New Mexico

Posted: May 18, 2014 in Random Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
View from my hotel room in Albuquerque

View from my hotel room in Albuquerque.

Until last week, my exposure to New Mexico was a small strip from Four Corners to Farmington, and the drive between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  Though those travel snippets didn’t expose me to much landscape, I was impressed by what I saw.  Then I traveled to New Mexico again for work last week, and saw a big chunk of the northwest part of the state.  I’m now convinced it’s the most scenic state I’ve seen (I think Utah may be the most scenic, but I haven’t seen much of it yet).  Last week I flew into Albuquerque — Oh, that’s a story in itself.  Let me start there.

Last Thursday, I flew to Albuquerque via Dallas-Fort Worth.  My first flight left on time, but on the way to Dallas, the captain announced over the speakers DFW had been closed because of the weather, so we’d be landing in Little Rock, Arkansas instead, until DFW had reopened.  So, we landed in Little Rock and took on fuel.  Apparently DFW had been reopened, because we took off as soon as the plane refueled.  Then as we were approaching DFW, the captain announced incoming flights had been suspended again at DFW.  We were now in a holding pattern — and we stayed in a holding pattern for about two or more hours.  When we finally arrived at DFW, it had taken the plane 5 hours to complete a flight normally 1-1/2 hours long.  Of course, I’d been rescheduled for a different flight to Albuquerque, and that flight was scheduled to leave two hours later than usual.  I waited, and boarded the plane when called, and then sat at the gate for about another 1-1/2 hours.  The rain was pouring down and lightning flashed.  Because of the lightning, the ground crews were prevented from getting the plane ready to go.  Finally, the plane got off the ground.  I arrived in Albuquerque about 6 hours late.  When my luggage reached the carousel, I found it was soaking wet.  Apparently the ground crew at DFW had left everyone’s luggage in the rain while they’d huddled inside.  I wasn’t a happy camper.

I’d been scheduled to start working in Gallup that day, but ended up spending the night in Albuquerque instead.  The next morning, I started out for Gallup.  I saw some interesting landscape during the drive.  In one town, sedimentary layers of rock surrounded the jagged valley floor, which was obviously formed by a lava flow.  Reminded me of the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.  Then, east of Gallup, I was reminded of the landscape in Cars, where the tail fins of Cadillacs stuck out from the ground.  In real life, red layers of rock stuck out at the same angles with the same spacing between them.  I had to believe this was the inspiration for the movie.  I worked in Gallup for two days.

NM Gallup View from Hotel

View from my hotel room in Gallup

I spent two days in Gallup, like I said before.  The first evening, I drove through town on Route 66 and back, then visited a state park a little north of town called Red Rock Park.  I stopped at a post office in the park for Church Rock, NM and took a picture of Church Rock.  I took a lot of pictures that evening.

Church Rock

Church Rock

I had no idea I was already on the Navajo Nation.  The reservation is huge, and I feel the most diverse land in our country.  So there I was in Gallup, then had to drive to Fort Defiance, AZ on Sunday morning.  I had a feeling my camera batteries were getting low, and sure enough when I tried to take pictures in Window Rock at the Navajo Tribal Park there, my camera died.  I stopped at a grocery store there and bought batteries, but I didn’t backtrack to take pictures.  I had a job to go to.  Fort Defiance is so close to the New Mexico border, I’ll just consider it part of New Mexico for this blog entry.  I think the mountains I took pictures of while in Fort Defiance really were in New Mexico, anyway.

East of Fort Defiance, AZ

East of Fort Defiance, AZ

I spent a few hours in Fort Defiance, then headed to my next site, near Dulce, NM.

Between Fort Defiance and Navajo, NM

Between Fort Defiance and Navajo, NM

I saw this, then crossed over some mountains, reaching over 9000 feet in elevation (I think), and east of the mountains found myself in an almost barren desert.

View from US-491

View from US-491

The wind blew hard, and the closer I got to Shiprock, it was kicking up some dust storms.

Shiprock, in the Dust

Shiprock, in the Dust

I drove into a few of these without much problem, but the last near Shiprock was like driving in a brown blizzard.  I pressed through it at about 20 miles per hour, hoping the cars and semis behind me had also slowed down.  My biggest fear was getting rear-ended.  Turned out I had nothing to worry about.  When I finally got through the dust and further down the road, I realized no-one was behind me.  I figured they’d decided to pull off the road and wait out the dust storm.  That dust hung in the air and made the sky darker than usual all the way to Dulce.

So, I drove through Shiprock, NM and Farmington (I’d driven this route years ago).  East of Farmington, I began climbing into mountains again.  Desert turned to scrub, which turned to Junipers, then pines.  Brown and yellow turned into green.  The last picture I got before reaching Dulce was this outcropping.

View from US-64, West of Dulce

View from US-64, West of Dulce

I spent two days in Dulce, which was on an Apache reservation.  I stayed at the Wild Horse Casino and Hotel, which was run by the tribe, and ate dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, which had old pictures of reservation life on the wall.  While at the hospital, I talked with the security guard and learned a little about Apache history and culture.  Nice guy.  My second morning there, I woke up to 4 inches of snow on my car.

View from my Hotel Window in Dulche

View from my Hotel Window in Dulche (that’s my Rental Car in the Center)

I finished up around lunchtime, then started for my next site, in Taos.  I drove east, through mountain valleys.

??????????

East of Dulce, on US-64

The highway jogged south at Chama.  South of there, I saw this.

View from US-64, South of Chama

View from US-64, South of Chama

Little did I know, US-64 jogged east again, and climbed up, behind those three peaks, into the Carson National Forest.  At about 10,500 feet, I was able to stop and take another picture from third peak, at the second.

View from US-64, in Carson National Forest

View from US-64, in Carson National Forest

Then the road began to go down, through more valleys and along the sides of more ridges.  At one spot, I saw cattle near a gate, as if waiting for their rancher to come feed them, then noticed there was a coyote in their midst.  I saw abandoned homesteads.  The east exit of the park opened onto a scrubby plateau, or rather a high valley among several mountain ranges.  I was only a few miles to Taos, now.  I saw the community of earthship houses I’d seen on TV, strange, odd, eco-friendly buildings made from old tires and soda cans.  And then I came across the Rio Grande Gorge.

Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande Gorge

I had no idea the Rio Grande had a Gorge.  The only time I’d seen it before was flying into Albuquerque and driving in Texas.  In both places it seemed a small, gently flowing river in shallow valleys.  Who knew this little river could cut such a deep gorge?  I found a hotel after reaching Taos.  I spent Wednesday working there.  After work, I had enough time to drive back to Albuquerque before dark.  I found that south of Taos, the highway actually went down into the gorge and ran along the river.

Rio Grande River, South of Taos

Rio Grande River, South of Taos

Small Bridge across the Rio Grande River

Small Bridge across the Rio Grande River

Last Picture I Took along the Rio Grande River

Last Picture I Took along the Rio Grande River

I spent the night in Albuquerque near the airport, and flew out the next morning.  It had been a long week, and I was glad to be going home, but I was also sad to be leaving New Mexico.  I’d be glad to go back there for work anytime, maybe even for vacation!

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