The Raton Pass.

From our house in Santa Fe we can look northeast to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, west to the sunset and the Jemez, and south to the Sandias. This weekend we drove I-25 (the north-south highway that runs from Las Cruces to Buffalo, Wyoming) on a jaunt from Santa Fe to Denver to visit family.

The most "interesting" patch of the drive at this time of year is Raton. Living back east, we didn't have the vaguest idea what Raton Pass might be. Now we have learned to hope there won't be snow, rain, or high winds when driving this route, because Weather is Not Your Friend on the Raton Pass.

In the19th century this was part of the Santa Fe Trail (then the stop was called Willow Springs), but it was too tough for the wagons to navigate. So an entrepreneur named Dick Wootton, Indian scout, blasted his way through and set up a toll, which people were happy to pay rather than trying to haul anything over the Rockies at that point. Later the Pass was used by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway as the primary route through the mountains. In the 20th century it became the route of Interstate 25. It is a lengthy, rolling, mountainous stretch and it's not difficult to imagine the days when it was treacherous.

Photo credit: Denver Library, denverlibrary.org, call number op-2186, train #22 El Capitan, 1950, by Otto Perry, 1894-1970.