Hot on the heels of the end of school, we headed out of town with Than’s parents for a very special getaway. Since our train-loving boy is growing up fast, it was more than time to give him a good ride on a real steam train.
Based on the recommendation of my train-loving grandfather, we drove south to Chama, New Mexico, for our ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.
We stayed at the Gandy Dance Inn Bed and Breakfast, just a block or two from the train depot, and could hear the train whistles loud and clear (to our great delight, of course.) We also enjoyed splashing in the hot tub, eating delicious homemade breakfasts, getting to know the innkeeper, and seeing all the interesting collectibles and antiques.
Our first full day in Chama was taken up by the main reason for our visit, the train ride. We checked out the rail yards fully, boarded the train a little before 10:00, spent all morning travelling, ate lunch in Osier, 19 miles from the nearest paved road, and then traveled back to reach Chama again by 5:00.
The trip was a wonderful experience. Nathan was enthralled, loving to look out the window at every turn to get a glimpse of the engine.
He also worked very hard to listen to the commentary provided by the friendly docents, picking up many facts about our trip and finding the answers needed to fill out his booklet and become a Junior Engineer.
He proudly wore his Junior Engineer badge on the train ride back to Chama, and then kept it on for the rest of the vacation. He practiced being the docent for the second half of the journey, repeating many of the things he learned as we traveled past various landmarks on the way back.
Katya spent most of the time being Daddy’s companion, writing and drawing in her summer journal, and hanging out on the platforms at the end of the train cars. We all spent some time in the open car, but she liked the ends of the cars better because she could see out!
Both kids enjoyed the chance to go up in the engine at the end of our lunch break–so hot and noisy up there!
Sooty but satisfied, we returned to our B&B for a much needed shower, then out for dinner and a walk through the quiet town of Chama.
Our next day was filled with spontaneous adventures as Than played activities director, driving us around to all sorts of little-known nearby attractions. We took a short hike to a nearby reservoir, threw tons of rocks into the water, collected interesting mineral samples, hiked up to the train trestle we traveled on the day before, saw a beautiful bird, visited 100+-year-old graves in the Chama cemetery, and generally experienced the northern New Mexico countryside.
Although the train trip was the definite highlight, our final day was almost as good. After checking out of the B&B, we “chased the train” all morning, driving along all sorts of interesting roads to see how many times we could park by the track and watch the train steam past. It was a very simple but very exciting adventure, watching the beautiful historic train thunder past through gorgeous mountain scenery, accompanied by the excited waving of my kids. The docent and several passengers on the train even started to recognize us and wave extra-hard every time we caught up with them.
Finally loosing the train when it headed away from the road a little before lunch time, we traveled to the other end of the line, checked out the rail yards at Antonito, had some of the best Mexican food I have eaten in a long time, and then made the trek home. I am so grateful for the rich blessings of time with family and precious memory-making experiences with my children.