Chama New Mexico is home to the Toltec and Cumbres narrow gauge railroad which winds through a glorious mountain range for eleven thousand feet before falling into Colorado. The engine car is powered by steam that takes you back in time to a simpler, what I had always thought, more dangerous time.
I have a gun under my bed. I live in Los Angeles. Protesters were blocks from my home. They broke windows. There were other guns involved. It felt like the right move at the time. Forgot to tell my wife about the gun under the bed. That was the wrong move at the time. No victims in adulthood, only volunteers. I understand if you disagree. You are just wrong. I forgive you.
Just down the road from the Chama station, you will find the Chama Land & Cattle Company. An upmarket gem of a hunting lodge on thirty-six thousand acres. Owned by the Jicarilla Apache Nation, you can join them in some of the most sublime whole-animal sporting opportunities and scenery in North America: elk, bear, turkeys, grouse are all fair game. The Lodge itself is stunning. The décor is full of antler chandeliers, taxidermy galore, huge wood burning fireplaces and gun totting camouflaged patrons with rifles slung over their shoulders beaming with joy throughout the lobby.
I am not a hunter. I like the idea of eating all of what you kill. Waste nothing. I’m drawn to it. I am a meat lover. It seems honest to kill, clean and cook rather than order from kitchen and exempt myself from the less pleasant aspects of the food pyramid. All aboard.
In August they offer the “Blast and Cast.” Grouse hunting and fishing. 3 nights. My good friend, John Hadley, is loaning me his 20-gauge shotgun. His motto, “if it flies, it dies.” I’m not there yet, but I will be. Next August and I will fill you in on my field to table experience. Let me know if you have any grouse recipes.
Dinner at the lodge was more than memorable. The ribeye could not have been more succulent, cooked in a perfectly Catalonian Romesco sauce. The quail starter, magnifique in it’s tenderness. It wasn’t easy getting into Chama Lodge. It might have been my own failure to understand the private code permeating the protective coating. It is intensely private parallel universe with its own rules and customs. It is a universe that is worth exploring if you want to go to the next level. What I did not expect was a love and respect for the animals. Culling the herds. Wasting nothing. An efficient system. To sell newspapers in the early 20th century, a young man yelled, “he loved her so he had to kill her! Read all about it.” That is the story here too. There is love and respect for the food chain, the environment, and a proud tradition of hunting for your dinner with gratitude, respect, and love. There are guns, but it’s a simpler time, a less dangerous place. All aboard.