Week 9: Trails and Rails

This past week I traveled 8 hours by train from Denver, CO to Grand Junction, CO to experience and audit the NPS Trails and Rails program that is operated on the Amtrak’s California Zephyr. The Trails and Rails program is staffed by volunteers who travel in the lounge car and present passengers with interpretive presentations about Colorado’s history and geology that is visible from the train.

Trails and Rails volunteer Darrel Schweitzer informs a passenger about beetle damage to trees.

Trails and Rails volunteer Darrel Schweitzer informs a passenger about beetle damage to trees.

The trip began as the train left Denver’s Union Station at 8 a.m. I boarded the train with LHIP intern Isabel Argoti and found a seat in the lounge car. We met Trails and Rails volunteers Darrel Schweitzer and Mike Grady. This was only Mike’s third trip as a volunteer. The two split time on the microphone addressing passengers and sharing stories of the small towns we passed by.   One of the more interesting sights to see on the way to Grand Junction is the Continental Divide. On the east side of the divide the river runs east and eventually out to the Gulf of Mexico. Once we passed through the mountain to the west side of the divide, the river began to rundsc_0433toward the west. The Colorado river flows from the Continental Divide out to California where it once ran into the Pacific ocean. Unfortunately, the river has not reached the California coast in a number of years as a result of intense drought conditions throughout California. dsc_0444 On the return trip from Grand Junction to Denver, I was able to meet two other trails and rails volunteers:¬†Elaine Peterson and Jan Ross. The two are retired school teachers and have been volunteering since their retirement. They both enjoy meeting new people on the train and sharing some of the rich history of their hometowns and neighboring cities. One of the highlights of the ride back was when the two Trails and Rails volunteers were able to swear in a few groups of junior rangers. The kids were so excited to have completed the activity books and earn their badges.

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