|Wildflowers in Cimarron Canyon State Park, New Mexico.|
David and I packed the Transit with some of my paintings (as I planned to visit galleries along the way) and headed out on Aug. 18, a typically hot Tuesday morning.
As anyone who lives in or has been to Texas, it seems like you spend most of your time just getting out of Texas when you do a road trip. It pretty much took the first day of our trip to get to New Mexico, via the Texas Panhandle and we finally landed in Clovis, NM, for our first night. Our goal was to get as close to the mountains and, hopefully, some cooler weather, as soon as we could.
Heading north/northwest out from Clovis the next morning, we drove through miles of dry, treeless landscape but soon the views began to change...we could see the mountains in a distance. As we got nearer, the pine trees and, soon, the Aspens began to appear! And wildflowers! Yes, the late-summer blooms were showing off, sometimes sparsely, other times in abundance. It took a bit of time to enter areas where the temps were not as cruel as what we had been experiencing in Central Texas but we enjoyed even a few degrees of relief. By the time we reached Eagle Nest, a wonderful little village east of Wheeler Peak and the Taos Ski Area, we were enjoying the "mountain air."
We took the upper loop around the mountain peak to Red River and then down the other side to Taos, our layover for the second night.
|St. Francis Church in Taos, NM|
I found myself unable to resist taking photo after photo. But perhaps one of my favorite place was the historic San Franciso de Asis Church and Plaza, located in Ranchos de Taos. I'm including a photo of the church and of a wall facing the courtyard around the church. I love how the sun enhances the warm adobe color, don't you? And those blue doors and windows...wow.
|Art is everywhere in Taos! This is a mural on Ledoux Street, which is lined with galleries and artist studios.|
With some reluctance, we left Taos since our destination for the next night was Durango, CO, and we had miles yet to travel.
But the drive from Taos to Pagosa Springs was beautiful. We enjoyed rolling hills, valleys and mountains along the way. Loved seeing happy cows feeding on green pastures. While it was only August, I could almost imagine the stands of Aspen trees turning gold for Autumn. I kept telling David along the way that we have to come back to see the seasons change.
Friday morning we said goodbye to Durango and headed north to Silverton for our adventure on the Millon Dollar Highway. One word to try to sum it up: Spectacular.
If you've never done this drive, US 550 out of Durango then catch 62 at Ridgeway over to Telluride, you must put it on your list. You follow switchbacks along the edge of the mountain sides where some folks a lot braver that I carved roads out of rock decades ago. Along the way, the road takes you through old mining towns, like Silverton, Ouray and Ridgeway, that are now adorable stops filled with shops. But they have managed to maintain a certain historical presence and charm. I especially love the hanging baskets filled with colorful flowers up and down the sidewalks!
|Ouray, CO....lined with shops and framed by mountains!|
|A mountain stream coming out of the Box Canyon in Ouray, Colorado.|
After spending the night in Ouray, we continued our journey up to Ridgeway and then over to Telluride. We didn't do the tram there but did drive around the mountains from Telluride to Mountain Village before heading out. The drive through the San Juan National Forest was, again, spectacular. Sorry, just not many words to do it justice.
|One of the many views as we drove through the San Juan Mountains from Telluride to Cortez.|
Our destination for the next night's stay was Cortez, near the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park.
Again, this was all new territory for both David and I. We so thoroughly enjoyed the Million Dollar Highway out of Durango. But we were in for a different-but-equally amazing experience when we decided that we were too close to Mesa Verde to not take it in.
After a quick coffee stop Sunday morning, we left out from Cortez for Mesa Verde. According to the website, you should allow for 4 hours for the minimum trip into and out of the park. That was our goal as we drove in a little after 10 a.m. Little did we know that it would not be until some 8 hours later that we would be leaving the park!
|View of the mountains driving into Mesa Verde National Park.|
|One of the many centuries-old cliff dwellings you can view from the roadside in Mesa Verde.|
As I've told so many of my friends, if you've never done Mesa Verde, you must make the time to do it. The experience of standing there looking at the stone homes of people who created them and lived in them is remarkable and spiritual.
|The Old Post Office in downtown Santa Fe, now a museum.|
Again, a town that so many artists are drawn to...to visit, to move to, to call home or, at least, home away from home. Something about how the sun shines in New Mexico inspires artists to see and add color to their art and to their lives. We walked around the downtown area, taking in the adobe buildings, old and new, the historic church and the colorfully adorned old post office. After a brief stop at La Posada, we drove the "famous" Canyon Road, where a gallery fills every nook and cranny it seems. We decided to not spend much time this trip but have marked it down for a visit again someday.
Rather than take the I-25 from Santa Fe to Albuquerue, we opted for the road a little less traveled, NM14, AKA the Turquoise Trail. Again, a good choice! The road is dotted with once-abandoned mining towns that we brought back to life as artist communes years ago. Today, little villages like Madrid (yes, where parts of the movie "Wild Hogs" was filmed) are host to galleries, art studios, coffee shops and restaurants. On the way to and in between the towns are some interesting art displays as well, like this "sculpture garden" near Cerrillos, NM.
Leaving the Turquoise Trail near Sandia Peak, we continued southward toward Ruidoso, our next stop for the night. Again, rather than following the Interstate, we opted for a quieter road with some zigs and zags as we our way to Carrizozo and then Captian and, finally Ruidoso. During that day's trip we went from desert mountains into more desert and then back into the mountains, but this time filled with pine trees, at least where the fires had not scorched the earth.
|David and Linda, Cloudcroft, NM, August 2015.|
That gave us a chance to make the scenic drive through the Lincoln National Forest, up to Cloudcroft, only our second time to visit the quaint little mountain town in the clouds. We caught up with another old friend who now owns a gallery there, walked around downtown a bit (one street about 3 blocks long) and then did a visit at the old railroad trestle that was used decades ago to bring visitors by the hundreds during the summer so they could escape the heat of the desert.
Finally, Thursday morning we left New Mexico, heading for Texas, heading for home. It was a most memorable trip.
If you've taken the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed taking the journey with us. I encourage you to find a way to travel, to get out and see this wonderful country of ours. You'll be glad you did!