2. New Mexico: Unfinished travel with a surprise ending…Sept/October, 2022

Day 5 9.30
Watching the sunrise light reflect on this rock formation at camp this morning.

I’ve read & been told all about the horrid road that leads to Chaco Culture Historical Park…it’s a World Heritage Site.  And, the info I had was not wrong.  I was glad it was a dry day because I think this road (like so many in the southwest) can be impassable & sometimes wash out when there’s a heavy rain.  So, I drove over about 14 or 16 miles of bumpy, washboard, washed out chunks on the side,&  deep ruts going across the road until I got into the park….then it’s paved.  

I spent the whole afternoon there…hiking the Pueblo Bonito & Chetro trail, the Kin Kletso trail & the longest & most adventure filled Pueblo Alto Loop trail.  The last trail took you up narrow chutes to the top of the Mesa, following rock cairns all the way.

You could go inside some of the Pueblo Bonito dwellings…pretty cool.

And I love seeing the petroglyphs.

The narrowest crack on the Pueblo Alto loop trail…I had to squeeze through it & at one point thought I might have to back up a bit & take my pack off….but we made it through together.  These trails just keep climbing to get you higher up on the Mesa.

I did wonder what the trail down was going to be like…hopefully more fun than scary & it was.

The view from the top of the Mesa overlooking the dwellings was fantastic.  These dwellings are huge!

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There’s no cell service in the park, until you were on top of the Mesa.  So, once again, Danny got a phone call, “Hey, it’s me calling from the top of a Mesa”…I was just checking in with him because I could.  At the same time, I noticed that there was no one behind me.  Several people had started out behind me, but somehow they’d all disappeared.  I had a moment of questioning if I was still on the right trail & sadly, that moment happened when I was stopped & on the phone with Danny.  It was very lonely at the top!  His last words to me were, “Don’t get lost!”

But the trail was there. I’d later discover that most people just go to the viewpoint above the dwellings within the first mile of the trail, then turn around & go back.

I got back to my 4Runner & then it was time for both of us to brave the bone jarring road back.  About 6 miles up the road, I saw a car facing the opposite direction, pulled over to the side & a crying woman beside it.  I pulled over & asked her if she needed help.  She had found a dog, & didn’t feel like she could leave him here.  He was thin & there was nothing around for miles.  She’d tried to coax him in her car, tried a make-shift leash, but nothing worked.  She asked me if I’d  help here put him in her car.  Her plan was to take him to a vet in Grants, then probably take him home with her.  We were both a little nervous about grabbing gently onto a unknown dog, but together we did it.  He was about knee high but didn’t weigh much.  We closed the door & she thanked me, hugged me & I wished them both well.  That dog was probably going to lead a wonderful cush & love filled life from now on.  

As soon as I had service, I called Sara. The water was receding in their house, but really slowly.  Her & Kevin both had started to do the gazillion things that need done when you’re home has flooded.  Friends were offering to help & the girls were enjoying play dates with friends while Sara & Kevin attended to packing up what they could & floating it out of the house.  

It was getting late now & I needed to find camping.  Right before dark, I found a National Forest Campground & it had some open spaces.  For $5 I got a super nice spot & finally ate something….I’d been on the go all day.  The weather was perfect & the night sky was beautiful.  I was up in the forest now & out of the deserts.  

Day 6 10.1
The first thing I wanted to do this morning, was to find camping for tonight.  It’s the weekend, so I drove up into the Jamez National Forest where there are several campgrounds.  The first one I didn’t get a good vibe from, so I drove up the rode farther to the Jemez Springs campground.  Theres a sign at the entrance that says all sites are reservation only & only online, but then I saw a pay box at the front of the campground.  The host was there so I asked him about it & he invited to drive the whole campground (52 sites) & pick one out that didn’t have a “reserve” sign on the post…he said there were lots of them.  And, so I did & chose site #2.  I filled out the envelope with the info, put my ticket on the post & money in the envelope.  He showed up about that time & handed me a big “Reserve” sign to hang on the post as well.  Then he recommended a hike & a place to eat, so off I went to do both.

Having secured a place for tonight, I drove down the road to the Los Concha’s trail.  It was popular with rock climbers & families…lots of little kids & dogs.  It was easy, gentle, & very pretty.

After my  hike, I drove back down to Jamez Springs to the Jamez Mountain Brewhouse.  It wasn’t crowded when I got there & I sat at the bar.  It was pretty cool inside & the two guys behind the bar were great.  I ordered an individual pizza & a Bosque Scotia beer (not one of theirs, but they also have guest taps).  The pizza was one of the best I’ve ever had.  One of the bartenders told me they import their flour from Italy & the red spicy sauce is made from local red chiles & the recipe is an old family one.  Wow..it was great! 

I asked about the three wild hot springs in the area.  The one they loved the most was off a road they didn’t think I could get to right now with all the rain they’d had.  The other two they said were trashy & they don’t go there anymore, but suggested the mineral springs next door.  

Not wild springs like I was hoping for, but these Jamez (Giggling) Hot Springs were great.  There were several pools, all outside & different temps.

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Now that I’m in the forest, I can see the fall season is here & the trees are changing.

I landed back in camp but when I pulled up to site #2, there was a young family with a big tent set up, a big campfire going & a little kid playing among the trees.  I got out & told her I’d paid for this site this morning & the host had been right here with me.  She looked panicked, as did the husband.  Two of their friends from across the road, also came over to see what was wrong.  She offered to show me her online reservation receipt.  I told her I’d work it out with the host.

So, back I went to the front of the campground, woke up the host from his afternoon siesta & told him I didn’t want to displace a young family, but I needed another site.  He said they were all full, but I could have the site that they keep reserved for a 2nd camp host, which wasn’t there.  He wasn’t sure what had happened, & didn’t really seem like he wanted to figure it out.  

So, I took off to my new site.  So much for the reservation process (see Crested Butte…you should not do this!)

But once set up, I liked this site better.  It was in a NO-generator zone.  It had better cell service.  Next to me, I had a young man playing flute music & doing tai chi, & across from me was a small group of women.  I swung in my hammock & read all the while hearing the beautiful relaxing music interspersed with a round of belly laughter from the women…it was great.

And, then it started to rain…then downpour.  At one point in the night, it stopped long enough for me to jump out & go pee & hear the big loud hoots of a nearby owl.  Cool.

Day 7 10.2
And it continued to rain.  I skipped the two hikes I’d planned on a drove to Santa Fe to spend the day.  I scored a site at the Black Canyon NF campground for $5, leaving my chair (which would get soaked) & then went into town.  I love to walk around the plaza & look at the crafts & jewelry for sale.  I went in & out of a couple of my favorite shops then went into my most favorite one called Doodlets.  It’s quirky & has lots of fun random stuff…bags, toys, jewelry, cards, a crazy selection but I love it.  

Some pics from my afternoon in Santa Fe…such a cool town!

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I’d asked the woman behind the counter at Doodlets if she had any lunch/margarita recommendations & she suggested three places.  One was closed, one had a 90 minute wait, & it took me awhile to find the other down Burro Alley.  When I got there, it was also closed but there was a youngish guy leaning to one side of the doorway…it looked like it might rain again.  He could have been in a Santa Fe Marlboro ad.  He had on jeans, cowboy boots, western shirt, bolo, turquoise jewelry, a hat & smoking a cigarette.  I said out loud “oh, they're closed”.  And his reply was “yes, but you’re not missing anything”.  I asked if he had a recommendation for lunch…he pulled out his phone.  “That place is closed, wait…no that place is closed too.  Oh I know…yes they’re open.  Go to Tomasitos…the locals love it”.  Then he gave me directions & I said thanks.  

The place was off the plaza by quite a few blocks but it was packed.  However, there was one spot at the bar.  I grabbed the last stool on the end & was sitting next to two women…a Mother/Daughter pair traveling together.  They were visiting with a group of young guys around the corner of the bar from them.  When the conversation stopped, I asked the women how the margarita’s were?  And then a little trip magic happened.

The younger one, said" these are great!  They are just like my favorites at Ponaks back in Kansas City".  I told them I live by Lawrence & a chat began.  Then mom, her name is Michelle, asked where I was staying, I said in my 4Runner.  I told her I was a solo woman traveler that camped in her car.  The woman eyes got big & the daughter said something like “Oh no..that’s her dream to do that!”  We visited for the next hour talking all things car camping & travels & made a plan to meet up in Kansas City when we all get back.  Super fun women!

I had the Carne Adovada stuffed sopaipilla with red & green chile sauce…wow!  it was really good & so was the margarita.  But the conversation with Michelle & her daughter, made the meal even better.

I walked back to the 4Runner, but the skies were looking super threatening, so I drove up to Canyon Road to walk this famous, beautiful street filled with art.  I wasn’t there long, before the skies opened up with a downpour of both rain & large hail….Yikes.

I left for my campsite, but wow…lots & lots of hail on the road.

I got back to my rain soaked chair & lovely picnic table I wouldn’t be sitting at tonight, made a cocktail & tucked in the back of camper & read.

I’d had great weather until recently…but I don’t think the great stuff was coming back anytime soon.

Day 8 10.3
It rained through the night & was still raining when I started my drive to my next destination.  I wanted to do this one hike I’d never done before in Bandelier National Park.  It sits just outside the park, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the mandatory shuttle like you do now when you go inside the park.  I’ve been inside Bandalier & done most of the hikes (not the backcountry ones though), a few times, but I’ve never hiked the Tswankawi Petroglyphs.  I asked the rain gods if they could just stop for my time on this little trail….& they did!

Its a trail of Chutes & Ladders…really a fun hike!

And, of course Petroglyphs!

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More narrow spaces to climb up...

Some of the trails are like chutes cut into the rock about calf high…you can see them from on top of this Mesa.

And the ladders…which I was grateful that they were dry & not slick.

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Now I was headed to a place I just love in New Mexico…Abiquiu.  For some reason I dream of this place often.  I’ve been here 3 or 4 times before, & think it just as beautiful as the first time I saw it.  I stopped at the Abiquiu Inn for lunch & it was fantastic!  I had this Polenta small plate thats recipe was inspired by Georgia OKeefethis is the area she lived in.

Ive toured her home here on a previous trip & its so awesomevery simple & native with amazing views of this wonderful part of New Mexico.

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Went into this little shop in Abiquiu & surprised at all the gorgeous high end Southwest furnishings.  I caved on my return trip back here & purchased the little bitty pillow I’d been looking at.  

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I went into Bodies…a really nice convenience store with so much good stuff inside.  I found my new favorite New Mexico beer by Bosque brewing called Soctia, so I bought a couple of 6 packs to take home & share with Danny.  Then I started one of my favorite scenic drives in this state…between Abiquiu & Ghost Ranch.  Georgia O’Keefe had homes in both places.  It’s easy to see why her paintings were so amazing…the subject matter here is breathtaking!

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The colors are incredible!

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Ghost Ranch

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This is the butte O’Keefe made famous in her painting “My Front Yard”….wow!

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Then it was time to keep moving north.  Tons of open space here for sure!  I’ve never been to Ojo Caliente before but know many who have.  It was my intention to have a soak in these well known commercial springs.  But when I got there, a huge line of cars & RV’s were in front of me.  I hadn’t made a reservation because I wasn’t sure when I’d get here.  But, I didn’t want to waste my time in a line that might not get me anywhere, so I moved on.  

Now I was looking for some dispersed camping along one the of many many forest roads I’m driving by.  But, the rain is heavy & most of the “dirt” roads look thick with mud.  I made to a place where I thought there might be access, but it was deep in mud & the skies in front of me were wicked looking through the rain.  So, I turned around & took the lonely two lane road into Taos.  The road in took me by the Earthship neighborhood & over the Rio Grande Gorge bridge.  I pulled over, threw on my rain jacket & walked in the rain to see the Gorge…very pretty even through the rain.

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Then I enjoyed a popular Cowboy Buddha margarita at the historic Taos Inn.

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Taos building art!

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I grabbed a green chile cheeseburger then went to find a place to camp for the night.  Nothing great tonighta rest area would have to do.  No picnic table neededit was still raining.

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