Every once in awhile a story is so gross, it is worth repeating. Like they say, this is a scenario for one of those old Cold War science fiction films that were to have taken place in New Mexico, just all icky. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad has been in many movies, including the third Indiana Jones movie, which reminds us that this was almost a job for Indiana Jones!
They are called Tent Caterpillars. They are on what is called a boom or bust cycle. If they are booming, they can take out tens of thousands of acres of forest. This is what they did up north in Chama, along the path of the historic railroad. The way to get rid of them is as gross as the critters themselves. The cure is to leave a bucket about a quarter full of water. They crawl into it and drown. Then, you have a whole bucket full of dead worms.
“…The creatures are tent caterpillars. This summer, they broke free of their tent-like silk webs in the trees. For six weeks, millions of them invaded the hills around the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad between Chama in Rio Arriba County and Antonito, 64 rails miles away in Colorado.
“Literally there were so many caterpillars it looked like the ground itself was moving,” said railroad President John Bush. “This one was a fairly severe one.” There were so many caterpillars, the train, which is the economic lifeblood for the area, took a hit. The critters slimed the rails and stopped the train dead in its tracks.
The steam-powered locomotive couldn’t make it up some of the hills. Cumbres and Toltec employees installed stream sprayers to blast the caterpillars off the track. Two engines also helped haul the train over the slick spots. And things were hard on the riders, too. “When they’re on the rails and they get run over by the train, they smell like seaweed,” said the train’s brakeman. “So it made it very unpleasant for everyone on board.”
The caterpillars mainly took to the trees, decimating the leaves on hundreds of thousands of aspen and cottonwoods. That’s a big worry for those who count on tourism in the area because when those leaves change colors in the fall, tourists pay lots of money to see them from the Cumbres and Toltec trains….”
The news report is local. It is worth watching, as yet another only in New Mexico shudder. I sent it around to my friends I found the report so interesting. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is yet another New Mexico treasure. If it’s good enough for Indiana Jones…, well it’s about keeping up with the Joneses, I guess.