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Places Visited:

2004Travelogue # 24 Chama, Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Skies RV Park
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Places of Interest:

New Mexico: Chama, Cumbres & Toltec Railroad, Ghost Ranch, Santa Fe

8/2 It was time for us to move down the road. We've had a wonderful visit with Scott and Cristina and we'll be back the first of October to see the Colorado Fall colors. Our destination today was Chama, New Mexico, only 50 miles from Pagosa Springs. Chama is a small western town, nestled in a valley next to the Rio Chama River.

Little Creel RV Park (2631 S. Hwy 84) is where we'll stay for the next couple of days. The Park, located on a curve of the Rio Chama, has magnificent cottonwood trees scattered throughout and large RV sites, 50 amps, FHU, with gravel interior roads and pads. Cabins are also available for rental.

After setting up our site, we spent the afternoon calling Santa Fe and Albuquerque about needed RV repairs. When leaving Pagosa, we lost the motorhome's rear-mounted camera, which monitors the Saturn while it's being towed. This is a real handicap when we're moving; the extra camera "eye" is needed for overall safety.

Finishing our calls, we explored the RV Park, ending up at the office just as an afternoon thundershower broke loose. So, we sat outside on the porch to wait it out and smell the rain in the pines, while conversing with a gentleman who was passing through.

8/3 Tucked away in this small town is something out of time, built in 1880 with little change today, the narrow-gauge Cumbres & Toltec Railroad. It's a Scenic Railroad, traveling 64 miles of the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway System. The steam locomotives, that once pulled freight cars of precious metals through the Cumbres ("crests" or "summits" in Spanish) Pass, now pulls comfortable coaches that carry tourists on an all-day scenic ride from Chama to Antonito, Colorado. We didn't have time for the trip today, but we did gather information, tour the train station and the working train yard.

This antique train has a unique volunteer program called, The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc. It is an extensive and intensive program for real railroad "buffs". One of our neighbors, at the RV Park, was a volunteer from Las Vegas, Nevada and he told us about the activities involved in the program.

This is a diverse group of people from all over the world, who volunteer for a two-week tour-of-duty, to preserve the old C & T as a living museum. When buying a membership, an offer is extended to sign up for one of the upcoming work sessions. Upon arrival, there are many different projects from which to choose, such as restoring old cars, repairing coaches, preparing meals for the various crews, and even rebuilding the old steam locomotives. Our neighbor was in charge of one of the tool cars, where workers came to check out a tool needed for their particular project. He said they worked from 7:30 am to 5 in the afternoon.

Stopping in the 1882 Cumbres Station, we picked up a train schedule and a self-guided walking tour of the yard, which is now a National Historic Site. We saw the "Friends" at work on different projects. In one old Rio Grande boxcar we met three ladies, each from a different state, who had prepared lunch for all the volunteers. Now, they relaxed in their lawn chairs doing needlework. They and their husbands have volunteered for years; theirs was a special camaraderie.

8/4 Leaving Chama this morning, our route took us about 125 miles down US-84 through Abiquiu, Espanola and into Santa Fe. The Highway follows the Rio Chama River as it cuts through canyons and flows into a wide-open area, where it empties into the Abiquiu Reservoir. Near here, below the red and gray sandstone mesas, is the famous 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch. The original name of Ghost Ranch was derived from local Spanish folklore, "el rancho de los brujos", the ranch of the witches.

Passing the entrance and looking back toward the Ranch, we could see why Georgia O'Keeffe bought a small parcel of land and set up residence here. From this colorful land she drew inspiration for the colors and artistic form that has made her work such treasures. O'Keeffe gave the owners, Arthur and Phoebe Pack, a drawing of a bull's skull with horns, which is now the central image in the Ghost Ranch logo. The Packs gave the ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955.

The colorful cliffs and eroding red hills made for a scenic drive into Espanola, then on, into the hustle and bustle traffic of Santa Fe. We took a new Loop on the west side of Santa Fe, helping with the traffic and bypassing the central district.

We stayed at the Santa Fe Skies RV Park. This Park is fairly close to I-25, near the intersection for the Turquoise Trail, which runs down the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains into Albuquerque. The Park is on a mesa looking north toward Santa Fe and Los Alamos. It's well maintained with paved interior roads, 50 amps and FHU's. This will be our home for a week as we repair the camera, visit friends, and have Scott and Cristina down for a weekend.

After settling in, we called our good friend, Virginia Kahler, who lives in Santa Fe. In past visits, we have spent a lot of time in her charming home. It is a split-level, Puebloan style adobe, town-home with a small patio overlooking an arroyo with junipers and pinon pines.

I found myself gravitating to the patio while the girls were busy talking inside. Here was peace and quiet amid the smells of small rosemary plants, junipers and pines and looking up I saw dark rain clouds building on the horizon. This all made for a beautiful setting of tranquility for me; I was ready for it.

After visiting, we had dinner at a Santa Fe restaurant, La Choza, which the locals have frequented for about 50 years. We give it high marks for basic Santa Fe Mexican food plus they had a busy parking lot on a Wednesday evening, always a good sign.

8/5 Peggy was out walking this morning. The RV Park has a good gravel hiking trail, wide enough for two people to walk abreast, around the parameter of the property. The view is spectacular on this 360-degree path, with the Santa Fe Mountains to the north, the Jemez Mountains to west, the Glorieta Mesa to the east, and the Sandias to the south. It looked so good; I had to get out and join her.

After our walk, I tackled our monitor and camera problem. The final results, after a day of telephone conversations, were that a new monitor and camera would be sent airfreight and could be installed next week.

8/6 We spent the day doing chores. Even in this life-style, we have to clean and do laundry.

Scott and Cristina were coming for a Santa Fe weekend. To us, Santa Fe is one of the most charming and beautiful of cities; we don't know if it's the mountains, the 400-year-old architecture, or the culture that sets Santa Fe apart. Whatever it is, the city is one of our favorites. It has excellent museums and knowing that this place was established in 1598 makes a fascinating history trail, going back to before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

They arrived at the motorhome about 7 pm and we were off to La Choza (Spanish for "the shed"); the same little restaurant we tried Wednesday night. It has a courtyard with umbrella-covered tables, for which we were thankful when a few scattered sprinkles began to fall. After visiting over the good meal in this relaxed garden setting, we look forward to tomorrow and a fun day of sharing the special charm of Santa Fe with our children.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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