July 2016 – We left our hotel in Denver fairly early in order to make a 10:00 reservation in Silver Plume, about an hour from the hotel. I was feeling a little under the weather when we left but chalked it up to being sleep deprived (between work the previous few days and the early flight, I had not had much time to sleep). When we arrived, the small parking lot was full and overflow parking was along a dirt (mud) road. Our little rental Malibu made the drive, but it got pretty muddy in the process.
We parked and got in line to board the train. We were near the end of the line, and the only seating left was in the open car. This would’ve been totally fine on a sunny day. However, it was 60 degrees and drizzling rain (cold, cold rain), and we were underdressed in shorts and flipflops (this decision was regretted numerous times over the next couple of hours). We had not packed cold weather clothing because it was over a hundred degrees at our home. We never guessed we would be cold anywhere in July, but we found out it is possible.
The train was late leaving by about twenty minutes. Once it started, it was quite a fun ride down the mountain and over some bridges. We had paid for the extended mine tour, so about halfway to Georgetown, we were let off at the Lebanon Mine. We spent a little over an hour here total, were given hard hats to wear, and were taken around 900 feet into the mine, stopping along the way for interesting points of history and bits of silver to look at. The mine is a consistent 42 degrees, so we again regretted our choice of clothing but we persevered. Our tour guide was a little strange, seemed like he might have been on something. He talked very slowly and lost his train of thought a lot. Overall, though, it was an interesting tour and our first experience inside a mine.
After the mine tour, we reboarded the train for another fifteen minute ride to Georgetown. We were given ten minutes to get off if we would like, and we hurried to the gift shop. We purchased a light blanket for the ride back (also came in handy later in the trip), and we hopped back on the train, again in the open car with drizzling rain. The ride back to Silver Plume was just as picturesque. I imagine in winter (definitely dress warmly then!), it would be gorgeous with snow falling.
We arrived back at Silver Plume and quickly realized there is not much to the town. We headed up the interstate two miles and got off at Georgetown. We parked, at lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and walked around the town exploring the shops. After awhile, we headed back toward the interstate but stopped at a wildlife overlook to check for goats. We never saw any, but it was a nice stop to get some fresh air. I had been feeling considerably worse as the day went on, and by this point I felt as if I had the flu. We decided to go back to the hotel to rest awhile and then figure out what to do with the rest of our rainy day.
As soon as we got to the hotel, I crashed for a few hours and woke up still feeling pretty bad. We walked to Walgreens nearby and bought gatorade. Between that and walking around Denver (lower altitude than the previous day and the train ride), I started feeling better but my lungs still ached. I realized that I had been suffering from altitude sickness, which can occur at about 8,000 feet elevation. Being from Florida and having lived in the south my entire life, I was very unaccustomed to the altitude. My home city is at an elevation of 16 feet, so we overdid it a bit by hiking so high our first day in the state. Fluids, oxygen, and time are the only real remedies, so I continued to sip my gatorade as we meandered around the city.
We walked along the riverside and visited a giant REI (we love this store, and this particular one was three levels!). We walked back down the 16th Street Mall and quickly figured out that restaurants in Denver close unusually early. It was only about 8:30, but we had trouble finding any restaurants that were still open (plenty of bars/lounges were opening) and ended up at P.F. Chang’s. The weather was so gorgeous and temperate that we requested to sit outside. This caused an awkward moment where we were questioned by the server if we were sure we really wanted to. I’m not sure what the issue was, but we were the only ones outside and had the patio to ourselves (along with a mouse that scampered by a couple of times).
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and to get some rest before an early morning the next day in Colorado Springs.