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Epic Road Trip #12

June 12, 2021 1 comment

So after buying shoes I drove back up into the Jemez and went west on 4. I stopped at a hot springs which was more of a warm springs but was beautiful and after a hot and sweaty day, much appreciated.

I found another dispersed camping site and was able to get back more into the woods, just in time for the sunset. I cooked dinner in the dark which turned out to be a critical error. I use zip stove and left it out to cool and broke it putting it away when I packed up in the morning.

I drove down to Battleship Rock, which is an impressive formation. It’s really a pinnacle as the Jemez Creek horseshoes around it. I hiked 6 miles over tough terrain trying to follow a path to a hot springs. There were so many informal paths I ultimately realized my knees were shot and I needed to head back while I still could. I met some hikers who said most who tried couldn’t find it and one was making her third attempt and wasn’t optimistic.

I caught a burger in Jemez Springs and drove out of the mountains. I stopped at the Pueblo Cultural Center and checked out their museum and picked up some trifles for the folks at home taking care of my house and dog. I also got a Zia ginger ale, it’s nice to see regional sodas making a comeback and it’s spicy and delicious.

There was no closer free camping to Chaco then where I’d stayed last night so I drove out there and steeled myself to pay to camp if they had any sites left. They didn’t, so I did some sunset hikes and boondocked off the first turnoff from the rough gravel road you take to get there. My first time this trip and it was nice. Peaceful with lots of stars. I did realize I’d made 2 critical mistakes in the morning and had left my hygiene/med bag on the roof of the van when I stopped for my morning constitutional.

I went to the visitors center and met a local Navaho getting water. We talked about living without running water which I had done for a few months squatting a cabin outside of Columbia. He was sanguine about it and filled enough barrels to water his plants.

I hiked some of the main sites when they opened and took a long hike in the back country to see isolated ruins, petroglyphs and some rare pictographs. It was all told about 15 miles mostly over loose sand and I was whooped. Killing time in the shade until I could boondock again didn’t seem appealing so I drove to Fairfield and got a Subway salad and a hotel room.

I went to Aztec which is a cool ruin, right in town with a reconstructed kiva. It was a great spot to grab some meditation time. I’d planned to head west into Arizona but threading the needle between fires didn’t seem appealing and I was so close to Mesa Verde I decided to head north into Colorado.

I stopped in Cortez and got some sage advice at the Colorado Welcome Center as well as maps and guides. I did a nice hike at a nature preserve and saw some pueblo ruins and got my steps in. There is nice dispersed camping on BLM land right outside of the entrance to Mesa Verde where I’ve spent the last 2 nights.

Mesa Verde is very cool but the one large cave dwelling you can go in without a reserved ranger led hike was closed because of a landslide. I did have a great 5 mile hike with Shannon, another epic Road tripper on her way back to the Northeast. We both talked up a blue streak and it was nice to connect with a kindred spirit.

I did the petroglyph hike which was a tough hike in the heat and coming after a lot of miles and had close to 15 miles in again. It was only one panel but it was a nice one.

This morning I drove into Dolores for breakfast. I’m going to the Anasazi (note that word is a slur and ancestral Pueblo is the preferred term) Museum and then tour the Valley of the Ancients sites. There is BLM dispersed camping on the far side of the circle and I may take 2 days.

After that I have decided to explore Colorado and stay out of the southeast heat wave. I’m going to go to Durango and then north up the valley and spend a couple of days at my friend’s hotel. Then I am going to go West on 70 more or less and work my way to Bay Area and then south down the coast to San Diego before turning towards home. I’m 7 or so weeks in and am a little past the halfway point time wise. It’s been truly epic and I feel blessed to have made it this far and seen so incredibly much.

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.