Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sylvia Learns About The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad

By Anne Sullivan

No one greeted me on my return from a long weekend away from Swingle Canyon. No sign of Sylvia. No Gordo sleeping in one of his inherited beds. Feeling lonely, I staggered into the house carrying five plastic bags holding treasures from Wal-Mart, Target and TJ Maxx, having seized the dentist visit to Albuquerque as a chance to shop. After six more trips, I was down to unloading the dirty laundry and towels when Sylvia emerged from the dry stream bed with wagging tail.
“About time,” I said, reaching down to pat her shaggy back.
“So where did you go, boss, and why?” she asked.
“I went to Albuquerque to the dentist and then continued on to Chama for the New Mexico Outdoor Writers and Photographers Conference,” I answered while carrying in the last load with Sylvia following me.
“Did you miss me and did you have a good time?”
“Somewhat and very good.”
“What did you do in Chama?”
“Mostly we ate. One big meal after another.”
“I like to eat,” she informed me unnecessarily. “You should have taken me with you. Why didn’t you?”
“The trip involved hours of driving and you hate to sit in a moving vehicle. Besides, I stayed at campgrounds where they take a dim view of dogs who bark all night.”
“That shows a marked lack of foresight. I should think they’d like to be warned of imminent danger.”
“Imminent, perhaps, but not imaginary. I daresay it shows good sense not to have barking dogs in a campground.”
“Did you do anything other than eat in Chama?” Sylvia was quick to change the subject.
“Yes, we rode the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad.”
“You did? I thought I heard on TV that it was broken.”
“One bridge is indeed broken but that one is very close to Chama. The ride now starts or ends, depending on which way you’re going, at Cumbres Pass and is a little shorter than it was. Buses take you to or pick you up from the Pass.”
“What was the train ride like?” she asked, sitting down to scratch.
“It’s a very old train that has a steam engine from 1902 and runs on narrow gauge track. The passenger cars are replicas of the original cars of the late 1800s. The railroad reached Chama in 1880. It’s all very historical. Everything has been or is in the process of being restored. And what’s more, there’s actually a small car that follows the train to put out any live embers. It’s called a fire car and carries one man, water and a hose.”
“That sounds like fun,” she paused in scratching to remark.
“I thought so, too. Oh, and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. We started at Antonito in Colorado and went through mountains and rocks, passing by old unused bunkhouses and water towers, all to the accompaniment of different train whistles.”
“Did you get any pictures?”
“I took a bunch but I don’t think they’ll be very good. Even though we went very slowly, about 8 to 12 miles an hour, it was a very bumpy ride.”
“I like driving slowly so I’m sure I would have liked the train ride,” she insisted.
“No, you wouldn’t have. We went through several very dark tunnels. It was also a very long ride – - from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.”
“That’s a long time indeed. Didn’t you get hungry?”
“Yes, but just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore around 1 p.m. we reached the halfway point in Osier and got off to eat a huge meal: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, a warm roll and the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.”
“I really would have liked that.”
“You’re not allowed to eat chocolate. It’s not good for dogs.”
“That reminds me. I’m hungry. You didn’t by any chance bring some of that meal home for me, did you?”
“Sorry, no refrigeration so I was forced to eat it all myself. However, I did stop in Grants and bought you some Iams biscuits. You like them.”
“I do, but they’re not very exciting. Just the same, I’d better try them out to see that you got your money’s worth.”
After I’d handed her a biscuit, I asked, “And what did you do here while I was gone?”
“Nothing much. Slept a lot. Oh, and Gordo killed a chipmunk for you.”
“I know. I saw it on the porch when I came in.”
“You might want it for dinner.”
“Another night,” I said.

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