Monthly Archives: September 2017

Tent Rocks National Monument, NM SEPT 26, 2017

On Tuesday we drove just a few miles down the road to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  The 4,645 acre Park was established in 2001 after being designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  IMG_20170926_104514

In order to access the Park you need to drive through the Pueblo de Cochiti Reservation.  Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the native language of the Pueblos.  There is evidence of human occupation in the area for over 4,000 years with the first Pueblos in the 14th and 15th centuries. The cone or tent shaped rock formations were created 6 to 7 million years ago from volcanic eruptions of the Jemez volcano that left pumice, ash and volcanic rock over 1,000 feet thick.  The tent rock shapes can be up to 90 feet tall.  IMG_20170926_105103IMG_20170926_112330

Here we hiked two trails.  The first trail, the Slot Canyon Trail, was a difficult trail involving some difficult scrambling over rocks and rock climbing.  IMG_20170926_112341IMG_20170926_112403IMG_20170926_112552IMG_20170926_112908IMG_20170926_113609IMG_20170926_113748IMG_20170926_114018IMG_20170926_114603IMG_20170926_114706IMG_20170926_114800IMG_20170926_114826
I really enjoyed walking in the Slot Canyon but at one point I just didn’t have enough upper body strength and had to give up and let Bill go ahead while I waited.

The second trail, the Cave Loop Trail was a shorter and easier trail.  IMG_20170926_122947IMG_20170926_123136IMG_20170926_123145IMG_20170926_123254IMG_20170926_123225IMG_20170926_123314IMG_20170926_123355IMG_20170926_123806

Bill found a snakeskin but luckily not the owner!  IMG_20170926_122942

We met a very nice couple from Ohio on the trail and enjoyed talking with them along the way.  Before heading home we drove to the Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Overlook with a beautiful view of the picturesque Peralta Canyon and Jemez Mountain peaks.IMG_20170926_124034IMG_20170926_124706IMG_20170926_132648IMG_20170926_132713IMG_20170926_134515

Next up: Albuquerque and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.IMG_20170926_104809

Cochiti Lake COE, NM SEPT 25, 2017

After a short stop in White Rock we headed to Cochiti Lake Corps of Engineering campground about thirty miles outside of Santa Fe. It was a beautiful drive.20170922_10594220170922_112220

Cochiti Lake is located on the Rio Grande, the fifth longest river in North America.  The name Cochiti comes from the Native Americans who have lived in the area for over seven hundred years.  We passed through several Indian reservations on our way from White Rock to Cochiti Lake.  Many had signs prohibiting photography.IMG_20170924_155357

Cochiti Lake has one of the ten largest earthen dams in the United States.  It is 5.5 miles long and is 251 feet tall to enclose water from the Rio Grande and Santa Fe Rivers.  We paid a visit to the Dam Visitors Center.  A couple from Martinsville, Virginia was also visiting and it was nice to meet someone from my birth state!IMG_20170924_154626

On Monday we drove into Santa Fe, the oldest (407 years) and highest (7,000 ft above sea level) capital city in the United States.  We were there in 2015 and you can read about that visit here: Santa Fe, NM May 23, 2015 IMG_20170925_130324

This visit we wanted to tour the state capitol building.  The original capitol building was the Palace of Governors built in 1609 on the Plaza and served the Spanish, Mexican and American governments.  This current capitol building was constructed in 1966 and is the only round state capitol building in the United States.  IMG_20170925_122655IMG_20170925_123033

The building design forms the Zia sun symbol, a design found on a 19th century water jar from the Zia Pueblo.  The sun with four rays symbolizes the four directions, the four seasons, the four times of the day (sunrise, noon, evening and night) and life’s four divisions (childhood, youth, adulthood and old age).  The circle represents the circle of life, without a beginning or end.IMG_20170925_124249

 The Zia also believed man has four sacred obligations: strong body, clear mind, pure spirit and devotion to the welfare of his people.  We enjoyed walking around looking at the beautiful Native American and southwestern artwork. 20170925_12333420170925_12352220170925_12455820170925_12484620170925_124950

Of particular interest was a buffalo head made completely out of recycled materials including old paintbrushes, paper-mache, scrap metal and movie film.IMG_20170925_124309IMG_20170925_124454IMG_20170925_124503

On the way to lunch we stopped by Cross of the Martyrs, a park that was once the site of Fort Marcy and has a spectacular view of Santa Fe.  The white cross commemorates 21 Franciscan priests killed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.IMG_20170925_131428

We had lunch at a local recommended Mexican restaurant.  We struggled to eat our lunch with the hot green chile sauce.  Can you see the pain on Bill’s face?20170925_135626IMG_20170925_135646

After lunch we drove several miles east to the Pecos National Historical Park.  The Park was formed in 1990 and had a Visitors Center with an interesting movie and exhibits.IMG_20170925_143622

The area has a rich history.  From 1350-1838 it was home to the powerful Pecos Pueblo with pueblos rising four to five stories high and home to 2,000 people, including 500 warriors.  In the 1540’s Spain tried to colonize the area and convert the people to Catholicism.  Coronado and his men searching for the seven cities of gold clashed with the powerful, determined Pecos.  In the early 1600’s Franciscan friars again tried to convert the Pecos, destroying kivas, smashing statues and banning Pueblo ceremonies.  In 1621 a friar arrived who acknowledged the Pueblo culture, language and beliefs while also trying to educate and convert them.  A large mission church was built, some of which is still standing and we were able to visit.20170925_14480720170925_15081820170925_150834

By the late 1700’s, drought, disease, migration and Comanche raids greatly decreased the Peso population and by 1838 the last of the inhabitants had moved from the region.  From 1915-1929 archeological excavations of the site were done to study and save the remnants of six hundred plus years of human occupation.20170925_15153020170925_15164720170925_15173820170925_15191220170925_152648IMG_20170925_152117IMG_20170925_152609IMG_20170925_152011

In 1925, a man purchased 5,500 acres and created the Forked Lightning Ranch which was sold in 1941 to Buddy Fogelson, husband of actress Greer Garson.  In 1991 Greer Garson sold the ranch to a Conservation Fund which then donated it to the National Park Service.20170925_150917

There is always work to do!

Santa Fe facts:

  • Population of 82,800 (Santa Fe county is 147,423)
  • 37 square miles (Santa Fe county is 121,298 square miles)
  • Averages 325 days of sunshine a year
  • USA Today Readers’ Choice named it one of Top Historic Cities in the U.S.

White Rock, NM SEPT 20, 2017

We left Abiquiu COE campground and headed to White Rock, New Mexico, elevation 6,365, just outside Los Alamos.  This was a short two night stopover, mainly to visit the Valles Caldera National Preserve, one of three super volcanoes in the United States.  The 89,000 acre Preserve is one of the newest additions to the National Park Service in October, 2015.  The Valles Caldera supervolcano erupted 1.2 million years ago and the center of the volcano collapsed, creating a volcanic caldera 13.7 miles wide.IMG_20170921_080004IMG_20170921_075645

Since they only allow thirty cars a day to drive around the backcountry of the Preserve, we got up earlier than we normally do to make the thirty minute drive there in order to arrive when they opened at 8:00 A.M.  It was a good thing we did because archery hunting season has begun and by the time we arrived fifteen of the passes had already been given out to hunters looking for elk.IMG_20170921_075709IMG_20170921_084139

We received our car pass from the ranger at the Valle Grande Contact Station and began our drive around the Preserve.  We were at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet and the car thermometer registered 28 degrees!IMG_20170921_083421  Can’t remember the last time we were in weather that cold. As we began the drive in the Valle Grande Valley, we saw a couple prairie dogs. We drove on unpaved roads around the dormant volcano caldera with expansive valley meadows, lush forested volcanic domes and streams where we saw an occasional fisherman.  Even though herds of elk and black bear also live in the Preserve, we only saw deer, cattle and prairie dogs.  Scenes from the 2013 movie “Lone Ranger” were filmed here.


Prairie Dog

Los Alamos is famous as “The Secret City”, site of the top secret Manhattan Project during World War II which focused on atomic bomb design and testing.  When we were here in 2015 we toured the Bradbury Science Museum and the Los Alamos History Museum Campus.  You can read the blog about that visit here: Los Alamos, NM May, 20 201520170921_13224420170921_132336IMG_20170921_14503020170921_13200320170921_132059

This visit we wanted to see the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park operated by the National Park Service.  It is one of the few national parks that focuses on American science, technology and industry during World  War II.  We watched the movie about the Manhattan Project and looked at exhibits in the Visitors Center which focused not only on science but also the social and cultural life of the people who lived and worked in the “Secret City”.  Located in the Historical Park are life size bronze statues of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves, leaders of the Manhattan Project.IMG_20170921_145021IMG_20170921_124449


This is Where Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer Lived


Since we were last there the History Museum had been remodeled and additional exhibits added so we paid a second visit there.IMG_20170921_152816


The Road To Los Alamos

The two days went by quickly and it was time to head to Cochiti Lake, outside of Santa Fe.


Available at Local Grocery Store

Riana-Abiquiu COE, NM SEPT 12, 2017

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.IMG_20170914_152356

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!IMG_20170913_144811

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.

From our RV we could see Cerro Pedernal, a distinctive flat top mesa rising 9,862 feet.  This was Georgia O’Keefe’s favorite subject to paint.IMG_20170917_105253

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.IMG_20170913_142324IMG_20170913_144834

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.IMG_20170914_152505IMG_20170916_135747IMG_20170916_135825IMG_20170916_135901IMG_20170916_140014IMG_20170916_140022

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.IMG_20170916_142106IMG_20170916_140240IMG_20170916_140405

In the distance we could see Chimney Rock, a well known landmark.IMG_20170916_141145IMG_20170916_141156

Next we drove to the nearby Echo Amphitheater where a natural walled area of sandstone creates an echo chamber.IMG_20170916_142810IMG_20170916_144113IMG_20170916_144620IMG_20170916_145343

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.IMG_20170916_153832IMG_20170916_154405IMG_20170916_154411IMG_20170916_154632IMG_20170916_154713IMG_20170916_155037

Along with sightseeing we spent many relaxing, fun days just enjoying the gorgeous scenery from our RV windows.IMG_20170913_144938

Interesting tidbits:

  • 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.

Angel Fire, NM SEPT 4, 2017

As we continued our stay in Eagle Nest, one day we drove ten miles to visit the nearby town of Angel Fire.  The name Angel Fire comes from the Moache Ute Indians in the 1780’s.  During their autumn celebration they noticed red and orange flickering in the northern sky.  They saw it as a blessing of the fire gods and named their yearly celebration “Angel Fire”.  Years later Kit Carson mentioned seeing the Angel Fire at dawn and dusk and accredited the glow to sunlight striking frost on the branches of trees.

Eagle Nest and Angel Fire are very popular ski resort areas in the winter and fishing in the summer.IMG_20170905_123706

Some of the TV series “Lonesome Dove” was filmed around Angel Fire.  We drove to the location where the closing cabin scene was filmed here at Black Lake and meadow.  The property is now privately owned and we could not get close for a great picture. IMG_20170905_130104

After lunch at the local barbecue restaurant, we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  This Memorial was the first major Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the United States.  It was built by Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall to honor their son, 1st Lt. David Westphall who died in combat in a 1968 ambush in Vietnam.  In 1994 Dr. Westphall visited  the site in Vietnam where his son died. He took with him a handful of soil from the Memorial to scatter at the site of the ambush.  He also brought back Vietnamese soil from the site and scattered it at the Memorial.   

This Memorial received national attention in the 1970’s and was the inspiration for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C in 1982.  In 1987 the Angel Fire Memorial was recognized as a Memorial of National Significance.  IMG_20170905_133307IMG_20170905_133046IMG_20170905_160200

Today the Memorial is maintained by the David Westphall Veterans Foundation and the New Mexico Department of Veterans Affairs.20170905_15250020170905_15273120170905_152653

At the entrance to the free Memorial is a Huey helicopter which served two tours in Vietnam.  On its first tour it was badly damaged with 135 bullet holes, repaired and sent for a second tour.IMG_20170905_133743

Along the sidewalk leading to the Visitors Center are sponsored bricks with names of veterans.  The dates are dates of service.  Two stars signify a person killed in action and one star is missing in action.  New bricks are added every September and bricks were being added while we were there.


Pop Music Was Nostalgic Reminder of the World They Left Behind

This statue is of a soldier in the field trying to write a letter to keep in touch with family back home.  It is called “Dear Mom and Dad”.IMG_20170905_13382220170905_133826

The Visitors Center has exhibits and a very moving ninety minute HBO documentary titled “Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam”. It was extremely moving; there are no words to describe the power of the movie.  

The Visitors Center has over 2,000 photos.


98 Pairs of Empty Boots Bear Witness to the 173rd Airborne Casualties from the Battle For Hill 875

Just like the Memorial in Washington, D.C., notes and mementos are left around the Memorial.  They collect them and put them on display in the Visitors Center.  One brief, heartfelt note caught my attention.  Well said!20170905_154151

This painting shows a shackled eagle, representing the frustration and futility of being captured.   The Statue of Liberty in the distance and sunshine represents freedom and a ray of hope for the future.20170905_152845

In a separate area is the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel which displays a photo of David Westphall and rotating photos of thirteen men also killed in the ambush.20170905_15162720170905_15433320170905_15430620170905_154245

Many Native American volunteered and died in Vietnam.IMG_20170905_154326IMG_20170905_153308

Next up: A drive on the Enchanted Circle

The Enchanted Circle, NM SEPT 2, 2017

On August 31st we drove further west to Eagle Nest, elevation 8,238 feet.  At this elevation we had nightly temperatures in the upper 30’s and low 40’s.  Time to turn on the heat and add a second blanket!  The daytime temperatures were very pleasant  Due to the short drive and mountainous roads, I drove the tow car instead of towing it behind the RV.  I managed to get a picture of our RV ahead of me as we approached picturesque Eagle Nest Lake.20170831_123607

IMG_20170901_150049We had a nice campsite with the only problem being very weak Verizon cell phone service and unreliable WiFi furnished by the campground.  One day we went a mile up the road to the Eagle Nest Public Library to use their internet to get a blog published.  While we were there a storm came up quickly with heavy rain and hail.  The temperature dropped almost thirty degrees and we were cold on the short drive home without a jacket or coat.

On Saturday we drove the 84 mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.  We began in Eagle Nest and traveled counterclockwise around the circle, passing through many small towns.  We climbed steadily to Bobcat Pass and then dropped down slightly into the town of Red River, a popular ski area and summer resort. IMG_20170902_110136IMG_20170902_110740 

We stopped by a pretty little red schoolhouse.  I am always partial to these little schoolhouses.IMG_20170902_111152

This area of New Mexico was once a prosperous, productive mining district, securing six million dollars of gold between 1866 and 1907.  Surface ore was rapidly depleted and by the 1930’s all mining had ceased.  The only thing that kept the area alive was the creation of a dam built between 1916 and 1921.  The dammed water became known as Eagle Nest Lake.  The towns of Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and others became popular hunting, fishing and winter resort areas.  In Red River and other towns we saw ski slopes and lodges.

As we continued on to the town of Questa we traveled through the Carson National Forest.  The views were lovely but hard to capture on camera.  There was a haze from the forest fires to the northwest.  This haze continued our entire stay in Eagle Nest.  It wasn’t enough to cause us breathing problems but an obvious haze which the local tv station said was coming from the western wildfires.

IMG_20170902_123601We took a short detour to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  It is 1,280 feet long and towers 565 feet above the Rio Grande River.  It is the seventh highest bridge in the United States and 82nd highest bridge in the world.  The bridge was in several movies including “Natural Born Killers”, “Twins”, “White Sands”, “She’s Having a Baby”, “The Signal”, “Wild Hogs” and “Terminator Salvation”.20170902_123831IMG_20170902_122241IMG_20170902_12285620170902_12421420170902_124322IMG_20170902_12462320170902_124946

Near bridge are many vendors, especially Native Americans, selling their wares.

Next up was the town of Taos where we stopped for lunch and did some grocery shopping.  The town was crowded with Labor Day weekend visitors.IMG_20170902_134447

Before heading home we drove by the Orilla Verde Recreation Area to check it out as a possible future camping location.  We decided not to camp there but we really enjoyed seeing kayakers on the Rio Grande and big horn sheep grazing on the hillside. IMG_20170902_152545IMG_20170902_155059IMG_20170902_163028 

The sheep were pretty far away and blended in with the landscape so it was difficult to get a good picture.

Another great day in New Mexico!