Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Highway of Legends

Leaving Trinadad, we took the scenic route, doubling a 40-mile trip to Walsenburg to 80 miles.  Colorado 12, known as the Highway of Legends, makes a loop through some fantastic scenery and was well worth the extra mileage.  Of course, I wasn't the one driving a 30' motorhome towing a car, but I think Ron agreed.

We obtained the booklet describing the route from the visitor center.

Heading west, we drove past Cokedale where the remains of 350 coke ovens are clearly visible.  No, no, not that kind of coke.  Coke is coal with the moisture, sulphur, and phosphorous removed.
Disclaimer - most of these pictures were taken out the window of the moving RV.

Then we spotted the 'House on a Bridge'.  That's really being close to your water source.

Up the road we passed the New Elk Mine where the coal was washed and prepared for shipping.  The pipe crossing the road carried waste from the washed coal to a dumpsite.  The New Elk actually re-opened in 2010.

I thought the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were just so perfect with their partial snow cover.  I couldn't stop snapping pictures.

The rock wall rising 250 feet above Stonewall is part of the Dakota Sandstone Formation.

In this close-up of the wall, you can see how thin it is.

Good to see it does have support on the other side.

At Stonewall, the road turn north and we started up to Cucharas Pass.  On the way, we passed pretty Monument Lake.

And North Lake.  It looks like there's plenty of water in these lakes.

By the time we reached the pass at almost 10,000, we were ready for lunch (and the RV was probably ready for a rest.)
But it's all downhill from here.

We passed Devil's Stairsteps.

And Goemmer's Butte, a volcanic plug (a lava vent that never surfaced)

The next attraction in the book was Profile Rock which I thought I had missed until I looked harder at this picture I took of one of the many dykes.

And there it was right in the center.  (I only know that's it because it matches the picture in the booklet.)

For the last ten miles into Walsenburg, the road joins with US 160 and has a good view of the Spanish Peaks rising from the plains.  The Spanish Peaks were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976.
Before we drove this route, we were assured that it wasn't bad and that was true.   The elevation gain was gradual and there were no hairpin turns.  I highly recommend it.

P.S.  Ron claims I'm being a bit too positive.  He says there were some steep sections and places where the road narrowed.  I guess I didn't notice that riding along in my queenly passenger seat.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trinadad, CO

Yep, we traveled from the southwest corner of New Mexico to the Colorado border in only 12 days!  No wonder I felt like we were rushing and I fell behind in the blog.

We crossed the line into Colorado and decided to spend the big bucks for one night at Trinadad Lake State Park.  Unlike the very reasonable prices of the New Mexico parks, Colorado's prices are enough to give you sticker shock.  First of all they charge you both the day use fee PLUS the camping fee.  This seems just wrong to me.  I think that you are either camping or using the park just for the day.  Checking on their website, the day use fee is $7 - $9 a vehicle.  They don't charge for the towed vehicle as long as it is towed in.  Camping ranges from $10 for a primitive site (do they have any of those?) to $26 for full hookups (plus the day use fee, don't forget.)

To add insult to injury, Trinadad is a Corps of Engineers lake which usually guarantees economical prices.  BUT Trinadad and three in the Denver area are run by the state parks so economy goes out the window.

Trinadad State Park is on the low end of the day use fee at $7 and we took the cheapest site at $16.  I know some of you are thinking $23 for a table and grill (no hookups) isn't bad, but it's way over our comfort level.

However if you pay by the view, ours would be a million dollar site.  This is what we saw out our front window.

Those are the Sangre De Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains, so named for the red color they appear at sunrise.  And I did mean to get up for sunrise - really I did.

We took a drive around downtown Trinadad.  I didn't get a picture of them, but some of the streets were paved with bricks.  Trinadad is VERY hilly with some beautiful Victorian architecture like the museum building pictured here.

I spotted this bird in a cage as we drove by and thought, 'What the heck is that?"

Well I should have recognized the miners' canary who saved lives by giving his own.

If I had noticed this nearby sculpture, I would have certainly realized the connection.

Back at the lake, we had a nice visit with our friend Lloyd whom we met through the WINs years ago.  He happened to pull in right behind us after driving 200 miles to our 35.  So we're a little slow.  He took a hookup site on the higher rent side of the lake and had a nice view of Fisher's Peak, a landmark on the old Santa Fe trail.
(Our RV was just to the right, out of this picture.)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Lest we forget that Memorial Day is not about picnics and sales . . .

The American Cemetery in Luxembourg

So many brave Americans have fought and died to keep us free.  This is a day to remember all who served.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields 

written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sugarite Canyon

Our final stop in New Mexico was Sugarite Canyon State Park which extends to the border of Colorado.  The park suffered a fire two years ago that burned 80% of the 4000 acre park.  We stayed across from the Lake Alice campground in an overflow lot - perfect for us.

Within the park is the site of the early 1900s coal mining town of Sugarite.  There is a good exhibit in the visitor center and a trail that leads up the hill, past foundations of houses, to the mines.  Included in among lots of interpretive signs is this artistic coal car.

It's a bit of a climb, but you have an overview of the town ruins at the top.

Let me zoom in so you can see some of the town's foundations.
(You might still have to click the picture to see it better.)

The trail led to the entrance to mine #2 (which didn't really look like much) and the apparatus used to lower the full coal cars down the hill while bringing up the empty ones.

As described in the following.
(I particularly liked the 'gravity and biceps' line.)

It seems that everywhere we've been, we've had about five drops of rain.  We've learned to ignore the clouds.  This time we had a few more than five and hustled back down the hill.

While staying at Sugarite, we checked out Capulin Volcano National Monument.  This cinder cone volcano rises 1300 feet above the plain in the middle of the 8000 square mile Raton-Clayton volcanic field in the northeast corner of New Mexico.

The really cool thing is that you can drive up to the rim of the crater and take a short hike right down to the vent.

I was picturing an opening into the very bowels of the earth.  In reality, it was filled in with rocks.
Still pretty cool to be inside a volcano.

You can also hike all along the rim, but we agreed that the view from the upper parking lot was pretty great.  You could see many other volcanoes and lava flows.  You'll have to see it for yourself, because this picture is pretty poor.

Driving to our next stop, we spotted these really interesting bubbles of lava.
When the crust hardened on a lava flow and the lava continued to flow underneath, these tumuli, or squeeze-ups, formed where the crust broke and lava oozed out.  I don't think I had ever seen them before (and we've seen a lot of volcanoes.)

Also in the area is the town of Folsom which is famous for an important archaeological find - the Folsom Point.  Who besides me has never heard of it? However, as a boy, Ron was aware of and fascinated by it.  In 1908, after the Folsom flood, a cowboy and former slave named George McJunkin found a large number of unusual bones along the Dry Cimarron riverbed.  It wasn't until 1926 that archaeologists excavated the site and discovered that the bones were of extinct massive buffaloes.  But the most important find was a spear point found between a set of ribs.  This was named the Folsom point and, by dating the bones, archaeologists proved that man was in North America by 8000 BC, long before it was previously thought.  

The site itself is only open to the public by way of a guided tour on two days each year.  Imagine Ron's disappointment when we discovered it was the day before we were there!  But the museum in Folsom had a lot of information on the find.

Back in Sugarite Canyon, I'll leave you with a shot of Lake Maloya.  The campground host told us it had just been stocked for a huge fishing contest the following weekend.  Unfortunately Ron doesn't have a New Mexico license.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

No Gambling Here

Las Vegas, New Mexico.  We've driven by it on I 25, maybe stopped for gas or a bite to eat, but never spent any time there.  We decided to rectify that and stopped for a couple of nights at Storrie Lake State Park, just outside of town.  This might not have been the prettiest state park, but they did have plenty of room for the $8 'primitive' camping.  Las Vegas is located where the mountains meet the plains and has the wind to prove it.  Actually we have experienced wind throughout our trip through New Mexico.  I asked a campground host if the wind always blows like that and he replied, "Well, as my daddy used to say, no, sometimes it blows the other direction."

As are all the lakes we've seen, Storrie Lake is low.  (Those are pelicans clustered in the lower left.)

In 1879, the railroad came through Las Vegas causing the town to become a major retail center.  The town grew and prospered.  Of course this didn't last, but with two colleges, Las Vegas seems to be holding its own and boasts 900 historic buildings.

Even what looked to be a simple building, had fancy touches.
There were lots of lovely homes, but I hesitate to photograph people's houses.

The town has a history with Teddy Roosevelt.  The first reunion of his gang of Rough Riders met here in 1899.  (The Rough Riders are quite a story and served in the Spanish-American War.  They were mostly cowboys recruited from the southwest and crack shots.)

Mr. Roosevelt attended the reunion and stayed in this historic hotel.  This was just two years before he became the 26th President of the United States.

The Las Vegas museum has a whole room on the Rough Riders and additional information on President Roosevelt.  Did you know the teddy bear was named after him?  This is supposedly the original teddy bear.

We took a ride west into the mountains to see where the road went.  We passed this interesting church.

And this elaborate building which used to be a hot springs resort, but is now the United World College of the American West.

I was trying to reach these interesting bluffs which reminded me of Yosemite, but the road ran out.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Civil War in New Mexico

Just east of Santa Fe is Pecos National Historic Park, a place Ron had wanted to visit for awhile.  It's always a little frightening to follow signs into an unknown parking lot, but it was well designed for RVs.  Pecos NHP is an interesting spot with varied historical significance.  Ron's curiosity was peaked by the fact that this was a pivotal Civil War site. 
Imagine that.  The visitor center had plenty of information about the battle and Ron was happy.  (BTW, the beautiful visitor center and some of the land was donated by Greer Garson.  I only remember the name, not her movies, but that was certainly generous of her.)

But this land had a long history before the War Between the States.  In the ninth century, the pre-pueblo people lived in pit houses along the rivers.  Around 1100 the first Puebloans built rock and mud villages in the valley.  In the 1300s, these small villages were abandoned and Pecos Pueblo atop the hill grew larger.  By 1450, it had become a four story fortress with 2000 people.

Now most of the pueblo has either collapsed or is buried, so one can only imagine.

The park service has rebuilt one of the kivas and you can climb down into it.  The popular notion is that the kivas were used for religious ceremonies, but personally I believe they were meeting rooms.  Then they could be used for anything - business meetings, judicial concerns, day care, bingo . . .  You get the idea.  Of course this is just my opinion.  One thing is sure, the pueblo really had quite a view and could spot potential attackers easily.

Ron and I looked around the area they had described as the trash pit and made some exciting finds.  I found a pot chard with a decorative black design along the edge and Ron found what he thought was flint.  Of course, we left them for someone else to discover.
I showed the picture to the volunteer at the visitor center and he agreed that Ron's find looked like alibates flint from Texas.  The Pecos Indians were very successful farmers and traded with the Plains Indians for buffalo and other useful things like the flint.

Then in the mid 1500s, the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors signaled the beginning of the end of their lifestyle.  They brought priests and built churches and tried to impose a different way of life on the Puebloans.
This is the church as it appeared in 1915.

They are currently working to stabilize it for the future.  I'm always torn on the stabilization issue.  Then it's no longer an artifact, but a recreation.  On the other hand it would eventually disappear if nothing was done.

Soon we continued on our way.  Next stop - Las Vegas.  (No, not that Las Vegas, but the one in New Mexico.)