Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Colorado Mystery - and Serendipity

Having accepted the fact that the mountaintops were closed to us, we headed south, toward the Great Sand Dunes national park. Along the way the road hugged the mountainside, and looked down at the Arkansas river, across it to the single line railroad track hugging the foot of another mountain. And we saw again a site that had puzzled us. Thousands of freight cars...parked and abandoned. This time we checked the length of the 'train'... 3.7 miles! Three and a half miles of abandoned freight cars. They appear to have been there for years. Why? A Colorado mystery!

On the way south, my new friend Laraine Kyle called. "Are you on 285?" "Heading that way." "Well, you might want to detour to Krestone; it's a lovely spiritual community you might enjoy seeing." Having no time pressure, we decided to. Then she called back. "I have a friend who does some artisan distilling, perhaps you'd like to meet with him?" And she was kind enough to place some phone calls and send some emails. (Mind you, we had cell phone service perhaps five minutes out of each hour...she caught us during the "active" times.) As we made the turn to Krestone, the cell rang again. "Marge, this is Peter May." And thus began an afternoon of sheer aromatic magic!

We were met by Frederick, Peter's associate. We discussed my quest for Pinon Pine Oil. Yes, indeed they distill it. No, they most definitely would not allow me to purchase any. But I could sample, the pinion, the ponderosa pine, the juniper wood that they distilled.

I have never encountered such reverence. both Frederick and Peter are volunteer fire fighters. Part of what they do involves clearing land, to form fire breaks, to protect the land. All the trees they distilled are sacrificed to save the land. They are not cut down or harvested to provide the oil, the oil is from trees that must be cut. Why would they not allow us to purchase and share their magical Pinon Oil? Because they use the oils they produce...and oils they purchase from others, to make set of amazingly powerful essences called "Stardrops"... blends for physical healing and chakra balancing, based on the essential oils, with the minerals from sea salt and specially charged water. Amazingly powerful essences.

A shot of my new friends outside their 85 gallon still.
We visited for the whole afternoon, sharing insights, experiences. They are just starting out in the business of marketing their products, and I got to share some of my experiences. I strongly advised them to attend, as vendors, the upcoming AIA conference in mi d October to share their essences. (And started rethinking my own decision not to attend!)
Several hours later we tore ourselves away, awed by the magic of this "chance encounter" and totally understanding why the northern mountains had been denied us. We were fated to be in Southern Colorado to meet these two amazing young men!


Cindy said...

God decision to go south Marge, its been cloudy, cool and wet here since you left. Sounds like an amazing day you had.

Steve said...

Hi There,

Your remarks about the railroad line caught my attention. That line was hauling quite a bit of freight in 1996. However, since the merger of the Southern Pacific/Rio Grande (the line's owner) and the Union Pacific, the UP has "mothballed" the route from Pueblo to Dotsero. Hundreds of miles of rail now sit dormant.

As for the railcars, they have been stored there, accumulating on the line and sidings ever since the recession hit the transportation industry in 2007. They are stored there, rather than in towns that don't want them. Once the demand comes back, those cars will be gone. I hope.

Steve Walden
Colorado Railroads blog

Marge said...

Thank you, Steve. It was truly a puzzlement. I have never seen so many freight cars at one time. And, yes, most were Southern Pacific...a few Rio Grandes, but mostly SP as I remember. They just seemed so..abandoned. sad looking.

While we were there, we road the train thru Royal Gorge, and later, in Alamosa, I think, we drove by an old fashioned steam engine... a Rio and puffing noisome steam. My "traveling companion" was fascinated...snapped lots of pictures. It was for a 'scenic railroad' but I can't forget which one. An amazing sight, one of the old boiler types.

Steve said...

Hi Marge,

Yes, those cars look abandoned and sad. Every time I pass a collection of them, it's a reminder that they were needed, but not now. The good news is that most will be needed again.

I know both rides you took! I rode the Royal Gorge Scenic Railroad years ago before they added the domes. Did you know there's a picture of Teddy Roosevelt standing on the tracks at the Hanging Bridge? It's a beautiful, historic ride through that chasm, if a bit short. The diesels engines have been repainted to look like the ones that pulled the original Royal Gorge from Denver to Grand Junction.

The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad runs from Alamosa to La Veta (near Walsenburg). I rode with my kids on Memorial Day this year. The ride is less dramatic but the geology is fascinating with all of the igneous rock walls that have been exposed by erosion. The steam engine you rode behind was likely #18. Riding round trip is an all-day affair, but I never get tired of watching a steam engine!

If you ever have any railroad travel questions or if I can help your readers in any way, please drop me a line at

Steve Walden
Colorado Railroads blog