The California Zephyr – Crazy for Colorado

As I said last week, we were up and going early as we did not want to miss one view of Colorado. Well, guess what? Everyone else had the same idea. The observation car was completely full by eight am. Who knew? The nice thing was that the conductor came through every two hours and had people leave so those who had not been able to sit in the observation car would have a chance.

My husband and I decided that we could see most everything sitting in the comfort of our compartment, so we went back there after breakfast. We were like two little children, our faces plastered to the windows – one on each side of the train – watching the Rocky Mountains pass by. Thankfully, we were traveling slowly, so we missed nothing.

We left Denver and continued to climb. The scenery was breathtaking. Sheer mountains, rocks stacked upon rocks, on one side and drop-offs ending in gorges and valleys with rivers and streams flowing quickly on the other side. Truly, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Within an hour or so, we entered Moffat Tunnel. It opened in 1928 and cuts through the Continental Divide. On one side, the water flows one way, on the other side, the water flows the opposite way. Being a Southerner used to flat land, and an Easterner used to water flowing east toward the Atlantic Ocean, it took some getting used to…seeing mighty mountains, and water flowing toward the west. The Moffat Tunnel is five miles long and took us ten minutes, thirty-eight seconds to pass through. It was awesome to me, but I heard later that some people who have claustrophobia issues, did not have such a good time.

We were warned a number of times that once we entered the Moffat Tunnel, no one would be allowed to go between the train cars. There is always the possibility of exhaust and other unpleasant bits in the tunnel. We were also told to remain still while in the tunnel. It is pitch black in the tunnel. Thankfully, the train had its lights on. We turned out all of the lights in our compartment, closed our door and pulled the draperies. It was pitch dark in our room. I cannot even imagine what the men went through who built it.

According to the information from the train, the Moffat Tunnel is just above nine thousand feet in elevation and almost three thousand feet below the surface. Yeah, those poor souls with tight-space issues were not having fun when they heard that. I, however, thought it was simply incredible.

Onward from there through several smaller towns and stops, and lots of mountain vistas, before we arrived at Glenwood Springs. Wow. What a great western town. My husband and I wished that we had planned to stop and stay there a few days. It is postcard picture perfect. The main street had a number of shops, restaurants, and hotels. The roads looked to be brick, and the sidewalks were wide. There was much outdoor dining, ice cream shops, and plenty of people about. We had no idea that Glenwood Springs existed, but if we had, we would have planned a two-day stop here. Many other people were doing just that. Something for you to think about.

We wandered, train-style, through more of Colorado with one amazing view after another. After lunch, we settled in the observation car and found out that there really was more to see in that car. Those upper windows that curved into the roof allowed us to see waaaaaay up the mountains to the very top. We could see rocks perched precariously upon boulders, which sat on massive sections of mountains. It was almost indescribable. Pictures really did not do the scenery justice. You are just going to have to ride the rails and see for yourself.

Supper was late again that night, but we didn’t mind, we were still watching the scenery. As the night stole over the mountain pass, we finished our supper and headed to our compartment, ready for a good night’s sleep. Sometime during the night we left the mountains behind and slid into Salt Lake City for some minor engine repair and to drop off and pick up passengers. We missed all of that as we slumbered along to the click-clack, jerk of the train.

I hope you will wander back next week to hear about our final day on the California Zephyr. It really was an incredible journey.

About wanderingamericanwriter

retired teacher, writer, wife, mother, dog lover, traveler - real and imagined places!
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