Friday, October 30, 2020

Checking Out Maybes in Santa Fe

 October 5-7, 2020
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Prior to our departure from Tombstone last week we were given a mission. An important mission to locate a piece of property in a remote area west of Taos.

My BFF inherited this quarter acre years ago but has yet to find her way there. They got close once, but were unsuccessful. Since then she's gotten the GPS coordinates and has now tasked us with tracking it down. Not knowing the state of the roads/access it's believed having the Jeep may be necessary!

So Monday we're off on what will be 100 mile drive to see if maybe we can find it.

We take Hwy 84 through small settlements, mostly one or two buildings along the road with several farms dispersed in the distance. As expected there is plenty to enjoy along the way.

It is very dry yet wildflowers flourish in some areas.

Autumn-colored vines catch my eye on this now closed cafe.

For a couple miles we're surrounded by these unique formations.
We lose Internet and our GPS for awhile, finding both again just before our turn east on Hwy 64. Having checked out the area on Google Earth, I know there are possible dirt roads that lead to our destination. Before long we're directed to make a right. A gate crosses the dirt road. Redirection takes us to another option where Bill opens the gate to let me pass, closing it behind us. 

Initially this road is looking passable for motorhomes (the ultimate goal is to see if the property could be an option for boondocking). When we find a large cleared space we're even more optimistic. 

This would work!

On the other side of the entrance road is this communication building. My mother called them "flying saucer repair stations" and they always give me a big smile when we come across one.
Unfortunately the GPS recalculates and directs us to continue down the road another two miles where we will then turn right. And the "good" road is no more. Deep ruts tell a story of a route that is likely impassable during and after any precipitation. To further confirm this is not a place for a motorhome, the road dead-ends at a shooting range with no right turn.

Not RV friendly :-(
Back to Hwy 64 and a couple more misses before we find what seems to be the "way in". A few rugged structures and trailers that most likely will never exit the area are scattered about, and several dirt roads of different widths and conditions crisscross around us. But alas we find what we're looking for!

Getting a closer look at this place we're glad the gate is locked.

We never really "need" the Jeep but I'm glad we have it.

"You have arrived at your destination."

They are small and there are very few of them, but Bill wants our friends to know they have a tree on their property!

The shrub is so thick that walking on the roads is much easier.

So we successfully complete our mission and while the location is peaceful with huge views all around, the goal of finding a place for boondocking in our motorhomes is a bust. 

We continue into Taos, checking out the interesting Earthship homes along Hwy 64. It's surprisingly busy in town with lots of road construction, and we just continue through without stopping. 

The "dots" are bottles. All seem to have at least a few in their walls.

All solar and wind powered.

Quirky is the norm.

Hwy 68 offers long views of the Rio Grande gorge. We crossed the bridge over it on Hwy 64 but there were a lot of people so we didn't stop to look (it's spectacular from the vehicle!). The highway drops down and we're hoping that maybe there will be water in the Rio Grande. Yes! And the prettiest scenery we've seen so far. All the roadside stops are open - parking lots and pit toilets. A couple people have stopped to fish, but mostly we have the space to ourselves just to enjoy the water.

We try to imagine the travel challenge this deep gorge presented to early tribes and pioneers.

Aspen glow along the hill above the river.

And along the water's edge.

So refreshing after all the dry terrain.

Green sampler.
One of my favorite resources for day trips and unusual points of interest is I especially love finding scenic drives. We've done most of those listed in the Santa Fe area with the exception of the nine mile route (NM-475) from downtown to Ski Santa Fe. Tuesday we head out to give it a look. Knowing that we're headed to a ski area it's not surprising that we start climbing quickly after leaving a beautiful residential area of high-dollar properties. 

The smoke continues to dull our skies and I'm not sure if we'll be able to appreciate the "scenic" of this drive. Maybe there will something else to enjoy besides the long views.


You know how when you first see pretty trees or flowers or rocks, and you start taking photos and then start noting places to stop on your way back to be sure you capture those glimpses you missed on the way up? The first few miles are just like that. Clusters of yellow aspen and cottonwood are beautiful along the road.

And then we come around one corner and the whole mountainside explodes with color! It's such a surprise that I can hardly take it all in. What a glorious sight!!

This is a winding mountain road, lots of wow!s around each turn. In the middle of the amazing fall color is a stop called, not surprisingly, Aspen View. Also not surprising is the number of people here. To see the views. Of Aspens. I hear several people say this is the "peak week". We really scored on this "maybe"!

Getting to walk among these golden beauties is a blessing. No need to stop at those "glimpse" spots on the way back, we've immersed ourselves in fall color!

Turns out we didn't miss those long views at all :-)

In addition to all the San Antonio recommendations we loved from (, Jim also told me about a tasty and unique eatery in Santa Fe. Neither of us have had it before, but maybe we'll like Venezuelan food at Santarepa Cafe. We love it!! With everyone masked and outdoor seating it's another lovely and safe experience. Thanks Jim and Diana for this perfect recommendation! 

Delicious food and warm, personal service.
I've wanted a ristra every time we've been to New Mexico but except for the tiny one I got in Hatch years ago I haven't had the space for a larger one. There are many places in Santa Fe to buy them and maybe I can find one with the tiny chilis I prefer. I find the last one at a small roadside vendor, and a sweet little metal goat for our cactus garden. I'll have to post pics of them next time. 

I did manage to capture this tray of chilis drying in the sun. Don't they just feel like New Mexico?

Our week in Santa Fe went by too fast and now we prepare for something new - returning to our house. It's admittedly a weird difference in our travels.

We'll make a couple stops, have a bit more vehicular drama, and return to Tombstone. In the next post.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Chocolates to Sunken Meadows - the Uniqueness of Santa Fe

 October 1-4, 2020
Santa Fe, New Mexico

So excited to do a post on our travels, I forgot one pretty spot we found on our way back from the VLA - I'm a little rusty with my blogging!!

No canyon, just the box.

A small parking lot, pit toilet and two trails into this pretty spot make up the Box.

A short dirt road with one boondocking spot facing this beautiful view, then a turn around 100 yards further up.

Back to this post....

Departure and 150 miles of freeway driving to Santa Fee are uneventful. A bit of wind reminds us we're in New Mexico, the continuing check engine light reminds us this is the RV life, billboards and lighted signage remind us there's a pandemic and masks are required.

Trailer Ranch RV Resort was my second choice with Santa Fe Skies RV Park being booked for most of October. I'm not looking forward to a park in the middle of town, but as soon as we pull into the small park with lovely large trees I'm impressed. A masked staff person greets us at the rig, confirms our reservation, provides a receipt and information packet, and leads me to our large back-in site. 

I'm happy to say we can still back in with one try, and the young couple across from us give me two thumbs up - I really like this place :-)

Per my request at reservation we have open skies for satellite but still enjoy the beauty and wind-break of all the old growth trees. The park WiFi doesn't work for us, but otherwise everything is perfect with easy access to 50 amp FHUs, level gravel for parking, concrete patio with nice picnic table, small shade tree, paved interior road, bus stop in front, and other than Cerrillos Road it's quiet. 

No one is ever in the trailer behind us, and only small rigs park on this side twice during our week's stay. 

No views, but perfect temps for being outside.

Anytime someone asks about things to do while in Santa Fe I always include the chocolatier in the little town of Madrid. I discovered it tucked back in a corner the first time we visited and always make sure to pick up a treat when we're here.

Sugarman's offers unique combinations, and I always forget to get pics of the pretty sheets of dark and white chocolate. This time I bring home French white chocolate (superior to our white chocolate by a lot) with graham cracker, dark chocolate with margarita salt, lime, hazelnut and green chili, and my favorite dark chocolate with candied ginger and hibiscus flower. 

From their Facebook page - always something special.
The Turquoise Trail is a designated scenic drive on NM-14, from Santa Fe to the Sandia Mountains. There are other stops along the way, but Madrid is the main destination. A cute artsy place with numerous shops, galleries and eateries, there are lots of masked visitors on this sunny Friday. In addition to the quick mandatory chocolate stop I pick up a couple items at a shop with no one else inside and we continue the pretty drive.

New Mexico and Louisiana are at the top of our list for best food in the country. One of the dishes we both love, and always eat when in Santa Fe, is stuffed sopapillas. While sopapillas are offered all over the state we've only found the savory ones stuffed with meat, cheese and beans in a few places. The very best are at Cafe Castro, so we try our first inside restaurant meal. Again, all staff are masked, everyone required to wear them when up from table, hand sanitizer before entry, and here they take your temperature at the front door. Only half the tables remain and we tuck into a corner away from anyone. As always we love every bite. And we return on our last day to eat the same thing on their patio :-)

Keeping New Mexico at the top of the list!

One place we missed last time is the country's newest (2000) national preserve, Valles Caldera National Preserve

We were hopeful that the hazy skies in San Antonio last week were from dust, but here it's clearly (?) smoke from the fires still burning to the west. A pretty drive through trees and rock, sadly the expected turquoise skies are dull and the distant mountains difficult to see.

Climbing into the Jimenez Mountains we begin to see signs of Fall along the highway. This route takes us through a corner of Los Alamos so a quick stop at the security kiosk is required. It's always seemed so weird to me that residents of this town pass through security every time they leave/return home. Now that we're living in a border town we also have to stop every time we leave town and it's already just part of our life. You just never know :-)

What a treat!

Pretty color among fire scarred mountainsides.

I know I've said "We didn't know what to expect and this was such a great surprise!" multiple times, and the caldera is another of those times. The smoke mutes the experience, but the vastness of this geological wonder is still impressive. A small Elk herd is visible in the distance, and visitors are parked along the highway with scopes and big cameras, and picnic lunches. The caldera itself is the big draw for us though!

Around 1.25 million years ago a large magma "bubble" of gas and ash collapsed creating this 89 acre caldera. It's huge!

A dirt road into the basin is open, crossing golden grasses and a small river. 

The small parking lot is half full and masked Rangers talk with masked tourists. Empty corrals and clean pit toilets sit beside the small, closed visitor center.

We take the Highway 4 loop back through pretty canyons.

Glowing Aspens peek out from the surrounding forest.

I love coming home to the rig. Being able to visit these wonderful places, come back to cook in my own kitchen, and sleep in our own bed - it's the best!!

We still have a few more days here with more to see and do.