- Due to weather, I had originally crossed this next location off the list, but was informed the road was now ‘partially’ open. As it was a short drive away, I quickly headed to Valles Caldera National Preserve – Valle Grande – on Jemez Mountain National Scenic Byway. I had heard about this valley, and had planned to pass though it on my way to my next destination until I found out the road was closed which left me disappointed and rerouting the map. How quickly opportunity can change, be ready for it! This valley met all my expectations, it was stunning! As the temperature started dropping, and knowing the road still had snow that had been melting all day, it was time to get down from this section before the road turned treacherous and froze over. I was grateful I was able to visit even if only for a very short time. It was worth it!
As I headed towards Santa Fe to get some supplies in town and get closer to tomorrow’s location, I hurriedly found a location to pull over just in time to capture the sun fading in a glorious red fire. One thing I can say for sure… the sunsets out here are dynamic!
JEMEZ SPRINGS, NM – day 5
- As usual, I’m the first one in line at the gated entrance to Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. I’m at least an hour early. You never know what you’re going to find along the road, so I like to give myself extra time, just in case. I passed a sacred Native American burial site that would have made a perfect sunrise photo, but I respected the sign that asked for it not to be photographed. As I waited, I took pictures of birds in nature until I needed to thaw out. Who knew the desert temperatures got so low that they made your limbs so extremely painful, your almost immobilized after just a brief time! I do now! Other cars are beginning to line up behind me. I’m glad I’m first, as they limit the amount of people due to parking.
There are three trails (trail brochure). “The Cave Loop Trail is 1.2 miles long, rated as easy. The more difficult Canyon Trail is a 1.5-mile, one-way trek into a narrow canyon with a steep (630-ft) climb to the mesa top for excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains and the Rio Grande Valley. Around 4 miles if you do them both. The trails are well maintained; however, during inclement weather the canyon may flash flood and lightning may strike the ridges.” At the time I visited, mesa top was closed, as was the The Veterans Memorial Trail. It is a 1-mile long loop trail, rated as very easy and is wheelchair accessible. As I was finishing up cave loop trail, I came across a sign: ‘caution snakes’. The terrain is identical on both sides of the ropes. If snakes were on that side of rope, they were also on this side. But I am sure the purpose was to just keep hikers from cutting the trail.
- I had originally planned to overnight at Cochiti Lake Recreation Area – Reservoir Dam to get a full shower, do laundry, refill water, and drain the tanks… but that didn’t work out like I had planned. They were listed as open, but at arrival they were not. So I spent a little time at the lake, watching the air bubbles move under the layer of ice and soaking up the warm sun. I imagine this place is quite busy in the summer months. I prefer this quiet solitude and only a few people.
This change of plans has set me ahead of schedule again. Instead of the day of leisure and not rushing anywhere, I just head towards the next spot. As the sun began to set and my eyes were getting weary, I pulled into a gas station in Cuba, NM to fill up and found the perfect location to end the day with a beautiful sunset of Mesa de Cuba mountain in background and a place to rest my head. I left the curtains open, and as I looked out the window in the early morning hours, I witnessed a full moon lighting up the night. I sure need to wash the windows though!
As a ‘huge’ adventure awaits for me tomorrow, this seems a good place to end part 1 and say goodnight. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did. Stay tuned for part 2, 3, and possibly even a 4th photographic journal as this was a grand excursion that required much documentation!
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Follow my adventures across America. I’ve done the leg work, and the research. Feel free to use it to take your own journey without the hassle!
Be sure to call ahead to check locations before going, as COVID pandemic has temporarily closed many of these places for safety. So if you can’t visit in person, take the journey through my eyes and never even leave your comfy armchair. You’ll be safe from contamination, and your guaranteed not to develop frostbite from the frigid temps!