Wow, we sure weren’t expecting to spend a month in New Mexico but we sure enjoyed the “Land of Enchantment” (LOE) from top to bottom. After departing Colorado Springs, we headed south on I-25, through Pueblo, past Raton, NM and took US Highway 64 toward Cimarron Canyon. Earlier in the year a fire scorched over 36,000 acres but fortunately it did not reach Cimarron Canyon State Park, our initial New Mexico destination. Cimarron River is a nice little trout stream, Deb and I sure enjoyed the opportunity to fly fish right off the riverbank at our campsite. We also tested the waters at a few other scenic locations as well, the Palisades being our favorite. The Enchanted Circle scenic byway is an awesome daytrip that encompasses Eagles Nest, Red River, Questa, Taos and Angel Fire. Wildlife was abundant, Aspens and Cottonwoods were showing off their fall colors and the views of the mountains, while driving through the canyons was very enjoyable. Deb and I took a side trip to visit the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and the Wild Rivers Recreation area which was an overlook of the converging Rio Grande and Red Rivers. The merging canyon floors were over 800 feet below the overlook. We stopped at the Cerro cemetery that had US flags on nearly every gravesite…VERY patriotic. We found many vintage automobiles, some were barely identifiable, and others were an auto restorer’s dream project come true. The sidebar mini trips with the Jeep are always a Pandora’s box… thankfully there haven’t been any surprises that we haven’t been able to navigate out of.
Taos, NM is famous for its winter time ski slopes and it is a hotbed for artisans & craftsmen. We were fortunate to attend the fall craft show in the city park. We found “thunder gourds”, tile mosaics and plenty of crafts, art and turquoise jewelry that local artisans had created. There are a couple of landmarks in the area worth mentioning, the Rio Grande Gorge bridge on US HWY 64 and the historic Spanish colonial mission San Francisco de Asis. Deb had a “film photography” moment as she shared the same space that Ansel Adams once occupied to take one of his epic shots of this mission. Further down the same highway, if you have an adventurous spirit, you can take state road (SR) 570 and follow it up along the Rio Grande, go past the Rio Grande State park and the Orilla Verde Recreation Area. This road either dead ends at Lower Taos Canyon due to the landslides that buried the road over 25 years ago or you can cross the river and take SR 567 and scale the switchbacks up and out of the canyon. The view of the river canyon while ascending was well worth the adventure.
Next stop on the “LOE” journey was Abiquiu. We passed through this way in March after we left Santa Fe, at that time the Abiquiu campground was closed for the season. This time around it was still open, so we camped at the Lake Abiquiu Army Corp of Engineer (ACOE) campground. Nearby were many of the landmarks made famous by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe; Ghost Ranch, Plaza Blanca, and the Cerro Pedernal. We strayed off road and discovered Encino Lookout, a ten-thousand-foot mountaintop with a fire tower that provided majestic views of the area and splashes of the aspen fall colors all around us. This part of New Mexico has captured our hearts. A day trip out to Christ of the Desert Monastery to discover they had a microbrewery (say what?), and picnic on the Rio Chama was memorable, the classic fall colors, intriguing colored landscapes & red rock canyons, definitely awesome territory this time of year and we are already looking forward to a return visit.
A short stay in Santa Fe provided us an opportunity to visit the Loretto Chapel and its Miraculous Staircase, a must see. This staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. It is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs, also be sure to go to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum of art. The downtown square has a unique atmosphere that is a hot spot for people watching.
We headed south to Albuquerque to escape some “winter-like weather” conditions. Although we had no snow, we did have some inclimate weather that allowed us to catch up on chores and Deb always enjoys the down time to develop film. One day I will video her sorcery…LOL. Its fun to hit the thrift stores, flea markets and antique shops to see what treasure you can uncover. It’s nice finding old vinyl… something about a Byrd’s Greatest Hits for 3 bucks that is rewarding. Deb found a daytrip adventure that was one helluva drive out in the boonies to Guadalupe Ghost town. A once booming ranching community, the harshness of the environment eventually took its toll and only a few inhabitants remain. A scenic drive out and back, through the arroyos and gulches, a real glimpse into what the west was all about.
Our final stop in New Mexico was a return visit to Caballo Lake State Park near Truth of Consequences. First destination was a pitstop at Carmen’s Diner, hands down, best breakfast burritos…. EVER! While at Caballo, we got to see the daily morning fly-overs of the sand hill cranes. Caballo and Elephant Butte Lakes are a popular wintering destination. Hatch, New Mexico (just down the road) is the chili pepper capital of the world. Deb and I learned the hard way that medium salsa purchased here IS NOT the same as Pace or Old El Paso. The local grocery store, quite possibly, has the hottest chorizo on the planet. We have developed an appetite for street tacos and mixing this chorizo with ground beef makes the perfect taco! Of course, we went adventuring. Duh…. Our day trip to Silver City, up and over Emory Pass, a segue through the Georgetown Cemetery, and a visit to Old Fort Bayard with its National Cemetery left us just about enough time to have a midafternoon lunch in Silver City and head back to our campsite…A routine 150-mile scenic adventure.
The curtain call in New Mexico was a drive out to Hillsborough/Lake Valley. The Hillsborough general store which is now an antique/thrift store allowed us to find a “highly coveted” cow horn and I uncovered a collectable $7 Olympus XA2, that left Deb speechless. It also had the remains of a jail and courthouse that were a revealing glimpse into the harshness of the Western past. Lake Valley was once a booming silver mine with over 4000 residents. As many other communities in the west, the silver played out, a couple of fires destroy the town. All that remains of this ghost town are a few buildings that survived the fires. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now owns the property and has restored the school house and has plans to bring back some of the remaining buildings to their “heyday” glory.
Deb and I were completely enamored with New Mexico. Sharp contrasts in scenery, the mountains and red rock canyons in the north, the desert and ghost towns in the middle and south were a perfect recipe for exploring and adventuring. Many of the places we have shared in this blog are featured in the gallery. We are off to Arizona to soak up some winter sun. Thanks for following us and stay tuned to Alwaysondafly.com. We are happy we can share our adventure.