Tuesday

Salida Life



Between the backroads of Colorado, it‘s easy to find yourself in Salida at the end of the day. Its central location provides easy access for nearly every outdoor pleasure imaginable. The area's most notable natural feature is the Arkansans River. The Arkansas River attracts both those looking for solitude and those looking for adventure. You need not go further than the corner of F Street and 1ST Street to see Americana that mixes one part Norman Rockwell, one part mountain town, and one part Austin, TX. Dogs and bikes wait outside the local markets and cantinas for their owners to return. It seems Salida’s eclectic mix of residents know how to live the good life.


To start your evening in Salida, try the Boathouse Cantina (provided you can get a seat overlooking the river rapids). Enjoy a round or two while reminiscing about the day’s adventures and watching the kayakers below. While the view is good and the beer is cold, you may want to change venues for dinner. It’s always best to ask the local’s for advice; even Trip Advisor gets it wrong sometimes.

Sunday

Crested Butte Style



 

Friday

Salida Style

Thursday

Leadville Style

Wednesday

Return To Mosquito Pass


By the time you read this, Mosquito Pass will be under a blanket of snow and closed for the season. In October of 2009, I encountered a snowstorm and deep drifts that stopped me a few hundred yards short of the Pass. Navigating the icy shelf road was an thrill to say the least. Some of my favorite exploration photos came from that stormy day. The trip was a bit less precarious and a bit more leisurely this year. The turning leaves and crisp fall weather made for a perfect drive from Fairplay, over Mosquito Pass into Leadville. When it comes to the pass roads of Colorado, I like to do them during the off season and on week days. It seems I get the mountains all to myself this way…






Links to my 2009 Mosquito Pass snow pics:

Southern Colorado Exploration: Jaw Bone Canyon

Sunday

Chama River Camp

Sprinkles began tapping the rainfly moments after I dimmed the lamp. I could definitely nod off to this melody. Within a few minutes the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder signaled my peaceful lullaby would soon end. The storm seemed to bear down directly on my shelter; the rain and wind shook the tent through the night. Surprisingly, I slept through most of it. At 5AM my battered tent surrendered to the elements, it began weeping water through the corner seams. Cozy in my bag, I did little to stop the trickle knowing my three inch thick Thermarest kept me elevated. I wasn’t disappointed in my Kelty tent given it had been subject to the downpour for nearly eight hours before the water got through.
When I finally emerged, the weather had cleared leaving a blanket of leaves on the ground and fresh fall aroma. Paired with coffee, the morning was nothing short of spectacular. Life is good on the backroads.
Camping along the Chama River

Thursday

Dueling Signs


Tuesday

End Of The Line


Ascending Cumbres Pass at dusk, I caught up with the train engine by pure luck. The crowds had long gone to back to the cozy roadside inns and warming watering holes of Chama and Antonito. The conductor and his men were working to shut the black beast down for the night. They barely noticed me as they worked together like a well oiled machine. The scene could have easily been played out the same a century ago. The chill in the air, the workers‘ garb, the black smoke emanating from the stack, and the hissing of steam were nothing short of iconic. The conductor walked the top plank shouting back and fourth with his men to be heard over the breathing engine. With his wrench, he tapped each metal tank before turning the relief valves. The escaping steam screamed past the conductor like the contrail of a missile and came within inches of his head. I was so intrigued by what I was watching, I almost forgot to raise my camera. Surly this was a “real man” job; not like some guy that drives around taking pictures…

Monday

Aspen Tunnel II

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Sunday

Tracks


When I was no more than 4, I rode the train from Chama to Antonito with my Dad. It was a rather uneventful memory. The train had stopped in a grassy meadow for passengers to picnic. The wind made the grass move like the ocean and the sound lulled me to sleep. From my slumber I was startled awake by the train whistle. I re-boarded the train in a rather foul mood and anxious to finish the train ride. To say the experience formed a sort of nostalgia might be a stretching it.


As I grow older, I don’t often find myself visiting popular tourist destinations. If your at all familiar with my travels, this is an easy deduction. I still have a tough time entering National Parks without feeling like I’m at Busch Gardens. The farther off the beaten path the better. Amongst a few other American Southwest icons, I have a weak spot for anything related to trains. I leave all my travel inhibitions behind for a few good train shots. While you won’t catch me dead in a pair of Oshkosh overalls or in a conductors hat, I’d put up with just about any crowd for an open-air train ride. The billowing smoke and grumbling tracks numb the feeling of long winded snowbirds and screaming children. If I’ve offended you thus far, you had better stick with New Mexico Magazine.


I walked the tracks at Chama and couldn‘t help but be captivated while weaving and wandering in between the various abandoned railcars. Some were dilapidated and long past use while others had been restored to their original glory. The entire scene was eerily quiet but for my footsteps grinding into the gravel between the tracks. The dusk sunlight broadsided the railcars illuminating the contents of each. I peered between the wood slats and through the hazy car windows hoping to see something curious. It was a passenger car that provided most interesting. Whether it was retired or resting for the season, the passenger car’s worn floor and school chairs told of the thousands that had come aboard over the years. The silence seemed to heighten the feeling that this railcar was happy to finally rest.
Possibly I had sulked in one of these plastic seats twenty some years ago.


This trip to Northern New Mexico was about having no plan, capturing the fall colors and experiencing solitude. When the weather warms next spring, I wouldn’t be against riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in classic tourist style; picnic lunch, grassy meadows…I had better stop myself there.


Possibly this trip was a bit more nostalgic than I thought.

Friday

150,000 Miles Young



The NMBR 4Runner’s odometer hit 150K ascending Cumbres Pass. While the exact mileage is disputable given my gear ratio & 35-inch tires, it’s still a testament as to how reliable these trucks are when properly maintained. Although the truck was out of its natural habitat for most of this trip, it drives incredibly smooth on pavement. Still purrs like a kitten…

Cumbres & Toltec Railroad

Aspen Tunnel

Thursday

Echo Amphitheater

Echo Amphitheater is a natural stone amphitheater, located in Carson National Forest, just off Highway 84, about 15 miles north of the Village of Abiquiu & past Ghost Ranch.

Wednesday

Valles Caldera National Preserve



The Valles Caldera National Preserve is known for its geology, spectacular grassy valleys and abundant wildlife.  Look Familiar?  The Valles Caldera was the main backdrop for Ron Howard’s 2003 film The Missing.  More information on the Valles Caldera National Preserve can be found on their website- http://www.vallescaldera.gov/

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Sunday

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Evening at Thunderhead Plains

The days are getting shorter and the chill is beginning to linger in the air. The fall colors of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado are ahead.


Stay Tuned…

Friday

Snake Swim