After a very enjoyable stay in Eagle Nest, we traveled west and crossed Palo Flechado Pass, elevation 9,109 feet. After a gradual descent we continued through the Carson National Forest and then followed the Rio Grande River further west. The scenery, especially the red rocks, was absolutely breathtaking.
We arrived at the Riana-Abiquiu Campground COE located near Abiquiu (AH-be-cue) in northern New Mexico, about an hour northwest of Santa Fe. This is a very nice Corps of Engineers campground with a few electric and water hookups. We did not have a reservation and hoped to get a first come first serve electric campsite, so we hoped arriving early on a Sunday would help. When we arrived the campground was pretty full and we were not sure they would have an electric site for us. Bill was talking to the campground host who assigns the available sites. The subject of football came up and the host mentioned he loved the Redskins. Bill said his wife loved the Redskins too. The host said in that case, he just had to get us a good site. We ended up with an electric and water site with a beautiful view of the 5,200 acre Abiquiu Lake, the northern most flood control reservoir in New Mexico. Never expected being a Redskins fan would help me in New Mexico. Strange, small world!
The host also told Bill to be careful of rattlesnakes. He said people and dogs had been bitten, to be careful in the park bathrooms as they had been seen there, and advised against wearing flip flops. Great, just great. My one and only phobia and he had to tell us that news.
One day we drove to the nearby Abiquiu Dam Visitors Center with exhibits on the Dam, area history and natural resources of the area. Farming and ranching in the area is made possible through flood control and irrigation provided by Abiquiu Dam. Most of the water is headed to Albuquerque, but irrigation ditches provide water to the area’s arid land.
On another day we spent the day touring northern New Mexico. The geological beauty of the spectacular red cliffs, rock formations and mesas is enough to take your breath away and bring tears to your eyes. This area was the inspiration for much of the work of Georgia O’Keefe and inspired her to leave New York City and make her home in New Mexico.
We stopped by Ghost Ranch where O’Keefe owned a summerhouse and painted scenes of the area. It was formerly a 21,000 acre ranch but is now a Presbyterian education and retreat center. The movie “3:10 to Yuma” was filmed extensively at Ghost Ranch.
We finished the day at Plaza Blanca (White Place), made famous by Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings. The area is actually on the grounds of a mosque, but they welcome visitors to hike and enjoy the amazing landscape of 60 foot tall towering white stone pillars and hoodoos. The 2011 movie “Cowboys and Aliens” was filmed here.
- Abiquiu is known among New Mexican Hispanics as a former dwelling place of witches. Many tales are told by the local villagers about witches that still roam Abiquiu. In the mid 1760’s there was an outbreak of witch hysteria in the area.
- Kit Carson was among one of the first Anglo-Americans to arrive in the area. He served as an Indian agent at Abiquiu.