Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Way West, Day Seven

We are wearing down earlier now. In the mornings we start the day a little later, go a few less miles. It is okay. This trip was intended to be slow and full of leisure. So far, our travel has been true to plan.

This morning we got up and hung around Chama. We have ridden the steam train here a few years ago. It was a wonderful ride, my favorite steam ride yet. The main part of town is maybe three blocks. We found a sweet train shirt for Baby Simon, had a glass of iced tea, and headed up the road.

I had marked Dulce as a next stop. Dulce is the headquarters of the Jicarilla Apache nation. Their reservation is somewhat different than the pueblos south of them. A Plains Indian, they did not use the high rise rock and adobe homes. Those on this reservation live in traditional homes now; their schools are beautiful. A sharp young Apache mother invited me to apply for a teaching position with the tribal schools. She had reared three children as a single mom and had two in college and one in sixth grade. She was proud of her mothering and rightly so!

This woman guided us to a 17 mile gravel road to Pagosa Springs. We took it and the land held its own beauty but was rough. The Apache reservation is one more example of how an indigenous people was pushed on to worthless land to live. About halfway through the back road, we pulled over and ate a picnic lunch. There was not one sound…silence was beautiful.

Then we pulled in to Pagosa where we were so tired we registered at something akin to the infamous Bates Motel! Knowing the room was not going to be very comfortable, we took a dash into town. We visited a couple of antique stores, a wonderful independent book store (and no, I could not leave without a book in hand!), visited a park with a stream running through it, and then stopped at a local joint for an icy Coors and onion rings. Neither of us wanted a meal. Then back to the rough but cheap room for sleep as both were tired.

Day Eight

This morning I made tea in the room, but I longed for my own deck. Like old people, we were thinking of home and its familiar comforts! But we are packed up and headed East now. Oh, what beautiful day! The aspens were beginning to turn and the cottonwoods were bright saffron! We climbed to the top of the Continental Divide where we found the Lobo Trail. It went up three miles to a meadowy mountain top where we once took our children. The drive is narrow and rough. We found a spotted Paint with a halter on...strange. We tried to feed her an apple, but she wouldn’t have it. Finally, she let us pass. Once at the mountain top, we ate an early lunch and just soaked up the sun. Coming down, we talked to a hunter who was saddling the Paint that had wandered away from his hunting camp. The hunter had taken a five point elk and had seen a bear with her cub in doing so.

A leisurely drive on into Alamosa, Colorado where we rest for the night…and finally have some internet connection!

Day Nine

It was up and to the train station early this morning. We rode the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad out of Alamosa to LaVeta.

It was chilly at first, but warmed up some on the 3 ½ hour ride. At two hours the train stopped and unloaded part of the passengers at an outdoor theater for a concert of local musicians. The rest of us rode on to La Veta, a tiny berg about two blocks long. There were a few gift shops, a potter, and a local library that has earned a five star rating for what such a tiny library can do. Also on Main Street was the Friends of the Library book store where everything was volunteered and all proceeds went to this nice library. DH and I bought a few! The only other thing I bought in the town was 3 lbs. of Anasazi beans.

Then it was another 3 ½ hour ride back to Alamosa. But we had singing cowboys this time. What fun! They played guitars and fiddles all the way back down the mountains.

Day Ten

We slept really well last night due to the wind and sun on the train ride. We took a slow start to the day knowing that we were heading home. Now the road meandered past Colorado ranches, pastures filled with well-fed horses. The colors took another slight change, adding more russet and sienna foliage to the yellows and oranges. How I wish I could gather up the color and hand it to my friends. Gorgeous stuff!

We rolled through towns that were mere crossroads. Some were pristine and neat, others rugged and almost ghost town in nature. We stopped at a few antique stores where there were more branding irons, calf weaners and spurs among the dishes and collectibles than at home. DH found a small tea set for a cheap price. I did not need it, although it was pretty. DH thought it a too much a bargain to walk away from, and read to me is was English. When he read bone china too, I was sold. We brought it home.

By early afternoon, we turned and faced the broad expanse of plains vistas again. Nothing sadder than seeing the jagged beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in your rearview mirror! Reluctantly I blew a kiss to the Spanish Peaks, and I took a turn at driving. I was like a saddle horse who knows he is heading for a bag of oats in the barn. The ride was over and I could only focus on home. I drove seven more hours. Adding that to DH’s own six, the thirteen hours put us way past the smelly feed lots of Dodge City. Tomorrow we will see Wichita again.

This has been a lovely trip, a reward for the ugly summer we put in here in Missouri. Driving on the highway today we counted up what we had done this summer for fun. Our list held next to nothing…no fishing, swimming, picnicking, biking, travel, and only ONE tea on the deck. So despite the horrors of Summer 2011, we have had some nice experiences in the West before heading into winter!


irishoma said...

Hi Claudia,
I feel like I'm right there with you. Your descriptions and photos are lovely.
Thanks for sharing, and have a safe trip back.

Ames said...

Sounds like my kind of trip. Glad you are having a wonderful time.I love the pictures. Keep them coming!~Ames

Anonymous said...

Love, love, loved all your photos and meanderings. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing everything with us. Bet now that you are home you don't want to get back in the saddle again any time soon ha!

It's great to travel, just great, but it's also nice to get home, isn't it, Bookie? Susan from