I guess one of the downsides of train travel is that you have to stick to a particular route where you are forced to hit random towns to break up the long ride. Sometimes, these middle-of-nowhere places would unexpectedly spring up a surprise and by the end of your trip, they will firmly be placed on the top five highlight reel of the journey. One of those towns would be Trinidad, Colorado. Situated not far from the Colorado – New Mexico border, this scenic little town was our pit-stop from Kansas City to Albuquerque. The night train allowed us some shut eye and we woke up to the vast expanse of the prairies with the blood-red capped Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain peaks at the yonder.
Born out of the coal mining industry in the later part of the 1800’s, Trinidad really feels like a frontier town once we stepped out of the train. The remarkably preserved historical buildings that line Main Street warmly greeted us while we made our way to the end of Main Street to check-in at the aptly named Trail’s End Motel. The owner of the motel, Renee, was so kind to give us a lift to a local joint that serves up a hearty meal for us young hungry travelers: Lee’s Bar-B-Q. After engulfing the chili cheeseburger where the burger was submerged in the chili, we took a short hike to a nearby hill named Simpson’s Rest.
Simpson’s Rest name is derived from George Simpson, an early resident who was laid to rest at the top. The 30 minute hike was made tough since we still had to digest the generous amount of food during lunch but I consider the trek to be a stroll in the park. Once at the top, we were greeted by the “TRINIDAD” sign whose only claim to fame is for the “DAD” to light up on Father’s Day every year. From the bluff, we were offered a magnificent view of Trinidad with the monumental Fisher’s Peak, part of the Raton Mesa, looming at the background.
The rest of the day was spent by wandering around the near-deserted town since it was a Sunday and the usual grocery shopping, since we had to cook whenever possible in order to save budget. My buddy, Shazwan, pointed out that Trinidad was once dubbed the “Sex Change Capital of the US” for having a doctor specializing in sex reassignment surgery. The surgeon is no longer there but it has been rightly immortalized by South Park. This slogan is not really bumper sticker friendly but pretty funny because it’s very typical of an American town to want its own “claim to fame.”
It’s always a joy to stumble upon these lost-in-time places, whether accidentally or not, when you’re on a grueling train trip across the United States. It provides a sense of historical perspective as these places were once a thriving industry-based community that contributed to the development and exploration of America’s West. Trinidad actually gave me the inspiration to never discount these long forgotten towns and villages as they are an important part to the fabric of nation building which eventually led me to visit places in Malaysia like Gemas, Jugra and Kuala Sepetang. So, if you ever feel like being random and nostalgic at the same time, it’s time take the road less traveled.
This post is part of The Great American Adventure backpacking trip in summer 2010 with two of my buddies. With Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass, we visited 11 cities, 4 college towns, 2 national parks and 1 town dubbed The Sex Change Capital of the US.