Saturday, June 21, 2008

13-08 Santa Fe & Sandoval County New Mexico

Santa Fe New Mexico (30 miles outside of)

Campground: Cochiti Lake, an Army Corp. site. $12 w/electric. Open sites on loop around the top of a hill overlooking the reservoir. Views of mountains. Good Verizon reception and Verizon air-card.

I arrived at Cochiti Lake Reservoir from Albuquerque on Monday. It was only an hours drive. I’m actually surrounded by the Cochiti Indian Reservation, one of many reservations in the area. From my campsite on top of a hill, I’m able to see the modern Pueblo community across the main road from where I’m staying.

Although I have no shade on top of my hill, I have fantastic views! Mountain ranges and mesas surround me. The Rio Grande river fills the reservoir but only to a shallow degree. I am mesmerized by the constant changing scenery. White clouds slowly roll across the sky creating dark shadows along the mountain ranges and mesas. A peak will be highlighted, then move into darkness. As the sun sets, deep shadows form along the ravines and wash-outs. The colors of the mountains become more pronounced. The red sandstone and other layers in various shades of chalk, browns and tans light up. Even the cedars and pinion pines look richer and greener.

It’s been hot the last couple of days and it’s expected to remain in the mid to high 90’s.

I head into Santa Fe the next day, it’s a 30 mile drive from the campsite across vast dry ranches and reservation land and mile after mile of fences, but I don’t see any live stock, except the occasional horse.

I’m here once again visiting a friend, Christine Linn. We have a great Mexican meal and sit and talk for hours. Then I head out for a tour of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. They’re currently having an exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities. They met in 1929 out west and became friends. Touring the west one summer with a couple other artists and their paintings and photographs reflect many of the same scenes. Seeing the vast landscapes through a painter and photographers eyes, helps me to appreciate the scenery that much more.

After the art museum, it being almost in the heart of downtown, I decided to walk around the main downtown plaza. I’d been here before, but hadn’t realized the scope of the place. This is definitely an art lovers and shoppers dream. Walking under the wonderful porch overhangs (providing lots of shade) around the plaza, centered by the grassy park with lots of shade trees as well, I noticed that there are many arcades and two story indoor plazas for shopping.

Because I live in my camper, I’m able to enjoy the wonderful art and objects that would tempt anyone into buying them, without actually having to own any of it. I must admit, it can be hard sometimes, looking at a beautifully hand crafted lamp or an exquisite painting, there is that urge to want to own it.

So I’m off to another outdoor adventure, where it’s impossible to “own” a sunset, or a mountain view, or a waterfall cascading down a deep ravine. I’m off to Sandoval County. It’s half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, via hwy 550 and hwy 4. This is the type of country my buddies Scott and Tim would love to ride their Harleys on. There’s so much to see here, I’m unable to take it all in in one day.

The tour begins at the intersection of 550 and 4 in San Ysidro. The mountain ranges here are dramatic. One is chalky white and gray, the other is red rock, the Jemez mountain range. I think, how cool to be up close to these mountain ranges, the valley green with cotton wood trees all shiny and shimmery with bright green leaves.

I decide to head toward the Gilman Tunnels. A series of tunnels blasted through the mountains for a long ago rail line. It’s off of 485. Not expecting too much, I drive along this narrow spur of a road. Many small farms and older homes along the narrow valley. The road is winding and begins to climb up from the valley floor, the road getting narrower than I thought was possible. Requiring pullouts so traffic can pass each other.

Then, dramatically the mountain range isn’t off in the distance, where I can view it, I’m in it. The shear walls climbing high next to the strip of asphalt, it winds around a wall of solid granite and there’s the first of the tunnels. The mountain wall climbing high on my left and the river gorge, a shear drop down on my right. A old guard rail is there for protection, but after travel along the route, I notice it’s been dented heavily many times, not from the side like from a vehicle hitting it, but from rocks and boulders landing on top of it!

I stop along the way and am just in awe of the being so up close to the mountains, the shear mass of them. The deep gorge with the Guadalupe River running through it. This is one of those side road trips that we travelers sometimes bypass, heading instead for the main attractions. I’m so glad I took this side road. It will become the highlight of the entire day.

Back on the main scenic route 4 though Sandoval County, I head to the small town of Jemez Springs and the Jemez State monument. It’s a 17th century mission church, built over some of the remains of the Indian Pueblo. It’s always a bit sad to see native American Indians manning the desk at a state park like this, holders of the memories of their past. Their lifestyles changed forever when the missionaries and explorers came along. You can almost see it in their faces when they greet you. Asking you in silent voices to understand what has happened to them. The area still has a Monastery directly across the street from the monument and a Zen retreat in town as well.

After a short drive up the road I see the Soda Dam. It’s the only naturally formed dam in New Mexico and it’s a hot springs. I got some great pictures of the dam and tourists climbing all over it. One family was all the way from Sweden. The young man takes my picture for me.

Back in Jemez Springs, I head to one of a half dozen restaurants and have a great Greek salad on a screened in porch at the Lazy Lizard Café. Now this area is noted for the hot springs, so after lunch, I head across the street and down a steep dirt road to the Giggling Springs Hot Springs. Now I could have gone to one of the free hot springs outside of town, but after reading that the Lonely Planet had been here, I had to check it out.

The hot springs are a perfect temperature, due to the fact that the hot springs can be cooled down with an in flow of cooler water. Lots of lounges and chairs for relaxing in the shade in between dips in the mineral rich hot springs. Oh and their smoothies are what’s chillin. I think I’m now an official Lonely Planet guy.

Well that’s just some of the activities I’ve been into this week. In between, I’ve had time to read a couple of books and thought I’d share what I’ve read with you.

Recent books read:

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. No feedback from all you armchair travelers
so I guess I was the only one who read it in our group. Not to worry, it was not
an easy book to get through.

My life with Elvis by Pricilla Presley. Also caught a PBS special on
Elvis’s early years. Pricilla’s book was an eye opener on her very controlled
life living with Elvis. He was the first real disaster due to too much publicity
and unable to go anywhere like a normal person. The dependence on sleeping pills
and uppers and downers didn’t help. Skewd his life and those around him. Had no
guidance on how to handle the lifestyle and it pretty much ruined him in the

Roses are Red by James Patterson. Thriller novel.

The Angel Experiment by James Patterson. I really liked this one. An
experiment in making kids with wings. Quite a fantasy experiment gone wrong.

Sandstorm by James Rollins. A rip roaring good adventure in the style
of Indiana Jones. Lots of fun and excitement along the way. A fun read.

1 comment:

eric said...

very nice description of your stop at Chimney Rock. Thought you'd like to know that I've added a link to it from my web site.

BTW: I spent 2.5 years wandering in my 5th wheel and have now graduated to my retirement home in the Philippines.