was a wild ride and I was really scared that the kids would fly out of the raft in the rapids. I really did worry about them. Maybe in warmer months coming out of the raft isn’t such a big deal, but the thought of the kids landing in that icy raging water really scared me.
Our feet were completely numb. We wore water shoes, but they didn’t keep us warm. They did rent wetsuit booties, which would have been worthwhile. If our feet wouldn’t have felt like icebergs, maybe the whole ride would have been more enjoyable. But overall, we could only recommend whitewater rafting if the water was much warmer. Plus, even though they take kids as young as 5 years old, the younger kids didn’t enjoy it. Even wildman Coleman said it scared him. Believe it or not, the one who liked it best was Elly, the same kid who was petrified on the four-wheelers. She kept saying she wished the water was faster! Go figure. The two hour trip was about an hour & a half too long for the rest of us.
We had planned to stay two nights at the Durango Inn & Suites, but after seeing the downtown area we wanted to spend our second night in Duango there. We found a room at Best Western Rio Grande right in the middle of downtown. This hotel was really nice. The indoor pool was in the center of the hotel, atrium style, open to all four floors of the hotel. It was a much nicer indoor pool than the kind in a humid stuffy pool room. We were all so cold from the rafting trip that we all sat in the hot tub for a long time, just relaxing and trying to warm up!
We walked around town some more, stopping at a nice French bakery, Jean Pierre’s. We had fresh bread coated with butter...we were hungry and it tasted good! The kids had eaten after rafting at Burger King, but Alan & I were saving our appetite to go out on the town later. So after we walked around with the kids for an hour or so, we bought them ice cream and rented a couple movies for them. They were set, and so were we!
There were so many restaurants in town that we decided to get one course at each place! We found a café called Steamworks, where we started with a hot spinach artichoke cheese dip. By the time we finished that we were pretty full so decided not to buy dinner after all. There is a really neat old Victorian hotel in Durango called The Strater Hotel which has a piano bar beside it called the Diamond Belle Saloon. http://www.strater.com/belle.php
We’d heard their Chocolate Avalanche dessert was to die for, so we ordered it! It said "for two" but looked like it was for at least four! It was huge...wish I’d had my camera along. Brownies, whipped cream, ganache, hot chocolate ice cream, and lots of strawberries all smothered in hot fudge. Can you say ALKA-SELZER?! Halfway through we were stuffed, but sat there for half an hour or so listening to "Hot Molly" on the piano. She was really good, sang a song with the words, "If God doesn’t live in Colorado, I’m sure that’s where he spends most of his time." As we walked back up the hill to our hotel on the beautiful Colorado night, we could understand those words.