Trip to New Mexico (Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos)

Dr. Patrick Louis Cooney

 

My wife has loved images of the American southwest for 30 or 40 years.  This was cemented on a university-related trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  She had been telling me for years that she was going to go out West, but I never took her too seriously.  But all of a sudden she got serious and the next thing I know is that we are headed for New Mexico.  Now because I'm somewhat obsessional, I usually study a trip destination a great deal.  But this time I was busy with quite a few topics and I had no real interest in New Mexico.  (I was a bit interested in Billy the Kid who killed and was killed there, but that was about it.)  I was not particularly looking forward to the trip.  I was really just going to be with and help my wife.  But I must say, after completing the trip, that the geology, vegetation and wide, open spaces were very impressive and I am happy that I went.  Some sights really wowed me. 

 

May 21, 2007, Monday. Sandia Mountains to Santa Fe Trip.

Sandia Crest Byway Photos

Route 14 Photos

Note: The best way to view the photos is in a dimly lit room. The glare of light hitting the monitor distorts the colors.

 

Rosemary got up at 2:45 a.m. Left the house at 4:15 a.m. It’s now 5:32 am. We board at 6:15 to take off at 6:45 on a flight to Dallas.

Arrived in Dallas-Ft. Worth airport and then had to switch to another plane to get to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My first impression of New Mexico was that there were large stretches of flat earth that stretched for long distances only to be interrupted by mountain chains. Flying over Albuquerque we could see the Rio Grande River (that flows from Colorado south through New Mexico and then forms part of the eastern border of Texas) that looked like a very muddy river. Albuquerque itself was extremely spread out on both sides of the Rio Grande. Most of the structures are very low except for a small down town area that has a few tall buildings. The place looks a bit like a shield with a raised button in the middle.

We rented a car from Enterprise Rental Cars on University Boulevard not far from the Albuquerque airport. We got on US 25 north to drive to US 40 east to Santa Rosa exit 174 to pick up Route 14 (the Turquoise Trail) north heading for Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, on a scenic drive through the Sandia mountains. Albuquerque is located at the base of the dark mountain on its west side.

What really struck me was the landscape and vegetation. We were obviously in an arid climate with sparse vegetation compared to what I ams used to living in New York. It is not true desert vegetation, but it has aspects of it.

Left turn onto Route 536. A sign tells us that we are entering Cibola National Forest. And now we begin the process of taking a lot of pictures of the landscapes. We stopped at Doc Long Picnic Ground, elevation 7,630 feet. (The highest peak in our New York Catskills is only around 4,000 feet). Rosemary started taking the first shots of what turned out to be almost two thousand photos.  That new digital technology is wonderful.) We encountered the first of many plants whose identity we did not know. (Later I realized that New Mexico has quite a few of some of our very widespread common wild flowers such as common mullein (Verbascum thapsus)).

Past mile marker 3 Rosemary took a picture of a big thistle plant in bloom. There is a big drop-off on the left of the highway. We noticed that there was pine forest here.

Around the bend on the right is a greenish cliff. We stopped near Scenic Byway #10 marker. Pretty rock are in this area. A little past mile marker 4 there is a beautiful view to the east. Below us is the horseshoe curve we had just driven around. We see what looks like a white sandy area way in the background.

Near mile marker 7 at the Sandia Peak Ski Area there is a great view of what looks like a sand plain below with mountains in the background. There are more great views past mile 7 where there is a big pull-off.

About ten miles or so ahead we see a sign saying Spruce-Fir Vegetation Type. 10,400 feet elevation. Cibola National Forest. We notice that some snow is left over from the winter. Most of the surviving snow has been saved because it is shaded by the tall trees.

We make it to the top of Sandia Mountain. (It was 13.5 miles to the top.) It is extremely windy and a little cold. There is a restaurant up here, but it is not open as of yet. There are great views from the top, but most of what we were looking at were wide expanses of suburban homes that stretched for miles. (I later realized that this was the northwest section of Albuquerque, which I suspected but was not completely sure of.) We looked for the small downtown section of Albuquerque, but could not see it. We returned to Route 14.

Took some shots from San Pedro Overlook at Campbell Ranch, 3-6 acre homesites before mile 12. That’s a lot of land from the view of a New Yorker. Took some pictures of the wild flowers we saw along the highway before mile marker 23.

After mile 25 we stop to takes picture of Indian paint brush (Castilleja confusa) flowers which really stand out with their strong red color.

We passed through the small town of Madrid which reminded me of a hill-billy version of New Hope, Pennsylvania which is one of those artsy-craftsy places which can be fun to visit. I understand that the influence is not from hill-billies but from some hippies that settled into the small village. On the north side of the village I saw a sign saying something about a botanical garden. (We would return to this site later in our journey.)

We passed over US 25 and arrived in Santa Fe. The traffic up Route 14 was heavy. (We later learned that this was a common feature of this route in Santa Fe.) Drove to Best Western motel where we would stay for five nights. The guy behind the desk recommended the Mexican-American food at Blue Corn Café and Brewery on Rodeo Drive. The margaritas were good, but my cheese enchiladas were a bit hard to cut. Nevertheless, I liked the taste.

 

May 22, 2007, Tuesday. Bandelier Monument and Jemez Mountains Trip.

Routes 285/84 and 502 Photos

Route 4 Photos

Bandelier National Monument Photos

 

Our rooms at Best Western were pretty good. No real complaints. We traveled north on Route 14 to a left turn for highway 285/84 which is an expressway after a short drive. What took me a while to get adjusted to were the very high speed limits. The speed limit was 75 miles per hour and many drive much faster than this. I am not used to driving 80 or 85 or 90 miles per hour to try to keep up with traffic in the left lane. I also learned that the drivers show no mercy for speed slackers. They come up fast and very close to the rear of the car to let me know that I am going too slow. It reminded me of New York, but at much higher speeds. I told Rosemary that I don’t think New Mexico drivers are used to driving at speeds like 60 or 65. They must feel like they are crawling when they have to go this slow.

Rosemary saw a couple of bridges that were painted with Indian symbols. She had me stop so she could take some pictures of the bridges. She also took some pictures of the red cliffs near Route 502. Got off 285/84 and onto Route 502 headed for Los Alamos, famous for its laboratory (employing some 11,000 people) and its history of the construction of the first two atomic bombs, Fat Boy and Little Man.

Stopped along Route 502 to take some mountain pictures. Took some pictures of the adobe style houses. What really surprised me was just how much of the Indian and Spanish/Mexican spirit has been maintained in New Mexico. There are a lot of buildings in this sand or mud-colored adobe style. (Later I would learn from a park ranger that the Spanish taught the Indians how to use adobe, which originated in Africa.) I asked Rosemary to take a few pictures of some of the adobe structures near the highway. She took a picture of a yellow flower that looks a lot like our goatsbeard flower. (And maybe it is one of those species.)

We stopped past mile marker #16. Busy highway. In the distance, we can see mountains straight ahead of us to the west. I also notice that the land is very "cut-up" from considerable erosion. There are quite a few "hills" as a result. Rosemary took some gully pictures of the uneven earth just before the boundary for the San Ildefonso Indian Reservation.

Another stop while in the reservation. Rosemary remarks: "Three different mountain types here." She was referring to shapes I believe. Took a number of pictures of what appeared to be a greenish-blackish volcanic plug. Rosemary seems very impressed by the scenery. We notice that there is a lot of brome grass like that back in New York. Rosemary thinks it’s our downy chess brome grass. (Later I learned that some of the brome grasses are invasive in the West.) Took a picture of a purple flower.

Sign for the Jemez Mountains. We stopped a little past mile marker 14 to take another picture of that "plug". Rosemary remarks that in the books she read about a mixture of volcanic plugs and sandstone. I find a plant very familiar to me: yellow sweet clover in bloom. This plant is widely spread here just as in New York.

Stop near the bridge over the Rio Grande. Here the river doesn’t look so muddy. Rosemary takes a picture of a pretty plant with pinkish inflorescences by the river. (We find out later that it is tamarisk, which is very invasive in the West.) Also notice some swallows dive bombing the river to get something to eat.

Near mile marker 11 on the other side of the river Rosemary takes a photo of a monument looking piece of rock on a ridge ahead of us by the junction with Route 30 access ramp. It turns out to be another volcanic plug looking rock. Another thing I notice about the landscape is that there are a lot of mesas. With their very flat tops, some of them seem to go on and on and on. Some of them I find pretty, while others I find rather ugly and annoying. I mention to Rosemary that some of them look like some kind of small dam that runs on for ever.

A sign says 8 miles to White Rock; 10 miles to Los Alamos and 20 miles to Bandelier. Stop past mile marker 8. The plug looks yellowish-pinkish now.

The highway splits: Los Alamos to the left and Route 30 (O'Keefe territory) to the right. We go left for Los Alamos. We stop at a big pull-off on the side of the mountain on Route 502. There is a big gully below us. We can see Los Alamos at the other end of the gully off to the left. A sign says that the highest peak is South Truchas ("trout" in English) at 13,103 feet elevation. At the pull-off there is a monument to Senator Clinton P. Anderson. It is very windy and a little chilly. The road is very busy.

Scenic Recreation Area stop.

We stopped at what I thought was a toll station or entrance fee station. But the man in the booth said it was the security check point for Los Alamos Labs. He asked if we were going to Bandelier and we said yes. He probably could tell from all the maps and books on Rosemary’s lap. He told us that about 4 miles ahead we would make a left turn to get to Bandelier and gave us the o.k. to proceed.

Along the way, by the tech areas, we went through a pine forest, probably Ponderosa Pines, just past mile marker 1. At about four miles from the security booth we turn left onto Route 4 heading east to Bandelier. The area is much more forested than we were used to seeing in New Mexico. The Jemez Mountains are to the west of us. Find a harebell type flower on the side of a pull-off. It is windy here too. There are orange-tinged rocks on the other side of the road.

At another pull-off, this one past mile marker 51, we find Indian paint brush, something that looks like yellow yarrow, a daisy fleabane type flower, a black medick type flower and something that looks like wrinkled rose (Rosa rugosa) with winged victory stipules. Also here are Ponderosa pines. Two or three needled pine needles about five inches long. The pine cones are spiky tipped. Find the old familiar dandelion in bloom.

Just past mile marker 55 we turned into Bandelier Monument. We pay the cheap entrance fee (I think it was $6 for the two of us). Park at a lookout point. Incredible views of Frijoles Canyon. We find a prickly pear cactus plant in bloom with beautiful yellowish flowers.

We head down a long winding road into the canyon to reach the Visitor’s Center. We find out that the harebell we saw earlier was Purple Penstemon and the strange looking bush cactus is Cane Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa). Here also is the Paleleaf Rose (Rosa woodsii) in bloom. We are happy to find what surely must be Virginia Creeper, Jimsonweed and Pigweed. The old familiar Box Elder (Acer negundo) is also here.

At the Visitor’s Center there is a book store. Also here is a nice gift shop and a place to get some food and drink. The Main Trail is only a forty-five minute walk. Indian blanket flowers in bloom? But they look a little different – no purple spots on the ray flowers around the disc flowers.

There is a small creek that heads through the canyon. Standing on the valley floor, it is like we are surrounded by mountains. We pass by the remains of a kiva, a religious and community place for the men of the pueblo.  The next thing we see are the remains of a large Indian pueblo. 

There are Indian dwellings inside the widened-out alcoves in the mountain cliffs. We climb to the alcoves to investigate the area. Below one can clearly see the remains of the large Indian village on the valley floor. It felt good to be in such a lovely place.

Stop along Route 4 below mile marker 48. Take more pictures of wild flowers. One looks like our common strawberry.

We come to the Caldera area. There was a massive explosion of the volcano here that blew out an enormous mass of earth. We were really impressed with the massive size of the broad green valley left by the volcano. My reaction was "wow!" Very beautiful.

Park by Las Conchas Trail Head on Route 4. A beautiful mountain stream flows from the other side of the highway to our side going from right to left. The stream heads into the forest after going through a green grass area.. Nearby are some "badlands" looking cliffs with hoodoos (eroded rocks that take many different and strange shapes).

Pass by the East Fork Trailhead parking area; the Jemez Falls National Recreation Area Campground; the San Diego and Redondo National Recreation Area campgrounds before reaching mile marker 28. At mile marker 26 is the La Cueva National Recreation Area picnic ground. Pass by some sheer cliffs. Past mile marker 24 we find the Dark Canyon Fishing Access area.

Stopped at a Trailhead access point for Trail 137. McCauley Warm Springs is about two miles east of Battleship Picnic Area on Trail 137 above mile marker 23. Below mile marker 20 we reach Soda Dam. It is right next to the road. The water from the Jemez River looks as if it is pouring forth from the side of a massive rock dam. On it’s journey the water makes a curve through the rock.

Jemez Springs pull-off. There are beautiful red rocks ahead on the tall cliffs. Below mile marker 15 is the Bluffs National Recreation Area fishing access. More beautiful red colors in the mountains ahead. We got better pictures of the red plug-looking rock above mile marker 12.  In Jemez there are beautiful red rocks and cliff faces.

Our last stop of the day was at the Walatowa Visitor Center at Jemez. They have a gift shop with some really great pottery. We especially liked the color of the Acoma pottery from the Acoma Indian Reservation. Rosemary asked the prices of a few of the pieces. We knew they would be expensive but we heard figures of $450, $550 and $650. That’s too much for a couple of simple naturalists like us.

We completed the loop journey by returning to Santa Fe via Route 25. We ate at Denny’s. I had a salad and a chocolate milk shake.

 

May 23, 2007, Wednesday.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and Santa Fe Old Town.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument Photos

Santa Fe Old Town Photos

 

From Route 14 heading south from Santa Fe we took a couple of photos of the Sandia mountains ahead of us. We stopped along Route 16 off of Exit 264 of US 25 (some 16 miles from our motel) to take photos.

We went to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. We found the gate closed even though the information we had said it opens up at 7 a.m. in the spring and summer. Rosemary figured they must still be on winter hours. We started to head backwards to turn the car around when the ranger appeared. We saw Apache Plume in bloom and past bloom. This is a very common bush with white flowers. We took a lot of photos of the wild flowers in bloom on the 4.4 miles drive to the trailhead.

There are some badlands here. Found something that looks like a holly bush. Indian paint brush was in bloom. I had the felling that any of those boulders along the cliffs could fall off their perches at any time.

We stopped by the dam spillway and the Rio Grande.

Back in Santa Fe we stopped at Border Books. Then we went to Santa Fe Old Town. At Water Street and Cathedral Place Rosemary took a picture of a large adobe-type building that turned about to be the La Fonda inn. It is across from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.  Rosemary took photos of the church and of statues of St. Francis, patron saint of Santa Fe. One statue on the church patio was of a fellow New Yorker, Kateri Tekawitha (1656-1680), the first Indian of North America to be promoted a saint.

Across the street is the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum. Stopped at the Windriver Trading Company. Rosemary purchased a lot of souvenirs and gifts for various people back home.

Took some photos of Loretto Chapel, built 1873, with its Miraculous Stairway. (Some itinerant fellow stopped long enough to build a winding stairway without nails of any sort.)

I sat down in the Santa Fe Plaza Square by the Plaza Community State (dedicated July 4, 2004), while Rosemary went to investigate the many Indian vendors along the Governor’s Palace. She picked up a few things. In the center of Plaza Square there’s a monument to fallen war heroes, Union troops who fought against the Confederates and the troopers who fought against the Indians in New Mexico. Eight concrete rays all lead to the monument with grassy areas between the rays. All the grassy areas are cordoned off with yellow rope.

For dinner we ate roast beef sandwiches and salads at Arby ‘s.


 

May 24, 2007, Thursday. O’Keeffe Country trip.

Poshuoinge Photos

Abiquiu and Nearby Photos

Chama River Pulloff and Rocks of Fire Photos

Ghost Ranch Photos

 

Today we visit Georgia O’Keeffe Country. We are guided by a very helpful book by Rhoda Barkan and Peter Sinclaire called From Santa Fe to O’Keeffe Country: A Journey through the Soul of New Mexico. We were both aware of the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe mostly because of her many large paintings of flowers. I liked the paintings and remembered the painter.

It was a drive of 27.6 miles to Route 30 north from our Best Western motel. At 28.0 miles we stopped to takes photos of Black Mesa at various points along the road. At 32.6 miles we pull in at a Vallero gas station. We find out that the Indian settlement ruins at Puye are closed. So we head on.

In Espanola we stop at the Rio Grande. The river is running pretty fast. Pass by Northern New Mexico Community College. Farther north there is a marker for the Dominguez Escalante Trail. We stop before mile marker 200 to take a picture of the mountain ahead of us. Are these the Tusas Mountains as the map indicates? We are not sure. Make two more stops for photos of the mountains.

In Espanola, pick up Route 84. There is a sign for the Santa Fe National Forest: Poshuoinge Interpretive Site. It was hard to find the place as the sign was so small. And since we had to go slower, the cars behind us were right on top of us. (Very like New York. Everybody is impatient, regardless if it is crowded New York or very much less crowded New Mexico.) We are looking for Indian settlement ruins. The trail here heads up a fairly large hill. The Chama River can be seen, but just a part of it a little ways up the hill. I walk ahead of Rosemary to the top of the hill. It is a relatively easy walk. Wow! What great 360 degree views from the top of the hill! Now one can really see the Chama River below. There is a park interpretive panel that shows the Indian settlement that was once here not far from the river below. It suddenly dawns on me that the remains of the settlement are just the outlines of the village on the valley floor. You can so clearly see the outline because the lines are mostly dirt surrounded by grassy areas. There are beautiful views from up here and parts of the Chama River are visible. In the distance I see a very white grouping of rock cliffs. I suddenly remember reading about a favorite place of O’Keeffe’s known as White Place and make a bet with myself that the place is the painter’s White Place. (She also had a Black Place but that is around 150 miles west of this area.)

Just 0.7 of a mile beyond the Poshuoinge Interpretive Site, Rosemary takes photos of the remains of a church (before reaching mile marker 210). The remains are very visible from the road. You can’t get too close because a barbed wire fence prevents this.

About 2.5 miles up from the Poshuoinge Interpretive Site, we take the left turn for the O’Keeffe house in the town of Abiquiu which is only 0.2 of a mile from the turn. You have to make reservations far in advance if you want to take the guided tour of the house. Since we had no such reservations, I just dropped Rosemary at the front gate and she took some pictures of the adobe-style house. Later she told me that the outside of the house looks pretty simple. Georgia was only one of two white people living in the Indian village. 

Our next stop was the White Place (Plaza Blanca in Spanish). It’s a fairly long drive on a dirt road to the place. The place is a white badlands. Rosemary took quite a few pictures. You can walk along a trail closer to the mountain cliffs, but they do not want anyone to climb on the mountains. We just stayed long enough for the pictures and then left. There was a group from Ghost Ranch at the small, informal parking area.

On the way back, we took some pictures of Cerro Pedernal (Flint Hill), a black mesa rising above the other mountains around it. O’Keeffe painted that mesa a number of times. She also climbed to its top. Upon her death, her ashes were distributed atop the mesa as per her wishes.

We also took some pictures of the Chama River where the river makes a horse-shoe bend before it divides to go around an island in the middle which is shaped like a boot with the toes at the north end.

At mile marker 217 there is a rest area with picnic tables. Past mile marker 218 we stop to take more pictures of Cerro Pedernal. It sure looks black. We reach Abiquiue Lake. Here we realize that we could have waited for this open area to take pictures of Cerro Pedernal which is very prominent here. The view of the Abiquiue reservoir is quite impressive. We turn left and go down by the lake to take more pictures.

Back on the main road we drive fast along a long flat stretch of land with mountains in the background. We stop so Rosemary can take more pictures. The road goes right through the mountains. We stop just past mile marker 222. The mountains here have the reddish rocks just like Rosemary always crowed about back home.

We stopped at the pull-off at the northern end of the Abiquiue reservoir. This is Piedra Lumbre. The rock cliffs are brownish red variations with gray stripes. I read in our guidebook that the red colors are due to iron oxide in the sandstone.

Our last stop of the day is at Ghost Ranch. Rosemary takes pictures of the log cabin used in the movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal and of Chimney Rock. She also takes pictures of a donkey and of an old wagon that once was pulled by horses.

We park by the office. There is a plaque saying that in 1976 Ghost Ranch became a Registered Natural Landmark. Rosemary asks if the public is allowed to see O’Keeffe’s house at Ghost Ranch. No. Apparently O’Keeffe did not want the public to have access to her house. (That’s a shame, but that was her wish.)

 

 

May 25, 2007, Friday. Taos trip.

Rio Grande Gorge Area Photos

Taos Pueblo and Taos Nearby Photos

 

We are 45.4 miles into the trip along Route 68, the Low Road, to Taos. They say to take the High Road which is the more scenic road to Taos from Santa Fe but it takes 2 to 2.5 hours. That would have been just too long of a time unless we were going to stay in Taos. But we were returning to Sante Fe after visiting in Taos.

A couple of miles ago we entered the Rio Grande Gorge area. The vegetation type is Pinon Pine-Juniper. Stopped for a photo. A sign says that Taos is about 25 miles ahead. Another stop at mile marker 17 on Route 68. The gorge is still pretty wide here, 100-150 yards. The road is a very fast one which makes it tough for tourists. Third stop is at the pull-off at the monument in commemoration of 100 years of operation of the Embudo Stream-Gaging Station (established 1883). It is a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark, the first gaging station established by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Rio Grande is running pretty fast here.

47.2 miles into the trip and we make our fourth stop at Embudo Station. The valley is narrower here.

49.1 miles and the fifth stop at another pull-off. There is a big curve/bend in the road. The Rio Grande goes around a mass of land making the land an island. This is a good viewing position for the river. The only bad thing was the small housing development set very close to the river. Rosemary is rushing around to catch the sun. She complains about the partly cloudy skies and the sun going in and out on her. Otherwise, it is another very good day.

50.2 miles and the sixth stop at the junction of Routes 68 and 75. There is a small mountain isolate, yellowish tan with religious crosses on top. The village of Dixon is located on Route 75. See an advertisement for Vivac Winery and Gallery. This time the Rio Grande is on our right. We must have crossed over it as it crossed under the road. The bridge here over the river is the Anthony K. Baca bridge.

53.5 miles and seventh stop. The valley narrows with mountains close on each side. Mountains are also to our front. The Rio Grande is back on the left side of the road. It’s quiet when cars aren’t around.

53.8 miles and the eighth stop, mile marker 24. There is River Parking, a big pull-off on the left. County Line, Rio Grande Gorge National Wild and Scenic River. There is a profusion of tamarisk by the river. Also here is goatsbeard in bloom and lots of brome grass.

55.4 miles and the ninth stop. The river itself is much narrower here. See more cane chollo.

57.7 and the tenth stop. Two picnic tables in a semi-circle turn-off.

58.1 miles, eleventh stop, just past mile marker 24.

Quartzite River Access. River rafters begin here.

58.5 miles, twelfth stop. Here is the Visitor’s Center for the Northern Rio Grande Valley where we make a stop. They have a very nice topographical model of the area.

Back on the road we pass Carson Pilar and Orilla Verde Recreation Area.

We stop 2.8 miles north of the Visitor’s Center.

3.6 miles and we stop at a pull-off with roadside tables. Great views from here. There is a vast expanse of land and mountain in the background.

Mile marker 33 and there are some big curves in the road. Here the views are even better. There is a grand canyon in the distance through which the Rio Grande runs. The land expanse is very impressive. I really like that feeling of openness. I read that it is this vast expanse that impressed Georgia O’Keeffe on her visit to Taos.

10.2 miles from the Visitor Center we can see an overview of Taos located at the base of the Sangre de Cristo (the Blood of Christ) mountains. Some of the mountain peaks are still covered with snow.

12.9 miles and in Taos. Rosemary has me stop to take a photo of the adobe church here, St Francisco Asis.

We stop at the Taos Visitor’s Center. I enjoy looking at the topographical map with the mountain positions clearly marked.

On the way to Taos Pueblo, an historical place where Indians still live, Rosemary takes a picture of a horse with the mountains in the background across from the Taos Mountain Casino. We see a little snow on the mountain ahead of us. I stop for Rosemary again, but this time she tells me that an Indian told her that there is no "parking" on the side of the roads in the pueblo. This kind of thing never really bothers Rosemary as she simply says o.k.

At the Pueblo, Rosemary says "Biker heaven" as we see lots and lots of motorcycle enthusiasts in Taos. The Indians at the pueblo sell native crafts and other things, including oven bread, cinnamon cookies and plum pies. The plum pie is pie filling enclosed between two pieces of pie crust. The crust was different (not bad), but the filling was good even though I didn’t care for the brown color. The pie came in handy. Rosemary just had to join in on the photographing of a young puppy dog with a bigger dog. Both dogs really liked the pie pieces I gave them. Speaking of dogs, there are a lot of dogs here. They just roam around at will paying very little attention to all the tourists. A lot of them find a bit of shade for a resting/sleeping place.

I liked the lay-out of the pueblo. The "hlaumma" are one to five stories high. They look like toy adobe house blocks sat at various places atop of each other. It’s a little weird looking, but extremely fascinating. There is a huge open area between the groups of houses, through which a mountain stream runs. That is another intriguing part of the place. Indian kids run around the area playing. They look pretty happy which is very pleasing. I notice that their skin color is very interesting. It is kind of a radiant or glowing dark reddish brown, perhaps because they are in the sun a lot in this arid land. Living in New York I see a lot of Hispanics and Asians, so it was interesting to compare and contrast these native Americans with other peoples I have seen. They are not so different looking to me at least. I thought about the stories of the American mountain men, many of whom took Indian brides. I thought to myself, yeah, if I was in that situation, I could happily have done that.

Rosemary bought some of the Indian crafts from the many shops around the huge open area. What an interesting area in which to shop. I enjoyed the experience even if I did not join in on much of the shopping.

From Taos Pueblo we drove to the bridge over the gorge of the Rio Grande. It is a long way down to the river below. I was taken aback when I first looked down, but quickly recovered. But Rosemary has discovered she has a fear of heights. She was going to take the pictures through the bars of the bridge, so I made her give me the cameras so I could take the photos without the bars. I started slow, but I was soon having a lot of fun. The place is about eleven miles out of Taos.

We return to Taos. We visit Taos Plaza. If I had more time I would have taken a tour of the Kit Carson house in Taos, but it was just not doable given our limited time. Now we are in Taos Plaza. At El Mercado we bought some souvenirs. Also bought some things at the Taos Trading Co. The plaza square here is without much open area. On one end there is a big band shelter and on the other end is a big religious cross, part of a war memorial.

With my arthritic ankles hurting, I return to the car while Rosemary continues shopping. I just dig into some of the guide books, perfectly happy. While Rosemary shopped it started to rain. And it rained all the way back to Santa Fe. It finally stopped on the last leg of the trip.

Man, is this Santa Fe traffic bad on Route 14. It is much worse than in Westchester County, New York. I feel sorry for the residents who live here. (Too many cars for too few roads.)

We eat at the Village Inn Restaurant on Route 14 not far from our motel. It reminds me of some of the diners back in New York.

 

May 26, 2007, Saturday.

The Salt Missions Trail Trip and staying in Albuquerque.

Salt Mission Trail Photos

 

14.7 miles from Santa Fe on Route 14 heading south to Albuquerque. We stop to take a picture of a mountain (the Ortiz mountains?) The Ortiz Mountains are on the east side of Route 14 followed by the San Pedro Mountains, then the Sandia mountains are on the west side.

We took a side trip to the Ortiz Mountain Preserve owned by the Santa Fe botanical garden only to find large No Trespassing signs. The sign for the Preserve says that you must be accompanied by a guide in order to see the preserve. We drove 5.6 miles out of our way for nada. We both agreed that the sign on Route 14 was very misleading. They should change it. On the way back to Route 14 Rosemary took a photo of the valley below with Route 14 heading through it.

We make another stop for a flat land photo. We go under US 40 and stop at the Sandia Ranger Station on Route 337 heading south. We are now going to be driving on the Salt Missions Trail, which consists of the ruins of three Spanish missions in Indian pueblos near the dried-up salt lakes (where New Mexico got its salt I think until 1900).

At Tunnel Canyon we make a brief stop in the Cibola National Forest, Otero Meadow stop. There is a note here about the Cedro Creek Riparian Restoration Project.

As we drive along we note that the Mission Trail is not all that scenic. There is a lot of flat land here.

We stopped at Quarai Mission Ruins, Salinas National Monument. It was once quite a big pueblo with around 700 residents. This pueblo was one of the seven missions established by the Spanish in the area.

The amount of flat land in the area is really impressive. There are acres and acres of open land except for a few farm houses here and there.

We get onto US 60 and drive miles to two dried-up salt lakes. We are both impressed by the places.

On US 60 we stop for a photo to get the grasslands with sagebrush with the Manzano (apple tree in English) mountains in the background. We pass through the town of Mountainair and head for the Abo Mission Ruin, Salinas National Monument. This is not as nice a place as the first mission ruins. The ranger, however, was very talkative. It’s a small world. His family came from Connecticut. He tells us the land is cheap out here. We learn from him that the Apaches forced the Spanish out twice.

Stop on a hill on US 60. There is a huge area of browned grasses with mountains in the background. We stop at the bottom of the hill to take more pictures. I’ve never seen so much bare land in my life. It seems to stretch on forever.

We will pick up Route 47 soon that will take us near US 25 to head up to Albuquerque. It takes us through the heart of the brown grass area. We stop for still another picture. I say to Rosemary that it is like something out of that old Ronald Reagan TV show "Death Valley Days". A train goes right across this area. From afar it just looks like an inch or so high. Rosemary uses the words "empty" and "emptiness" for the vast open space.

In Albuquerque we check into the Best Western motel not far from US 40.

We ate at Little Anitas. It is a Mexican-American place. We both liked the margaritas and the Mexican food. It is better than the Blue Corn Café and Brewery place in our opinion.

 

 

May 27, 2007, Sunday. 

Petroglyph National Monument, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, Pueblo Cultual Center.

Albuquerque Area Photos

 

We took advantage of it being Sunday morning to tour around Old Town since we knew there would not be as many cars around the area. There are a lot of shops in this area along with museums. We had breakfast at the Albuquerque Grill connected to the Best Western motel. We then got onto US 40 west and crossed over the Rio Grande. We headed to the Petroglyph National Monument. At the Visitor’s Center we bought a whole bunch of booklets about the various national parks in the southwest.

We drive over to Boca Negra (Black Mouth in English). It is surrounded on three sides by the mesa, (which in all runs some 17 miles). We climb up the mesa which is moderately strenuous. There are good views of Albuquerque from the top. You can even see the downtown area of the city. The trail is a little tricky. I had to help Rosemary quite a few times. The mesa is volcanic basalt rock.

We went to the most northern place of the three petroglyph sites: the Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail. We saw a jack rabbit for probably the first time in our lives. They are really big compared to our eastern cottontail rabbit. Unfortunately, Rosemary could not get a photo because the fellow is quick and hides behind the rocks effectively.  We did not walk too far on the trail because it just did not look that enticing.  We turned around and went back to the car. 

Back in Albuquerque we visited the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. We didn’t have the $3.00 in change to put in the park pay envelope so we had to go to the Nature Shop to get some change. We see lots of Russian olive bushes (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and cottonwood trees (Populus deltoides).

Rosemary and I walk the trail over to the Rio Grande. The dominant vegetation is cottonwood trees, Russian olive bushes and grasses. Unfortunately, there are lots of houses on the cliffs on the other side of the river, which spoils the natural experience.

We next drove to the Pueblo Cultural Center at 12th Street and Menual. To my surprise a group of five were performing Indian dances. The drum player and singer was also the host. They performed the "butterfly dance", the "buffalo dance" and the "rain dance". It was interesting to watch them. In the rain dance the young women wore ribbons on their backs signifying rain clouds. The men carried rain sticks.

We had dinner at Pizza Hut.

 

 

May 28, 2007, Monday. Trip to El Malpais and El Morro.

Route 117 and El Malpais Photos

Route 53 and El Morro Photos

 

Stopped on US 40 west shortly before Exit 126 (Route 6, Los Lunas). Rosemary took photos of the mesas in the area.

Stopped at Exit 89 (67 miles from our US 40 exit at Rio Grande Boulevard) to head down Route 117. We start to head south on Route 117. We saw an old woman along the road with a red plastic gas can. She was vigorously and wildly waving her arms in an attempt to flag us down. I stopped the car to tell her that there was a gas station just across the highway. She gave the appearance of being absolutely crazy. She kept asking for and talking about Tom. She even asked if I was Tom. She said that it takes money to buy gas and she didn’t have any money. She wanted $5.00. So Rosemary gave her $5.00, we said good-bye and tried to pull away but she seemed to want to continue to talk. We finally pulled away from her. A pick-up truck passed by me going the other way and in my rear view mirror I saw the old woman wildly flagging down the truck with her red plastic gas can. I guess this was a scam she worked out to get money from people. It’s not just in the big cities where scam artists ply their trade.

About four miles down Route 117 we stopped so Rosemary could take photos of the big mountain in the area. There are lots of mesas in this area along US 40 and that’s for sure.

6.8 miles down Route 117 there is a sign saying "Entering Malpais".  Malpais is Spanish for "bad land" (mal pais).

9.2 miles down is the ranger station. We stopped there and talked to the helpful ranger. She told us that the dominant trees in the area are Gamble oak, common oak and pinon pine. On higher ground are quaking aspen, cottonwood, ponderosa pine, blue spruce and Douglas fir. The dominant bushes include mountain mahogany and cliff rose. She also told us that the big white and pink flowers in low clumps was evening primrose.

On the way to the first stop Rosemary took photos of some flowers along the roadway. Our first stop was Bluffs Overlook 1.5 miles down a dirt and gravel road. The sandstone cliff here is gorgeous. Below the cliffs lies a huge plain filled with the lava flows from the McCarty volcano. Rosemary took a lot of pictures here.

We stopped 6.7 miles down from the first stop. We passed by the Zuni-Acoma Trailhead. The trail heads across the plain to the mountains on the other side.

About 7.6 miles down from the first stop we stopped at the Ventana arch. (Ventana means window is Spanish.) It is a short walk to the arch. An arch is not created by flowing water, but from the seepage of water into softer rock than that which will form the arch itself, followed by the collapse of this softer rock.

About 11.9 miles down from the first stop we came to the South Narrows Picnic Area. On the way back to US 40 we stopped so Rosemary could photograph brownish-red rocks with white bands.

Back on US 40 west we head to Exit 84. We stop at the Northwest Information Center. We locked ourselves out of the car and had to wait for AAA to rescue us.  Afterwards, we bought a few more guide and information books.

We take Route 53 south. We head through the El Malpais Conservation Area. We stop at a three mile loop trail, part of the El Calderon Area. The trail features many features of volcanic activity. We only walked a short ways. We saw a lava tube where the outer parts of a lava flow cool to form a tube around the still flowing hot interior flow. What remains is a cave like structure. The tube is exposed when parts of the tube roof collapses.

Sounds of a cicada? It is a near constant strong buzzing sound. Rosemary thought it was electricity, but I think it was the insect.

We came to the double sinks on either side of the narrow trail. Both sinks are very impressive. The one on the left side of the trail is the bigger one. The trail brochure says that while walking toward the next stop, the bat cave, one can see the cinder cone off to the southwest. I walked down the trail a little ways, but could either not see the cinder cone or just did not recognize it.

We turned around and returned to our rental car.

The next stop was El Morro, the headland. This is also known as Inscription Rock. There is a water pool here which was visited by multitudes of travelers, including Indians, Spanish, Mexicans and Americans. Many of these travelers stayed at least long enough to carve their names or their names and a message along the base of the sandstone rock.

Along the way some of the trees are labeled. We saw the Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), yucca (Yucca baccata), one-seeded juniper (Juniperus monosperma), narrow-leaved yucca (Yucca glauca), pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) and lemonade sumac or squawbush (Rhus tribolata).

The water pool is in a recess in the rock. There is a lot of algae on the remnant stems of water plants. Down from the pool the inscriptions start. While looking at the inscriptions we saw two bull snakes.

Luckily they let you borrow a booklet which reads and/or translates the writings on the wall. Many of the inscriptions are very hard to read. And, of course, some of them are in Spanish. In addition, there are petroglyphs created by the Indians. I believe the oldest inscription was that of the early Spanish explorer Onate, who left a message in 1605.

 

May 29, 2007, Tuesday.

Trip to Pecos National Historic Monument and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Pecos NHM and Albuquerque Area Photos

 

This trip takes us to Pecos National Historical Monument, the Albuquerque Museum and Old Town in Albuquerque. We stopped at exit 299 off US 40 for photos of the mountains behind and across from us. A short ways down Route 50 we stop to see the historic marker about the Glorietta Battlefield of the American Civil War. It was a Union Victory.

We continued into the town of Pecos. We turned left. Rosemary had me stop at the wrong place, at the Forest District center. But we learned a lot about the Battlefield of Glorietta from the ranger there, so the mistake was worth it. Got back on the road and stopped at the Visitor Center for Pecos National Historical Monument.

We looked at the museum displays dealing with the history of New Mexico and Rosemary took some pictures for me. While looking at the books available for sale, a volunteer approached us to ask if we wanted to take a tour with her. We were happy to go with her. It proved a wise decision because we learned a lot about the history of the area.

We stopped at post number one. The pueblo was located atop the hill before us. A couple dozen little villages came together. Around the 1500's there were 2,000 people in the combined village. The pueblo became a major trade center. Apache Indians of the Great Plains would come here. On the field on the right the Apaches would pitch their tents and trade goods with the Pueblo merchants. The Comanche proved to be much more vicious than the Apaches, especially after they obtained horses and guns. An important part of the trade was dealing in slavery. The tribes would trade their captured Indians made into slaves for various goods.

Our attentions turned to a big, black stink bug. The guide told us not to step on the bug because of the stench it would release.

At post number two we could see the ruins of the church. The walls of the pueblo were very white. The walls of the church were 45 feet tall and then there were the towers that went even higher. The settlement was involved in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The Spanish priest here got away, but he was killed at Galisteo. The Spanish were gone for some twelve years and when they returned they were a little nicer to the Indians.

The Pueblo Indians had a holy place known as the kiva. It is a round circle in the ground with a roof of logs with a dirt covering. The kiva could only be entered by using the ladder down to the ground of the kiva floor. Only men were allowed. Smoke was seen as a purification element. These kivas were never used for storage, but in other pueblos they were so used. When the Spanish came they filled almost all the kivas with sand. The emphasis was on converting the Indians to Christianity.

At post number 6 there was a four-story pueblo. In 1915 Alfred Kidder was hired by the Peabody Institute to do some archaeology. He and his assistants discovered the burial place of some two thousand residents. The Jemez and Pueblo peoples both spoke Towa.

We enjoyed the viewing post. Below is Glorietta Creek with cottonwoods. The Spanish farmed around the river. They mistakenly thought the stream was bigger than the nearby Pecos River.

US 25 goes through Glorietta Pass.

We examined the remains of the second church closely. The last part to be built was the torreon (fortified tower) used to keep an eye out for the Comanche. We found a young rattlesnake slowly working his way along the base of one of the high church walls. Rosemary took some photos of the snake.

The actress Greer Garson and her husband lived on a large ranch not far from the pueblo. Their cattle would graze around the pueblo ruins area. She donated much of the land that now forms the Pecos National Historical Monument.

Drove back to Albuquerque. Rosemary wanted to go shopping around Old Town. Nearing the Plaza, however, I saw that the Albuquerque Museum was featuring a Billy the Kid exhibit. So we went to the Museum. We joined a tour guide’s talk that had just started. She was kind of disorganized in her talk and did not know that much about the Kid. Luckily, there was a man in the group who was from Lincoln County, New Mexico who knew a lot about the outlaw. He told the group that Billy was buried in Fort Sumner, Lincoln County. His mother was buried in Las Cruces. According to legend, the Kid killed 21 men, but he had only four and three halves confirmed kills. The three halves were shared kills with others. His first kill was of a man named Cahill in Arizona who slapped Billy around.

The exhibit was pretty impressive. They had Sheriff Pat Garret’s Rifle and the gun he used to kill Billy. They also had Billy’s letter to the Governor of New Mexico Lew Wallace (the author of the famous novel Ben Hur). In addition they had the Kid’s knife, spurs, holster (which is remarkably small) and the butcher knife he had with him on the night of his death. Even more impressive, they had the shotgun used by Billy to kill Olinger in his escape from the Fort Sumner jail/courthouse (which still exists to this day). They also had a great many movie posters. There have been 60 movies done about Billy the Kid, more than any other western figure.

After seeing the exhibit, we went shopping. Rosemary bought some things in the store Horse of a Different Color and then in the Christmas shop at the corner of Romero and Church streets. Rosemary took some photos of the Plaza Square. By that time she said that she was just wiped out. So we went to Little Anita’s for the second time to have a Mexican-American dinner. Again the food and service were good.

 

May 30, 2007, Wednesday. Last Day.

 

We were ready to go home. Back home our dog Sonar was not eating much and was moping around. Our son was worried about him and we worried about the dog. We ate breakfast at the Albuquerque Grill. Another good meal.

We turned the car in, got on the shuttle bus and went to the airport. But when we arrived at 9:30 a.m. for an 11 o’clock flight, we were amazed to find a long line checking in at the American Airlines counter. While on line we learned that the morning flights were being canceled because of tornadoes in Texas. We were to fly to the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. We were then told that we would have to call American Airlines ticketing and arrange our own flights. That was all they told us. It was totally our responsibility to handle the situation.

Rosemary was on the phone for 55 minutes before she could even get someone to talk to. The agent told her that she could catch a flight out at 3 p.m. tomorrow and arrive at Newark airport at twelve midnight. Rosemary said that was unacceptable and asked to be placed on a flight with another airline. We were then given a flight to Denver and then on to Newark with United Airlines.

Rosemary had to arrange to stay overnight at the Airport Comfort Inn on Yale Boulevard. Their van picked us up in around 25 minutes. We mostly just read books and watched television for the rest of the day. We ate at the nearby Village Inn.

 

May 31, 2007, Thursday. Last Day II.

Flying Out of Albuquerque Photos

 

We were to fly out at 10 a.m. I was wary of more problems so we arrived at 7 a.m., three hours before take-off. And yes we had problems. The ticketing clerk at United told us that we would have to get a print-up of the ticket. So we wasted more time getting tickets from American Airlines. At American Airlines they printed up the tickets, but told us that the United Airlines clerk could have printed the tickets herself because the information was in their computer.

We went back to the United Airlines ticketing counter. The clerk approved the tickets but did not give us adjacent seats on the flight from Denver to Newark. Rosemary protested but the clerk just said the flight was full.

We go through check-in and find out that our airline has targeted us for extra "attention" probably because we had just recently changed flights because American Airlines had to cancel all their morning flights.

We get through the extra screening and go to the gate for our flight. Rosemary then realizes that the flight to Denver was delayed and we would not be able to make the connection for the flight from Denver to Newark. Rosemary informed a United Airlines agent. So he had to arrange another schedule change. Now we were to fly on Delta Airlines leaving at 11:15 for a flight to Atlanta, Georgia. Instead of getting to Newark at 6 p.m. we would now arrive at 8 p.m. The United agent was mad at his ticketing agent because he had informed her of the delay and requested that she change our flight schedule. He said that apparently she paid no attention to the request to aid us. (And, as mentioned, she either refused or didn’t know that she could have printed up the tickets without sending us back to American Airlines. Needless to say, we were pretty mad at the woman.)

So we finally report to the Delta Airlines gate for the ride to Atlanta. From here on everything finally went o.k. We got to Newark a little before 8 p.m. Our only complaint was that we were only fed two snack selections and two small cups of drink during the two flights. You have to bring your own food these days on airlines because they are going to either overcharge you for the food they do have or you will have to settle for almost nothing to eat and drink.

I told my wife to never, ever book us into the Albuquerque airport again. I never want to see that airport again in my life. I was bothered about having to take two flights to get there in the first place and the nightmare we went through confirmed my doubts.

I looked at the map and saw that next year we could fly direct to Las Vegas and then drive from there to the Grand Canyon and then on to the four corners of the Colorado Plateau to see sights in northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. If we do have more tornadoes or any other major problems, at least we will still be able to get another flight back to Newark in a reasonable amount of time and without too much expenditure of time and energy on our part.

 

My Favorite New Mexico Photos

From Rosemary Santana Cooney: I created this folder to share with friends. The selection was not an easy task as I started with over two dozen topics and wanted to limit myself to 14. The driving force behind the selection was my love of rocks and mountains, especially their colors and textures. I was also impressed with the vast openness. The scale of this vastness is illustrated by a photo from Route 47 which includes a train in the middle if you look closely. Of course, I had to include a photo with horses, a passion which began in childhood. And, yes, the brick red mountains really are that color!

 

Return to Trips out West

Return to the Main Menu for the Vernon Johns Organization