My favorite state in the USA is New Mexico.
It's true I haven't visited all 50. I've traveled a bit however. How can I tell you why I love New Mexico the best? The history and culture are, in my opinion, the most fascinating and diverse in America. It's the scenery, and the adobe. It's the fine people, the Spanish and Mexican and Indian and Anglo. It's the spicy and delectable cuisine. It's El Malpais and El Morro and Bisti and the "seven cities of gold". It's chile peppers. It's the Chihuahuan Desert and the Rocky Mountains. It's the politics. It's the "Red or Green"? It's the scarcity of humanity. It's the sunsets, and the rain and the hiking and camping. It's Santa Fe. It's high Taos and low Las Cruces. It's the clouds! It's the sparkling metallic 1963 Chevy Impalas - chopped and channeled. It's sopapillas and posole and fideo. It's the cowboys still out on the range. It's Chaco Canyon and the Acoma Pueblo. It's Route 66. It's Billy the Kid. It's Carlsbad Caverns and the White Sands near Alamogordo. It's Bandelier National Monument. It's the Navajo and the Zuni. It's the snow on houses of earth. It's weird alien stories from Roswell. It's Georgia O'Keefe and Robert Oppenheimer and Tony Hillerman and Dennis Hopper. It's the mariachis on the Plaza in Albuquerque. It's the fertile Mesilla Valley. It's the Pecos and the Rio Grande. It's farolitos at Christmas and Hatch green chiles. It's the Tent Rocks and the llano and Shiprock. It's Los Alamos and the Hubbard Museum of the West and, well, I'm just getting started. Did I mention the food?
For the third time in four years Lupe and I visited the "Land of Enchantment". The reason that this is "Part 1" is because I have a New Mexico trip (Part 2 - El Malpais, El Morro and Acoma Pueblo) planned for October too. That trip will be camping and hiking. This trip's primary purpose was to visit Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces and look at property in communities to consider once Lupe retires. It was also, evidently, shopping and eating.
We started by taking the north route through Prescott, Arizona. I had been to Prescott some years back, on the 4th of July, and liked it well enough. It is an attractive cowboy town that sits at 5400 feet in elevation and has a famous rodeo every year. We stayed at the historic Hassayampa Inn which I highly recommend.
We got up early and hit the road to Santa Fe. There was a large fire about 15 miles away from Prescott (Goodwin Fire - 28,500 acres...now fully contained thankfully) which we skirted on our way. We arrived at the supposedly great Inn of the Governors (not recommended...ahem) and immediately went to eat at one of my favorite Southwest restaurants, The Shed.
We spent the next couple of days wandering around town and relaxing. A highlight was the New Mexico History Museum exhibit called "Voices of the Counterculture in the Southwest". The exhibit was really put together by Ed Abbey's old amigo, Jack Loeffler and well known '60's photographer Lisa Law. I had known of Lisa's Rock musician photos but was deeply impressed by her images of life in the 1960's. Coincidentally, having dinner one night in Santa Fe, Lisa walked into the restaurant and I was able to meet and chat with her. Very, very cool. Her website for fellow '60's aficionados, historians and culture lovers, is here.
Here are some photos I took while we meandered around town. It's a delightful place. I don't believe I've ever had an unhappy moment there.
On the last day of our stay, before spending time in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, I drove Lupe over to Bandelier National Monument. The Monument is remarkable for the cavates that ancestral Puebloan people inhabited for thousands of years. The setting is in a pinyon-juniper woodland...perhaps the most appealing topography in all the Southwest. I did take a few photos including the one at the top of this post and the one below which, to me, captures the area well.
The following photos show an ancient Kiva, old walls, cavates, the pinyon-juniper woodland and Lupe along the main trail in Frijoles Canyon.
You may have noticed the photo of the two young Native men doing maintenance on a ladder. A lowlight of the trip was some guy asking them what kind of rock comprised the ancient homes. They answered. "It's volcanic tuff". This guy walks a few feet away and says to his wife, "That's NOT volcanic. Those damn Indians don't know what they're talking about". Yeah, I was livid. I've found that confronting such ignorance with my anger typically isn't helpful but I find myself still burning, now, a few weeks later. What a monumental idiot. It is, of course, volcanic tuff and understanding that is part of the Bandelier experience - that racist halfwit could have easily discovered this through a 60 second perusal of the Monument website. Some of the people I meet on the road...I could write a book.
Enough about that. I'll probably write a cathartic blog post one day just telling stories about the inanities of some folks I've run into but, for now, enjoy the following gallery of black and white photos I made of magnificent New Mexico. I hope you enjoy the photos and remember...I'll be back in October. Who wants to come along?
I've been home almost a week and, funny enough, I'm itching to get back on the road. I know that the good weather months are dwindling and that soon it will be cold- my traveling and camping nemesis. I have a trip planned to Utah in less than two weeks and then the wait for the twins begins in earnest and I'll probably stay pretty close to home.
One of the most enjoyable activities of the winter months is planning the next year's travel. So far, I plan on two trips to Organ Pipe NM this winter. After 11 long years the monument is now fully open again which is exciting to say the least. I can now explore some places I've been itching to see for awhile but were closed due to the US Border Patrol's activities.
Have you read, "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Urrea? The setting is Organ Pipe- it's a tragic story and my views on immigration were only solidified by reading it. I know it's a complex issue but we MUST find a more humane way of dealing with those desperately poor people from Mexico who simply want a better life in the USA (as did all our relatives- except the indigenous). I have lots of deeply passionate thoughts about these issues and, perhaps, in future, I'll devote an entire blog to what I believe the problems are (and there are many - starting with the government of Mexico and US policy) and how we might go about creating a better world for our brothers and sisters from the south. If you have an interest in these matters please read Urrea, or "Border Patrol Nation" by Todd Miller. Or read anything that Charles Bowden has written on the Border problems.
If you know me, at all, you know I love all things Southwest- by extension- I love Mexico and the Mexican culture. It's everywhere you go in the Southwest and it's one of the major reasons I love it here.
Back to my plans for next year- so Organ Pipe is on big time. I'm also going to spend some time at Anza Borrego near Little Blair Valley doing some boondocking near a dry lake bed. Last year when I was there I was mesmerized by the solitude and stark beauty of the place. The problem was that it's at 3000 feet elevation, it was during a cold snap, and when I awoke it was 21 degrees F. WAY too cold. This fall/winter I'm hoping to go when it's a bit warmer. Of course, I'll also figure out a time to go to my beloved Joshua Tree NP.
In March I'm heading to Big Bend National Park in Southern Texas along the mighty Rio Grande. This is a trip that I've been wanting to do since my 20's and I'm finally going to make it happen. That trip will include stops in Arizona and New Mexico and may include a stop at Palo Duro Canyon and Guadalupe NP. April is a wonderful month to explore the coastal mountains near Santa Barbara and Big Sur and I'll backpack then. I love to travel in May because the weather is warming and the crowds are at a minimum. I will probably be in Taos and Santa Fe then. In June I'll head to the Sierras again. July is "Lupe and Lilly time" and we are still in the process of deciding. I'm considering two options for August - either Flathead Lake and Glacier NP in Montana or a Northern Cascades trip in Washington.
This last trip was really spectacular and I'm strongly considering heading back to the Four Corners in Utah and Colorado in September. I'm still, as I sit here at home, staggered by the scenery I saw in Colorado on this last trip.
My next trip, leaving on October 6, includes a visit with my very best friend from high school, Kevin D. , and still one of the best people I've ever known (or ever will know). He went to college in Utah and then got a job there and so our visits have been sporadic (at best) over the years. I'm hoping that changes in the next few years as we both move into the retirement phase of our lives. As I told him recently- one of us is still working (him) and one of us is a hobo (me) so his schedule will dictate things for awhile. Luckily he's free on the weekend of Oct. 11 and I get to hang with him on this trip. Knowing Kev he's explored most of that beautiful country up there and I'll be the beneficiary of his knowledge.
Here's my Utah tentative itinerary:
10/6 Navajo National Monument
10/7 Arches NP
10/8 Arches NP
10/9 Arches NP
10/10 Canyonlands NP
10/11 Visiting with Kevin near Vernal, UT
10/12 Goblin SP
10/13 Goblin SP
10/14 Capitol Reef NP
10/15 Kodachrome SP
Looks amazing doesn't it? Arches NP remains my favorite. Before I read Ed Abbey I visited it and had an OBE (out of body experience)- after I read, "Desert Solitaire" I understood why. I probably feel more "at home" in Arches than any other place on earth. There is no place like the Red Rock Country of the Colorado Plateau. Being there fulfills my heart's desire. I'll look forward to sharing pictures on my return as always.
Thanks for reading this. I hope all is well in your life and that you too are planning your next adventure. I'll look forward to writing again soon and sharing about another one of my new passions- playing guitar.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.