Misty Soot and Cinder Colored Memories

Yesterday I talked a bit about sort of growing up in “rough” circumstances. Today, over this memorial weekend, I find myself lost in a few memories.

Perusing the ABQjournal today, I came across an article titled “Cumbres & Toltec Railroad Ready to Roll This Weekend”.

And it brought a smile of memory to my face.

This is one of those “good” times from childhood, one of those places I can go and touch in my mind when things get tough. When I need a place to escape.

My dad, type A until his body couldn’t support it anymore, did love to take his family out on trips. He loved to go camping, road trips, up in the mountains, and to go see cool things that appealed to his engineering sensibilities.

One of the many trips we went on was to ride the Cumbres &Toltec Railroad. I don’t have a lot of memories from childhood, but tatters show up here and there.

One clear memory I have is being in Chama. We’d driven up there the day before, found some campground somewhere (this part is fuzzy). Dad set up our Apache Pop Up Trailer (that link shows a photo of one *exactly* like the one we had, tho ours was in better condition), the kind with the hand crank, and we spent the night. (I always had to sleep with my sister (bah!) on one end, my folks on the other, my brother in the table-converts-to-a-bed in the middle)

Then of course, we had to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to go catch the train. Dad would roust us out with his old fashioned values which included that sleeping in was a sin.

I recall drinking warm Carnation Instant Breakfast from a Styrofoam cup while we stood around in the freezing cold outside the ticket office in Chama, tickets in hand ready to take the ride.

I checked the schedule page and the earliest train now leaves at 10:00am, but I’m pretty sure we took off way earlier than that. We did the Chama to Antonito and back route.

It was one of those grumblies in the morning, but once we got going on the narrow gauge rail, I was INTO it. Great quote from a Jetsetters Magazine article “Aspen leaves dance in the glittering afternoon sunlight and the train makes a rhythmic, confident, ca-chunk, ca-chunk, ca-chunk sound, as if to say, I’m a train that knows what I’m doing.” Perfect description.

This ancient train chugging up a hill. Beautiful scenery all around, mountains, trees, green. I’d lean my head out the glassless window to take it all in and get a face full of soot for my trouble.

As the rails curve and turn up the climb, you can look back at the caboose or forward and see the engine chugging along.

About halfway through, I begged my mom for money for snacks and purchased some awful junk foodie treat. Beef jerky and Funyuns I believe.

We arrived in Antonito, Colorado grimy but happy. Antonito itself is little more than a touristy place high in the mountains. We shopped while my dad and brother explored. I’m sure my lifelong love of tchochkies overtook me and I spent hard earned allowance on items imprinted with names and places. I know that I did but couldn’t tell you what. The clearest memories are the morning, the cold, and being on the train. All the rest is a haze.

But I do remember it was one of those trips where my family acted like a family. We all enjoyed each other’s company. My parents aired out their three children, exposed them to the outdoors and gave them something to learn about.

And a happy memory, one that makes me smile. It’s what I’ll choose to hold onto this Memorial Day weekend.

***Many thanks to Jetsetters Magazine for providing me photos and memories. Many of the shots linked on this page look pretty much like the ones still stuck in a photo album that I took with my Kodak Flip Flash Camera.

Update: I pulled out the old photo album with the FlipFlash photos….August 1978 *coff*. That’s when this went down…nearly twenty *coff* years ago…..*coff*

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