Friday, July 31, 2015

More Trains, More Scenery

I told you we love trains. So we moved the RV to Chama, New Mexico, so we could ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. We have ridden this train several times. This trip, we took the excursion from Chama to Osier, Colorado, where lunch is served. We then returned to Chama. This side of the route is, in our opinion, the most beautiful. Plus, if you ride all the way from Chama to Antonito, Colorado, you must take a bus for the return trip. You can start your ride in either town. This is the train we boarded. The railroad has a number of restored steam engines.

The scenery along the route is beautiful, even more so this year because of all the moisture the area has received this year. The hillsides are green and there are wildflowers everywhere.

At one point, we saw several cowboys heading out on their horses.

One highlight of the western part of the route is crossing the Lobato Trestle over Wolf Creek.

We were even treated to a full rainbow as the sun shined on the train's steam as we crossed the river.

It is always fun to take pictures of the front end of the train while riding down the rails. All of the train windows open and there is an open gondola car where it is easy to see the head of the train.

It is also possible to stand in the vestibules on the ends of each car, to hear the clicking of the wheels and the steam engine working. That is often John's favorite perch during the ride.

The Cumbres and Toltec has a Cinder Bear Excursion, a half-day outing especially aimed at children. Cinder Bear rode on the train, then he and the children and their families got off the train at Cumbres, the ghost town on top of Cumbres Pass, where there used to be a station, small village and section house. Today, members of the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec RR are restoring the buildings.

Not far beyond Cumbres Pass, we came to Osier, where lunch is served to passengers on both the east- and west-bound trains. Our meat loaf dinner was good. The other option was turkey, and we hear it is very good, too.

There was a downpour, with some hail, just as we reached Osier. At least the train pulls up right next to the dining room. You can even see the rain coming down through the door at the end of our car.

We watched the other train come in at Osier.

Steam engines require both coal (or wood or oil) to make the steam. They also need water. Our engine was filled with water at one point on the uphill climb from Chama.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

We Love Trains

So yesterday we rode the Rio Grande Scenic RR from Ft. Garland to Fir, where we attended a folk music concert, then returned to Ft. Garland. We have ridden this train several times in the past and this is the third concert we have attended at Fir. Look at the scenery at the concert site.

But first about the train trip. We boarded the train at Fort Garland, about 20 miles from our RV park in Alamosa.

We had seats in the open car. At first, we thought we might be uncomfortable there because sometimes it is very cold on the trip to or from LaVeta pass, where Fir is located. But it turns out, we had the most comfortable ride on the train, despite the wooden seats. It was a warm day and we had a great breeze. The views were great, too.

We even saw a herd of elk.

We went to hear John McCutcheon, a great musician and folk singer/story teller. We had heard him here once before. He played guitar, banjo, hammered dulcimer, keyboard, fiddle and another stringed instrument I didn't recognize. And he played every one excellently. He sings old time folk songs and others about modern life.

The opening set was done by folk singers Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen. They were very good, too. Steve plays the guitar and Cindy plays both the guitar and concertina.

In addition to the music, the numerous young children at the concert provided lots of entertainment. They were free to dance and watch and listen from the space in front of the stage.

Even the security guards were open to helping the children.

McCutcheon was wonderful with the children. This little girl walked up to the stage and said she had sand in her shoe. He put down his guitar and knelt down, then took off the shoe, shook out the sand and put it back on.

He had a devoted fan after that.

That wasn't the only time he impressed us with his treatment of the children. He said one of his young fans, who he talked to on the train trip to the concert, had asked him to sing a special song. He called that young boy to the stage to sing with him. Notice in the photo below the young boy who is blind and has a cane to help him navigate. That is Ky (spelling?). John asked him to come up, his mother brought him to the stage, and he sang with the star. Look at the smile on his face!

The concert ended with all three entertainers, as well as Fred Hargrove--a western singer we have heard in the past and who was MC at this concert--and Ed Ellis, president of the Rio Grand Scenic, all singing a couple of songs.

Ellis grew up on the south and always loved trains. The cars we rode in yesterday had all been used on the rail line featured in "The City of Chicago." He was the soloist when the whole group sang that song.  I love the refrain, "Good morning, America. How are you?"  The audience sang that with them each time it was repeated.

I was a great day.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Lake City

Last week, we drove over Slumguillion Pass to spend some time in Lake City. It is one of many small mining towns in the Colorado mountains. Many of them are now ghost towns, but some have developed into real tourist destinations--some because of nearby outdoor recreations opportunities like skiing or back country exploring on OHVs or ATVs  (Off Highway Vehicles or All Terrain Vehicles), jeeps and motorcycles; others have great shopping; others have casinos. Lake City has lots of shopping, whereas nearby Creede is more for ATV riders.

Lake City really looks rustic and has an old-west feel.

There are numerous old churches in town. The Baptist Church is the most attractive.

One of the art galleries has improved an empty lot with the 3rd Street Gardens.

Have you heard the story of Alferd Packer? He was accused of cannibalism after four of his companions--who had been trying to reach a mining area near Breckenridge, Colorado, in early 1874--died. Here is some information from Wikipedia. The deaths occurred near Lake City and one of the trials was held in Lake City.

Lake City has the Cannibal Grill in memory of this grizzly event.

We enjoyed looking through a number of the shops in town and even bought one gift there. In one shop, this man was blowing glass.

We had our lunch at Southern Vittles. Like in Creede, we found a strong Texan influence there. Look at this 1845 map, showing that this part of Colorado was once part of Texas.

Beer bottle caps were used to make this picture of the Texas flag.

We enjoyed our generous-sized sandwiches. I had a fried chicken sandwich with fries, John had BBQ brisket with chips.