July 23 – Snowdon Peak to Molas Pass – 1 miles, 350 feet up, 43 feet down
Today was essentially a rest day, so we slept in till 7 am, quickly packed up and made the quick jaunt to Molas Lake campground where I am currently catching up on this journal and waiting for the campsite host to show up. It's 9:30 am already…these folks are slackers. Ha!
Our plan for today is to set-up camp and head into Silverton to get food. We need to retrieve a rations packet we sent to this campsite as well nearly a month ago. Now if only that host would show up…
…well the campsite host finally showed up around 10 am. We picked up our ration, set up camp in a nice little spot right by the lake and started hitch hiking to Silverton. It was easier than I thught. On the way down we were picked up by a van driver from Cortez picking up tourists on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad. He told us rent in Cortez is much cheaper than Durango or Silverton.
Silverton is an unique place. It has probably the most dramatic setting of an town in the lower-48 – it's ringed by towering mountains on all sides – but it seems to attract a strange tourist community of Texans who ride the train all day, get burgers, ice cream and train trinkets in Silverton, and then leave. The whole town shuts down after 3 pm once the train heads back to Durango. That's not such a bad thing though, because that's when the locals come out of hiding, and they seem like our kind of people – friendly mountain folks who are quick to tell us that this is the best ski location on the planet.
We ran into a mutual friend Maggie who lives in Silveton who gave us the scoop on the town. It has some of the best hiking and skiing in the world, there is not much work and there is a strange cultural mix of old timers with a wild west "we can do anything we want on the land" and new school backcountry skiers and adventurers.
Change is coming to this town but right now it's in the fighting stage. Our campsite host is a typical mountain man. He looks a bit like my wife's father: tall, thin, with a big beard. When he's not hosting visitors at the campsite – dolling out sites, telling folks where bathrooms are and distributing shower tokens – he also serves as the head of the Silverton board of directors. He complained to us that the newcomers are ruining Silverton and that they, "want snowmobiles to groom their nordic trails but don't want them to be anywhere else."
The battle for the new west is raging strong in this mountain community, and it'll be interesting to see what happens because the town currently relies heavily on motorized recreation for income. I can't help but wonder how a small backcountry ski shop – doubling as a hiking shop – with a good selection of gear, great bootfitting and tons of maps and information would do here. Remarkably, that doesn't seem to exist in Silverton in 2012.
We gorged on food today. We each ate a horrible cheeseburger, a really good pizza and ice cream. The highlight was a fully scrumptious mango that tasted like something beamed straight from heaven. I called home today to check in and found out that the big news of the day was a massive shooting in Denver at the opening of a Batman film. God this world is strange. A man is much better off in the woods than here in civilization. I don't think I want to come back.
We hitched home with a single woman driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck with Wyoming plates. She was really nice lady who wanted to know all about our trip. It started to rain hard when we got to the campsite and we went to bed a bit soggy but full and content. Oddly enough we seem to get the wettest on our town days, Breckenridge and Silverton. I guess we let our guard down and don't worry about it so much.
Molas Lake campground might be a destination wilderness experience for some – there are about 50 massive RV's surrounding our tiny tarp – but it's diversion into civilization for us.