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We continue with a newspaper article written in November of 1880 describing a wagon trip between Animas City and the end of the westerly advancing Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, currently in the San Juan Mountains east of Chama.
Last week’s article ended with the traveler decrying the paucity of hotel facilities in Pagosa Springs. We begin this week with his description of the hot springs.
“The Springs are the finest in the United States, they have been fully described heretofore in the Miner; the railroad will pass twenty miles south of them, and in another summer they will be easy of access for invalids from all sections of the east. Here (Pagosa Springs) we were treated to an excellent dinner at the Hotel de Blair, of which Tom Blair of Silverton is the proprietor and Hon. A. K. Fleming, formerly mayor of Ophir, is the chief caterer. Thos. And Alex Blair keep the Rose Bud saloon and billiard hall. Mr. Fleming and Alex Blair are in the hay and grain and feed business, keeping in connection a feed stable. Leaving Pagosa Springs at 2 p.m. we make camp on the Chumanche (Blanco) River ten miles south of Pagosa, here there is no accommodation for the traveler unless he is prepared for camping out, if so he can get wood and water and hay for stock. There is a camp house and in it our party put up for the night which was a cold one, and as our supply of blankets was limited not a good night’s rest was afforded, we were up and started by 15 minutes after six in the morning, as we have a good day’s drive to make the Chama thirty miles distant. A drive of 14 miles which is made by half past 11 brings us to the toll gate on the Navajo, twenty-four miles from Pagosa and here we take dinner, and in the afternoon we make a start to climb the Continental Divide, which is between the Navajo and Chama. This is accomplished without difficulty over a good road and a remarkably easy grade, the Continental Divide is seven miles from the Navajo toll gate and nine miles from the present railroad camp on the Chama.
“We reached the Chama at 6 p.m. and here the great crowd of railroad people monopolizes the accommodation which is for man and stock and it is difficult to get accommodation. The writer accidentally fell in with Mr. Mason, an old timer in the San Juan Country and through the kindness characteristic of those who were early at the door of the now celebrated San Juan, he furnished us a good bed, and at his brother-in-laws, Mr. William Cowleys, we obtained supper and breakfast. Leaving Chama at 7 a.m. we have twenty miles to travel to the Bear Creek Station, which is the most interesting and difficult road on the route, being along the railroad grade and directly up the Chama River for a distance of thirteen miles to the summit of the Conejos Range, which is the highest point reached on the line of the railroad extension.”
Continued next week.