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Driving through Colorado into New Mexico…

Posted by on October 12, 2017

KANSAS IS BEHIND US.  Kansas is behind us and as we enter Colorado we find ourselves in a vast and sparsely populated area called  the Comanche National Grassland. In the distance we see the snow covered mountains around Denver and we’re glad that we made the decision to change our route and avoid the severe weather there. Vegetation here is mostly short-grass prairie although pinyon and juniper trees are found in rocky canyons, and cottonwoods and willows grow near streams. The landscape is vastly different from what we saw for so long as we drove through Missouri and Kansas, and grassland finally yields to some hills and pines. We’re on the Original Santa Fe Trail, one of America’s scenic byways. The Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. It served as a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880.

THE SANTA FE TRAIL. In 1821, the land beyond Missouri was a vast uncharted region called home to great buffalo herds and unhappy Indians, angered over the continual westward expansion of the white man. Before Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Spanish banned trade between Santa Fe and the United States. After independence, Mexico encouraged trade. Though numerous dangers awaited him, Captain William Becknell was determined to make the trip through water-less plains and war-like Indians to trade with the distant Mexicans in New Mexico. On September 1, 1821, Becknell left Franklin, Missouri with four trusted companions, and after arriving in Santa Fe on November 16, and making an enormous profit, he made plans to return, thus blazing the path that would become known as the Santa Fe Trail.

Comanche National Grasslands in Southeastern Colorado


Grasslands yield to hills, brush and pine trees in southeast Colorado.


We’ll follow the Old Santa Fe Trail from Missouri into Santa Fe as we make our way to Arizona, in search of warm weather during the winter.


 The Opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1822 – True West Magazine.


TRINIDAD, COLORADO. Trinidad sits on the southern border of Colorado with New Mexico. Can you see it on the map? It and all the little towns along the Santa Fe Trail are chock full of history and historical sites. We stopped to take a look before continuing into New Mexico. Trinidad’s location at the foot of Raton Pass, along the Santa Fe Trail. It has always beena favored route for travelers, first by foot, then horse and ox-drawn wagon and then by railroad. Today, Interstate 25, the most highly traveled route between Colorado and New Mexico, passes through Trinidad.


San Juan River near Trinidad on the Old Santa Fe Trail. 



The historic town of Trinidad in Colorado, near the New Mexico border. 


A “collectibles” shop on Main Street in Trinidad, Colorado. 


I’ll bet I could have gotten a deal on a pair of cowboy boots at Solano”s today. The streets weren’t exactly bustling with shoppers!


WE MADE IT TO RATON, NEW MEXICO.  And the weather has been beautiful…highs in the 70’s and lows in the 30’s. Just across the border is a town called Raton, where we’ll spend a few days to get caught up on laundry and shopping. Raton is called “the Portal to Paradise” by the locals, as it serves as the gatekeeper to the mountain passage known as Raton Pass. The pass is the highest and most difficult part of the Santa Fe Trail. It has been traversed for thousands of years starting with dinosaurs, prehistoric man and native Indian tribes. Then came Spanish conquistadors and French trappers and eventually the frontier settlers. It served as the main trail into the New Mexico territory for the U.S. forces marching to Santa Fe. Later the railroad would make Raton a favorite stop for weary travelers, like us in today’s time.


The Old Santa Fe Trail continues through Raton, New Mexico where we’re staying for a few nights.


New Mexico Legends: The treacherous Raton Pass on the Santa Fe Trail. When we  drove over the pass it was windy and I had to use my exhaust brakes all the way down the hill leading into the town, because of the winding road and steep descent.  


An historic 1903 train depot welcomes folks to Raton, New Mexico. The town is served by two daily trains. From September to May, a caretaker opens and closes the waiting room and Amtrak does not provide baggage or ticketing services. From May to September, Raton is staffed with an Amtrak ticket agent in a modular building next to the station. In the background of this picture of an Amtrak train approacing Raton, you can see the snow on the mountains of Colorado. 


Town of Raton, New Mexico.


WHAT’S NEXT? Depending on the weather, we plan to visit Albuquerque and perhaps Santa Fe, New Mexico before heading to Arizona. If it’s comfortable in New Mexico, we’ll stay a while. If not, we’ll keep on truckin’. Come back soon so we can show you the sights.


I’ll continue my story next time.

4 Responses to Driving through Colorado into New Mexico…

  1. Jon York

    And do you know what else Trinidad is known for? Trinidad was dubbed the “Sex Change Capital of the World”, because a local doctor had an international reputation for performing sex reassignment surgery. In the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Biber, a veteran surgeon returning from Korea, decided to move to Trinidad because he had heard that the town needed a surgeon. In 1969, a local social worker asked him if he would perform the surgery for her, which he learned by consulting diagrams and a New York surgeon. Biber attained a reputation as a good surgeon at a time when very few doctors were performing sex-change operations. At his peak, Biber was performing roughly four sex-change operations a day, and the term “taking a trip to Trinidad” became a euphemism for some seeking the procedures he offered,

    Now you know something new.

  2. Greg Alford

    Hey, Jon: I actually had heard about this information, but decided that this is a “family blog” and I didn’t want to get into a big debate with someone on this topic. Hmmm, you seem very familiar with this story…

  3. Kitty

    We love Albuquerque and the food! Hope you can spend some time there.

  4. Greg Alford

    If you guys have some favorite restaurants, let me know. I assume the weather “back home” is wonderful and the pickle ball court is in “full swing.”

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