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Epic Road Trip #11: Jimez Mountains

For full disclosure I have left the Jimez and moved on to Chaco Canyon, one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. I’m on a back country hike and I’ve settled in some shade under an overhang/shallow cave and I am going to wait out some of the heat.

At the end of my last post I was camping in the Santa Fe National Forest trying to hike this elusive Civil War Trail. I ultimately found it and it was closed on a Saturday. I have never known a trail to keep banker’s hours or worked so hard to do something I wasn’t that excited about. Google maps took me to another trail which was not open for the public and I drove to the Jimez a day easier then I’d planned.

You have to pass through Los Alamos which was weird having a military checkpoint but I ended up spending enough time in the area it just became life. They have great dispersed camping in the greater Bandelier National Monument.

I spent a day at Bandelier proper which is very cool. Long house ruins and cliff dwellings. Lots of tourists but I’ve been isolated enough to find them all charming.

I took a long drive to the second site. It had a nice unimproved trail and there were cliff dwellings and some petroglyphs. It was an interesting climb up the Mesa and didn’t see too many people.

I did enjoy the prairie dogs and saw some elk. There is a stand of old growth Ponderosa pine but it’s a manicured stand and didn’t feel like a forest. I climbed one of the hills and there were a lot of wildflowers especially wild irises which I’ve seen a lot of on this trip.

I went back to camp and the next morning I went to Valles Caldera at my friend Rodger’s suggestion. It’s a beautiful valley surrounded by the hills of the long extinct volcano that formed it. It’s a fairly new National Park (2015) and feels more like a cattle ranch (which it still is by statute, when there’s not a drought) then a National Park.

I hiked a short nature trail and drove down to Los Alamos for a vegetable rice bowl which was cheap and excellent (Tiger Bowl). I did the Los Alamos walking tour and learned about life during the making of the first Atomic bomb. There are a few original buildings, some settler stuff and some ancestral Pueblo ruins; all right downtown.

I meditated at the Unitarian church and grabbed a Gatorade out of their Gaia Box. It was raining so I went to Starbucks and enjoyed a coffee and some WiFi and it was well worth three dollars and a poor nights sleep.

It was still raining a bit and their was a nice rainbow which I took as God’s promise he wouldn’t destroy us with atomic bombs. I picked up a quart of oil and made the clerk go look at the rainbow. She was glad she did.

After another night at my usual spot I drove down through Santa Fe and south to La Cinguella Petroglyphs. It’s on BLM land and it’s pre-columbian and a huge collection. I scrambled over the rocks awestruck for 5 hours before I was done in and didn’t see them all.

I got some great Guatemalan food down the road. A steak with a chili sauce and all the fixings. Then I went to REI and got a new pair of Chacos. My old pair were hanging together by a thread as I’d had them for more then a decade of hard wear. Coincidentally I broke the new pair in at Chaco Canyon. Having some tread is amazing.

Speaking of those Chacos. I’ve forgotten how unpleasant the afternoon heat is and I’m getting stuff setting here so I will get back to the adventure and catch you up later. I’ll have to climb a bluff to get a signal tomorrow so maybe I’ll have time to catch the narrative up to the present before then.

I got hot and tired at Chaco and got a hotel room. Going to Aztek today and camping in Bizi badlands tonight.

Epic Road Trip #10: Petroglyphs and ruins

Petroglyph Rock was impressive. I hiked 2 1/2 miles down a jeep trail to get to the trailhead. I got on the wrong trail and spent a couple more miles following false paths. I did a thorough search of the parking area and found the trailhead clearly marked and a short hike to Petroglyph Rock.

It’s a paleolithic artifact 8-10,000 years old. Very nice piece. I found one other petroglyph on another rock after a pretty exhaustive search. I hiked most of the trail twice but it’s really just a connector to a nearby campground and some exposure to the ecosystem which I’d already done on my misadventures on the Rio Bonito.

I did see what I assume is a horny toad. If anyone knows more, please chime in. I then drove over to Fort Stanton and checked that out. It was a fort built for the Indian wars and had some parts of it burned by Confederate sympathizers. It then was used to ensure the Mescalero Apache stayed on the reservation.

It was the best built of the western forts and in spite of being a tool of genocide was quite beautiful. There were lots of intact buildings from the late 19th century. It got a new lease on life as a CCC project and German sailors were interned there as well as some Japanese Americans during WW II.

It got its final makeover as a hospital for turbuculosis patients. The climate is really sweet and they added some buildings and upgraded almost everything. When we got better treatments then hanging out in the desert it was closed and is a historic site. It seems really underutilized and would make an awesome resort.

I camped in the next canyon over on some BLM land. It’d been a pretty full day. The next morning I started driving north towards my next historical site. A tip from Ray who I had met at Bridal Veil Falls and a historic sign map gave me my next 3 stops.

After breakfast, at the Smoky Bear Cafe where I finally got one of those Mexican breakfasts with beans and tortillas (It was in the area where he was rescued from a fire, I skipped his park because they wanted $2.00), I went to White Oaks a former ghost town which is now about half occupied.

I stopped by the graveyard it being Memorial Day and paid my respects to a deputy gunned down by Billy the Kid. They also have a little historical museum you let yourself in with little dioramas of settler life.

I then drove down to Valley of Fires, which was really cool. It’s a 4-5,000 year old lava flow and had a cool interpretive trail. A thunderstorm blew in with some serious hail and I got soaked in the second wave.

I then drove out to Three Rivers Petroglyph National Conservation Area. I was going to camp in the nearby National Forest and explore it the next day but the road was closed because of flooding from the storm. Even a quarter inch of rain can flood some arryos I learned and we got much more than that. I did some serious backtracking to find camping in the National Forest but the site was beautiful.

I drove out to Three Rivers the next morning and wow, just wow. It’s the largest collection of petroglyphs that is publicly accessible. There were so many I spent the day there hiking and taking pictures and meditating.

I then made a serious drive and got my second hotel room in Santa Fe. Again out the door for $43 and wifi problems on one of my devices. Today I got up and poked around downtown some but was scared off by the price of parking. I went to the National Cemetery and then further up north to the Pecos Pueblo ruins.

It was pretty cool. It’s an archeological site where this dude figured out layering and dating sites by pottery. The Pueblo folks sent Coronado on a wild goose chase to Kansas figuring he’d get weakened or killed on the plains looking for cities of gold. It worked but they got conquered by the Spanish anyway.

They had a revolt and destroyed the church and had 12 years of freedom but the Spanish won out who became the Mexicans who got pushed out by the Americans. The Pecos Pueblo traders dwindled until the remnant joined a nearby pueblo.

There were some reconstructions and foundations. The second church ruins were built in a smaller footprint then the first one. There is a kiva in the church which there’s only a couple of those. I did my meditation down in it which was cool.

The park closes at 5:30 so I didn’t get to do the Civil War hike. Texan militia tried to conquer the area to open up Colorado gold fields and Californian access to the Pacific but got their asses handed to them by Colorado and New Mexican militia.

That’ll be tomorrow’s hike. Now I’m at a great dispersed site in Dalton’s Canyon in the Santa Fe National Forest. I’ve got some split peas cooking on a fire for a late dinner. Didn’t expect to get to make a fire out here but all this rain has been a Godsend for droughtland. My peas are old and are taking forever which has allowed me to get this written.

Rest well faithful reader. I’ll get this posted tomorrow and hopefully have enough signal for petroglyph pictures.

I forgot to post this yesterday when I went into Pecos for coffee and was looking for the Civil War trail. I couldn’t find the trail and drove up into the mountains and hiked a trail. They wanted $8.00 for a day use pass so I just hiked the one and relaxed at camp (in the evening drizzle again).

I decided to take a slow day today and push on to Bandelier tomorrow. I found the trail in Google maps I couldn’t find yesterday so I’m going to hike that. Been reading Leaves of Grass, the deathbed edition; a book on the Apostles and studying Book 4. Good stuff for a deep dive both into America and myself.

long week

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Wow what a week. I have been on the go in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined was possible. I have made pervasive changes to my life and moved into a, if not frenetic, a one thing after another from rise until bed kind of being. I have certainly been this way before but not for a long time. Feels good in some ways, put a pep in my step, but had a hard hard week at work and its left me a little rung out.

I’m tired, which is good. When you don’t sleep and your not tired, that way madness lays. Fido misses me. He was acting out, chewing leaves off the kiefer lime tree. Yesterday I walked him to the dog park and spent a fair amount of time there for a cold day. There were the regulars and I am getting much better at introducing myself to strangers and chatting people up. People like to be listened to and everyone has ideas about how things ought to be better.

Chris, a guy with a Great Pyrenees named Harry (he had another Chester but he passed on recently) had tried to walk an older lady down the side of the ravine but she couldn’t hop across the icy rocks to get across Bear Creek. I asked if he was heading back that way if I could walk with him always wondering if there was a back way in. Gave us a good chance to talk and he told me about the history of the park. It used to be all an off leash areas. The city at one time wanted to fill in all the wetlands and put in soccer fields but the neighbors organized and stopped it. But eventually they rounded the dogs up into a smallish fenced in area. Probably good for the water fowl and such but we could use more space and some solar lights perhaps.

The trail was pretty cool, snakes through the woods leaving the dog park following the creek. The river crossing was a little hairy with one rock completely covered in ice so a little leap was involved. Probably wear my water proof shoes next time and I won’t be so nervous. When John and I were kids we would go down to “the creek” [actually a drainage ditch to my adult eyes, memory is a funny thing, or maybe kids just see better] and play on the ice. We often stayed until one of us broke through and we got “a soaker” and we would have to wrap it up. It was always a cold walk back to the house with one or two wet shoes in the winter. Now there’s goretex.

This morning I went to a legislative update with 3 state reps. I introduced myself to Chris Kelly who is my favorite Missouri politician. He was a judge and I was in his court a number of time with clients and he was always funny and fair. He used to be in the state legislature and when term limits devastated wiped out the population of experienced legislature he came out of retirement to show the kids how to pass law. He’s a democrat in a state with a Republican super-majority and he still got a committee chair. He’s the master of the political compromise. They just passed a cap on spending bill so that if revenues go up again the extra goes into rainy day and school funds so we get out of this boom or bust cycle. He got some nice concessions from the Republicans and was the only Democrat to support it. He’s that kind of guy.

In his speech he railed against the Governator (Nixon of all people, Missouri’s funny) for his 12% cut to higher ed this year even though Nixon’s a Democrat. He praised the Republicans in charge and then raised the question why he’s not a Republican. Then he said “the crazy train” is leaving the station and they will pass laws about prayer, guns and bullets even though no one is threatening those so they can hide the fact they’re selling out the state to big corporations. None of the Republicans countered it. It was amusing.

I also introduced myself to Joe Bechtold of “Truck Stop Missouri”. I told him I was a fan before he had a reality show and told him about Dad being a truck driver and we would visit there and sometimes stay in his hotel, go the restaurant and bar and make a weekend of it. He seemed touched even though he carries himself like a bit of a rock star.

After work I went out for a happy hour at Ragtag with Trevor and an improbable assemblage of former Peace Corps Zambia folks (five, would have been six if Lisa wasn’t baby sitting). I had a Schlafely barley wine which was really good. Since I probably only slept a couple hours last night I was spun on a glass. We had good conversation and I chatted some people up. Got word on a possible housemate. An artist and hipster gal I think highly of. Might to a full or partial labor swap and see if I can advance some projects. Might not, you never know and Fido and I are pretty content.

Well Fido’s not. He just pulled the squeaky out of his cheap ass donkey I got him for Christmas. Its been leaking stuffing all week. Gonna have to take him toy shopping soon. I have had two offers to hang out with him. I should brush him. I have a photo shoot tomorrow and I am going to take him to see if he will play with the photographer’s Newfoundland puppy. Maybe he’ll get his picture taken.