Chugging Along the River of Lost Souls

23 12 2009

Was Durango the high point of the trip? Jim said it would be and elevation-wise he was probably right. We took a narrow gauge railroad into the Rockies. Jim had made reservations in the first class parlor, which was the final car on the line.
Those afforded this luxury were granted access to a full-time attendant, a stunning view of the San Juan forest and, most importantly, comfort.

Gabe did not make this trip.

“Slept right through it,” Jim lashed out in disgust.

Was Gabe really sleeping back there at the cozy General Palmer Hotel? Probably not, but who cares.

Being the good chap, I joined Jim for the train ride.  Inside the first-class car there were a wide variety of people:

A young blonde female attendant, a hippie couple from California and an uptight school teacher and his ethnic father from Chicago, who seemed to be Polish. The school teacher was a handsome young man who taught English in the Durango school system and the hippies were quick to question him on his reading list.

Jim did most of the talking to the hippies. I remained quiet, intent on the scenes outside as we chugged into the mountains. This was a steam engine model. Big, strong men shoveled coal into the train’s tummy and away we went, up to 9,000-feet.

Narrow Gauge Journey

The tracks followed along the San Juan River, or as our not-so-perky attendant noted, the “River of Lost Souls.”

It was a fascinating river to follow. The water flowing against us as we climbed. I took a lot of pictures and shot some video too. There was an observation car and there people jostled for position, hoping to capture that perfect picture.

It was quite cold outside the parlor car and soon we made it into snow covered territory. During the summer months, with tourism season in full steam, the train would make it all the way to Silverton, an old mining town.

We chugged about half way to Silverton and stopped inside a canyon for lunch. Jim bought us hot dogs and bloody marys and after we ate, the conductor granted everyone a few minutes to explore our surroundings.

People began to scatter in every direction. Jim took a picture of me in front of the train and then headed back inside for the warmth of the parlor car. He encouraged me to go ahead and look around, the train would let us know when it was time to go.

“Trust me, you don’t want to be left up here,” the attendant said.

It was cold indeed, even with the sun shining. I was bundled pretty good, down to my freshly purchased steel-toe boats. Those boots, just one month prior had been soaked in Florida marshes and now they were getting a workout in the Colorado mountains.

The river was frozen over in parts and its rocky perimeter made it difficult to walk — or was it those damned boots? Whatever the case, my right ankle would be sore for a few days to come.

But it was worth it. Beautiful country. Images that stoke patriotism and pride in one’s country. Images I shall not soon forget.

When I climbed back into the parlor car, Jim remarked at how red my face was.

“I did a lot of breathing,” I said.

And introspection.

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