ABQ – White Sands – Lincoln National Forest

After our stay in ABQ we began our journey to southern New Mexico to visit White Sands National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We travel the backways as much as we can in order to take in as much natural beauty as possible. Fortunately, New Mexico offers many opportunities to travel overland on dirt roads and trails through public lands managed by the BLM and NFS.

From ABQ we journeyed overland via the Quebradas Backway which took us through rolling hills and canyons. Beautifully striated ridgelines are in view to the west throughout the length of the backway.

After completing the backway we continued further south stopping in Truth or Consequences before camping north of Las Cruces. Truth or Consequences was originally named named Hot Springs for the 40 different hot springs located in the town. The town changed its name to Truth or Consequences in 1950 to in order to have the radio show of the same name aired in town for the shows tenth anniversary. Our only recommendation if you find yourself in T or C is to stop into Ingo’s Art Cafe, have a cup of coffee and meet Ingo.

White Sands National Park is the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. It is truely unique with its ever changing landscape of wind sculpted dunes that cover 275 square miles of the Tularosa Basin. The other unique feature is that the national park sits inside the White Sands Missile Range. When missiles are being fired the park closes for obvious safety reasons – check before you go so you are not disappointed.

We think the park can be experienced in one day by driving the loop road and taking a couple of hikes into the dunes. You will also see kids sledding on the dunes.

After leaving White Sands we traveled up into the Sacramento Mountains of the Lincoln National Forest. The Sacramento Mountains rise right up out of the basin floor to an elevation of over 8000 feet above sea level. There are a number of vista points that provide surreal views of the White Sands dunefield below.

Lincoln NF has hundreds of hiking trails through out the forest. The town of Cloudcroft sits at the top of the range, a cute mountain town that is a good base camp for hiking in the forest and offers several good restaurants and coffee shops. High Altitude outfitters is an excellent shop for anything you need for your outdoor activities and Black Bear Coffee will get you caffeinated. A number of the trails utilize the railbed from the former Almagordo & Sacramento Mountain Railroad which hauled timber down through the Fresnel Canyon. The railroad shutdown in 1947 but a number of the impressive trestles are still standing and can be seen while hiking. We also came upon several abandoned homesteads while hiking in the forest.

Heading to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Be seeing you!

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Turquoise Trail: Cerrillos, NM

After our pleasant stay in Santa Fe we traveled the 50 miles to Albuquerque via State Highway 14 also known as the Turquoise Trail. Highway 14 winds through rolling hills and provides long views of several mountain ranges. We stopped to explore the tiny village of Cerrillos.

Cerrillos was a mining town for several centuries with the Tano Indians mining turquoise from the surrounding hills. Later the Spanish and Euro-Americans mined lead, silver and gold. As the mine played out during the early 1900’s the population dwindled.

Today the population of Cerrillos is 229 people. What remains is a classic western town with dirt streets lined by a saloon, general store and a trading post. There is also a Catholic church still operating despite the diminutive population.

The town has been used for the filming of several western genre films for obvious reasons.

We enjoyed this stop very much. All of the local folks we met were quite friendly. The residents really like their way of life and sense of community here.

Madrid, the town directly south of Cerrillos is very cute but has developed into much more of a tourist draw with losts of touristy shops and restaurants if that is more your speed.

Be seeing you!

Stock Photo – Main Street
First Street

Tiles from Courtyard, St Joseph’s Church
Wooden Statues in St Joseph’s Courtyard

New Mexico Street Murals: Farmington to ABQ

Our drive south through New Mexico has been delightful. We have met many nice people from NM. The scenery is spectacular and the temperatures are increasingly warmer by the day.

An added bounus on this trip to date has been the street mural scene. We have found excellent murals in every town (regardless of size) and a plethora of murals in the many distinct neighborhoods of ABQ. We could literally spend a month in ABQ and not find every one of the murals.

We have included a small sample of our favorites for your enjoyment. Wherever we have been able to identify the artist or organization we have noted that in the caption.

Be seeing you!

Farmington, NM

Heck Ironcloud

Skindian

Santa Fe, NM

Guernica

Albuquerque, NM

Echoes of the Future, Kevin Zuckerman, etal.

Untitled, Larry Bob Philips
Silence, Compassion and Social Justice, Ernest Doty
Fracking, Larry Bob Phillips
Untitled, Kerry Bergen

The Mother Road, Working Classroom

Conductor, Chris Stain

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

During our stay in Santa Fe we traveled south through the Cochiti Pueblo to hike at the KKTRNM. This monument is jointly managed by the Cochiti Pueblo and the Bureau of Land Management as the monument is only accessible by travel through the pueblo. The monument is a geologist’s delight as the Jemez volcanic eruptions left a thousand feet of tuff which has eroded into formations of caprock topped hoodos and tent rocks.

The hiking here features a short loop trail that provides fine views of a number of caprocks and several clusters of tent rocks. The real treat is the out and back slot canyon trail which winds its way up to a small table top at 6,760 feet elevation. The 360 view from the top is expansive and also provides a great birds eye view of several large formations of hoodos.

The Cochiti people are descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi). There are apx. 528 Cochiti remaining on the pueblo today. The total territory of the pueblo is just 1.2 square miles while the reservation manages about 54,000 acres of land.

The Cochiti were permanently displaced from their original lands by Spanish conquistadors in 1598. Subsequently, the Catholic Church followed the conquistadors and began to force the Cochiti to practice Catholicism. You know the rest of the story………

We definitely recommend spending time here if you are in either Santa Fe or Albuquerque. Our only caveat is that this monument is very crowded in the summer months due to very limnited parking at the trail heads. Also, this is a day area with no camping.

Be seeing you!

Georgia O’Keffee

We are off the road for several days to explore Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our first stop (well second actually – fika at Iconik Roasters – we spent the afternoon basking in the brillance of the 300 or so works on display at the eponymous museum dedicated to her life and work.

Maria has long been an avid fan of her painting. Stephen on the other hand had not given her work serious attention – thinking her a painter of pastel colored flowers.

O’Keffee produced about 3000 works in her 60 year career. The museum owns 1100 of her works – phenomenally all but two were donated to the museum. The 300 paintings on display are grouped across eight galleries that relate to various phases of her life and creative focus.

O’Keffee split her time between New York and New Mexico for about thirty years. After her husband passed away she moved to New Mexico permanently although she traveled to South America and Japan several times.

O’Keffee was initally critized by the male dominated artistic community for her use of bright colors. She loved color and refused to adopt the darker tones that the prominent artists of the time considered appropriate. Her strength as a woman and commitment to what and how she wanted to paint what she saw is evident through out the exhibits and the narrative of her life.

We have included a small sample of photographs of we took at the museum. The paintings featured below cover the period 1917-1958 and represent work from New Mexico and New York.

The Georgia O’Keffee is a must when you visit Santa Fe.

Mesa and Road East, 1952
Ritz Tower, 1928
Green and White, 1957-1958
Church Steeple, 1930
Autumn Trees – The Maple, 1924

Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur, 1930

Church Bell, Ward, Colorado, 1917

Bandelier National Monument

As we mentioned in closing our last post we were planning on traveling south to spend two days exploring and camping at Chaco Culture National Historical Park near Nageezi, NM. Chaco Canyon was occupied as early as 900 B.C. and as an archaeological site is on par with the fantastic Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Unfortunately, the storm that passed through northern New Mexico rendered the 25 mile dirt road into the park impassable.

Not to worry! Northern New Mexico is rich with significant archaelogical sites. In fact, there are 19 ancestral locations which can be accessed in the Four Corners Region. So after a brief stopover in the badlands surrounding Angel Peak we set our sights on Bandelier National Monument.

The Angel Peak Recreation Area is managed by the BLM. It is a beautiful area of desolate badlands, occasionally marred by oil or fracking sites scattered through out the 10,000 acres. Angel Peak is still worth a visit.

We joined Route 96 to make the drive to Bandelier NP. Route 96 runs north then east skirting the northern boundary of the Santa Fe National Forest and parallels the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. This area is sparsely settled with only five settlements along the 60 miles -between Cuba and Abiquiu. The total population of all of the settlements is apx. 500 people.

Abiquiu is where artist Georgia O’Keefe did much of her painting while in New Mexico. We plan on visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum when we visit Santa Fe.

Badlands in Angel Peak Recreation Area
Angel Peak (elev. 6988 feet) Background Upper Left Frame
Sangre de Christo Mountains
Rio Chama from White Rock

Bandelier National Monument is a relatively small (33,000 acres) monument but protects an area of mesas and canyons where humans lived as long as 11,000 years ago. This area features both cliff dwellings and multi-room dwellings on the canyon floor. Much of the material here is tuff (compacted volcanic ash) which allowed the Puebloans to carve into the cliffs.

There are a number of dwellings where you can climb up into cliff dwellings using ladders modeled after the ladders the Puebloans used. The Alcove House pictured below provides the opportunity to climb up a series of ladders and provide the view of the canyon that the Ancesteral Puebloans had so long ago. Additionally, there are many petroglyphs on the cliff walls.

Alcove House
Maria Climbing One of the Four Ladders required to Reach Alcove House
View from Alcove House – 140 Feet Above Canyon Floor

Large Kiva on Frijoles Canyon Floor

BNP was closed to the public during World War 2 as the buildings and lodging were appropriated for the Manhattan Project which was based in nearby Los Alamos. The Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos depicts the history of the Manhattan Project which produced the first atomic bombs which were dropped on Japan in an attempt to hasten the end of the war with Japan. Replicas of the “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” atomic bombs pictured below.

Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos

BNP is within easy driving distance of Santa Fe. The park offers primitive camping and there are hotels in nearby White Rock. We would recommend visiting in the off season as parking is limited and the crowds make for lines if you want to climb up into the dwellings (according to the park rangers). We recommend one to two days here in order to hike the Frey Trail, visit the Long House, the Alcove House and the Falls Trail.

Be seeing you!

P.S. The Revolt Coffee truck is parked on Route 4 in White Rock so you can grab a great coffee to go on your way into or out of the monument.

Bisti/Di-Na-Zin Wilderness Area

From Mesa Verde National Park we traveled south into New Mexico spending our first night in Farmington (fika @ Studio Bake Shoppe). From Farmington we journeyed due south on NM371 through the Navajo Nation to access the Bisti Badlands. As wilderness areas by defintion allow no motorized traffic the only access from the parking area is by foot. There are no trails or markers of any sort. So bring your compass and utilize your gps. Line of sight navigation is impossible as once you enter into the outcroppings you are in a maze of strange sandstone, shale, coal, mudstone and silt formations. There are a plethora of hoodoos and just strange looking features that evolve based on the ongoing wind and water erosion that takes place with these soft materials.

The closest lodging is in Farmington which is apx. 40 miles north. There is no developed camping within the vicinty of the access area. However, exploring here is an easy day trip from Farmington. We boondocked in the wilderness area.

Our next segment will be at the Chaco NHP to visit more ancesteral sites assuming the road is passable in the aftermath of the major storm the occurred overnight.

Be seeing you!

Mesa Verde National Park

This trip will take us through New Mexico and deep into (the heart of) Texas before turning east along the Gulf Coast and eventually driving back to Connecticut. As usual we began our trip in Salt Lake City where we have been storing the Beast between trips.

After a day of travel to SLC and a day of preparing the Beast for this journey we departed for Moab, UT. We spent an overnight in Moab, UT (Moab Coffee Roasters) before traveling to southwestern Colorado to view some of the finest examples of Peubloan cliff and mesa communities in existence today.

Mesa Verde National Park was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for the explicit purpose of preserving the remarkable Ancesteral Peublo architecture. Mesa Verde was occupied by the Pueblo people for about 750 years beginning in 550 A.D.

MVNP is definitely a bit off the beaten path but we think more than worth the drive. The park is laid out with a loop drive that allows you to see many of the cliff villages from excellent view points. There are a number of kivas that have been excavated which are easily accessible by foot.

In the summer months you can also tour several of the cliff dwellings on ranger guided tours. The Far View Lodge offers acommodations with outstanding views of the mesa and canyons below. There is also a small musueum located in the park about twenty miles from the entrance.

There are a number of indigenous sites in the Four Corners area which could easily be combined with a visit to MVNP for an extended tour; Canyons of the Ancients and Chaco Culture National Historic Park are two major sites.

A definite recommend on our part.

Be seeing you!

New England Rail Trips

We made our final day trip of this home stay to Springfield, MA to check out the 3rd wave coffee scene, find the murals and visit the local art museums. We have been taking full advantage of the 17 daily trains that run from New Haven to Springfield frequently, utilizing the train for our trips into New Haven and Hartford. We extended our use of the CT Railroad by riding from the Meriden Station through to Union Station in downtown Springfield.

We have to admit that our only experience of Springfield derives mainly from passing through on I-91 on our way to Vermont and back. So this trip presented us with the opportunity to get to know more about the city and its history.

First to the coffee – no joy! Sorry to report that the downtown area is bereft of 3rd wave coffee establishments. There are a number of specialty coffee cafes and roasters just outside of Springfield – particularly west of the river.

The street art mural scene however provides great joy. Springfield, with the support of the Common Wealth Mural Collaborative, launched Fresh Paint Springfield in June of 2019. FPS is week long mural festival which also features many other cultural and food events throughout the week. A total of 22 murals were completed by 17 professional muralists with the help of local mural assistants. Fortunately, the mural festival was a big hit and will return for its second run in June 2020. We have included a sampling of photos of some of the moving, imaginative and colorful murals we saw on this trip.

http://www.freshpaintspringfield.com

Springfield boasts two fine art museums located in a quadrangle of distinctive buildings which also house a science museum, a museum of Springfield history and the Dr. Seuss Museum. Both of the art museums came about as the result of wealthy Springfield art collectors donating their personal collections to form the museums.

We spent most of our time at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts owing to our affinity for French Impressionism. The D’Amour has a small but impressive gallery of French Impressionist works along with galleries featuring 17th, 18th and 19th century Dutch, Flemish, French and Italian paintings.

The other art museum is the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. The GWVS collection consists mainly of Japanese and Chinese porcelains, bronzes, jade and arms and armor. There is also a smaller gallery dedicated to art of the Islamic world. The Japanese armor and arms were the high point along with the painted tiles in the Islamic gallery.

Springfield like many former manufacturing hubs in the northeast has seen better days. We noted a lot of work going on to renovate and utilize the many still standing factory buildings for retail, office and habitational space. The area proximate to the museum quadrangle is home to several beautiful cathedrals and several historic residential areas where 19th century row houses have been renovated.

Springfield by train was an excellent day trip albeit no specialty coffee!

Crossing Connecticut River on CT Railroad
No Coffee Zone!

Quay at Camaret, 1894, Maximilien Luce
Portrait of Gabrielle in Red, 1899, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
La Seine, Undated, Maximilien Luce
Seascape in Brittany, 1899, Paul Gauguin
Factory Near Pontoise, 1873, Camille Pissarro

Promenade on the Beach, 1880, Winslow Homer

July, 1955, John Rogers Cox
Hiking Socks by Kathryn Lewis
Mattoon and Elliot Street Historic District