Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

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Cumbres-Toltec Railroad and GATORS!

We just hopped into the Passat and did a little three-day trip out to ride the Cumbres-Toltec Railroad and see the Colorado Gator Farm. Though, admittedly, the latter was chosen between that and the Sand Dunes and Jet wanted to see Gators.

There real reason we went out was to ride the train. It's a coal and steam powered train that goes from the plains in Altonito, Colorado up into the mountains and across them, through the Toltec river gorge and through the Cumbres mountains to Chama, New Mexico.

I set up a flickr set of some of the photos at:

We took half the day on Wednesday to get out there, just a quick jaunt down I-25 and then west to Alamosa, which had good green chile, that close to the border with New Mexico. We stayed at a little Super 8 that had a very warm swimming pool, but Jet was happy to blow off steam any way he could.

On Thursday, we headed out to the railroad, and got there right at 9:30, found our assigned seats in the middle of the train, and as soon as the conductor had checked everyone's tickets, they said that we could go anywhere we wanted. We picked the car right behind the Big Steam Engine, and the boys spent nearly the whole trip out on the platform between the car and the engine. They were just pelted by cinders and ash and the occasional blast of steam or mist from the engine. They loved it. I stayed just inside the car, and still got blackened, quite happily.

The windows on the cars could be opened all the way and we started in 80+ degree weather and sunshine out on the plains, and headed up and up, past tons of silver sage and desert and wound our steady way up into the mountains. It was beautiful. It was also slow, steady going that allowed us to really look at everything as we passed by. I loved watching the shadow of the smoke billowing and curling up into the air. From the wooden trestles to the tunnels, from the rock passageways to the forest we got to see everything. It was just wonderful as a way to see this part of the world. We went up to a good 9000 feet and it turned to mountain forest, with lots of quaking aspen and pine and rock and a big, deep valley cut by the Toltec River far below us. In the fall it would be all gold. We might have to do this again then. :-)

We went through two tunnels and stopped at a little reconstructed train gang village. We took on water there, and it was fun to watch the engineer sitting on the water tank hose to keep it in the tank on the engine.

The clouds in the mountains grew darker and more ominous, and finally the clouds broke into a pelting rain and hail storm that soaked everyone on the short run between the train cars and the lunch building. They had big cafeteria style lines set up for turkey dinners and meatloaf dinners. There were also salad and soup bars in the basement, and Jet decided on that, and ate all his salad so that he could have some dessert. It was warm food in a cold place, so it was very, very welcome.

The ride back started in the mists and then gradually cleared up, though never to the crystal clear skies of the morning. When we arrived back in the station it was raining there, damp and gray and humid. We did one last inspection of the big engine that brought us back, and then hit the gift shop where Jet found a sparkling geode slice of palest lavender crystal in the middle. He loved it and thought it a great way to remember the day.

The next day we decided to go to the Colorado Gator Farm only a few dozen miles away from Alamosa. They'd started as a tilapia farm and adopted a few abandoned gators as "garbage disposals" for the dead fish they couldn't sell, but found that it was pretty profitable to be a reptile rescue and display area as well as a fish farm. They're still a working fish farm, but a lot of the grounds are now dedicated as an exotic animal rescue. Most of the animals look pretty healthy and happy on the most part. And it's quite the hodgepodge of a collection. Lots of stuff and not great organization and really shoddy buildings, but it's interesting to get That Close to them. The turtles just run around the building floors. The medium sized gators are all in a ponds outside and you can buy a bucket of Gator Chow for $2 and feed anyone you want to.

There's hot springs at the site, and they use the warm water to warm up the ponds and pools so that all the critters are just fine during the cold Colorado winters. That was pretty neat.

We drove the state highways home, little two-lane roads most of the way back until we hit I-70, which was just stuffed full of the Friday rush to and from the mountains. It was pretty busy, but we managed it, and got home in time to just cool off the house, pick some zucchini and tomatoes and be happy to be home again.

My teeth are getting gradually better. I can brush and use cold water again. I am chewing things again, but meals make my jaw and a few teeth just ache. I think that my bite is adjusting itself as it gets better with the days. My eyes have mostly gotten back to normal, but the virus or whatever got into my upper lungs and my asthma is just getting to me. It'll clear in a few days, I guess. But getting home was good as sleeping in my own bed was really, really good... but all that time in the car was a bit hard on Jet and he was up three times last night. Ugh. John took him the first two, and I did the third. So we're all a bit tired.

But it was a great trip to take, and all next week we have obligations and the week after is Vacation Bible School and John and I are teaching the science part and Jet's doing the whole thing. School is only a short four weeks away. Meep. The summer just flew by. Maybe one more road trip before Jet's school starts, and then we'll see what we can do...
Tags: roadtrip, train

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