On Tuesday night we drove into New Mexico in the middle of a heavy storm. After a night in a motel we headed out for a full day of sight-seeing. We over-estimated what we could actually do in the day. It’s easy to pick out all the places you want to stop when you’re looking at a map but it doesn’t always work out that way when you’re on the road.
We thought we had planned a reasonable amount of driving to see Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandalier National Monument. After all, they are right next to each other. But as it turned out we barely got out of the car–certainly not to do any exploring of either of these parks.We began our drive by crossing the Continental Divide not far east of Gallup. The terrain is quite different than where we crossed the Divide last year in Yellowstone but spectacular in it’s own way.
We drove Hwy. 40 on the way to Albuquerque and I took photos out the window.
From the drive through Mojave National Preserve on Sunday to Wednesday (when I’m writing this post) I have been using my iPhone to look up information about towns we are passing. A continuing theme is the significance of the railroad in the history of the west and the rise (and fall) of many of the towns. We saw plenty of trains during this drive, starting with the grade in the Tehachapi’s in California.
About ten miles from Albuquerque we turned north to drive a scenic loop which would take us to Valles Caldera and Bandalier. We stopped along Jemez River at a sign for Soda Dam. This dam was formed over centuries by deposits of calcium carbonate and is still forming as the river runs under it. It is 300 feet long, 50 feet high, and 50 feet wide at the base. The river was flowing fast.
The drive continued to Valles Caldera National Preserve. I had read that this is a Preserve formed by volcanic activity and I had expected to see lava and cinder cone types of landscape as we have seen in other parks. I had no idea that we were going to see a gorgeous grassland. This is some of the most spectacular country I have seen. We stood over this caldera in awe and the photos certainly don’t do it justice.According to the sign we were standing on the rim of a collapsed super-volcano, 12 miles in diameter and magma is only 5 miles beneath.
Here we faced a dilemma. We had just arrived and what a beautiful place to explore, but it was already mid-afternoon. We had another park to see, a potential errand in Santa Fe, and, as Dan reminded me, our real goal of this trip was to get to Texas by Thursday. So we passed up this beautiful spot and drove on.
We saw a sign at the Bandelier National Monument that entrance was by shuttle only and the shuttle was caught at another location. At that point we knew that we had hopelessly overestimated what we could do in a day and decided to just head for Santa Fe.
I had a thought that maybe I could find some “locally produced wool” in Santa Fe, a city with the reputation for being an art and fiber mecca. Maybe that would have worked had I known ahead of time that I was going to be there and had done some research and planning. But this last minute attempt was an exercise in frustration. Googling “local wool in Santa Fe” got me a yarn store/coffee shop combo but all they had was some alpaca yarn from a local source–not what I was looking for. I tried again and found a woman who does sell fiber from her farm but with all the recent rain she not only hadn’t shorn yet, but her road was impassable. Lesson learned. If I had planned ahead maybe I could have managed some local wool, but not at the spur of the moment. I have been on the other end of this–people calling me to say that they are in the area and would like to shop and am I home? I also thought of my friend Stephany (and her wool-related blog) who started on a journey that led her from a San Francisco tech job to shearing sheep and to Farm Club all because she was trying to find local wool in the Bay Area.
Wow! That was a digression. My frustration about overestimating our ability to see what we wanted to and then failing at the simple task in Santa Fe was on top of needing to eat because we hadn’t taken time to dig out the ice chest. I felt a melt-down coming on. Then I had an emergency call from friends who were helping take care of sheep. Wait until you read about that one in the next blog. That crisis was solved (by multiple phone calls and texts) and we made peanut butter sandwiches. All was better and Dan and I drove on heading south for Roswell, New Mexico.We had been lucky with the weather the whole day. Other than the previous night we hadn’t been rained on. But we could watch the weather while we were driving. There is lots of flat landscape on the drive through central New Mexico, but I am just glad to see that there is so much unpopulated land in our fabulous country. The tune “wide open spaces” continued to run through my head (as did “standing on the corner…” from yesterday).Another train view but this is a train made up of a dozen engines. We saw this the previous day also. Mulitple engines are used to pull (and push?) trains up the long grades and I guess they send those engines back to be ready for the next train. Many hours of driving later and about dusk we got to Roswell,
infamous for it’s UFO reputation.