More Santa Fe

April 14 – 20

Our Sante Fe touring continues with the historic downtown, waterfalls, mountains and, of course, eating out.  This time we have our pals in town to make it more memorable.

Old Town Santa Fe

I visited a few of these places before with my good friend Wendy, but they were definitely worth seeing again with Pat.  There’s no shortage of historic churches in the Southwest, and we’re on a mission to see as many as possible.


First up, the Loretto Chapel, home of The Miraculous Staircase with a simply gorgeous altar.  This chapel dates from the 1870’s and was built for the Sisters of Loretto.


The story of the staircase goes like this, according to the chapel brochure.  “…the Chapel had a design flaw: there was no way to get to the choir loft from the chapel!  Many carpenters were called in for advice, but all came up with the same answer…..It was a question of using a ladder or rebuilding the balcony.  Seeking divine guidance, the Sisters made a Novena to their patron saint, Saint Joseph the Carpenter.  As legend has it, on the ninth and final day, a mysterious carpenter arrived to design and construct a circular staircase to the choir loft.  The tools on his donkey were just a saw, carpenter’s square, a hammer and tubs in which to soak the wood.  His ‘miraculous staircase’ contains 33 steps in two full 360-degree turns.  Their staircase has no center support, nor is it held from its sides.  When the staircase was complete, the carpenter disappeared without seeking payment.”  Amazing to think this structure essentially holds itself together with no nails.  Oh, and the railing was added later since the Sisters found it scary to climb without one.

Next we walked over to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.


There’s Pat walking right over and using the crosswalk, too.


The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is one of my favorites.


The cathedral was constructed of locally quarried rock beginning in 1869.  This chapel is the only remaining part of the original adobe church dating back to 1714.  The statue of the Blessed Virgin in the altar panel is the oldest one of Mary in the U.S.



Signs of Spring outside in the prayer garden.  I almost caught this lovely bird on one of the statues, but the church bells started chiming the hour and scared him away.

Hardly a bad day for stained glass in this town with the seemingly perpetual sunshine.  Favorite windows from the Loretto Chapel and cathedral.

Nambé Falls

There’s really a waterfall near here?  Seemed hard to believe given the extreme dry conditions.  We needed a hike, so we drove 20 minutes or so north to Nambé Falls to see for ourselves.


Not the most impressive waterfall we’ve ever seen, but there was indeed water cascading over rocks.  Practically a miracle in this desert area.

The sound of flowing water was music to ours ears though, and the views of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains weren’t bad either.

Atalaya Mountain

Let’s talk about a “real” hike shall we?  I read about a trail that offered “absolutely gorgeous” views at the top of Atalaya Mountain, at an elevation of 9,121 feet.  Supposedly 4.5 miles and rated as a moderate trail.  Sure, we can do this I say.  It’ll be fun, I say.  Well it was fun, but turned out to be 7.5 miles from where we parked (oops), with an elevation change of more than 1700 feet.  That means steep switchbacks on the way up that feel suspiciously like climbing and toes mashing in the front of your boots as your try to break your fall on the way down.


Yes, it was gorgeous at the top with a view of Santa Fe waaay down in the distance.

We took a little time to rest at the top and enjoy the view.  I’ve since read reviews of this trail with the true distance from St. John’s College where we started and rated as difficult.  That made us feel better since it sure seemed longer and harder than advertised and took us four hours.  Good cardio day.

Tent Rocks – Take 2

Our friends Lisa & Al from Florida did indeed join us for part of this week and they agreed that Tent Rocks looked like a good place for a hike.  About 30 miles south of Santa Fe, but so worth the drive back.  It’s one of my favorite spots for this whole area, so was happy to re-trace our steps here.


I think our friends were equally amazed at the surroundings here.  Lisa & Al posing for me in the slot canyon.


We got there early enough to make it to the top this time, and Lisa was able to take our picture together.


Just the coolest rock formations here.  Pat points out the obvious, as if you could miss these babies.

The rest of my pics since this place is just irresistible if you have a camera in hand.  This is what a yucca about to bloom looks like (finally!), view from the top of the trail and the close up with the ant-sized people below, the distance view, more tent rocks and the clusters of yellow flowers now in bloom.  Those flowers just appeared since our last visit the week before.

All The Other Stuff

We had some great meals out with Lisa & Al.  I just had to have those sopapillas again, so back we go to Tomasita’s.  We also went back for our second round at Joe’s Dining with them.  The place is decorated like a diner, but is truly upscale, complete with a nice wine list.  And they have a nice array of gluten free options.  We may have corrupted them with our fast food habit, however.  We talked them into Jimmy John’s subs for a picnic at Tent Rocks, but Lisa returned the favor by awakening our latent Pringles craving.  You simply have to pop them in your mouth whole.

The other epiphany we had about food here is the heat factor.  Everything is hot, spicy hot.  Pat and I learned our lesson about ordering salsa and queso on the side.  No matter what you ask for, it’s too spicy for the man and mostly too hot for me, too.  When your lips burn, I’m out.  Of course the question is red or green, meaning chiles, and Christmas is the answer if you want both.  I couldn’t touch red, but could manage to eat green, in moderation.  Lisa & Al are going to try their hand at growing the famous Hatch chiles when they get home to Florida.  Al has an amazing gardening gift, so I’m sure if anyone can make a go of it there, he can.

We also took them to the Railyard (my way of getting close to Tomasita’s again), so we could browse the shops and visit REI.  Our friends like the cycling gear, and Pat is in the market for hiking equipment.  He used to backpack before we were married, and always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.  After reading a book by a guy in his 50’s who hiked the AT, the dream is alive again!  Actually taking up that hobby is perfect since we’ll be going to quite a few places with great trails.  I can drop off, pick up and re-provision as needed, and he gets good “me” time all by his lonesome.  (And I don’t have to sleep on the ground.)

Next up – We relocate to Taos and Lisa & Al do, too.  See you on the way!

Santa Fe Skies

April 5 – 13

Two weeks in artsy Santa Fe!  There’s so much going on at this stop that I’m breaking it up into two posts.  Even Jackson had a grand time at this location, and we had friends join us on their vacation, too.

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

We were delighted to find lots of amenities that we actually used and enjoyed at this RV park.  They had an inside sitting area complete with couches and were totally dog-friendly.  Jackson quickly got into the routine of going to the clubhouse to get dog treats and sit on the couch with us.  The bowls of M&Ms by the door for the humans didn’t hurt our feelings either.

There were metal sculptures all over the property, a walking trail around the entire place and bunnies galore.  Three of them routinely grazed right outside our door every evening.  But the best part?  Well two best parts actually – the huge dog park and the sunsets.


Santa Fe is known as the place for painter’s sunsets and we had a different show every night, right outside our side window.

Oh, but the dog park ranked right up there.  Jackson became fast friends with Wash, a newly rescued pup.  We hit it off with Wash’s mom, too.  Chris is traveling solo and is a huge Firefly fan, just like Pat.  The dog’s name is from one of the characters on the TV show.  I personally never warmed up to it, so it was good the Pat had a fellow fan to discuss the finer points of the show.  Don’t get a true fan started on the Firefly cancellation!


Jackson and best buddy Wash.  They romped, they played, they tried to figure out the alpha thing.  (Not sure they ever really got that straightened out.)  It was so exciting that Jackson was practically a dead lump for week two after Wash and Chris moved on.

About the only thing we didn’t like here was the wind and the dust.  There were several huge wind events while we were there, and I’m still trying to clean out the dust that was blown into every crevice of the motorhome from the 70 mph gusts.  Needless to say, no grilling out at this stop.


On one of our first nights there, a lady came running up in a panic yelling for help.  We had the screen door open, so Pat jumped out to see what she needed.  The plume of smoke coming from their RV a few spots down told the tale.  He popped back in to grab the fire extinguisher by the door and I grabbed the other two mounted in the coach.  By the time we got to the trailer, their next door neighbor had the fire out, but horrible smoke was still billowing out the doors.  Turns out their refrigerator caught fire.  The propane/electric fridges are notorious for catching fire if not kept perfectly level.  In fact, we swapped ours out for a residential fridge so we wouldn’t have that worry.

Consider this my public service announcement.  Get yourself working fire extinguishers, know where they are, and know how to use them.  I think this is every RVer’s worst nightmare aside from a wipe-out on the highway.  But it can happen in an instant in your sticks and bricks home, too.

And the rest of the story.  This couple only had the trailer for 6 months, just replaced the refrigerator, and just left Dallas the day before for a week-long trip to the Grand Canyon.  I give them great credit for resilience.  They put the trailer in storage so they could continue on with their travel plans, and will pick it back up on the way home.  Talk about making the best of a bad situation.

Santa Fe Railyard


We headed down to the railyard on a Saturday to stroll through the farmer’s market.  We did find the market, but spent most of our time with the artist vendors.  The work here is so unique.  I stopped to point out a necklace to Pat since it looked like the all-seeing “eye” from Lord of the Rings.  The artist uses museum quality taxidermy animal eyes in his jewelry artwork, and the necklace I admired was made with a python “eye”.  I also found several photographers displaying pictures of the same tree I photographed at Tent Rocks.  And, our favorite?  The beautiful hand blown glassware.  We decided it was time to retire the McDonald’s Shrek tumblers we’d been using and replace them with two gorgeous glasses.  Read on below about our glass-blowing adventure for the rest of that story.


Fun little touches in this artsy town.  What a good way to re-purpose those unused newspaper vending machines.

Lunch was delicious at Tomasita’s.  Instead of chips and salsa, they give you free sopapillas with honey butter.  I don’t have a real sweet tooth, but these were to die for.  We’ll be back for more.

Bandelier National Monument


Time to get out there on a hike.  The trip to Bandelier was an investment, but well worth the 40+ mile drive.  A look down Frijoles Canyon.


Bandelier is the home of the Ancestral Pueblo people and the village ruins on the grounds are quite extensive.  Up on the trail, we had this view of the village of Tyuoni (QU-wen-nee).  The pueblo (around 1200 AD) had multiple stories and entrance to the individual rooms was by ladder through holes in the rooftops.  That explained why we weren’t seeing doorway openings.

A few more views from our hike.  You could clearly see the holes in the cliffside that once held beams to support multiple stories of cave dwellings.  We climbed up the ladders to peer inside.  Nice and cool in the caves.

A word about National monuments.  Before going to White Sands National Monument, we had the mistaken idea that they were nothing more than a spot for a plaque or perhaps a small structure on the side of the road.  A ranger set us straight.  A national park designation requires the approval of Congress while a national monument only requires the approval of the President.  National monument oversight is still with the National Park Service and the places cover quite a bit of land, so they look and feel pretty much like a national park.  Presidents often designate national monuments as part of their legacy as they depart office.  Herbert Hoover did just that with White Sands, Bill Clinton gets the nod for Tent Rocks, and Woodrow Wilson gets credit for Bandelier.  Now you know.

Glass Blowing

When we purchased our glasses, we asked Bob about his upcoming studio time.  He told us to show up at the Jackalope pottery studio on Wednesday and we could watch him work.  That’s just what we did.

Just as we arrived, he was setting up to make the identical glasses that we bought.  Representative pictures of the process – taking out the initial blob of glass, rolling it in the colored chips of blue, white & copper, shaping the glass, and torching the copper specks to make them gleam.


The finished product being tapped off the punt to go into the cooling oven.  I love my new glasses and drink from them every day, but I couldn’t quite part with the Shrek glasses.  I’m sure they’re collectible.

The Boots


These boots were made for walking.  Jackson ended up with tender feet after the wild fun week with Wash.  Even the gravel roads seemed to hurt him.  But, the boots don’t thrill him either.  See how he snubs us?  Now that we’re putting them on every day for hikes, he’s better with them and seems much for comfortable walking about.  He knows it’s for his own good, but that doesn’t make him happy about the footwear  He’s like a toddler.  He’ll grudgingly let you put them on, then presents each foot so you can take them off when we get back to the motorhome.  In between, he prances like a pony.

Next up – the rest of Santa Fe and fun times with Lisa & Al.  See you on the way!

Cochiti Lake

April 2 – 4, 2018

If not for a wrong turn, or should I say a failure to turn, our travel from ABQ to Cochiti Lake would have been about 30 miles total.  Call it a navigator failure.  At least we knew for sure we missed our turn when the pavement ended and a barricade blocked the way.  Fortunately, Pat could turn us around with Bitsy in tow and that made our travel day a whopping 40 miles.  We’re out of the city again and that makes us happy.

Cochiti Lake Recreation Area

This stop was at a Corps of Engineers park on Cochiti Lake formed by damming up the Rio Grande.


From the overlook in the park, you can see the brown water of the Rio Grande meet the greenish water in Cochiti Lake.  Lucy is parked on the left and you can tell by the empty places that we’re a little head of season.  In fact, you can’t reserve spots here yet.  They are strictly first-come first-served, or FCFS in RV lingo, but we were lucky to score a spot with electricity and water.  The short drive and early arrival helped since those spots were all taken by 2pm, and on a Monday no less.


The rest of Cochiti Lake with the dam on the right.

We came prepared to be self-sufficient, cooked all our own meals and did our Jackson walks in the park.  It was nice after two weeks in town to get off the beaten path again.  Of course we had a few ‘wind warning’ days that required Pat to put up a tarp as a wind break for grilling out.  We’ll just say it was a partial successful, since it required him to go out around 10pm one night to take it down.  A corner came loose and the whole thing was making an awful racket in the night.  Yes, still terribly windy well past 11pm!

20180405_103529 - Edited

On the last day we discovered this little lovely down by the boat dock.  Amazing find in the desert.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks

This National Monument came highly recommended by our new friends we met in Alamogordo.  It was just down the road from Cochiti Lake, so thought we’d scout it out to see if it would be a good place to visit with our friends Lisa and Al.  Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo language and you can guess from the rest of the name what rock shape is favored.


We’ve seen a lot of rock formations this past year and weren’t sure we’d be impressed with more hoodoos, but these were completely unique.  This is the first cliff you come to with all the little tent hoodoos up and down the rock face.  They look like cement tee-pees up close, but are made up of volcanic ash and rocks sculpted by wind and water.


This landscape makes for some amazing hiking.

I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the cliffs and the “tents”.


About halfway along the trail, you enter a slot canyon.  Even here, nature finds a way.  Since taking this picture, we’ve seen more than one photographer’s work that includes this same tree.  It apparently fascinates most everyone on this trail.


And when I say slot canyon, I mean slot.  Parts of the trail are only as wide as your foot and you have to be cooperative with other hikers to pass along the way.


Looks like frosting, but really showcases what the rock “flow” must have looked like a million years ago when the canyon formed.


Then you pop right back out on the other side of the canyon to continue the hike upward.


Another amazing tree.  Now that, my friends, is a root, and looks like it just might snatch Pat off the trail.


We almost made it to the top of the ridge when the ranger turned us around.   If I hadn’t stopped to take so many pictures we’d have made it all the way.  This view was good enough for the day and hopefully we’ll get to return when our friends arrive.



I can’t help but see whipped cream turrets in the landscape.  The Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance make a lovely backdrop.


Remember spying shapes in the clouds as a kid?  On the return hike we start spotting shapes in the rocks and trees.  Pat’s showing where he thinks the ground used to be before erosion exposed the base of this tree.  Of course I was looking at the opening below.


Momma’s in the “doorway” holding the baby.


And can you find Lincoln’s face in this rock?

We complained about the high winds during most of this camping stop, but without that same howling wind, this place wouldn’t exist.  Powerful evidence of things unseen.

Next up – Santa Fe with one of our shortest travels days yet.  See you on the way!



ABQ – Part 2

March 19 – April 1

Our two weeks in Albuquerque are drawing to a close and we’re ready to move on.  The city and all its amenities have been nice, but time to change it up and camp in a more rural setting.  Before we go, there are a few more outings to cover.

Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway

Since we’re spending significant time in Santa Fe, we weren’t terribly concerned about seeing all the surrounding area.  We did want to cover the closest portion of the Jemez Mountain Trail, and set out one day to do just that.


About 15 minutes outside of Albuquerque and you begin to figure out why everyone raves about the scenery.  The red rocks are so, well, red!  You can’t help but notice the change in coloring, especially on such bright sunny days.  This view is right across from the visitor’s center in the Pueblo of Jemez.


The color makes you stare.  I had to pull the car over to gawk completely.  Pat’s interested in that light colored rock slide.

At the visitor’s center, we learned that the Jemez Pueblo is one of 19 in New Mexico, and is a federally recognized American Indian tribe.  According to their literature they are “a sovereign nation with an independent government and tribal court system”.  The Jemez are known for their pottery and traditional dances as well as their unique language, “Towa”.  They are the only tribe to speak that language and it’s not recorded in written form.  Pat and I discussed the difficulties of keeping the traditions alive with the young people, when right down the road from the pueblo are all the modern conveniences to lure them away from the old ways.

We exited the visitor’s center and decided to head to the Gilman Tunnels and save the rest of the scenic drive for our Santa Fe explorations.  The tunnel road is a spur from the main scenic route, and gets narrower and narrower until signs tell you it is now a one lane road with turn-outs for passing.



We drove as far as we could until the road ended with a gated gravel trail.  Once we turned around, we came face to face with this giant tree growing out of the rocks.  This is probably at least 40 feet tall jutting right out of the cliffside.


Here’s a closer look at that amazing tree.


There are two tunnels that lead to the end of the road and they’re carved right out of the surrounding cliffs.


There’s Bitsy on the other side of the tunnel waiting patiently for us to walk back through.  These tunnels are right next to Rio Guadalupe and the only other river we’ve seen lately besides the Rio Grande.  A beautiful drive and they say it only gets better the rest of the way around to Santa Fe.  Can’t wait to see for ourselves in a few weeks.



The Dogwood and Red Bud trees have suddenly come to life during our stay in the area.


One of the locals told us about some walking trails close to the KOA.  Placitas is a neighboring town just up the road and has a forest service parking lot so you can access the trails in the Cibola National Forest.  We were tired of walking Jackson around in the same camping loops, so took a ride to Placitas.


Here’s our forest service road/trail at the foot of the Sandia Mountains.  We’re not sure how this classifies as a National Forest, but there are some trees.  They just aren’t huddling up together as much as we had hoped.  At least these roads are kind to Jackson’s feet and we can avoid the cactus and other pokey things.


Looking the other direction, there are the pueblo homes in Placitas with the Jemez Mountains to the West.

This turned out to be a great place for Jackson outings and it quickly became our daily routine.  He gets a car ride and a lengthy walk out of the deal.

Fire and Ice

Our one restaurant find for this stop was the Range Cafe in Bernalillo.  When my stomach was still a little funny from the Elephant Butte taco incident, I really wanted comfort food.  I had a dynamite turkey dinner complete with dressing and mashed potatoes, topped off with their signature green chili gravy.  Yum!  Pat had the meatloaf since he always gets that if it’s on the menu.


While we waited for our table, we plucked random brochures out of the tourist display.  The one labeled ICE CAVE & Bandera Volcano caught my eye.  I have a fascination with volcanoes, but have yet to see anything up close and personal.  This place outside of Grants, NM boasts a volcano that formed an ice cave, thus the fire and ice.  It struck us both as something we must see, but we weren’t going to be any closer than the ABQ stop.  That is, if you can call 110 miles one way “close”.



This place is on the Continental Divide and is referred to as the ‘Ring of Fire’ since there are 29 volcanic peaks in the area.  This is a view from the hike to the top of the Bandera Volcano and 15 volcanoes are visible from here.


The view looking into the volcanic crater.  This particular volcano erupted around 10,000 years ago and is one of the best examples and most accessible in the country.  There were many in Alaska, but you couldn’t get to any of them except by plane.  So glad to finally hike up to one.  Speaking of the hike, it wasn’t particularly long, but at an elevation of 8,122 feet, you do manage to get the blood pumping.


I was amazed at the tenacity of these big fir trees on the slant of the cindercone.  Pat’s reaching out to one of the huge roots just to show how big they really are.


The Juniper, Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine really take a beating from the elements up here and some of them are approximately 700 years old.


The ground looks like tilled soil, but upon closer inspection, is really piles of volcanic rock like this one.


After the Bandera Volcano erupted, it produced a lava flow almost 23 miles long, with a crater 800 feet deep.  This shot is of the canyon created from that lava flow.  A collapsed lava tube from the flow produced the second marvel in the area – an ice cave.  The temperature inside never gets above 31 degrees.  Rain water and snow melt continue to collect in the cave producing a growing layer of ice.


After the hike to the volcano look out point, we headed down the trail to the ice cave.  I know the photo isn’t stunning, but look at the upper right striped-looking piece of ice.  Yes, that is ice and the green coloring is from Arctic algae.  That striped piece used to be an ice wall 12 feet high back in the 40s.  The ice floor continues to rise each year and that’s all that’s left of the wall.


The afternoon sun made the lighting all wrong, but this gives you an idea of the cave entrance size and the amount of ice below.


This kitty gave me a start as we headed down the stairs to the ice cave.  We’ve been in mountain lion country, so at first glance as it scurried away, I wasn’t sure what it was.  Poor kitty just hunkered down and I think it hoped if it ignored us, we would ignore it.


Lichen and Alpine moss cover the rocks close to the mouth of the cave.  A little snow thrown in makes for an odd assortment of colors and textures.

And the final factoid that we liked?  This lava flow is rich in iron content and results in lots of lightning strikes.  In fact, we found out that New Mexico is second only to Florida in lightning strikes.


A few more views of the day.  Well worth the drive.

Bosque River Tour

Time for another bicycle rental.  Pat has his eye on the trails again, so we head back to Old Town ABQ to get our wheels.  Armed with a map of the Bosque River Trail, we’re on our way.  The last time we did this was in Anchorage.  Maybe we do it in all towns that start with ‘A’?  I must say, this bike ride was nothing at all like Anchorage.  Of course we weren’t expecting it to be that scenic, but we were expecting some Rio Grande River views.  The name would imply that, don’t you think?

No, you don’t pedal beside the Rio Grande as the name and map seem to indicate.  What you do pedal past are a series of irrigation ditches.  Well, ok, we did see three elephants through the fence behind the zoo, the Bug-arium at the botanical gardens, and two duck/fishing ponds.  Other than that, it was a lot of UN-scenic trail.  We thought we might get a glimpse of the river right over that berm next to the irrigation ditch, so we pedaled off the paved trail and through the gravel.  Pat turned around at a huge pile of what looked like broken auto glass and I had to swerve to miss the sad looking stray dog that suddenly appeared.  In fact, I draw the line at a certain amount of burglar bars and razor wire.  Actually, ANY amount of razor wire.  I’d actually never seen the stuff quite so up close and personal before.  That’s when we turned around.


The redeeming factor for this ride was the short detour to Sonic for slushies.  We finished them off at the one developed spot by the Rio Grande that was actually paved and free of theft deterrent.  And we got some good exercise.


We celebrated Easter Sunday on our last day in ABQ.  There was a nice church close by in Bernalillo, and we managed to dig out our dress clothes.  A skirt and heels for me and dress pants and dress shirt for Pat.  Turns out Pat doesn’t have dress socks anymore, but as long as he remains standing, the Adidas logo won’t show.  (I’ve been corrected during proofreading.  He does have dress socks, just didn’t choose to wear them.)

Pat read for the afternoon and I made more cards.  I’m now all set for a special birthday in April (someone’s turning 24!), and Mother’s Day in May.  The graduation cards for our friends and family grads are also well on their way to completion.  Our final dinner was supposed to be stir-fry, but neither of us was inclined to cook.  Back to the Range Cafe we go.  Pat had a chicken burrito with the red chili sauce on the side (good call on his part), and I sampled the pork loin I had my eye on during the previous visit.  Both were oh so good!  I highly recommend this place if you’re ever in the area.

Just like that, two weeks have passed.  Next up – Cochiti Lake Corp of Engineers campground for a few “out of town” days, with Santa Fe close on its heels.  See you on the way!