Saturday, August 12, 2017

Abiquiu (part 2)

I think the highlight of our time in the Abiquiu area was a trip to a little known area just north of town.  We actually went twice because I didn’t like the way my pictures turned out the first time with the gloomy skies.

So we picked a day when the clouds weren’t too oppressive and tried again.  On the way, we stopped at a pullout for a shot of Rio Chama.

But this was our goal – Plaza Blanca.  These spectacular white sandstone formations are on land owned by the Dar al Islam mosque, but luckily they don’t mind respectful tourists.

At first glance, the formations reminded me of Tent Rocks NM outside of Santa Fe.

But these also had some color in places.

And some of the cliffs had interesting crisscross features.

We walked along the arroyo admiring the towering rock walls.

Some of the tops had red caprock.

It really is a special place and well worth a second visit.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Last year we really enjoyed our time at the Corps of Engineers campground at Abiquiu Lake.  Of course all the COE campgrounds are nice, but this one has especially lovely scenery.

Each site has a view of Abiquiu Lake, although this was taken from an overlook.

Since we had already embraced the area last year, we went to the visitors center for additional adventures.  She suggested taking the dirt road from the dam to town for some colorful scenery.

Even with a 4-wheel drive truck, there was one spot that Ron thought required a bit of rock moving.  The truck came out looking impressively muddy.

She also mentioned a hike up Cerro Pedernal which consisted mostly of walking up an ATV road.

Here’s the top of the cerro (which means little mountain), but the rest was a rock scramble and we soon turned around.

I think the prettiest scenery was along the road up to the trailhead.

This area was made famous by artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who immortalized the colorful rock formations in her paintings.  We visited her Ghost Ranch last year.  Click here to see that special place. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Rio Grande del Norte NM (south)

We moved to the southern end of the Monument for a couple of nights.  Once again, there are several campgrounds, but, unlike the ones in the northern section, these are right along the Rio Grande and some have electric and water hookups.  The campgrounds begin just about a mile north of Pilar, along 570, for those who are interested.  We chose the second one, Rio Bravo, which is probably the nicest.

On our only full day there, we traveled an interesting loop.  We began by continuing north on 570, checking out each campground on the way.  Petaca CG, which was the fifth one, looked like it had been a victim of a mudslide.  Yikes!  We crossed the Taos Junction Bridge and, after climbing partway out of the gorge, we stopped to hike La Vista Verde Trail.

It was about 1 1/3 miles through a fairly level area above the river, but below the rim.

I always think the edges of lava flows are interesting and here were some huge ones.

The view at the end was just spectacular.

Back in the truck, we continued to the top of the rim.  Along the way, we were thrilled to see these sheep which Ron identified as Rocky Mountain Sheep.

There was even a little one.

Ron snapped this out his side of the truck.

One more giving me the eye.

Continuing north on 115, I thought it was fascinating how flat the land appears, but see that dark line across the picture?  That’s actually the Rio Grande gorge!

Our next stop was at the Greater World Community to view the Earthship Biotecture.  There is a visitor center which explains their sustainable living including
-        Building with natural and recycled materials
-        Solar/Thermal heating and cooling
-        Solar and wind electric power
-        Water harvesting
-        Contained sewage treatment
-        Food production

And you can walk around a limited amount.  I can understand that the owners don’t want tourists walking through their yards and knocking on their doors.

There was lots of passive solar (windows on the south side) and solar panels, but what surprised me was how they used tires, cans, and bottles in the walls.  How many bottles of beer or wine would you have to drink to build a house?

I did like the solar oven.

We continued our loop by crossing the Rio Grande Gorge High Bridge.  At 1272 feet long and 650 feet above the Rio Grande, it is pretty impressive.

Then we headed back south through Taos where we stopped for groceries.  It was a good day.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rio Grande del Norte NM

We were very impressed on our first visit to this national monument two years ago and knew we would be back.  Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico was established in 2013.  The 242,455 acre monument includes two BLM recreation areas, and sections of the Rio Grande and the Red River, each of which are designated as a Wild and Scenic River.  

There are several campgrounds along the rim of the mesa between the two rivers, each with just a few really nice sites.  One day we hiked from our campground to the point of the mesa which overlooks the confluence of the two rivers.

Although it's hard to see even with a zoomed view, the Red River comes in on the lower left to join the Rio Grande on the right.

There are four different trails down to the river including one at this point which drops 800 feet.  Ron and I don't like hikes that end with a big uphill climb, especially at 7500 feet, so we didn't go down very far.

However, after staying a couple of days, we talked ourselves into hiking down to the Rio Grande.  Don’t be too impressed, though.  We went to a part of the mesa that isn’t as high above the river.
Here’s the sign at the trailhead.  As you can see, although steep, it’s a pretty short hike.  I was more worried about those snakes.

My pictures are terrible because it was cloudy, but I’ll post a few anyway.

Getting close.

At the bottom, the trail was not even passable, in my opinion.  After all, they did mention snakes on the sign.  Ron continued on without me and said he only saw one.

No pictures can do justice to this beautiful national monument.  We recommend it highly.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Columbine CG

For our next move, we only went about 9 miles to a forest service campground.  After camping free for most of the summer, it was a real shock to pay $9 a night ($18, if we weren’t old.)  It is a really nice campground, though, with large spaces having huge ‘yards’.  We even found one with enough sun for the solar.  At least it would have been enough if it hadn’t rained every afternoon.

But the mornings were lovely and we hiked up the trail that leaves right out of the campground.  We followed the trail up Columbine Canyon and turned up a side canyon after about 1 ½ miles.

It is certainly a well-constructed trail with impressive bridges.

We wondered what had dug out this tree trunk.  Bear, maybe?

We enjoyed the beautiful woods . . .

And the trail sections along the creek.

Hey, I know the name of this one – monarda or bee balm.

And the weirdly-named cow parsnip.

On our way back down the canyon, we ran into a huge group of pack llamas.  I thought this was the most ridiculous thing.  They weren’t even going as far as we did, for goodness sake.  Why do they need a trail guide and pack animals?  Ron patiently explained that it was just for the experience.  Huh.

The llamas were very well behaved and most just crossed the stream independently.  But the guide did lead a couple of the newbies.

Continuing on our way, we had new obstacles to avoid.

The only butterfly I can identify is the zebra longwing and this isn’t it.