Drum roll! Cymbals clash! Crowds cheering wildly! The Cibola, Santa Fe, and Carson National Forest are done! Which means the Southwest Region finished and we have moved on to Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Region!
You may have noticed in the last "Wanderings" we had not had our socks-knocked-off thus far by New Mexico. The people were nice and the Forests well managed and attractive but there wasn't anything really spectacular. We wondered, after 80-plus forest, we had become a bit jaded. Those concerns evaporated with the Santa Fe and Carson forests.
While doing the Santa Fe, we discovered a little campground called Jacks Creek. The center of the campground is an alpine meadow with huge patches of iris (Suzi called them "flags") in various shades of purple. The two dozen or so campsites that encircle the meadow back up on the tree line. While there are some dark, dusty green spruce, towering aspens dominate. Their lime-green springtime foliage quivering in the soft breeze little a puppy all excited to have you home. Beyond, the snowcapped Pecos Wilderness towers magnificently above it all. Awesome!
Next we traveled to an area called "Jemez." It is a huge area that was, up to about 100,000 years ago, a collection of very active volcanos. Today, only the hot springs and the geology give any indication of the area's explosive history. We stayed in a little town (this place was so small it didn't even have a gas station but there was a bar) called Ponderosa. (Not much of
a town but did have a very good winery.) From there, to reach the Forest Service campgrounds we followed the Jemez River up the Jemez Canyon. The road starts out beside red rock cliffs formed by an ancient sea but soon the texture of the cliffs changes and than the colors of the strata also change. The cliffs are layers of clay red, burnt red, white, a mauve pink, carmel brown, steel grey, and all is topped with a New England stonewall formation. Reading the layers tells us the area has been covered by seas and a lake, experiences four major volcanic events, and than uplifted to it present elevation. Further up the area's history is hidden beneath hills left when the volcano collapsed forming an enormous basin at its center. The roadcuts show hills of white ash and nodules of obsidian (black lava glass) in various sizes. It is said pieces of the Jemez ancient volcanos can be found as far away as Canada and cow-size chunks have been identified in Kansas and Missouri! The area is far more peaceful now.
From Ponderosa we traveled northeast to an even smaller town called Abiquiu and into land painted by Georgia O'Keefe. Unfortunately, we took a flu bug with us and spent three with one or the other of us horizontal and very near the bathroom. Our travels and the vastness of this country have given us a huge appreciation for the early settlers. And our illness enhances that appreciation. Imagine, if you can, we were stuck halfway between nowhere and nothing, not a house in sight, nor a doctor/hospital/clinic for tens of miles, running a fever, unable to seat up, and NO chicken soup! Sounds pretty grim and we had the conveniences of the 20th century! We were very lucky not to be sick at the same time and thankful healthy enough to bounce back quickly.
But back to the land - it was so incredibly vast, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. It is said O'Keefe's work has an erotic sense to it, and that may seem correct for those who haven't seen the actual sights she painted. There is a gentleness to the topography and the way land lays out before you. However, there is a rugged strength here, too. It is understandable that
O'Keefe would put feminine curves into her work and why the Pueblo people accepted the image of the Virgin Mary more readily than any male images. But we found it a little sad to see artists lined up along the roadside trying to duplicate O'Keefe and to realize how little the land's character she was able to capture.
From Abiquiu we headed for Taos and a misadventure. The town of Taos is a small town (only slightly larger than Bisbee) with the Taos Valley, bisected by the Rio Grande Gorge, on one side and the towering, snowcapped Sangre Cristo Mountains on the other. Most of the homes were square box-like things made of adobe mud and had bright colored flower filling window boxes, clay pots and flower beds. Nearby is the multi-story Taos Pueblo. It was a well-established community long before the Spanish came to the area. Because of it unique structure and long history, the Pueblo is a popular attraction for folks from all over the world. We meet a couple from Germany in the parking lot. Unfortunately it was to fill out an accident report. The couple had rented a Class C Recreational Vehicle in Denver and were still learning how to maneuver it when they clipped Kermit on the nose forcing us to spending a couple of extra days in Taos. The actual damage was a crunched front fender and busted headlights on the passenger's side (which were available from the dealer's Denver
distributor) so we were, once again, very lucky.
From Taos, we entered Colorado and began the Rocky Mountain Region with Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests. We can't say there are many differences but it doesn't "feel" like New Mexico. For you see there are more tall mountains, a lot more green, and mosquitoes in Colorado. And traffic! Although most of you would not consider what we are experiencing "traffic," after weeks were more than ten cars an hour is considered "heavy," this at-least-a-car-every-minute is disconcerting. One
thing both states have in common is a large number of Texas car plates. In New Mexico, we were told Texas considers New Mexico simply the eastern portion of its state. In Colorado, we are told "Texas comes here to get out of the heat." Whatever the reason, there are a lot of them and they all drive like "bats-out-of-hell." The reason, "we have to cover long distances." Maybe but . . . We have been to many places were long distances needed to be travel but they were down relatively community-free, straight roads. Around here one is constantly driving around a
mountain, along a river, and through a community. Another thing that strikes us as rather weird about this part of the country - they don't sell wine in grocery stores but do sell beer in gas stations. Well, we have met people who thought we were strange for what we are doing, so who are we to say what is or isn't weird.
Well, as usually we have had to leave a lot out so the sake of space. We'll tell you all about those missing adventures when we see you. We are look forward to a 4th of July in Durango, CO, a visit to Mesa Verde, a day, maybe two, with Fred's cousin Karla, and completing the San Juan, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Rio Grande national forests. Sounds like a busy month, doesn't it? All things considered, we were very fortunate thus far - we have been relatively healthy the whole time on the road and Kermit has been wonderfully trouble free. Here's hoping all our major misadventures are behind us and your summer is as much fun as ours.
Suzi and Fred