Sunday, March 4, 2007

Riding the Colorado Rails

About six months before our summer vacation began I wanted to schedule one new and different activity, particularly for the sake of our young daughters. Our neighbors had once taken a train ride through the mountainous terrain between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. Although the trip cost more than $100 for three of them, it was the highlight of their vacation. Marsha recommended making reservations as soon as possible so I ordered our tickets the next day.

Before we knew it, we were on the road to New Mexico and Colorado. After we had climbed amidst cliff dwellings, bought Indian jewelry from Santa Fe street vendors, and eaten plenty of Mexican food, Mark turned the car northward, towards the tiny mountain town of Durango. We arrived at the antique train depot in mid-morning, picked up our tickets and boarded an open-air car.

The temperature plummeted as the elevation climbed, and we snuggled together while we traveled through impossibly deep canyons and acres of undisturbed pines. Our enormous train click-clacked upwards as thick gray-black smoke poured from the engine car. The rock-strewn Animas River rushed far below us and several magnificent wooden homes grasped the hillsides on sturdy stilts.

Suddenly, Mark pointed to a tiny figure. We followed his finger to see a grizzly bear, standing straight up from his forage. A rickety, abandoned mine shaft rose from one hillside and dilapidated, wooden freight cars on the parallel track were almost close enough to touch. As our train approached flatter land, a two-seater biplane flew beside us within only a few feet of the ground.

It was worth every penny to ride those rails.