Yesterday we drove from Taos, NM to Durango, Colorado. It was one of the prettiest drives of the trip going through Carson National Forest in the San Juan Mountains. With 1.5 million acres, it makes you want to explore.
Voted the best train ride in America in 2020 & 2021, it is 3.5 hour out, 2 hrs. in Silverton and 3.5 hrs. back following the beautiful Animas River in the San Juan Mountains. We opted for inside seating with some amenities, and were very lucky to have the best guide possible, a young lady named Zoie. She kept it lively and informative. Only a month on the job, she had learned her lessons well. She is a geologist and her father is a botanist, so she pointed out some very interesting things.
Of course there were historical things, like mining in Silverton, and how the train became an important part. Her boyfriend is a fisherman, so she knew a few things about the fishing. Hikers use the train a lot, and they can get on and off at designated places. About half way up is a zip-line camp and lodge that looked very busy.
Riding the train for 7 hours, you get to know most of the people in your car. Mike and Vickie from Louisiana sat across from us, and we had some interesting talks. A “Rusty Spike” drink from Zoie helped break the ice. Mike and Vickie had a Motorhome and travel a lot. They also tow a Jeep, and they like to drive the dirt and gravel roads through the mountains. They know the area well.
Silverton still has the feel of a western town, although they are mostly supported by tourism. We took a short spin around town in a stage coach. That’s a first for me, and I was surprised to find it pretty comfortable.
In two hours, train passengers will shop a bit, but everyone wants to eat lunch, so there are lots of restaurants. Zoie told us about a unique jewelry shop where they mine a stone not found anywhere else.
Mostly we walked around town, but finally had to get a bite to eat before boarding the train. We now had the river side of the train, so imagined fishing it. Zoie pointed out the place Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kit jumped on the train from a cliff in the movie. Some hikers got on and off the train in a couple of places.
It was a beautiful train ride with good company and a great guide. Mike and I gave her a hug when we got off the train. Well, we had sipped a little bourbon on the way down.
A lady in one of the shops had recommended the Canoncito Trail just outside Arroyo Seco. It’s a bit strange because it goes across private property, and you have to pay $10/person. That’s unusual, but I understand the problem. For one thing, there is very limited parking. People will also leave trash, bottles, clothing and other things, so someone has to go and clean up. I’m sure it got to the neighborhood’s nerves, so the $10 deters some people. But, hey, I never thought I would pay to go trout fishing.
The trail follows a very small stream that you must cross a number of times. Someone has put down logs and rocks to cross this 4-inch deep stream so no one gets their feet wet. Being a trout fisherman, I have said many times – it is much safer to get your feet wet than trying to balance yourself on slippery rocks and logs.
On the fifth crossing I was looking down at the logs as I pulled myself to land, holding onto a pine tree. Well, a broken snag of a limb jabbed me on the top of my head. It hurt a bunch, and I quickly started bleeding, well, like a stuck pig. I kept pressure on it with a bandana while muttering a few expletives. Martha took a look and said, “Oh my!”
As the pain subsided, I left the bandana on my head and put my hat over it. I realized it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t been wearing a hat. We continued the hike, but I walked through the water at every crossing the rest of the way. This is one of the 16 reasons to carry a bandana:
Clean up blood
Blow your nose
Make a sling for a broken or hurt arm
Neck gaiter to protect from old or sun
Dry your hands after washing
Mark a trail or trout stream
Emergency coffee filter
Clean your glasses
Padding under straps
Lens cover if you lose yours
Make an ice pack
Tie brightly colored bandana to tools or people to keep track of them
It was a nice hike. I guess there are some pretty views further on, but we didn’t make it that far. Back at the truck, I pulled out the emergency kit and we cleaned up the wound,
We drove down the road to Arroyo Seco and explored the shops. We had a very nice lunch at the Sol Food Cafe. Next door they had an excellent, little grocery that was packed with all kinds of good stuff. In a small town like this, people came in steadily. There are a lot of artists in the area. One Art Gallery in particular had an impressive collection from many artists. They also had a unique approach to selling art. We have some incredible art on this trip, but how many things can you buy? This gallery turns the art into very nice greeting cards. Arroyo Seco is one of my favorite places of the trip.
Further down the road, we went to the Millicent Rogers Museum. From the brochure: “The Millicent Rogers Museum was founded in 1956 by Millicent Rogers’ youngest son, Paul Peralta-Ramos, as a lasting tribute to his mother. Born in 1902, she originally hailed from New York high society and was the granddaughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers, the cofounder of Standard Oil Company. Millicent came to Taos in 1947 and immediately fell in love with the rich Native American and Hispanic traditions of northern New Mexico. A philanthropist and life-long collector of fine art and antiques, she began to focus on the variety of arts unique to the Southwest and developed relationships with the local craftspeople, artisans and cultural communities. Millicent’s own creativity flourished in Taos as reflected in the merging of southwest cultural design elements within her own creations. The collection that Millicent developed became the core of the Museum’s exhibitions after her son, Paul, donated it upon the Museum’s founding.”
She had rheumatic fever as a child and suffered multiple heart attacks and pneumonia. Her left arm became debilitated. She died in 1953. She was known for unique style, her own fashion designs and for designing jewelry.
Listed as one of the top things to do in Taos is to drive The Enchanted Circle. It is a 2.5 hour drive if you don’t stop, or an all-day trip if you take your time and enjoy the sites, which is what we did.
Heading east, we crossed into the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and down into beautiful Moreno Valley, stopping at Eagle’s Nest State Park along Eagle’s Nest Lake, fed by the Cimarron River. At 8,200’ it is an alpine lake that is stocked with rainbow and brown trout, Kokanee salmon, smallmouth bass and northern pike.
We poked around in the little town of Eagle’s Nest, but it was early. There were some cute, little shops and a coffee place, all of which weren’t open yet. Eye of The Jewelry was open, so we checked it out. A very nice, gregarious lady greeted us and showed us around. They had some interesting things, including a whole wall of cast iron cookware, both new and old. There was an interesting assortment of baskets. Martha bought some soap that looked like mineral rocks.
This is a ski area in winter and a place to escape the heat in summer. We continued north through this beautiful valley on 38, but had we continued east on 64 across the Sangre De Cristo mountains, it would have also been beautiful. This follows an alternate of the Santa Fe Trail.
We arrived at Red River and walked both sides of the street. Once a gold and silver boom town, its income is now derived from tourists, with skiing and cool summer weather.
Next stop on the tour, now heading back west, was Questa. We expected a town similar to Red Rock, but it was much smaller. Googling a good place to have lunch, Wildcat’s Den came up. It’s a small diner where four highway crew workers were waiting for their orders. A cute, young girl took our orders. The Bobcat Burger seemed to be the highlighted choice. I was disappointed to hear it was a hamburger. With fries and a soda, it was $6.95.
We wondered about our choice as more locals came in, many placing take-out orders. For a while there was only one guy cooking and the girl taking orders and calling names when it was ready. Fortunately, another cook came in as the line got a bit longer. It was probably 15-20 minutes before our order was ready. It was good, and it was great people watching – a happening for sure.
We turned south on 522, crossing the Red River. About 20 miles later, we turned northeast to Arroyo Seco. The little mountain town is only about a block square, but it is very cute, with nice, little shops and a great ice cream place with chairs and tables out back by a small stream. A big storm loomed in the background as we enjoyed our ice cream. We got rained out before we had a chance to really explore. Maybe we’ll come back tomorrow.
On our list of things to do in Taos was the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, knowing nothing of its history.
“The Mabel Dodge Luhan House, also known as the Big House, is a historic house at 240 Morada Lane in Taos, New Mexico, United States. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. It is now used as a hotel and conference center.
It was a home of arts supporter and writer Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879–1962), where she orchestrated one of the most successful artistic salon environments in the early 20th century United States, hosting well-known writers, painters, photographers, and musicians, and nurturing the young Taos art colony.
The house was built between 1917 and 1922, using largely tradition Puebloan construction methods, and incorporates into its structure two older buildings. The work was overseen by Tony Luhan, a Native American whom Mabel Dodge later married. The public spaces of the interior include the large “Big Room”, a two-section chamber that doubles as entrance vestibule, and the “Rainbow Room”, so named for the colors painted on the latillas (the crossing members of the ceiling above the vigas). The house was the largest of several small houses Luhan had built on her property; the others served as additional guest quarters, and have not been well preserved.
Mabel Dodge Luhan was born into a wealthy family and was well-educated in the arts. In the 1910s, she became well known for the salon-style gatherings at her New York City apartment. Her short marriage to painter Maurice Sterne brought her to New Mexico in 1917, where she soon bought the property near Taos, and sought to recreate the salon atmosphere in the budding art colony.
It’s a convoluted drive out of Sedona. You have to drive south, then east to I17, then north to I40 east. On Monday I had taken my truck to Flagstaff for an oil change. I drove north on 89A, which is a beautiful road, but it is a winding, narrow mountain road up and out of the canyon. There are tourist destinations all along this road, and it is also busy with local traffic. Workers and people are going to and from Flagstaff. It was a tough drive in the truck and NO place to pull a trailer! Going this way makes the drive about 8 hours if you don’t stop, and we stopped.
I40 in most places is Rt. 66. I had bought a book about Rt. 66, thinking we might drive parts of it. When Winslow, Arizona came up on a mileage sign, we had to make the turn! Martha was not familiar with the Eagles classic, “Take it Easy.” I was ready for a cup of coffee anyway, so we took the exit.
Well, two blocks of Winslow make the best of the famous spot. I will never forget the place I first heard the song. I was in graduate school at Ohio State, working in the lab one evening. Mike Majchrowicz, standing on a lab bench against the wall, said, “Hey Dude, listen to this song!” He played it, emphasizing the lyrics, ‘Take it Easy’”. I guess I was being too intense.
“Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne began writing the breezy traveling tune in 1971 but couldn’t quite finish it. Then living at 1020 Laguna Avenue in Echo Park, Los Angeles, along with Glen Frey and J.D. Souther, he had been plucking away on his piano. Frey, who was sharing a one-room apartment for $60/mo, heard Jackson in the basement directly beneath him working on an early version.
“He had his piano and guitars down there. I didn’t really know how to sit down and work on a song until I heard him playing underneath us in the basement,” Frey noted in album liner notes. “I had never really witnessed that sort of focus – someone being that fastidious – and it gave me a different idea about how to write songs; that maybe it wasn’t all just going to be a flood of inspiration. That’s when I first heard [this song].”
“Take It Easy” was originally intended for Browne’s own self-titled debut album (1972), but he shelved the piece. “It was Glenn who remembered the song from some time earlier and asked Jackson about it one day,” said band member Don Henley.
Frey continued, “I told him that I really liked it. ‘What was that, man? What a cool tune that is.’ He started playing it for me and said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know – I’m stuck.’ So, he played the second unfinished verse and I said, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ That was my contribution to [the song], really, just finishing the second verse.”
Even with such a small contribution, Browne was immediately awe-struck, saying, “Okay! We co-wrote this,” as Frey recounted it. “But it’s certainly more of him. Sometimes, you know, it’s the package without the ribbon. He already had the lines about Winslow, Arizona. He’d had car trouble and broken down there on one of his trips to Sedona. He spent a long day in Winslow… I don’t know that we could have ever had a better opening song on our first album. Just those open chords felt like an announcement, ‘And now … the Eagles.’”
“Browne, a boyish and mournful young songwriter, started the song with an account of his woman problems. Out of the seven on his mind, he said, only one was a friend. The rest wanted to own him, or stone him. Never mind; take it easy.”
But it is Glenn Frey’s statue on the corner of Winslow, AZ. Next to the statue is a red, flatbed Ford truck with a pretty girl sitting in the driver’s seat. A nice shop across the street sells all kinds of Rt. 66 memorabilia, and a TV shows the Eagles singing the song in their early years.
A friendly black man sat on a bench across the street talking and waving to everyone while eating a sandwich. Behind him was a very cool vintage Airstream and truck. The man and I exchanged greetings before walking across the street to get an espresso. After a little more wandering, we decided we had best get back on the road. We pulled out beside the man, who had now settled behind an electric guitar. It would have been nice to sit down with a coffee and listen. He waved and shouted, “Hey man! You travel in style!” I smiled and waved back.
There are three national monuments around Sedona; Toozigoot, Montezuma Castle and Walnut Castle. We opted for Toozigoot, a pretty impressive site that sits on a hill above the Verde River. It is one of many in the Verde Valley, but it seems to be a place of leadership, a place where people gathered from all over.
It is also interesting, because there still remains a good water supply and fertile valley, yet they still left about 1300, similar to all the sites we have visited. The other two monuments were sin agua or without water, yet they managed to thrive. With 80 other sites in the valley, there was once a large population that lived here. At some point the Tonto Apache moved into the area.
We drove up the side of a mountain to Jerome, a once thriving mining town, where gold, silver and copper made some rich. It also has a history of fires, mine collapses and other disasters. The museum has a good movie, telling the rich stories of the town.
Now, it is a tourist town with narrow, winding streets, restaurants, stores and bars. You wouldn’t want to drink too much and drive down this mountain.
We drove back to Cottonwood and had lunch at The Old Town Cafe, which was very good, and then poked around the cute, little town.
Back in Sedona, we went to see the Church of The Holy Cross, sitting high on a hill with a great statue of the Crucifixion.
Three hours south on 160, then “Everything’s Fine on 89” is Sedona, Arizona. Martha had requested Sedona, after Mark’s recommendation. Along Rt 89, we saw a sign for Wapatki National Monument. Since this trip is all about the national parks and monuments of the “Four Corners”, I wheeled into the park, not knowing anything about it. From the NPS website:
Footprints of the Past
Nestled between the Painted Desert and ponderosa highlands of northern Arizona Wupatki seems like an unlikely landscape for a thriving community. In the early 1100s during a time period of cooler temperatures and wetter seasons the ancestors of contemporary Pueblo communities created a bustling center of trade and culture. For Hopi people these sites represent the footprints of their ancestors.
Next door is the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. It erupted between 1040 and 1100. Wapatki is different in a couple of ways. It is not in a canyon, and it had a ball court, the northern most ball court in America. The park is 39,422 acres, and Sunset Crater is another 3,000 acres. The ball game was likely similar to the Mayan or Aztec games with a stone ball, likely covered with pitch.
Driving on to Sedona, traffic was slowed by road construction for miles around Flagstaff on Interstate 17. It was stop and go traffic. Our route took us south of Sedona before we could head back north. The mountains surrounding Sedona are spectacular.
We arrived at Rancho Sedona RV Park where a young man guided us into our site.
At 8:00 we set out for Navajo National Monument, turning south on 191. I desperately needed to get the Virginia Airstream newsletter out. With no cell phone service recently, it has been difficult. We could have turned left to the nice Visitor’s Center in Blanding, but hoped to find something in Bluff. We turned at sign for the Visitor’s Center and parked in the shade.
We were greeted as soon as we entered, showing us pictures and an exhibit. I had read a sign in front of Natural Bridges National Monument about the Hole in the Rock, wondering if it was the Hole in The Wall gang, but it was not. It is the amazing story of a group of 236 Mormons assigned on a mission to the Four Corners area. Their 200-mile trip took six months in the winter. They had to cross the Colorado River, widen a slot canyon through the west wall of Glen Canyon and build a road up the solid rock San Juan Hill. Exhausted and out of food, they stopped in what would be called Bluff, Utah on the San Juan River, irrigated, planted and made a trading post. As our guide said, “It would become the Walmart of the time”.
We watched three cool movies in three rooms describing the events, then toured the center. Outside were cabins, wagons and tools showing what it was like in those days in 1879. It was cool, but I HAD to get a newsletter out, so we sat down at a picnic table and went to work. It took me 45 minutes to update new members. I’m sure there is a better way to merge an Excel spreadsheet with gmail. I thought I got everyone, but would latter learn I had missed at least one.
It was noon by the time I was finished, or as finished as I was going to get. We filled with diesel at $6/gal and got some ice and orange juice. We turned west on 160 toward Kayenta through increasingly drier land. Temperatures fluctuated around 90. We turned north toward the Monument where a sign warned not to bring trailers over 26’ due to limited turn-around areas. We were 25’, so we drove on.
We went into the nice, and busy Visitor’s Center. I showed my Senior Pass, but the lady said. “This is a no-fee park.” She explained the two camping areas that are first-come first-serve. With this crowd, we hurried to the small campground, but it was almost empty. We drove around three times, trying to pick a good site, settling on #4. We wiggled around 15 times before we were satisfied with our position, but still, I could barely put the awning out.
We went back to the Visitor’s Center, which was now quiet. It is an historic site where people lived 1,000 years ago. Well, they probably lived here much longer than that, but this was the building era of the Anasazi or The Ancient Ones. the Center had beautiful basket, pottery and tool displays.
We walked out back where trails led to views of the ancient sites. It was getting late and a storm was brewing, so we went back to camp. Soon a big thunderstorm came with a lot of greatly-needed rain.
A short rain early, but then cleared. The stars were amazing after the moon went down, and I saw several shooting stars. I am frustrated not having cell phone coverage, although a message or email will occasionally sneak through. I am way behind on the blog and I desperately need to get the Virginia Airstream newsletter out.
Since we had a little rain, we decided to have a morning fire. I love a morning fire to take the chill off until the sun comes up. By 9:00 we had packed up, hooked up, filled our water jugs and set out on the gravel road from Bradfield Campground. We were nervous when we first pulled in on Sunday with a weekend crowd, but Sunday night they all left, except one camper, Chuck and his wife. We had three peaceful, beautiful nights there for $4/night.
We turned onto 491 north toward Monticello. It was only a two-hour drive, but we had some things to do. Our $4 campground didn’t have a dump station, so Martha searched on Campendium and found a Maverick Adventures First Stop gas station had a dump station! It was a big station with a big store and a tractor-trailer parking area. We were surprised there was no fee. They also had fresh water for an RV, but our hose wouldn’t reach. We could have, or should have, bought a second hose, but storage is always an issue, so we went to the Monticello Visitor’s Center. Jim Eberling greeted me and told me where two spigots were. There was a five dollar fee, which I paid.
On my way out the door I noticed a cool museum across the hall, and called Martha to come see. They had some neat things, including moccasins from before the Anasazi! Jim got to talking to Martha about our travels, then took us to his desk to point out some things we shouldn’t miss. Sheez! There is so much stuff to see, especially in the amazing San Juan County, Utah, that it would take months or years to see. We did note “House on Fire” and Bear’s Ears National Monument. I need more time!!
Despite considerable wiggling, we could not get close enough to fill the water tank, so on we went to the next town, Blanding, and stopped in their Visitor’s Center. The nice lady said we could get water at the 7-Eleven five blocks away. Well, they had good WIFI and a nice sitting area outside under some trees, so we sat down to get email, get what I needed for the newsletter, and to fix my protonmail server. By then we were hungry for lunch. Across the street was Patio Diner, rated 4.6, so we went in. Martha got a Burger while I had a Chicken/avacado sandwich.
Then down the road for water at the 7-Eleven. I enquired inside, and she said it was $5. I happily paid, and she handed me a telephone with a cord and a funny-shaped key attached. Showing me a map, she said pull in front of the station, over to a house to find the spigot. I crept across the lot with eyes searching for water in front of this house, and there it was – a water spigot with a padlock on it and a sign above. Using the key attached to a telephone, we unlocked the padlock and happily filled the water tank. We noticed there was an RV park just ahead of the spigot.
Now it was 1:00 and we still had an hour to go to Natural Bridges, and it was hot. Out of town, we took a right and were greeted by a sign warning us there are no services for the next 120 miles. We should have a full tank of gas, food and water. Sounds like the Loneliest Road through Nevada, only that is a lot further.
Down we went into the valley toward the Colorado River, and the terrain became more desert-like. Winding our way around, we finally turned into Natural Bridges National Monument. We were greeted at the Visitor’s Center by a young woman who lacked all charm and warmth. After showing my senior pass and driver’s license, she tossed me a one-page description of the park. We looked around the small center and headed out to the campground.
We could drive around, select our spot, and pay at the self-pay station. We were the only ones there, and selected site 4 for the views. Combined length should not exceed 26’. Well that eliminated us, but we might have to pay for another site for the truck. We’ll see. It’s considerably more expensive than our last site at $7.50/night with a Senior Pass. God Bless those passes!
After a little rest, we drove the “Loop”, which is 9 miles long, beside a lovely canyon. We got out in several places to take a look, and were impressed. Now we really are left with one day to try to see a lot. At the last overlook, we talked with a young lady, who was walking a pretty big hike. Her boy friend has just taken a job here, so she took some time off to explore the area. Like Karen, she is a big-time hiker, and soon she was off to get in a few more miles. She told us one way to do this is to hike down one side, walk along the bottom, and come up the other. Martha said, “Then you have to walk back across the mesa to get to your truck.” I’m sure someone would give us a ride, or you could leave a bike.
With 270,000 acres and hundreds of sites, there is a lot to explore and discover in Canyons of the Ancients. We opted to hike Sand Canyon Trail to Saddlehorn Pueblo and Double Cliff House for a 4-mile out-and-back hike. We were a little late getting started at 9:00, but it took us about 40 minutes to get there. It was 78 degrees when we started and 83 when we finished. That is not so bad, but at 5,400’ and clear skies, the sun is hot, and it is VERY dry, so we made every effort to drink a lot of water.
We could see others had made the hike already. Dirt bike tracks helped mark the trail. It looked like someone ran the trail, and horses had come up last weekend. The entire trail is 6 miles one way with a 700’ gain in elevation. I can’t imagine the biker went the whole way. A horseback ride would be a nice way to explore this vast region, but you would need a lot of water.
It was a very pretty hike. Just when you think you have seen all possible rock formations, a different group presents itself. The lower layer was bright red from oxidized iron. At one point I thought we were back at Goblin Valley. Surrounded by such history makes the hike pretty amazing. Natural features present many great home sites for cliff dwellers. It is so dry now, you have to imagine it when water was plentiful, especially at Double Cliff House. There would have been two waterfalls and perhaps a lake. Farming would have been good, with lots of game. When it all dried up abound 1200, the people migrated south to better water sources. to the east they followed the Rio Grande south. To the west they followed the Colorado.
We passed a lot of people out for a hike. One young man looked determined to do the whole thing – a 12-mile trip. Walking back down, we got a different view and perspective of Ute Mountain and the beautiful irrigated farms below. There are a number of other trails in the area. It would be fun to come back and do them.
We drove to the top of the trail to see Sand Canyon Pueblo, which has not been excavated. It is a huge site where hundreds once lived 1,000 years ago. Somehow modern technology is able to scan the area and see what is below the earth and rubble. Pictures on signs showed what it looked like, which is pretty amazing.
We had lunch in the shade at a picnic table. Then we drove to the cute, little town of Dolores and went to Dolores Market that Martha had heard about. It’s a small market, but it has everything. Browsing the store, I passed by a substantial kitchen where three women were working. The smell of freshly-baked cookies filled the air. I watched a lady carry out a tray of cookies. They are known for their pies, and we bought a tri-berry pie along with sausage they made and a few other things.
I needed to get some emails out and work on the Virginia Airstream Club newsletter, so we went to the Dolores Library. It is a beautiful library with outdoor seating and a park-like setting beside the beautiful Dolores River. Several people were tubing down the river on a hot afternoon.
I was able to get a lot done in a few hours, until a storm came through, knocking the internet out. Then my email app wouldn’t load and didn’t like my password. In a panic, I remembered this happening several times before, and I wanted to get it resolved before leaving this nice library, but I could not. I got the emails sent by going to the email website thankfully.
Driving, we saw the Dolores River flowing into the McPhee Reservoir then out through the dam downstream to our campground. We drove to the recreation area next to the campground and saw why so many come here. It is a great swimming hole with a rock ledge on the other side. A family was enjoying the day, and a young boy showed how you can jump off a 10’ cliff into the water. A big sign described the river and canyon below. It looks a bit muddy and low to be able to run the canyon right now. Apparently there are trout in the river, but it is awfully hot with little cover for trout. They would be looking for cold springs to hold out in. We agreed that the river offers a lot of opportunities in this area, but tomorrow we leave for natural Bridges National Monument.