Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Moab to New Mexico

Leaving Moab with Arches and Canyonlands National Parks did not mean leaving dramatic landscapes that remind us or our brief existence on this globe.   Uplifted ranges tilted by shifts in tectonic plates, weathering of wind and rain, canyons cut deep by rivers, exfoliating rock, hues of reds, oranges, light yellow sandstone are part of the story that continued as I traveled south.  

I drove Chris to the airport in Grand Junction, CO after our Moab adventures, and then began a leisurely trip towards Ajo, AZ for Thanksgiving.  I managed a new, to me, national park, a return to some places I hadn't been in a long time, a bit of Route 66 nostalgia, some relaxation at Faywood Hot Spring in New Mexico, visits to ancient lodgings of the early people in this land, star gazing, freshly roasted chilies, and met new people and visited with old friends.

The first stop after Moab was Gooseneck State Park in Utah.  This primitive campground sits atop the deep gorges cut by the San Juan River.  Standing atop the mesa is a view of geology resulting from 300 million years of activity.  
The river loops for over 6 miles here, but the total distance gained as the birds fly is 1 1\2 miles.

  Gooseneck is far from any signs of civilization and the night sky was perfect for photographing.  I was joined in that endeavor by a young visitor from Germany who also wanted to do night photography.

The Moki Dugway is just a short distance from Gooseneck, so after I parked the motorhome, I unhooked the car and headed to this unique bit of "highway." Although my late husband, Lin, was game for driving it in a motorhome, I am not.   The first time we drove this route was in the old VW camper.  On the map it showed a road going where we wanted to go, but as we approached it we thought the map must be wrong because in front of us was a  rock wall.  But as we got closer we saw the flash of light from the sun hitting the windshield of a car coming down.  We continued.  Once we became full time RVers, we did the route two more times in the motorhome.  I can only say my knuckles were white and I questioned our sanity.

View approaching Moki Dugway.

The road was literally dug from the cliff side, hence the name "dugway."  The views are spectacular and I was glad to retrace steps from several long ago trips through this region.
View closer to the top of Moki Dugway.  In several places, parts of  the road bed is washed away.
Colorful formations near the turn-off to Moki Dugway.
Next stop: Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Shay) is both a National Monument and home to Navajo families who  farm this spectacular place.   The canyon may be seen from overlooks along its rim, one trail down, or by jeep guided by members of the Navajo nation.   In October, most of the families have moved to the rim as deep inside is cold in winter.  The crops have been harvested and the goats and cattle sold or moved to higher ground.  The cottonwoods are brilliant yellow against the red rocks.

The Navajo however are not the first residents of this land.  The canyons (actually there are three major canyons within the area called Canyon de Chelly) were home to the Anasazi, or Ancient Ones.  The Navajo respected the remnants of those early people and the canyons contain some of the best preserved cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and pictographs to be found in the southwest.  

look for the remants of dwellings situated in the recessed rock

Route 66 and Petrified Forest National Park
From days dry camping, far from cities, my next stop was Holbrook, AZ which allowed me to get a deep chip in the motorhome windshield fixed, do some grocery shopping, get caught up on internet, and still do some exploring.  Holbrook is along the old Route 66.  Although traffic speeds along on Hwy 40 today, the old route is evident in the downtown and at spots near town.  I had breakfast (I recommend the two cheese enchiladas topped with a fried egg and homemade chili) at Joe and Aggies, a long time Route 66 eatery.  It has to be the friendliest little restaurant I've encountered..  I was made to feel right at home, conversations crossed tables, the clientele was a mix of old time locals and folks exploring route 66.   Just down the street is the landmark Wigwam Hotel.  
Rooms are in cement tepees and cars from throughout the years Route 66 was considered the "Mother Road" decorate the parking lot.

Somehow in travels through the region I had missed the Petrified Forest National Park.  This time I spent a day, under dramatic skies, walking trails through petrified trees, past petroglyphs and outlines of ancient dwellings, and through the  historic old Painted Desert Inn.

examples of petified trees

Storm moves in over Petrified Forest National Park

There were a number of excellent petroglyphs

Inside the Painted Desert Inn above.  Below, the Inn and its spectacular setting

This old car, near the junction of Interstate 40 and the park road, is a tribute to Route 66.
Desert Respite:

Faywood Hot Spring is a rustic resort located about half way between Deming and Silver City, New Mexico.  I'd spent time there in the past.  But the owner died and the place was closed for a number of years.  Bad weather prevented my visit the last time I was in the general region, but this time I spent 10 glorious days soaking, enjoying clear night skies, exploring great nearby locations and spending time with my old friend, Ajo.  Besides meals together and soaking, Ajo is great at taking care of some of my motorhome issues for me.  I now have a working heater, two non functioning light fixtures have been replaced or fixed, the dead microwave\convection oven removed but not replaced as we could not locate one that would fit (since been remedied) and numerous other chores were completed.    And I got both the motorhome and the car serviced in Deming, a chore that was due.

Driving through Hatch, New Mexico on the way meant stopping for freshly roasted chilies.  Hatch is known as the Chile Capitol, and this time of year, the harvested chilies are being roasted in shops all along the main street.  The smell, even as I drove, was compelling.  The next night I fixed stuffed chilies for Ajo and myself.  Just having the bag of warm chilies in the motorhome suffused the motorhome with the smell.

I met several new people.  Chris's cousin Larry lives in Silver City and so I called and we had lunch. Chris told me I would enjoy talking with him and he was right.  We had a nice long lunch and got acquainted.  His partner, George had another commitment that day, but I got to meet him briefly. Now we need to get Chris to come to Faywood for a long weekend and include a visit with Larry and George.  Air travel to this region isn't easy or inexpensive.

Silver City has a vibrant art scene and I enjoyed wandering through the old downtown.   The other excursion was to Gila Cliff Dwellings.  I'd been before but that was 20 years ago.  It was a good as I remembered and I had a great time talking to the volunteer there. Who knows, as a result of our conversation, Ali may join me as a guide in Yellowstone.

I took the loop road to Gila Cliff Dwellings, starting in Silver City and driving through Pinos Altos, an old mining town.  The scenery on the twisting route was spectacular

scenes of the cliff dwellings.

The gaily painted street is part in the old part of Silver City and the mural below is on another side street.

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