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What to Do between Montrose and Alamosa?

We are flying into Denver on 9/10/12 and leaving 18 days later. Hope 50 hrs. in Denver will acclimate us a little so we can manage the next 4 days in the Rockies (Estes Park & Winter Park); then we go to Grand Junction/CONM and from there to Montrose/Black Canyon NP. The end of the trip is a day at Great Sand Dunes and 3 days in Colorado Spgs. The original plan for the middle of the trip was to take a day driving from Montrose to Durango, where we have hotel reservations for the next 3 nights. Which would give us 2 full days in Durango before a slow drive to Alamosa maybe via Chimney Rock.

I thought it would be fun to dedicate a day to the train ride to Silverton but DH has now decided that it would not be fun, particularly since we will have made the trip by car the day before. We spent 3 days at Mesa Verde on a CO Plateau loop last Sept. but didn’t get to Aztec NM, so we thought we would spend a morning or afternoon there.

I’m not sure we need the extra day in Durango now and am wondering what Fodorites might suggest. Should we spend a night in Crested Butte or a night in Ouray or elsewhere north of Durango? (Will have a day and a half for Black Canyon and since we’re not going down into the canyon, we might have time to drive to Crested Butte then to take a look.) Or should we stay somewhere between Durango and Alamosa for a night? Or does anyone have suggestions for day trips outside of Durango? Much of what I’m reading about CO is related to skiing and occasionally mountain biking, which are not relevant for us - or for the time of year.

We like animal-watching (including birds to some extent) and wildlife preserves but suspect mid Sept. isn’t an ideal time of year for that. Although apart from DH’s headaches a couple of days in Santa Fe 15 yrs. ago, we have not had problems with altitude sickness per se (although we have lived at 35 ft. above sea level for 35 years) , but we have never been over about 11,000 ft. (6 yrs. ago in Cusco) and our “hiking” has evolved into “walking” (or even strolling) as we get older. I have found myself a bit short of breath when walking fast or uphill in Bryce and Yellowstone in the last year. We don’t do steep climbs (unless very short) now, nor hikes over about 2 miles (1 way, 4 mi. total). Probably will not have 4-wheel drive or a high clearance car. We like ruins, petroglyphs, etc., but are not generally big fans of history museums.

All suggestions would be appreciated.

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