We pulled into Antonito in the late afternoon. The dusty little town was all quiet with the exception of a road construction project on Main Street that involved lane closures and big machinery.
Alanna Brake, of Lucky Brake, Ltd., and I were at the start of a two-night adventure that would take us from Antonito, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico by train; the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad to be exact.
Antonito is in the south-central part of Colorado, just a few miles shy of the New Mexico border. Its claim to fame is the railroad, a castle, and its connection to Indiana Jones.
We were booked at the Steam Train Hotel, a newly renovated boutique hotel in tiny downtown Antonito. Our room at the back of the historic building was actually two rooms with a bed in each, a bathroom, and a sitting area. Perfect for friends or family traveling together.
After checking in, Lanna and I struck out on foot, crossing the train tracks behind the hotel and entering a quiet Antonito neighborhood with small stucco houses and the occasional barking dog in a yard. It’s charming in a dry, southwestern kind of way.
Before long we were joined by a little black dog that looked a lot like Toto from The Wizard of Oz. He trotted alongside us, picking up the occasional rock and packing it in his mouth until he found another rock that he liked better.
He was very independent, not wanting to be touched, but he seemed determined to be our guide, so we let him tag along (as if we had a choice in the matter).
Our first stop was a house on a corner lot that had been featured as Indiana’s childhood home in the 1989 movie, “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.” This region has long been popular with Hollywood. The Cumbres & Toltec has been featured in a multitude of films and recently Antonito was the setting of “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” starring Seth McFarlane.
While we were visiting this past May, the Indiana Jones house was being renovated by the folks who own The Steam Train Hotel. Today, it is a fully functional bed and breakfast and I can’t wait to take my husband back for a stay. “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade” is his all-time favorite movie.
After peeking in the windows of the Indiana Jones house we made our way to Cano’s Castle, our little black dog guiding the way. From afar we could see the castle’s silver walls reaching high into the blue sky. As we got closer we could make out the hub caps, beer cans, and other shiny materials that makeup Cano’s Castle, the lifelong project of castle resident, Cano.
We briefly met Cano the next day while inspecting the castle in the early morning sunlight. He’s quite the character and, to use a phrase from my grandmother, could chat the hind leg off a mule. If Cano appears when you visit, be prepared to give him a token of your appreciation in the form of a monetary donation.
The Toto dog followed us all the way back to our hotel where he hung out for a while before wandering away. I inquired about the dog and was informed that Antonito is full of dogs that roam the town during the day and that I shouldn’t worry, but I worried about little Toto anyway.
That evening we dined at the Dutch Mill CafÃ© & Bar. Contrary to its name, this restaurant mainly focuses on Mexican and American food, not Dutch. I had a decent burrito smothered in deliciously spicy green chili. There are not many restaurants in Antonito, a town of 777, so we were excited to learn that the Steam Train Hotel served a very good, made-to-order breakfast that was included in our stay..
Antonito is a slice of the American southwest with just the right amount of dust, history and character to keep one entertained while waiting for your train.
Read the first post in this three-part series, A scenic railroad like no other.
Thank you to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad for hosting us on this trip.