T013 New Mexico

by

City of Rocks State Park

Entrance view Look carefully there an RV camped in the rocks Exploring the streets

The road in certainly wasn’t appealing, but there was state park at the end. Then out in the middle gently rolling desert terrain the skyline began to bump with the tops of huge boulders clustered together like skyscrapers in a city. We could see why the park was named City of Rocks. Once we had the Trek set up we went off exploring just as we do when we first visit a downtown area of a new city. The boulders stood separate, with narrow street-like mazes between for exploring. We wandered the interior and then walked the perimeter of the silent rock city in falling twilight.

The road through the White Sands Missile Range remained was open but a huge sign warned that it would be closed during a missile test. We continued on wondering what we might have seen, or heard had we been stopped for a test. Instead we proceeded without incident to White Sands National Monument and incredible whiteness.
White Sands

View of the picnic area Lunch in the shade

The road into the heart of White Sands is plowed absolutely white sand, blinding white sand contrasted against a bright blue cloudless sky. Opening the door to step out we stepped carefully as our northern trained minds looked at the white and kept saying—ice. The sand crunched like very cold snow, but there the resemblance ended; it was white sand on a warm day. We stayed for lunch appreciating in February the shade from the picnic shelters and wondered what it would feel like to be out in this desert whiteness in the middle of a hot summer day.
Pistachio orchard

It seemed odd to see a pistachio orchard out in the middle of the desert. We hadn’t though much about how pistachios were grown. The irrigated orchard was interesting; the gift shop with many different seasoned pistachios to sample was tasty and sucked us into leaving with a purchase or two.
BLM and Valley of Fire State Park

Petroglyphs along trail Lava outcropping Looking up toward
Trek over lava field

A stop at one Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site introduced us to the solitary camp host who winters there each year. He filled us in about the trail and petroglyphs, and we got needed exercise as we walked the trail among the hundreds of petroglyphs scratched into the desert varnish coated rocks in the area. Later in another BLM site that is also the Valley of Fire State Park we walked the trail through a lava field created not from a volcano, but rather from a vent forty miles distant that had opened and filled the valley with lava.
Bosque del Apache

Morning waders Landing approach Evening crowd

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is for the birds and for those who love to see and watch birds. We set up in the RV park nearby and went back for a serious bird fix. No hours of staring through binoculars at empty branches searching for the bird that just flew away, or is invisible because of leaves here. Wanting to see a snow goose, we could pick from thousands. Ducks are everywhere. At dusk flights of sand hill cranes lowering landing gear legs buzz by close overhead worried more about finding a landing spot in the crowded pond ahead rather than the land locked humans directly below. Then at the last moment, heads come up, wings move to the stall position and amidst much calling and last second landing adjustments another flight of sand hills somehow squeeze into tight landing spaces between earlier arrivers.
VLA Radio Telescope

Postcard picture One of 27
antennas Antennae spread
out on desert

A long drive into nothingness took us to the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope. The 27 moveable antennae were spread in their maximum 20-mile diameter arrangement. Three railroad tracks used to relocate the antennae radiate out in a Y formation from the control room at the center. Standing near the control room a few of the huge parabolic antennae were visible, the rest were out of sight over the horizon. Had we been a few weeks earlier we’d seen first hand the post card view of all 27 antennas closely grouped at the center of the Y recording radio waves from space. We loved seeing the structures but wondered if I’d stayed with electrical engineering I might have been one of the designers of a push-the-limits of technology project like the VLA.
New Mexico travels

Albuquerque traffic stopped. People got out of their cars and began talking with one another. When we saw the helicopters we realized what was happening and couldn’t believe it. Not only has Bush frustrated us with his policies, but also now he personally screwed up our travels. He’d flown into town to give a speech just as we’d arrived to shop. A couple of hours later his motorcade gridlocked us again as he headed for the airport just as we were heading out of town.

Concerns about snow and cold postponed our decision to visit Santa Fe until the last minute. The attraction was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum with its vast collection of her paintings. We’d also heard about Santa Fe’s reputation for southwest style architecture and art in general and looked forward to exploring for a few days.
Santa Fe Bus Stop

Dragon for sale Unique bus stop

The uniqueness began at the bus stop outside the RV park. A display of large whimsical welded figures for sale caught our attention as we waited for the bus. The bus stop, a distinctive study in poured concrete appealed to the eye. Bus service was inexpensive, and efficient letting us get all over town.

At the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum the docent explained the museum had closed the evening before for an exhibit change and would not reopen for a week. Ruth was crushed at the news. The museum was one of her “must do” items on her list of things to see in the West. I pointed out that we could risk the weather and stay a week for the reopening.
Santa Fe Downtown

Street view Courtyard gate Museum piece

With that decision we went off to explore Santa Fe’s uniqueness. Downtown is a study in adobe styled buildings colored in reds and browns reflecting the surrounding desert sands. Museums and art galleries predominate and enticed us to wander in and out enjoying their unique offerings.
Folk Art Museum

Museum hill Folk art diorama Detail of displays

Days flew by. Images and impressions rushed passed as we poked around Santa Fe and developed a fondness for the surprising small town. A bus ride took us uphill to the museum featuring unique colorful, complex and expressive folk art dioramas that became our favorites.
Canyon Road

Home along road Had lunch here Sculpture is for sale

We started at the uphill end of Canyon Road. From there we strolled down the narrow street past a unique concentration of galleries, restaurants, and homes all adobe styled. For such a small town Santa Fe excels in art.

The convenience of city living with shopping within walking distance got to us. The Trek now has its own wireless system allowing my new laptop to talk to Ruth’s latest step into the computer world. What was our old laptop is now Ruth’s laptop where her maturing eyes find it easier than her PDA to see solitaire card faces. It’s also makes it easier for her to do e-mail and finances. With the two laptops talking to each other keeping critical information backed up is quite easy and no we don’t e-mail or instant message each other.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Red Poppy Red Canna Purple Hills Ghost Ranch Chama River

Opening day found us back at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. What a treat to spend a leisurely morning enjoying her works of art. We’d take a break by stopping to listen a bit to the tour guide describing some of the paintings and Georgia O’Keeffe’s life and then wander off to enjoy her paintings again. Photography in the museum is not allowed. The pictures in the journal are copies from a catalogue we purchased.

The thermometer registered 9 degrees–a record low for us on the Trek. Our utility bay heater had kept the pipes from freezing, but we’d seen enough of Santa Fe for now, and it was time to move on. Shortly after dawn we were again on the road.

Stories of strange encounters, secret, restricted government bases, alien landings and other odd stores circulate about Roswell. Somehow I thought Roswell was just a wide spot in the road with a few dusty tourist traps. Instead we drove through a bustling city with a totally out of place looking storefront museum in the heart of the downtown area.
Brantley Lake State Park

Morning view from Trek Moonset at sunrise Ruth, Rita and Jim check out the Trek’s lowering bed Carlsbad Cavern Carlsbad Cavern

We added Carlsbad to the list of unique places we’ve met up with Jim and Rita over the years. This was the first time we’ve met when we were both traveling by RV. Adjacent state park sites made it easy to move between rigs as we swapped notes about our respective travels. A day trip took us to the Caverns and a self guided tour of the cave’s unique features. Then like passing ships, Jim and Rita headed north and west while we headed south to Texas.

That’s all for now,

Don and Ruth

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