Some thoughts -
I have ridden the domes at both Rio Grande Scenic and Royal Gorge. I also splurged once and did the cab ride at the Royal Gorge.
Both are stunning, stunning trips and I believe the ride over La Veta Pass westbound on the Rio Grande Scenic is perhaps the most overlooked standard gauge railroad ride anywhere in the United States. This trip is a MUST SEE and would be worth the time and effort even if you must settle for riding behind the diesel....... though it's pretty sweet behind the former LS&I 2-8-0 which has been their primary steam power the last two or three summers.
Shop around for airfare....... on my past trips to Colorado I've often found the best fares and the best car rental rates going in and out of Colorado Springs. I've used Denver and Grand Junction before as well. One that may be an option too now that Southwest Airlines serves Greenville/Spartanburg might be going in and/or out of Albuquerque.
Hotels - the Comfort Inn in Alamosa, CO is one that I have used in the past and would recommend..... it's a short drive from the Antonito end of the Cumbres & Toltec. Mr. Jerry Ledford, on my suggestion, had a successful stay at the Econo-Lodge in Pagosa Springs, CO three or four years ago. That's about midway between Durango and the Chama end of the Cumbres & Toltec. Also much less expensive than what I would consider 'acceptable' hotels in Durango. I've not stayed in Pagosa Springs myself but I've heard nice things about that hotel...... and it looks nice having driven past it going from Alamosa to Durango and back in the past.
NOW - I would LOVE to be a part of this safari but as September is the beginning of the school year, it is pretty unlikely that I could make an extended trip that time of year. A pity too because this September 10th is my 50th birthday and I would like nothing more than to spend it riding from Chama to Antonito in a chartered caboose on the Cumbres & Toltec. I've even been stashing away a little cash each month for a couple of years now towards doing something ridiculous like that.
(sidebar - I love the Tweetsie lore as it is 'our' narrow gauge and #12 at Blowing Rock is an absolute gem BUT the best days of my railfan life have been spent in the open gondola at the Cumbres & Toltec. I've ridden that train westbound from Antonito twice and eastbound from Chama three times..... one of those doubleheaded. Eastbound is better because going west it's primarily squealing brake shoes the last hour of the trip moving from Cumbres Pass to Chama....)
But - back to business....... the stash I have combined with some Amtrak Guest Reward Points will pretty much cover a week in Colorado riding these trains (perhaps even with the family) in July with maybe enough left over to settle for a chartered caboose over at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a daytrip on September 10th.....I'm actually working on pricing out a July trip right now.
HOWEVER, if you have 8 or 10 people chiming in wanting to go on this safarin and IF those 8 or 10 people want to go in for a caboose at the Cumbres & Toltec on September 10th........... well....... I might be inclined to take a long weekend and, if welcome, tag along for a couple of days!
From: johnny <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:41 PM
Subject: [Tweetsie] colorado in the fall
I am laying the ground work right now for a six day safari in Colorado in the days leading up to the NNGC in Seattle in September. The guy who was going to travel with me has realized that he cannot make a trip at that time, and rather than plan from the beginning for some lone hiking and train riding, I thought I would put forward the plans to a couple of groups, to see if one (or more) might want to make an adventure out of it.
As of right now I plan to arrive in Denver by noon on September 6, and try to do the Georgetown loop and Clear Creek canyon before the end of the day. Possibly a quick stop at the CRM. Done all this before but want to again.
Following days include driving over Boreas Pass, hiking up to the east side of Alpine Tunnel (did that two years ago but would love to go back), drive over Marshall Pass (done that in the past too) drive up to west side of Alpine (ditto), explore the South park grade up to Ohio Pass, and drive along the RGS route. More if time allows.
Also looking at riding the Royal Gorge train (not done before), the Rio grande Scenic (not done and want to do if can be done with steam) and possibly the parlors in both C&TS and D&S. Something might have to give though and I want to do the hiking while I am young (48), instead of repeating train trips I have already ridden.
Now my gf has told me to warn anyone contemplating sharing a hotel room with me that I snore loudly. I don't know what she is talking about, but be forewarned. I have no problem with this turning into a real safari with a couple of cars worth of people. I have done the hike to Alpine and anyone can do it if you are a treadmill person at all. I work in a corporate office and I prepared for it by tread milling at 3.0 mph at a 4 percent grade. I had no problems at all and my friend and I were back down three hours after we left the car. Of course all this hiking depends on the weather, which in September can either be dry at those elevations, or snow, but in 2009 before Colorado Springs we had a great dry time.
At this point I am almost ready to pull the trigger on the airline tickets, as prices are down right now, so beginning and ending dates will be locked in soon, as I have approval to be off for those days from work. The flight I am looking at out of Denver to Seattle will still get us there mid day, in plenty of time for the start of the convention.
It would help me greatly to have a traveling companion/companions to save gas/car/room expenses. I stay in nothing worse than a Days Inn, and can get two beds in all the rooms if I book it that way in the beginning. Would like to do the good train stuff, including cars with meals, extra room, that kind of thing. I doubt I will be back in CO until there is another NG convention there, so I guess this is mid life Crisis trip, lol.
If anyone knows of special events that are going to go on that week, please speak up. No one has updated their website since the New Year, so I have no idea of what might go on that week. The itinerary is still flexible, and can either be heavy hiking oriented, or train riding oriented, but hopefully both. I have a plan laid out, but it can be tweaked.
Constructive thoughts-please share. If you want to join me, we have some months to get to know each other before you hear me snore. I have most of the Colorado books, and have traveled extensively there twice now, so I can be a decent tour guide, even if it is not the Tweetsie. And the strength in numbers idea is always good in the high mountains of Colorado. The emphasis will be on narrow gauge of course, and slightly off the beaten track as much possible. If you know someone who would seriously be interested, please pass this along to them, with my email address.
Contact me off list if you are seriously interested.
2011 NNGC (its over Yay)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]