Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

An Aerial Adventure
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©1993, ©2001, ©2007, ©2011

Chapter 20

It took a while for Rocinante to work up enough altitude to get over Poncha Pass south of Salida, but once they squeezed over the trees at the top, the next valley opened up before them. To their left, the Sangre de Cristo range stretched out as far as the eye could see. The mountains were snowcapped and jumbled, but in a line so straight that it was almost unbelievable. The valley below them was almost uninhabited; it was nearly desert, with only a lonely, straight road stretching out for miles ahead of them.

They flew south across the empty valley for nearly an hour before coming to the first real town, Alamosa. For a while, there were fields below them in the now-wide valley of the upper Rio Grande, but as they approached the New Mexico border, again the land became barren and desertlike, with only the brown streak of the little river giving some green to its banks.

To their left, the Sangre de Cristo range began to ease in toward them again. Mark let Jackie fly the plane while he studied the Denver sectional. "Itís like this," he said finally. "Either we stop in the next hundred miles or so, or else weíre going to have to go clear down to Alamogordo if we want to do any mountain hiking. Weíre only a couple hundred miles south of Leadville, but the country around here is lower, so it ought to be at least a little warmer."

Jackie looked over at the map. "We could stop at Taos, get some fuel, and get an idea of what the weatherís like on the ground. If weíre going to go to Alamogordo, weíre going to need fuel, and I donít think we want to stop at Sante Fe. Theyíve got a control tower there."

Mark studied the map in the Taos area. "Thereís this field called ĎAngel Fireí over on the other side of the mountains," he said. "It looks like itís long enough and low enough that we shouldnít have any trouble getting off again. It looks like a pretty short walk to get up into the high country. Everything else around there looks like it would be a ten-mile walk or more."

"Sounds like a possible," Jackie replied. "Maybe we ought to check it out before we get fuel, just to keep the weight down."

"Weíll have to gain another thousand feet or so to get over this pass," Mark noted. "Itís about as high as that one we came over an hour or so ago."

"Donít we want to stop in Taos, anyway?" Jackie wondered. "We ought to maybe have a better map than a sectional for hiking, maybe something that shows trails on it."

"Hell," Mark said. "That would take all the fun out of it. Besides, Iím not looking for a long hike, just something to get up in the mountains and away from people. If that means away from trails, so much the better."

"I guess youíre right," Jackie said, adding a little power to Rocinante and easing back into a gentle climb.

The altimeter showed almost 10,000 feet when they crossed Palo Flechado Pass. The mountains on either side of them had peaks above them, but not very far very much higher; there was only a little snow showing on the tops. The countryside seemed a little dryer than the Colorado valleys hundreds of miles to the north. From the seats of the plane, they could see a couple of interesting areas to investigate on foot, places that seemed maybe easy enough to reach.

It was a fast letdown into the airstrip at Angel Fire. They found a place to tie down Rocinante, then repacked their bags for the trip into the high country. It seemed warmer than it had been at Leadville, but it still wasnít as hot as it had been at Waverly not long before.

"I always wondered what this country was like," Mark said as he helped Jackie into her pack. "When I was in Boy Scouts as a kid, I always wanted to go to Philmont Scout Ranch. Itís right across the valley there, around that next range. It always seemed like the neatest thing that could be done as a scout."

"Never got to go there?" Jackie asked.

"Nope, never did," Mark said. "Weíre not going there this time, either, although I guess itís pretty much the same sort of countryside."

Hiking back up to the top of the pass seemed like the easiest route into the high country, and would give them access to some appealing countryside they had seen to the west of the road. It was not a fast walk; it was mostly above 9,000 feet, and the air was thin indeed. It took them more than two hours to walk the three miles or so uphill to the top of the pass, where they plunged off into the roadless countryside beyond.

There was a hint of a trail leading on up the ridge. It was a sunny day, warm, and with the scent of pines in the air. The path was rocky, here and there carpeted with pine needles, occasionally damp and mucky where tiny springs or rivulets trickled across. Birds flitted quietly into the trees; tiny white moths sprayed up from under their feet. In sunlight and in shadow, the trail led sharply upward.

Jackie led the way. It had surprised Mark that she liked to lead on a hike, and he didnít mind, because it gave him a good look at her thighs, her butt. He had been tense ever since the first attempted takeoff from Leadville, this time the day before, but now as they slowly worked their way up the flank of the mountain, he felt the tension ooze out of him.

They took five in a grassy spot among aspens. While Jackie peeled an orange and the smell of it prickled his nostrils, Mark lay on his back, head resting on his pack, facing up into the airy green aspen leaves.

As the day wore on, they came to a little cul-de-sac where there were a couple of small ponds, one in a meadow, the other nearly surrounded by pine trees. They were up near the timberline, and the edge of the meadow was filled with scrub oak stubble and majestic boulders. Even as they stood there, they could see the circlets of rising trout dimpling the clear, flat water. "Looks like a good place to camp," Mark commented.

"Looks like a good place to fish," Jackie replied. "But letís save that for later. I want to climb that mountain."

They dumped their packs, pitched the tent, and resumed the climb. At first there was a grassy slope, then a narrow trail zigzagged up a shale slide and through some mammoth gray boulders. It was getting colder now; they carefully crossed several snow fingers a few yards wide, and then walked up through flowing brown grass that seemed to be crushed flat against the mountainside by invisible, recently-departed snow.

At the top, some mottled red boulders provided some shelter from the wind, and between them grew more of the thick, brown grass. Below them they could see the little ponds and their tent, each of the ponds dimpled with the rings of the rising fish. In the other directions, the brown grass sloped gently into forested mountains, and they could see far down them. Taos was nearly at their feet, only a few miles away; off in the distance, they thought they could see Sante Fe.

"Can you think of a better place to make love?" Jackie said.

"Itís pretty cold," Mark opined. "The view is tremendous, though, and Iíd hate to pass up the chance."

They stripped the minimum that they could under the circumstances. She tugged off his boots and jeans and underwear while he worked on her boots and jeans and underpants. Then, up among the boulders in the flattened brown grass, still wearing their socks and shirts and jackets to keep warm, they made love, with their bare butts gathering goosebumps all the while.

Feeling much better, both for having had their pants off and then for getting them back on, they lay back out of the breeze for a few more minutes. "You know what would really be strange?" Jackie mused.

"What?" Mark murmured.

"I keep thinking that weíve made love in the sand, in the grass, on a mountaintop, in sleeping bags and on them, in the daylight and under the stars, and we havenít yet done it once in a bed."

"Weíre more than overdue for an honest-to-Pete shower," Mark said. "Letís keep that in mind."

After a while, they hiked back down to their campsite. Hoping that a game warden wouldnít show up out of nowhere, Jackie got out her collapsible spinning rod, tied on a rather nondescript little popper, and cast it out over the lake. Something took the little feathered lure almost as soon as it hit the water; after a brief tussle, she pulled in a ten-inch cutthroat trout, the first fish she had caught on the trip, even though she hadnít attempted much fishing. She carefully took it off the hook and threw it back into the pond. She cast again, and caught another fish, of about the same size. Over the course of the next hour or so, she caught a dozen or so more, keeping none, but just enjoying the perfect day.

After a while, she asked Mark if heíd like to try, and he caught a couple before they put the pole away. "You know, Jackie," he said, "This is kind of what I had in mind."

Afterwards, they took a nap, and lazily made love again. As they afternoon wore on, they read to each other a little Ė the New Testament, and some of Walden; in the weeks at Waverly, their reading program had fallen behind somewhat.

After a while, the shadows grew long. They scrounged around in among the pine trees for some sticks, enough to make a small fire that lasted until well after dark when the stars came out, even clearer and more steady than they had been at Waverley, the last place they had used the telescope.

"Makes me wish youíd packed the telescope up here," Jackie said.

"Yeah, me too," Mark agreed. "But thatís a heck of a lot to be packing up in this country. Thereíll be other chances."

While they went to bed early, they stayed awake late, holding and caressing and loving each other between their opened sleeping bags until it became too cold to continue. They pulled on their long underwear and retreated to their sleeping bags, but continued to snuggle together through the night.

They slept late the next morning, but awoke to see the pond and the meadow still giving off steam as the morning sun dried off the dew from the night before. They got dressed and fished for a while, then decided to climb another one of the mountains. It was a longer walk, though not a difficult one, and at the top of the climb Mark pulled a small sketchbook out of his pocket and began to pencil sketch some of the scenery.

"Itís been a while since youíve done any sketches," Jackie said.

"I did a few at Waverly," Mark told her. "Mostly while I was sitting in Golf Echo, waiting for another tow. We were just too damn busy there to sit down and take an hour or so on a sketch and really do it right."

It was too cold on his hands to do a really decent job, so he finally put the sketchbook away and took some photos.

After a while, they walked back down to the campsite at the ponds and began to make some lunch. Down off the ridge, with the sun beating down, it was a lot warmer, warm enough to strip off some clothes and enjoy the sunlight. As Jackie minded the water warming for coffee, not that it took a lot of minding, Mark pulled the larger sketchbook from his pack, and chewed on a pencil a bit, trying to figure out what to draw and how to do it.

"Would you like me to pose for you?" Jackie offered as she poured the water for coffee.

"Yes, if you donít mind," Mark replied. "It seems like itís been weeks since Iíve done a drawing of you."

"All right," she smiled. "I think itís warm enough to try posing nude."

As Jackie took off her clothes and let Mark coach her into a pose on a small flat rock on the shore of one of the ponds, somehow it seemed more natural than she had imagined it would be. She was less self-conscious than she had been when she had first posed for Mark in her shorts and halter top back at Cape Canaveral, but a lot of water had gone under the bridge in the two months that had passed since then. Mark worked on the drawing in some detail, and Jackie had no objections to his taking photos of her as she posed there for him.

Nevertheless, she was glad to get her clothes back on; the afternoon was cooler than she had thought, and the breeze had a little bit of a bite to it.

It was another lazy afternoon. They fished some more, and read to each other again, and took a nap. Mark drew another picture of her Ė clothed this time, on his insistence, mostly because they had learned that even the warmest part of the day was still a little on the borderline of being too cool for sustained nudity. They fished some more in the evening, and had a fire in the twilight, and made love after they went to their tent again.

The next day was much the same as the day before. They didnít hike to a mountaintop, but up onto a high ridge. Later, they fished and read, and Jackie again posed nude for Mark, and they made love, and wished their sojourn at these quiet mountain lakes where they had not seen another soul could go on forever Ė even though they knew it couldnít; this would have to be their last day, as they were running out of food. They could have killed some fish and eaten them, but somehow they couldnít bring themselves to disturb the peace of their little hideaway in such a manner.

"Well, I suppose itís getting to be time to be moving on, anyway," Jackie commented as they opened their last can of stew.

"Yeah, weíve been getting spoiled," Mark agreed. "This is as perfect a place as weíve been in on this trip. If it was ten degrees warmer, I think Iíd just want to stay here until we starved."

"That kind of quits being fun after a while, too," she said. "Starving, I mean. Do you have any firm plans on where we want to go next?"

"Well, Taos is supposed to be an interesting town," Mark said. "I donít suppose it would hurt to land at that little strip out at the edge of town and walk into the place to check it out. Weíve got to get some groceries and film and stuff."

"Thereís another interesting place not too far from here," Jackie said, looking at the sectional. Over northwest of here a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty miles. Durango."

"Whatís there?" Mark asked.

"An old narrow-gauge steam railroad," Jackie said. "They make these tourist trips up through some really pretty country, Iím told. Dad said he always wanted to come out here and make that trip."

Mark shrugged. "No reason we canít do it, outside of the fact that it looks like the airport is a hell of a long way out of town. Maybe we can hitch a ride, though. You got anything you want to shop for there, or in Taos?"

"Iíd kind of like us to keep our eyes open for a good outdoor store," Jackie said. "If we can find another sleeping bag like mine, I think we can zip the two of them together. I know we canít with the ones we have."

"That would be nice, too," Mark said, a smile crossing his face. "Itís not cheap, but I think itís one of those things worth spending the money on. I donít know when weíre going to come across a place like that, though."

"I was kind of thinking that Durango might be kind of an outdoorsy town, what with all the wilderness area around it, and there might be a good outfitter there."

"Fine with me," Mark said. "Weíll check Taos out, and then head on to Durango."

It was hard to get up the next morning and strike the tent; hard to share a cup of coffee and their last bag of peanuts for breakfast, the last of their food; hard to finish loading the packs and take one last look around the little mountain ponds where life had been so idyllic.

Coffee and peanuts didnít make for the best breakfast for hiking, but it was mostly downhill, and they made good time, especially after they got back to the road. There was a little food left at Rocinante that they hadnít taken backpacking with them, and they had sort of a brunch as they packed their gear in the plane, sorting out the mess that was still left after their hurried packing at Leadville.

It was but a short flight back over their camp to Taos. They circled their campsite for one last look, and Jackie took a picture out the window at the little ponds, sitting cold and lonely. She thought she could almost see the rings of rising trout there, and wished that they had been able to stay longer.

Taos proved to be an interesting and colorful town, much more than a simple grocery stop, and the day slid on without them recognizing that it was evaporating on them as they explored some of the colorful merchandise in the stores, and the art galleries, and just drank in the atmosphere, a rather hippie atmosphere at that. "I swear," she told Mark at one point, "Iím going to barf if I hear the words Ďfar outí again today."

"Far out," Mark teased.

She grabbed Markís shirt collar from behind, pulled it tight, and bent over behind him. "Bllllaaachhh," she said, teasing back.

"All right, youíve made your point," Mark told her. "I want to check out some of this turquoise jewelry."

The day got away from them; they wound up pitching their tent under Rocinanteís wing at the little grass airport at the edge of town, long after dark. Theyíd had a good day, a good meal, a couple of drinks, and had met some interesting people, but somehow hadnít bothered to get the groceries they had come for.

They did the next day, though, and managed to get back to Rocinante before the day got too hot. They flew across the valley to the city airport and gassed up, then headed west, then north, through rolling, arid countryside toward Durango.

The airport at Durango indeed proved to be a long way away from town. They combined the gear they would need for a motel stay into one pack, along with their dirty laundry, and managed to get a ride into town with someone whoíd been out to see the airport manager.

Their ride dropped them downtown. The town was located in a deep valley, with high mountains to either side, and was something of a ski and tourist town. The first thing they did was find the railroad station, where they got tickets for the morning train to Silverton. Nearby was a motel; they rented a room, but decided to put their showers off until later, when they would have clean clothes to get into. Finding a laundromat, they set their laundry to running, and found a place for lunch. After they finished their laundry, they shopped around for a sleeping bag that would zip up with Jackieís, and were a little surprised to find one that would work.

It was still early in the afternoon. "Knowing that weíve got that shower waiting for us makes me feel even grubbier," Mark said. "What do you say we go back to the motel and clean up, and maybe come back down to the train station to watch the train come in before we have dinner?"

"Funny you should mention that," Jackie said. "I was thinking the same thing."

It was only a couple of blocks to walk back to their motel room. They no more than closed the door and the drapes before they were peeling their clothes off. "You want to go first?" Mark offered.

"I donít care," Jackie said, then smirked, "I wonder if the shower is big enough for both of us."

The next half hour was pure ecstasy. Warm water, wandering hands, soap-slippery bodies entwined and caressed in indescribable joy, and they even got clean in the process.

Even the mutual toweling off was sensual, and though they had already given themselves a pretty good workout, they found themselves in bed without asking or thinking about it.

It was quite a while afterward, after a lot of cuddling and kissing, that they fell to talking. "Now, thatís my idea of a shower," Mark said. "Iím glad you thought of it."

"I am, too," Jackie smiled. "It kind of makes me sorry that we decided to go shopping, first. Weíll have to do that again before we leave here."

"Letís give the water heater time to recover. So now that youíve made love in a bed, how does it compare to a beach or a mountaintop?"

"Donít forget a shower," Jackie smirked, then got thoughtful. "I guess it feels a little strange. I mean, every place else that weíve done it is kind of out of the ordinary, so itís been fun. Somehow, though, I canít get over the idea that our doing it in a motel room is just a little bit sleazy."

That wasnít quite what Mark expected to hear. "How do you mean?" he asked.

"Oh, I donít know," Jackie said. "Donít get me wrong, itís fine, and I loved it, but somehow, it just doesnít seem right. Sneaking off to motel rooms to have sex is something that people do if theyíre not married, and just fooling around like theyíre not supposed to be doing."

"Does that bother you?"

She nodded. "Yeah, a little, I guess. I guess I just havenít gotten used to it, yet."

"Well, look, if it would make you feel any better," Mark said, "We can go over, get our money back on the tickets. We could get quite a ways west tonight, but even if we started in the morning, we could be in Las Vegas and be married by tomorrow afternoon."

"Thanks," she said, burying her head on his chest. "I appreciate the offer, and I know you mean it, but even if we do decide to get married, it really should be in Spearfish Lake, so we can have our families and friends there."

"Well, it would be a long day, even if we left at first light, so weíd better figure on two to get back to Spearfish Lake. Three days waiting, and you could still be a June bride."

She lifted her head to look him in the eye. "No, Mark. I donít want to go back to Spearfish Lake until weíre done with this trip. It would be too hard to leave again. Besides, we can have fun together for as long as this trip lasts, but I still donít know about getting married, in the long term."

"Same thing?" Mark asked. It was the first time since that evening on the tiny sandy beach at Waverly that this question had come up, and Mark had rather hoped that it would have changed Jackieís viewpoint a little.

"Same thing," Jackie said. "I just donít know how fair it is to you. Traveling together and living together is fine, because it only lasts as long as it lasts. Marriage is something else, again."

"Well," Mark said, playing with her breast, "Iím not going to make an issue of it if youíre not. You know how I feel. Iím ready when youíre ready."

"Thanks," she said. "I knew youíd feel that way, but thanks, anyway."

"Well, all right. Now, we can stay here and play some more, or we can get up, get dressed, watch the train come in, and maybe have some dinner. Which would you rather do?"

"Iíd like to play," she said. "But the train only comes in once a day. On the other hand, after supper maybe we can get cleaned up."

It was nice to get dressed in clean clothes. They walked down to the railroad station and watched the little Rio Grande Southern narrow-gauge steam locomotive pull its trainload of passengers into town. It was an old-fashioned engine, almost a century old, and smaller than they would have thought.

Mark could remember seeing a steam engine on the tracks that ran through Spearfish Lake when he was a small boy, and then it had seemed just slightly smaller than an ocean liner. As he stood there and thought about it, he realized that the number of working steam locomotives that he had seen could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and Jackie, though a railroaderís daughter, hadnít seen many more. She remembered her father saying that he hadnít been aboard a steam engine a half a dozen times in his railroad career; everything was diesel, now, and had been for years.

The half-sized engine showed signs of use. They stood there and looked at it for a few minutes, then walked back up the street to find a place to eat.

They finally settled on a restaurant that was almost full with passengers from the train, but since they were in no hurry, it didnít matter. They settled into a booth, and a harried waitress brought them beer.

"We ought to call home, tonight or tomorrow night," Jackie said. "Itís been almost a couple of weeks, now."

Mark nodded his head. "Getting on toward three weeks, I guess."

"We havenít had mail in that long, either. I suppose we ought to be picking out some place for the home folks to send our mail to us. Do you think weíd be at the Grand Canyon long enough to have our mail sent there?"

"I kind of hope that we can be in and out of there in a couple of days," Mark told her. "Iíd kind of like to do the trail down to the river, but Iím not sure Iím very interested in hiking back up."

"Me either," Jackie agreed. That would be a long, steep sweaty hike. Iíve heard that you can rent horses or mules or something. Maybe we want to think about that."

Mark nodded. "Thatís expensive, and Iíve never done that much riding, anyway."

"I guess we mostly check the place out from the rim." Jackie agreed. "Youíre right, that wonít take us long."

"For that matter, Iím not even sure we want to stop," Mark told her. "Theyíve got a control tower there, and we donít have the frequency for it in Rocinante. I suppose we could call them up on Unicom and tell them we need light signals, but maybe the thing to do is to avoid the place all together. Gas up at some nearby uncontrolled field, and then just fly over the place. Weíd probably see more from Rocinante than we would from the ground, anyway."

"Well, is there any place between here and there where weíre likely to be for a few days?"

"No," Mark said. "In fact, the only thing I have on my list between here and there is Shiprock, and thatís a fly-over thing, not a stop-and-go-hiking thing. The only airstrip is a hell of a long ways away."

"So weíre looking at the Grand Canyon, what? The day after tomorrow?"

"Day after at the latest," Mark nodded. "I kind of think that we ought to be getting a move on. Up to this point, weíve flown for a couple of days, then stopped for up to a week, then flown on for a couple of days, then stopped. Thatís fine; thatís what I had in mind. But I think weíve seen enough of Colorado and New Mexico if we want to see something else, too."

"I could spend the summer here," she agreed. "But there are other things to see."

"Darn right. I want to see California and the northwest, and weíve still got Yellowstone and the Tetons on our list, donít forget. The thing of it is, I kind of had Stellafane on the list, too. Thatís in Vermont, the last part of August, only about two months off. Weíve been two and a half months getting this far from Florida. I suppose if we donít get to Stellafane, we donít get to Stellafane, so thatís not a real big loss, especially with the fun we had at the Texas Star Party. But, weíve got three months at the most before the good camping weather is over with in the north part of the country, and only a month or so longer before weíd have to be pretty far south."

"I see what you mean that weíd better be getting a move on," she said.

He shook his head. "That doesnít mean that we canít stop for a while if thereís a good reason to stop. I just donít want to have to stop for a bad reason, or spend time in a place that we donít have to. Weíre going through money faster than Iíd hoped, so if weíre going to stay gone for a year, weíre going to have to stop some place and get a job for a while. Iíd rather put that off until winter, when weíre pretty well going to be restricted to the far south, anyway. That means weíre going to have to watch our money, too."

"We could turn in our tickets for tomorrow and get a refund," she offered, "And get back on the move, tomorrow, rather than staying over the extra night. That would save us a bit."

"No, weíve gone to this trouble, so letís do it. Itíll give you a good letter to write to your dad, anyway. As far as the motel goes, we wanted a motel room, anyway, and we havenít spent that many nights in motels." He smiled and looked at her with a grin. "I was getting to the point where I needed a shower, whether it was with you or not."

"Well, where could we tell the folks that weíre going to be able to get our mail?"

"Well, if we call them tonight, we need to figure on four or five days," Mark told her. "Letís see, weíve got Durango tomorrow and travel to the Grand Canyon the day after. Then, Iíd kind of like to see a couple of things in Arizona. Flagstaff, the meteor crater at Winslow, but thereís not good places to land at either one. Flagstaff has a controlled field, and the meteor crater doesnít have an airstrip close by. Thatís kind of a fly-over thing, like Shiprock, anyway."

"How about Kitt Peak?" she asked. "Thatís down by Tucson, isnít it?"

"Yeah," he nodded. "Iíve been thinking about that. Itís probably going to be hotter than hell down there. Hot like 120 in the shade and no shade, that sort of thing. Besides, thereís no need to stop at every major observatory we come to. Weíve already been to McDonald Observatory, and I want to see Palomar."


"Yeah, the 200-inch telescope, the largest in the world. Itís near San Diego. Thatís probably a good place to get our mail. We can just make it five or six days away, and be there."

*   *   *

Durango, Colorado

June 20, 1971

Dad and Sarah:

Iím sitting here in a little restaurant in Durango writing you this. We just got back from the train ride we told you about last night, and that was really neat!

They call this train the "Silverton Train". It goes up through the mountains in a narrow valley, a canyon almost, for what must be fifty miles, up to this little town of Silverton. The track is hardly ever straight, and the views are always tremendous. Thereís some places where the roadbed is cut into the side of the mountain, and you look straight down to the river maybe four or five hundred feet.

The little engine that pulls this train is tiny; itís a lot smaller than the smallest switcher down at the yard in Camden. The tracks are narrow-gauge, three feet, and itís really strange to stand between the rails and see them so close together. Of course, with the gauge small, everything else is on the small side, too; the passenger cars are half the size or less than they would be on a real train, and thereís hardly room to stand up.

The engine is something like ninety years old, and it doesnít go real fast Ė ten or fifteen miles an hour, I guess. It takes a long time to get up to Silverton, so a ride on this thing is an all-day affair. Itís crowded, too; we were lucky to get tickets on such short notice, and I think every seat was filled, even the ones on the flatcar outside, where the old coal-burner got cinders in everyoneís hair. We rode there for a while Ė we traded seats with another couple Ė and itís really neat to see the old coal-burner belch huge clouds of black smoke as it works its way up the canyon. And, I was told itís a 2.5% grade, so that old steamer really has to work, too, and the sound is something like you wouldnít believe.

It was after noon before we got up to Silverton. We had an hour for lunch, and to explore the town. Itís an old mining town, and we were told thatís rather quaint, although it just looked a little run-down to me. Iím sure that when the train pulled out the restaurant got out their other menus, the one with the regular prices. They must charge double or triple for the people off the train for lunch. We just had grilled cheese sandwiches and Cokes, and decided to hold off getting a decent meal until we got back to Durango.

The trip back down the valley was a little quicker, since it was mostly downhill, but we got to see some of the views from a different angle, so it was all still pretty nice. They have an overnight photo developing place here, and we decided to get some film developed. If it comes out all right, Iíll include some photos of the train and the place where we camped over by Taos, and hold off on dropping this letter off until we get the film.

I know you always wanted to come out here and ride this train, Dad. You ought to. It is really fun! I think Sarah would like it, too.

Anyway, tomorrow weíre going to get moving again. Weíll be heading on over to the Grand Canyon, and thatís something Iím really looking forward to.

It was nice to talk to you last night, and yes, Iím having the time of my life on this trip. Iím so glad I decided to come on it with Mark. It may have been the best decision I ever made. Weíll try to call a little quicker, next time, and not let so long go by, but itís so easy to lose track of time.

The waitress just brought us our food, so Iím going to wrap this up. After we eat, Mark and I both want to go back to the motel and take a shower to wash the cinders out of our hair. Iíll write again soon.



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