The basic itinerary is
Espanola (21-22 Sep 2012):
• Stop at Gabriel’s on the way (Exit 176 on US-285)
• Workshop is at NMSU Alcalde Sustainable Agriculture Science Center on Friday the 21st from 2-4 PM
-- Contact is Shengrui Yao (505-852-2668, email@example.com)
-- Alcalde Science Center (505-852-4241, 371 County Road 40, Alcalde, NM 87511)
• Stay at Comfort Inn, 505-753-2419 (backups are Travelers Motel, Days Inn or Motel 6)
• Matilda’s, La Cocina and China Kitchen are restaurants in Espanola
Espanola to Las Vegas, NM (Saturday, 22 Sep 2012):
• Onate Monument and Visitors’ Center on Hwy-68, then Embudo Station (may be closed)
• Hwy-75 through Dixon, NM, and La Chiripada Winery
• Hwy-518 to Las Vegas (~2 hrs)
-- Angostura (before Hwy-3 meets Hwy-518)
-- Morphy Lake State Park; 7 miles southwest of Mora; take Hwy-94 south to Ledoux, then west on Morphy Lake Road; could skip
-- Coyote Creek State Park; went there before with Wildflower Club; 17 miles north of Mora on Hwy-434; could skip
-- La Cueva National Historic Site and Salman Raspberry Ranch; 6 miles east of Mora at Hwy-442
-- Fort Union National Monument; 3 miles south of Salman Ranch on Hwy-518 take Hwy-161 east 20 miles to Waltrous (I-25 Exit 366), then 8 miles north on Hwy-161; alternate route is from I-25 Exit 345 (East University) in Las Vegas to Waltrous; free with Golden Age Passport
-- Storrie Lake State Park; Hwy-518 goes across dam; could skip
Las Vegas, NM (22-23 Sep 2012):
• Crow’s Nest B&B, 524 Columbia (Hwy-518 is 7th Street), phone = 505-425-2623, cell = 505-617-4427, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Nearby restaurants: Original Johnnie’s Kitchen (4th & Grand), Charlie’s Bakery & Café (713 Douglas), Dick’s Deli (705 Douglas), Dairy Queen (200 Columbia)
• Las Vegas Plaza
• Railroad District (esp. La Castaneda Hotel and old roundhouse); one block east of 6th & Grand
• Las Vegas Museum and Rough Rider Memorial; 4th & Grand
• 13:00 tour of Montezuma Castle is only available on 15 & 29 Sep 2012 but can go to Dwan Light Sanctuary (register and get a visitor pass at the Moore Welcome Center)
• Montezuma Hot Springs; located five miles north of Las Vegas on NM 65 (Hot Spring Blvd); do not enter the college proper but look for the pull offs along NM 65; open dawn to dusk
• Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge; free with Golden Age passport; at I-25 Exit 345 go 1.5 miles east on Hwy-104, then ~4 miles south on Hwy-281
Cochiti Area and Cerrillos/Madrid (24 Sep 2012):
• On the way back check out BLM Tetilla Peak Recreation Area at Cochiti Lake; free with Golden Age Passport
• Check on what’s left of Dixon’s Apple Farm
• Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is free with Golden Age Passport
• Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Overlook; ~4 miles west of Tent Rocks
• Could go back to Exit 267 on I-25 (~2.5 miles at top of La Bajada), take Waldo Canyon Road (CR-57) east to the village of Cerrillos, and go home via Hwy-14
-- Cerrillos: Turquoise Mining Museum; Opera House; Cerrillos Hills State Park (north of village on CR-59); Burnt Corn Ruin (5 miles east); Waldo (~2 miles west on CR-57); Ortiz Mountains Educational Preserve (cross the Galisteo River bridge on Hwy-14, about 0.5 mile further turn south on Goldmine Road/CR-55, then ~6 miles to end of road)
-- Madrid (3 miles south of Cerrillos): Coal Mine Museum; Mineshaft Tavern; Oscar Huber Ballpark
Taos is a pleasant mountain community situated among the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is known for the nearby Taos Pueblo, art galleries and studios, and skiing at the nearby Taos Ski Valley.
The area was first settled by American Indians of the Taos tribe, who built the imposing Taos Pueblo between 1000 and 1450. (Taos means "place of the red willows").
The town of Fernández de Taos was established in 1615 by the Spanish after their conquest of the Taos Pueblo. Although the Spanish and Taos Indians lived in relative peace during the first few decades of the Spanish presence, there were Indian revolts in 1640 and 1680. The Spanish fled Taos after each revolt, and had to retake the area by force each time.
In 1899, well after New Mexico had become an American territory, artists began settling in Taos to paint local scenes, including primarily the Taos Pueblo. They established the Society of Artists in 1915, and Taos became an art colony similar to Santa Fe.
While humans have made their mark on New Mexico over the centuries, and in a number of ways, it remains for the most part a state of wide open spaces and natural wonders. You can peer down into the depths of 800 foot deep Rio Grande Gorge, travel mountain passes well over 8,000 feet above sea level, wander among the remarkable rock formations of the City of Rocks or the hauntingly pale dunes of the White Sands.
Fondest memory: Travelling in September and October, we were treated to displays of golden aspens and of flowers in all hues. Nearly half the state’s annual rainfall comes during July and August, and the dry dusty plains respond with a wonderful show. At lower elevations I never tired of seeing the yellows, mauves and reds alongside the road and spreading beyond in the pastures on either side. And at higher ones the vistas were often of waves of dark green and gold, the conifers and late-dropping trees setting off the early-turning aspens to best advantage.
New Mexico’s wide open spaces didn’t just suit cowboys – they are also ideal for certain sorts of experiments, especially those involving space flight or missiles. The barren expanses at its heart, around White Sands, have seen first-hand the power of science, both for good and for bad. It is here, at the Trinity Site, that the world’s first atom bomb was detonated on 16th July 1945. Trinity is only open to the public on a couple of days a year, and I’m not sure that we would have visited even if one of these dates coincided with our trip, but we did see one of the “souvenirs” of that deadly experiment, the fragment from Jumbo, the vessel built to contain the explosion, which is now on display near the Plaza in Socorro.
On a more positive note, the amazing Very Large Array or VLA provided one of the most interesting mornings of our trip. Here, in the middle of the flat Plains of San Augustin, scientists study the heavens with the help of these huge radio telescopes. And if you’re interested in man’s adventures in space, the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo is the place to go. I loved getting the opportunity to sit in the cramped confines of a Mercury capsule (used in the first US spaceflight missions), and to “land” the space shuttle on their simulator.
Fondest memory: And maybe it isn’t just human scientists who find New Mexico ideal for their experiments?! There are many who remain convinced that aliens crashed on a ranch just outside Roswell in 1947, and the town has traded on the incident ever since. Whether you believe it or not, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see tacky Americana at its most glorious, with “aliens” on every street corner and a whole museum devoted to proving the truth of the story.
If you have ever watched a western, you have seen New Mexico, or something very like it. Vast plains, huge skies, and more cattle than people – it is not difficult to imagine a cowboy galloping over the nearest ridge, and indeed many locals still dress the part. And wherever you go, the ghosts of outlaws past will follow you, most notably Billy the Kid.
We “met” Billy in so many places. In Silver City, where he came aged just 13 and got into trouble from the start. In Mesilla, where he was tried and condemned to be hung in the courthouse, now (inevitably) a “Billy the Kid” gift-shop. In historic Lincoln, where he escaped from another courthouse in a shoot-out. And in Fort Sumner, where he was shot by Pat Garrett and buried alongside a couple of his pals.
Fondest memory: But Billy of course was not the only outlaw. Perhaps our most memorable encounter with the ghosts of the Wild West was in Cimarron, in the bar of the St James Hotel, whose ceiling still bears the bullet holes of the many gun-fights that took place here, and whose halls are said to be still haunted by some of the victims. It was quite something to sit at that bar and imagine all those who had done so back in those layless days.
Wherever you go in New Mexico, the Spanish influence is apparent. The most obvious legacy is the large number of beautiful adobe mission churches, of which the oldest is variously said to be San Miguel in Socorro (built between 1615 and 1626, but currently closed for restoration following major water damage) or another San Miguel in Santa Fe (built between 1610 and 1628, thus started earlier but finished later). Very many place names too point to the Hispanic influence: Santa Fe (the city of the Holy Faith), Albuquerque (named for the Spanish Duke de Alburquerque) and smaller places like Los Cerillos, Las Trampas, Quemado – there is even a Madrid!
In particular the Roman Catholic religion, introduced by the Spanish, has had a lasting influence on the state. We were fascinated by the way in which the native pueblo churches had combined their own traditional faith with the “new” one, with equal emphasis placed on their adopted saint (San Geronimo in Taos, San Esteban in Acoma) and on the natural spirits that have shaped their lives for centuries.
Local crafts owe much to this Catholic tradition, such as the brightly painted pictures (santos) and carvings (bultos) of saints that you’ll see not only in churches but in galleries, restaurants and homes. And parts of the state seemed to us to be dual language, with signs commonly in both English and Spanish, and the latter language heard regularly on the streets. Sometimes you might even fancy yourself in Central, rather than North, America!
Long before Europeans came to settle this area, native tribes lived here for hundreds of years. For centuries, these ancestral Indians lived a nomadic life, hunting and gathering their food throughout the Southwest. About 1,500 years ago, some of these groups began practicing agriculture and established permanent settlements, known as pueblos, while others remained nomadic. As everywhere in North America, the coming of the white settlers devastated the lives of those who called these plains and mountains home, and that too is part of their history. Today 22 tribes live in the state: Apache, Navajo, and 19 pueblo tribes (Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jémez, Laguna, Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, Picurís, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Kewa, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, Zuni)
Today you can visit some of their ancient living places, learn more of their often traumatic history and tour some of the centuries-old pueblos that are still occupied. We really enjoyed exploring the cliff dwellings of Gila and Tsankaw; were moved by the traumatic story of the “long Walk” of the Navajo told at the Bosque Redondo State Park in Fort Sumner; and learned so much from excellent guides at Acoma and Taos pueblos.
New Mexico’s unique character owes so much to these tribes. The cuisine incorporates elements of traditional cooking, such as the blue corn tortillas and puffed-up sopapillas. The adobe building techniques were embraced by the Spanish settlers and now dominate towns like Taos and Santa Fe. Arts and crafts thrive and are dominated by the pottery, jewellery-making, weaving and painting of the various tribes.
By the way, if you’re planning a visit here you should do your homework so you understand something of pueblo culture and etiquette in particular. Not all the pueblos are open to visitors from outside, and those that are ask that you observe their strict rules, just as you should respect the laws of any country you travel to – these are, after all, separate nations. The rules include:
Not taking photos without permission (some pueblos charge a fee for camera use, others don’t allow it at all)
Not entering any buildings sacred to traditional religions, and not taking photos inside churches and some other restricted areas
Not going into homes uninvited (well, you wouldn’t want anyone to do that either!)
Not disturbing or removing animals, plants, rocks or artefacts
There are also particular rules relating to feast days and ceremonies, so do check before you go – and if you find these rules too constraining, don’t go!
The city of Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as a Spanish colonial outpost that was both a farming community and military garrison along the Camino Real. The settlement was originally called Ranchos de Alburquerque, and was named by its founder and provincial governor, Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain, Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, Duke of Alburquerque. (Alburquerque is a town in Spain near the Portuguese border, and the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico follows the Portuguese spelling with only one "R").
The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish pattern of settlement, with a central plaza surrounded by a church, government buildings, and homes. In the arid climate of New Mexico, adobe (a mixture of mud and straw) was about the only building material available, and since then, adobe buildings have become common and popular in New Mexico.
Albuquerque was used as a military garrison after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. It was also the site of an American federal garrison and quartermaster depot after the United States occupied New Mexico in 1846 as a result of the Mexican-American War.
In 1880, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in Albuquerque, but bypassed the old plaza. New Albuquerque grew up around the railroad station which was built at some distance to the east of Old Town Albuquerque. In 1885, New Albuquerque was incorporated as a town, and was incorporated as a city in 1891. Old Town Albuquerque remained a separate community until the 1920s, at which time it was absorbed into Albuquerque.
In 1926, the legendary and culturally iconic Route 66 passed through the city, resulting in dozens of new roadside motels, restaurants, and gift shops. Motorists traveling along Route 66 frequented these establishments, and Albuquerque thus became part of the mystique of Route 66.
Kirtland Air Force Base was established on the outskirts of Albuquerque in 1939, and the Sandia Base and Sandia National Laboratories were built in the city soon after that. Those government facilities contributed to the development of the atomic bomb, and the city therefore played an important role in the dawning of the Atomic Age.
Nowadays, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, with about 870,000 inhabitants in its metropolitan area. It is also one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, attracting people with its pleasant climate and spectacular desert landscape.
The area that would one day become Santa Fe was originally inhabited by Pueblo Indians who used the Santa Fe River as a water source. They occupied the area between about 1050 and 1150.
In 1598, Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate led the first expedition into the area to colonize the new Spanish province of Nuevo México. He founded the first provincial capital at San Juan de los Caballeros north of present-day Santa Fe, near the town of Lamy.
The third governor of Nuevo México, Don Pedro de Padilla, founded Santa Fe in 1608. He called the town La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís, or the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi. Fortunately it was shortened by its residents to Santa Fe. The new town was laid out in the traditional pattern of Spanish colonial settlement, with a central plaza surrounded by a church, government buildings, businesses, and homes. Most of the buildings were constructed of adobe, as are many today. (This eventually gave rise to what is called the Santa Fe style, which spawned the Pueblo Revival style of architecture.) In 1610, Santa Fe was named the capital of Nuevo México, making it the oldest capital city in the United States.
During the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, the local American Indians rose up against the Spanish and expelled them from the town and surrounding areas. The Spanish did not return until 1692, when Don Diego de Vargas recaptured the area.
The Mexican War of Independence led to the ouster of Spain from her former colony. The status of Santa Fe as the capital of the new Mexican territory of Santa Fé de Nuevo México was formalized in the Constitution of 1824.
During Mexican rule over New Mexico, the Santa Fe Trail was established in 1882 by an American, William Becknell. The Santa Fe Trail connected Saint Louis with Santa Fe, and served as a major trade and transportation route between the two cities. There was an influx of Americans into Santa Fe as a result of the trade generated by the Santa Fe Trail, and they soon outnumbered the town's Mexican and American Indian inhabitants.
Santa Fe fell into American hands during the Mexican-American War. (The miltary used the Santa Fe Trail as a route into the city). New Mexico, along with most of the rest of what is now the American Southwest, was officially ceded to the United States pursuant to the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the end of the war.
In 1880, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad came to New Mexico, but bypassed Santa Fe because of geography. As a result, the city suffered a gradual economic decline. The city's fortunes began to turn around in the late 1880s when nationally renowned artists began moving into Santa Fe, drawn by beautiful desert and mountain landscapes, the native Pueblo cultures, the adobe Spanish villages, and the clarity of the air.
Nowadays, tourists are drawn to the city for its unique Spanish charm, the native cultures, the beauty of the Santa Fe-style architecture, the endless shopping opportunities, and the gorgeous desert landscapes. Santa Fe is also frequently listed among the most livable cities in the United States.
As it turned out, Oliver Lee was a gorgeous spot with a nice campground, perfect for watching the sunset on the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed the small desert flower garden close to the rest rooms and we thought we were in luck on hearing what we believed to be the buzz of hummingbirds. When we saw none, we then rushed to the conclusion it was perhaps some type of bee on a rampage. As it turned it it was what we later learned was a sphinx moth. This incredible creature flies very much like a hummingbird, moving in quick straight lines, with lightning fast wings that are nearly invisible to the human eye when they are in flight. I guess it was actually fortuitous that White Sands didn't have camping. Otherwise, we'd have missed this area altogether.
We enjoyed setting up the tent for the first time of the trip and cooking some of the food we'd been lugging around for over a week. It was a warm, dry area so very comfortable and aside from our moth friends, no insects in sight. We got into our sleeping bags early and left the fly off the tent to enjoy gazing at the stars. Camping was a big part of what we came to do and it was great to finally be doing it. But we also knew we would be rising very early. We wanted to get into White Sands for sunrise and that would come all too soon. That lie-in now seemed a long time ago and it wasn't likely we'd be having another for a very long time. That was okay, we hadn't come all this way to lie in, now did we?
Fondest memory: Well, it wasn't all that slow. D cut my hair and we made sure us and everything we owned was about as clean as we could get it. We were heading into the domain of uncertain showers and I'm not referring to New Mexico's lack of rainfall either. We checked out of what seemed the most luxurious Motel 6 in the world at around the noon, the latest check out time, and headed into the Old Historic District of Albuquerque. We hadn't seen anything the previous day, having spent it driving from Taos via the high road to Santa Fe, investigating that fine town and then hitting a brewpub en route to Albuquerque. It was too dark to take any photos and the room was calling us. We walked through the small historical area, snapped some photos and sat in the idyllic Plaza enjoying yet another charming New Mexican Old Town. But we didn't have time to dally too long as we had about a four hour drive down to Oliver Lee State Park, the site of our first night of camping in what we planned to be a very long string. Our eventual destination would be White Sands National Monument but unfortunately they didn't have a campground and we'd have to wait till the next day to explore that wonder. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: Sleeping in isn't normally my thing. I'm naturally an early riser. But there are times when you just have to and this was one of them. I might not have been sleeping in as much as lying in and enjoying the room that was planned to be our last for a long time. We'd begun a planned six month “camping” trip around the US ten days earlier with an admittedly optimistic budget of $50 per day. I knew intellectually it wasn't possible but my heart was still hoping for the best. I'd done a similar trip in 1994 for around that amount but gas was already over $4 a gallon with predictions of them rising. We'd been having a grand time driving from our South Florida home to New Mexico, taking in New Orleans, Memphis and some less known sights. We knew this section of the trip would be one of the more expensive parts. There were great distances to travel and cities by their nature are expensive. We tried to reign things in and I certainly didn't have as many beers as I might otherwise have but by this tenth day we'd spent around $1500. You don't need a calculator to know we were way, way over budget. In fact, if we kept up at this pace, our six-month trip might last two months. So, the plan was that Albuquerque would be our last room, hence the slow morning. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Rudioso, New Mexico
This wonderful village is at 7000 feet above sea level – blessed with cool pines, making it a vacation getaway for nearly 100 years! Here you will find out so much about Billy the Kid since this was one of his favorite haunts– and his name is everywhere, even on a casino! Lincoln County is where Billy had his notorious beginnings and where you can now go through a museum to find out all about him.
But other than the gambling (Billy the Kid, Casino Apache…and the big mama of all – Inn of the Mountain Gods), there are museum opportunities at the impressive Hubbard Museum of the American West….and of course, golfing (three major courses), shopping and dining!
And skiing – this is run by the Mescalero Tribe of Apaches who also owns the big mama casino mentioned before. The Ski Apache boasts of great skiing from November through March on the north face of the 12,303 peak of the Sierra Blanca. There are 55 trails with all levels of challenge that drop as much as 1800 ft! There are snowboard parks and equipment rentals and lessons and lodges as well.
And hiking – the Lincoln National Forest also offers mountain biking, camping, hunting and fishing!
You will pass by this nice small city as you are driving from El Paso to Tucson (on the I-10) as we were….This is known “Ducktown, USA”, being the home to the richest Duck race in the world! Held every last weekend of August – unfortunately we were there April 2009…
We did go exit here and drove about fifteen more miles from the freeway before we got to the Rockhound State Park which gave magnificent views of the mountains --- picture-taking time!
Quaint shops can be seen in the downtown area and here are four state parks to choose from (Rockhound, Spring Canyon, City of Rocks and Pancho Villa).
And in just an hour, you can reach Paloma, Mexico which is just on the edge of the Gila National Forest.
Rockhound State Park
Pancho Villa State Park
Deming Luna Mimbres Museum
New mexico’s Largest Winery
Luna County Courthouse
Rio Mimbres Golf Course
Take I-40 out of Albuquerque, stop at Acoma's Sky City, then take NM-53 to see the El Malpais National Monument and El Morro. Skip the ice cave; it is somewhat interesting but a little pricy. Then take NM-602 to Gallup and spend the night in the historic El Rancho Hotel and Motel. Continue on I-40. Visit the Petrified Forest and take a look at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook. At Flagstaff turn north on US-89. Do the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument loop. Camping at the Bonito Campground is $16 or there is lodging at the Cameron Trading Post (not cheap). Continue north on US-89 to AZ-64 west. It will take you to the Little Colorado Canyon overlook and then the Desert View Watchtower. Continue on East Rim Drive to Grand Canyon Village. Spend the night (expensive).
After seeing Grand Canyon in the morning, head back to US-89, Tuba City, Monument Valley (US-160) or Hopi mesas (AZ-264), and Chinle. Spend the night. Tour Canyon de Chelly. Then go to Cortez, Colorado, via US-191 and US-160. Spend the night. Tour Mesa Verde. Then take US-160 to Durango and Pagosa Springs, and US-64 from Chama to Taos, which goes across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge near Taos. A narrow gauge train trip in Chama is an option. Try the diner in Tres Piedras. Spend the night in Taos. See my Questa tips for things to do around Taos, and between Taos and Santa Fe.
There are two ways back to Sante Fe from Taos. The primary route is via NM-68/US-285. When returning this way, don't miss the La Chiripada Winery in Dixon, the restaurant/brewery at Embudo Station, and Gabriel's Restaurant (Exit-176 on US-285 north of Santa Fe or the Buffalo Thunder exit if coming south). The other, less-traveled way is the "High Road" via NM-518/NM-75/NM-76 through Penasco, Truchas, Chimayo (with its magical chapel), and Nambe (shortcut to Santa Fe). I didn't work the timing out well but the basic route seems good. LOL, I should do it myself.
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