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Animas River Trail provides centenarian stomping grounds

Barbara Cristol turned 100 on Thursday, strolling along Durango pathway
Barbara Cristol celebrated her 100th birthday Thursday strolling along the Animas River Trail. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Barbara Cristol walks along the Animas River Trail several times per week – anytime she can wrangle her son or daughter into joining her. Her weekly 2½-mile walks would be impressive for anyone using a walker, but more so on Thursday, when Cristol’s walk was part of her 100th birthday celebration.

Despite her century of life, Cristol is still sharp, witty and matter of fact.

“I didn’t think I was any different when I woke up,” she joked with two of her children, Marje Cristol and Kurt Swingle.

The requirement that the elder Cristol be accompanied by someone was instituted “relatively recently compared to her 100 years of running around,” her daughter said.

Barbara Cristol, 100 years young, with her children Marje Cristol and Kurt Swingle. The centenarian still walks 2½ miles of the trail at least once per week. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
“Keep positive and keep moving. That’s the secret!” Barbara Cristol says. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Although she has company on her walks, Cristol still lives alone and handles many of her own basic tasks. Only a year has passed since she traded a set of walking poles for a frill-less turquoise walker used while she now rolls along the paved trail with gusto. Cristol moves at a respectable clip, perhaps conditioned by many decades of skiing and trekking.

“I just feel very fortunate,” she said.

Cristol has never driven, partly a result of vision problems stemming from a childhood illness. She has always walked as a means of transportation, although she notes that bicycles were important, too. She was instrumental in developing bike lanes in Boulder before her move to Durango, in 2006.

As skiing, cycling and trekking have become impossible, Cristol says walking remains an important activity.

“People often say, ‘Go for it,’ or something like that – you know, silly things,” she said. “They’re just friendly! I say hello to people and they say hello to me.”

While she sees only one other walker-pushing pedestrian on the trail, Cristol said there are a small group of people she occasionally runs into. The trail, she said, is the best part of Durango.

“Keep positive and keep moving,” she said of her longevity. “That’s the secret!”


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