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Should we modify trip plans to Durango in light of the Missionary Ridge fire?

Should we modify trip plans to Durango in light of the Missionary Ridge fire?

Old Jun 18th, 2002, 05:10 AM
  #1  
Neil
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Should we modify trip plans to Durango in light of the Missionary Ridge fire?

We are leaving next week for a long planned trip to the Southwest. We are scheduled to spend a few days in Durango (arriving July 6) where we have reservations on the railroad and where we planned to do some rafting and hiking. We are getting concerned about the impact of the fire on our plans. I hear that Durango is quite smokey in the morning and at night; I can't get any info on what conditions are like along the train route. There also seems to be a possibility that the forest service may close the San Juan national forest. Are there any Durango residents out there who can provide some info and suggestions?
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 06:46 AM
  #2  
gb
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I'm not in Durango, but I can give you update news info. The problem areas at this time are at Valicito Reservoir and Lemon Reservoir towards Bayfield. The fire is north of Durango, and at times, near Molas Pass. So, if those areas were in your travel plans you might change them. As for smoke, the amount smoke changes as to amount and location several times a day. Unless you are highly asthmatic, I wouldn't worry about it too much. And if you were spending time at Mesa Verde, it is not affected at this time. The train could be affected at some point, but I have not heard any news reports about it being cancelled. As to closing the San Juan forest-the forest is a huge area. Near Denver, the governor closed only a portion of the forest where the Hayman fire is located. I would think that only areas affected and threatened might have restricted access. I think you should continue your trip. Visit what is available. You might check the Denver Post online to read up on state news or the local Durango paper.
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 08:47 AM
  #3  
travellyn
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I'm a Durango resident. Yes, some mornings (especially Sunday) have been smokey; most of the time, it's not too bad in town. I've been really sad to see that the visibility is so poor to the east. Unless the prevailing winds radically change direction, you should be fine on the train. You'll be getting out of the smoky areas and into some beautiful country.

The rafting won't be limited except by low water levels. The river looks beautiful now.

Your hiking choices will be fewer than usual, but you should have no problem finding nice places to walk if you ask the Forest Service people for information. Hikes in the northwest areas of the county would keep you away from smoke. All I've heard so far about restrictions is that the San Juan National Forest may limit camping only to established campgrounds with hosts present, and some very specific backcountry areas. There's no talk yet about restricting hiking.

To my knowledge, there has been no fire near Molas Pass. There was an area on pre-evacuation status along Missionary Ridge yesterday, and my kids could see flames along the ridge from the road next to the train tracks. For that to affect the train at this point, the fire would have to move downhill and against the wind.

You can check <www.durangoherald.com> for updates at least 3 times a day, along with maps of the burned area, etc. If you were planning to stay east of town, it would be worth getting other lodging. If you stay in town, or a little west, you should be fine.

I have asthma, and have noticed a little difference in my breathing, but not as much as I feared. My kids are needing antihistamines; however, that may be more due to ragweed than the fire. A big bike group of 2,000 people just rode through town yesterday. If they can ride up the hills around here, then most people can handle the air.
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 09:32 AM
  #4  
jen
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Hi, we just returned from Durango on Sunday. The smoke is sort of heavy in the morning but as the winds pick up it clears rather quickly. Watching the fire fighting efforts (tankers, helicopters and planes) is rather interesting and sad all at the same time. We were located just north of town. Tip on the train, if you board at Rockwell (just north of town) you will cut off about and hour each way. Parking is available, the ticket price is not less, however, you don't miss any scenic portion of the ride. We ate at Handlebars in Silverton; the food was good and served quickly. We did the Spud Lake Hike just north of Rockwell. It was a rather easy hike but the trailhead is located near an awesome lily pond with beaver damns! Didn't do rafting but it looked just great. Durango is a really great town; anyone with info on vacation home rentals?
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 09:46 AM
  #5  
kima
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for vacation rentals check out http://www.vrbo.com/vrbo/co2.htm#Durango
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 09:52 AM
  #6  
travellyn
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Right after my last post, I went outside to find a thick pall of smoke where we had clear skies less than 3 hours earlier. All I can say is to keep your plans here flexible so you can do activiites away from the smoke. I would also expect that the fire will be nearly contained by the time you get here. Write a few days ahead of time, and I'll be glad to update you.

Jen, I'm glad you took the Spud Lake trail. It's a local favorite. We also like boarding the train at Rockwood; not all trains stop there. Durango Property Management may be a good clearing house for vacation rentals (970) 259-5612.
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 12:28 PM
  #7  
xxx
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ttt
 
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 11:39 PM
  #8  
Lenleigh
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Travellyn-

I used to live off of Florida Rd, it was around the area where the last condos/townhomes are before going towards Vallecito. The maps on the news make it hard to tell how close it is to that area. Any houses/apartments been evacuated around that part that you know of?
 
Old Jun 19th, 2002, 07:56 AM
  #9  
travellyn
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Lenleigh,

To my knowledge, the condos and houses on Florida Road near town haven't been evacuated. The affected area is closer to Vallecito. If you remember Helen's Store, and Forest Lakes, these have been the areas evacuated.

About a week before the Missionary Ridge fire, the was a fire that started on the ridge above Edgemont Ranch. It was extinguished pretty quickly, but could have threatened the area you're talking about, had it grown.
 
Old Jun 19th, 2002, 12:26 PM
  #10  
Lenleigh
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Thanks Travellyn, was just wondering if my old home would still be there whenever I visit next time!
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 07:02 AM
  #11  
travellyn
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Neil, it may be time to change your plans somewhat.

As of today, the railroad has scaled back operations until we get rain and/or the Missionary Ridge fire is contained. They are now busing passengers to Rockwood, then using a diesel engine to take the train into the really scenic parts of the route. They then bus passengers up to Silverton. We're all hoping they can resume train trips from Durango, but use a diesel engine all the way.

How are you traveling to Durango? Because of a fire near Southfork, there are some road closures that may affect you if you're driving.

Rafting is going REALLY well here, and the hiking is good in areas not affected by smoke. If your main reason for coming is the train, it may be worth a call to the railroad.
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 07:04 AM
  #12  
Neil
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Travellyn:

According to today's reports, things sound much worse. I was told that the railroad is now closed. Can you give me some updated info on the conditions? We are supposed to stay downtown at the Strater. Also, is driving the million dollar highway still a viable option?
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 07:36 AM
  #13  
Neil
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Travellyn:

Thanks for the update on the train. We will be driving from Mesa Verde, and then heading to Santa Fe from Durango. Is there any current problem with driving to Pagosa Springs and then picking up 84 south?
We have reservations on the train, but if we could still raft or get into the mountains by car our preference would be to keep Durango on our itinerary. How is the smoke in town?
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 09:33 AM
  #14  
travellyn
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The smoke in town is pretty variable. Right now, our visibility is only a mile or so - normal is probably over 50. Most people aren't having breathing problems. I'm asthmatic, so I'm coughing more than usual.

The roads to Pagosa and Santa Fe are fine now. The fire is a couple of miles from one section of the Million Dollar Highway that runs through the Animas Valley near Hermosa. Because of the view of the fire, that part of the highway has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in itself. The fire is on the other side of the Animas River from the highway, so it seems pretty unlikely that we'll see a closure in the next day or so. The highway is also downhill and against prevailing winds.
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 10:37 AM
  #15  
kima
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Looks like the Durando/Silverton trian has been shit down for the near term, they will look at it again in July/

A forty-mile stretch of US 160 (from mile marker 144 to 184) is closed west of South Fork. The closure is from Pagosa Springs to South Fork, including Wolf Creek Pass. Recommended detours: US 84, CO 17 and US 285
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 10:39 AM
  #16  
kima
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oops sorry for the profanity. Maybe Fodors can edit. does anyone know how to edit the post? I really should cut and paste to word before I post.
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 10:41 AM
  #17  
travellyn
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Kima, with the tension level so elevated around here, your typo made my day. It's not far from the truth.
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 11:19 AM
  #18  
gb
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Since I'm in Denver this might not be the most accurate info. On NPR, they said that the train was shut down not because of the Missionary Ridge Fire, but because it sparked a small grass fire of its on from sparks. It was quickly dowsed. The info I heard is that the train company is going to make some modifications to the train to prevent sparks from the chimmney and increase the so called water sprayers around the train. Anyone else hear this?
And I heard that Wolf Creek Pass was closed today because of the South Fork Fire called Million Fire. At this point, this is very temporary.
Also, there is concern that the Durango fire is growing. But bear in mind anyone who is traveling there, that this are isolated areas and some plans might need modification, but there is not a great reason to cancel your trip to that area. There is plenty to do there so there is no need the avoid the area. Even the Hayman Fire which is the largest, and granted serious, encompasses an area that is a small fraction that visitors might choose to see.
 
Old Jun 20th, 2002, 11:29 AM
  #19  
travellyn
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Yes, gb, your information is accurate; the train was shut down because of the fire risk from, not to, the train. Its cinders often (daily, weekly?) spark small fires, and there is a vehicle that follows a few minutes after each train to spot fires early. The railroad has its own fire fighting crew. The concern now is that there aren't any firefighters to spare in case a train-caused fire grew quickly.

There is an article in our newspaper about modifications that could decrease fire risk while still maintaining the historical integrity of the engines.
 
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