Visit Abandon: A Guide to the Locales in the Book

ABANDON is set in my neck of the woods, God’s Country, the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. This is my home, but it’s also a famous tourist destination, and Hollywood has shot a number of movies around these parts, including CITY SLICKERS and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. Nearly a million people visit each year, and should you want to see the locations of ABANDON and experience the scenery and history that inspired the book, here’s a guide.

NOTE: This is a summer guide. Visit between late-June and mid-October, because the winters here are long, the snow piles up in feet, and you won’t be able to get into the high country from November through early June.

1. Fly into La Plata County Airport, the regional hub for Durango, Colorado.

2. Stay a few nights at the Strater Hotel in downtown Durango. Built in 1887, it’s brimming with the history and atmosphere of the Old West.

3. Durango boasts as many per capita restaurants as San Francisco. Here are my favorites:

For breakfast: Carver Brewing Company.

Best coffee in town: Steaming Bean on the corner of 9th and Main.

For lunch: Diamond Belle Saloon (amazing burgers) or Steamworks (great microbrewery), where the opening present-day chapter of ABANDON is set. Sit on the back porch for the full experience.

For dinner: Seasons, Mahogany Grille, or the Ore House.

While you’re in Durango, take a rafting trip down the Animas River which goes through town with Mild to Wild, visit Mesa Verde National Park which is only 38 miles west of town on Highway 160, and ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Also be sure to stop by Maria’s Bookshop on Main Street which has all of my books, many of which are autographed.

4. So you’ve acclimatized for two or three days in Durango. Now it’s time to head up into the high country. Take Highway 550 north, also known as the “Million Dollar Highway.” Your destination is Silverton, Colorado, which is fifty miles away. The drive alone will be worth the airfare. Check into the Grand Imperial Hotel, where the final chapters (both present and past) of ABANDON take place. Silverton is a sight to behold.

The Rocky Mountain Oysters at the Brown Bear Café are to die for. Don’t be shy. Get your java fix at the Avalanche Coffee House. Now rent a Jeep, or have great rental car insurance, and continue north up County Road 2. This will take you onto a system of roads called the Alpine Loop. On the way up, stop by the Old Hundred Mine and take the tour. Then continue on to Animas Forks, which is twelve miles north of Silverton. Animas Forks is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Colorado. It sits at 11,200 feet amid some of the most rugged and spectacular scenery you’ll ever see. This town was the inspiration for ABANDON.

5. If you have a few more days to spare, from Silverton, take the Million Dollar Highway/550 north onto Ouray. This twenty-mile stretch is one of the most scenic drives in the world, and Ouray happens to be the setting for my THRILLER 2 short story, "Remaking." Stay at the Box Canyon Lodge and enjoy the mineral water soaking tubs. Ouray is a special town, and you won’t have any trouble finding something to do.

This trip guide only scratches the surface of all the fun to be had in Southwest Colorado. Enjoy your visit!