April 25 – 28
We made nine camping stops in New Mexico and this one was my hands-down favorite. Probably being last had something to do with it along with the fact that we’d been in “cozy” town parks for the previous three weeks. This was back to nature. Mostly I think it was the peacefulness, the fact that we didn’t feel the need to “do” much, and Pedernal.
For our last taste of New Mexico, we tucked into a very nice Corp of Engineers campground on the bank of Abiquiu Lake. COE parks are typically at reservoirs, and this was no exception. The Rio Chama is the water source that’s dammed up to create the pretty setting.
I snapped this picture with my cell phone during our first reconnaissance hike with Jackson, and it remains my favorite. Prominently watching over the area is Cerro Pedernal, Spanish for “flint hill”, but locally known simply as Pedernal. That hill spoke to me.
The view the other direction.
We’re here because of Lonely Planet’s ‘Southwest USA’s Best Trips’ book. This is stop #1 for Georgia O’Keeffe Country and her home. I prefer more realistic paintings, but I do appreciate Georgia O’Keeffe’s distinct style. You see one of her’s and you know it. When Ethan was in first grade, he studied her work in art class and painted a flower still life much like hers. Yes, first grade! That was in Texas. Then we moved to Florida for second grade where they had him doing macaroni art.
Ms. O’Keeffe’s painting titled ‘Pedernal’ from 1945.
And my montage of the many faces of Pedernal. If I could find that hill in the distance, I took a picture of it. The Pedernal Society credits Georgia O’Keeffe with the following quote:
“It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me.
God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”
She painted Pedernal 28 times over the years. Apparently I’m not the first person to be caught up in the spell of that mountain.
This is Pedernal taken from Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch, stop #2 on the scenic drive. It’s now a Presbyterian retreat center, but you can see some of the original buildings and hike to some pretty good views. Also gives you an idea of the size of Abiquiu Lake with the little island in the middle.
On the gravel road to Ghost Ranch with those striking red cliffs.
Lots of movies were filmed here, including City Slickers. This cabin is leftover from that movie, and yes, Pedernal is in the distance.
According to Ghost Ranch history, “Arthur Pack, one of the country’s first environmentalists, bought the Ranch and sold a little piece of it to Georgia O’Keeffe. Scientists took respite time here from the stresses of building the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. Famous guests have included Charles Lindbergh, Ansel Adams and John Wayne.”
Quite a beautiful place. We took a short hike so I could take a picture of Chimney Rock.
Pat checking out the Chimney Rock view, a twisted tree we admired for its fortitude, and Carl. He’s in charge of the outgoing mail.
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
This location is a detour on the scenic drive and involves a 13 mile ride down a dirt & gravel road. Add another side trip to Bitsy’s list of ‘where the pavement ends’.
The drive did not disappoint. Those cliffs look life ice cream layers to me. Orange sherbet anyone?
Most of the drive follows the Chama River, is narrow and cliffside. Stopped here for a photo op and met a fellow Floridian.
This Benedictine Abbey has a stunning backdrop. You can make your own retreat here and stay on the grounds if you like. I’d love to do that. We settled for browsing in the gift shop, seeing the Brothers in their full robes, and stopping for a quick prayer in the church.
We’re on a roll and decide to head up the road just a little bit farther after the monastery stop to see Echo Amphitheater. We ended up visiting this place three times! Yep, it was that cool.
It’s hard to capture the size of this thing, a natural amphitheater carved in the cliffside by water eroding the sandstone.
Pat poses for me for scale, and hollers into the opening. Mr. Lizard sat still for me, too. We had the place to ourselves during this visit and yelled things just to hear them echoing back at us. Single words worked best and it was amazing to hear those words clearly repeated back overhead.
On the second visit, we took Jackson along. He’s so confused hearing our voices coming from the rock, and not sure what to make of it. During this visit, we shared the place with a Boy Scout troupe. So much fun hearing the voices of children enjoying the echo, too.
Perfect trail for puppy and us. Easy on the paws.
Finally on bug-out day, we go back a final time to use the parking lot to hook up Bitsy. It was a flat spot and better than anything in the campground. Driving along behind gave me the unique opportunity to take pictures of Lucy lumbering down the road. Now that’s the scale I was looking for.
Hasta Luego New Mexico
On departure day, we’re all connected up at Echo Amphitheater and ready to rumble. One last parting shot of my beloved Pedernal and those ice cream cliffs.
I loved this view of Lucy headed out, and Pat’s pleased to see he’s centered in his lane. Normally I’m really happy on leaving day, since we’re looking forward to a new location. This time, I’m a bit sad. Abiquiu was good for the soul and I’d come back here to do it all over again.
Next up – Durango, Colorado and a definite change of scenery. See you on the way!