Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Salt Missions Trail (East Mountain Ramble)

A perfect day trip from Albuquerque which is well worth an over-night stay.  This trip travels one of the first scenic byways designated by the state (along with 11 others) in 1994.  The route is passable even in winter and will lead you to a trio of centuries-old Pueblo ruins, whose stacked stones are lovely with a dusting of snow.
Beginning in Tijeras (20 miles east of Albuquerque) the Salt Missions Trail National Scenic Byway travels past the Manzano Mountains and Pueblo ruins to Mountainair.  Looping along NM 41 to Moriarty, the route then traces part of the Route 66 National Scenic Byway (along NM 333) back to the starting point.
South of Tijeras, in the Cibola National Forest, take your choice among picnicking, hiking, and camping destinations like Tunnel Canyon, Otero Canyon, Cedro Campground, and Pine Flat Picnic Area.
In Moriarty, you'll begin your cruise down Route 66.  Mother Road institution El Comedor de Anayas has been serving New Mexican favorites since 1953.
Albuquerque's East Mountain area, which includes the town of Edgewood, has farms that raise alpacas, llamas, camels, angora rabbits, and other fleecy creatures.  At Edgewood Yarn and Fabrics, you'll find a bounty of raw fiber and yarn for your own project, as well as a display of  locally crafted fiber arts- with a slate of classes, you might even find a knitting circle in progress.
The Salt Mission Trail draws its name from the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, which includes three sets of ruins:  those at Quarai, Abo, and Gran Quivira (26 miles south of Mountainair).  The Tiwa and Tompiro speaking Puebloan peoples thrived here prior to the arrival of the Spanish by trading precious salt left by an evaporated lake.  Franciscan missionaries arrived in the 17th century and left their mark here also.  Visit the ruins of three mission churches built from 1620 to 1659 and the pueblo of  Las Humanas (at Gran Quivira).

Taken from New Mexico magazine.

New Mexico State Monument System

The New Mexico State Monument system was established in 1931.  Since that time, 16 have been named, although some have been returned to the National Park Service. The following six are still open to the public.

Bosque Redondo Memorial:  Navajo and Mescalero Apache people were forced from their homelands in 1862 - 63 by Colonels James H. Carleton and Kit Carson on a walk of 450 miles in what became known as "The Long Walk", only to be imprisoned on a million-acre reservation near Fort Sumner.  Today, the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner State Monument, which is located six miles south of Fort Sumner, is a monument to this great military atrocity.
Walking the quarter-mile trail around the site brings back to those dark days and the resilience of the Native American people who were eventually allowed to return to their homelands.  The monument was designed by Navajo architect David Sloan, and is shaped like a hogan (a Navajo dwelling) and a tepee, and features a video that describes how the Navajo people feel about the Bosque Redondo.

Coronado State Monument:  Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish explorer in 1540 came looking for the elusive Seven Cities of Gold, found welcoming Native Americans at the Kuaua Pueblo.  Visitors today can descend into the remains of the Pueblo's ceremonial kiva at the Coronado State Monument, which is located 17 miles north of Albuquerque.  The kiva which is unique for its square shape, opens into a large room just below ground.  Thick walls support 17 layers of murals representing some of the finest pre-Columbian mural art in the US.  At the Visitors Center, children can don conquistador armor and grind corn on a metate (slab) with a mano (grinding stone).  As easy half-mile trail winds around the site, other trails allow visitors to explore the nearby Rio Grande bosque.

El Camino Real Heritage Center:  El Camino Real parallels I-25 and dates to 1519, when Spanish explorers headed north from Mexico to trade with Native tribes.  Standing on El Camino Real's (the Royal Road) windswept overlook today, it's easy to envision 16th-century travelers trudging through the desert to trade everything from live macaws to turquoise.  Visitors today see virtually what travelers saw 400 years ago.  Along with hand-hewn carts and tools, the Cultural Center, 35 miles south of Socorro, features a replica of a turquoise studded funeral mask once used by Native Americans and Mexicans, and offers an unbelievable look at this historic road.

Fort Selden State Monument:  Fort Seldon is quiet now although the wind sweeps through the adobe ruins.  It wasn't always that way.   Beginning in 1865, buffalo soldiers patrolled the desert, protecting travelers on El Camino Real from outlaws and Apaches.  Built near the Rio Grande, 13 miles north of Las Cruces, this isolated post comprised a central parade ground, officers' quarters, enlisted men's barracks, and corrals.  A young Douglas MacArthur called the fort home while his father was post commander (1884-86).
A 12-pound cannon ball, period firearms, soldiers' uniforms, utensils, and tools are displayed at the Visitors Center.  The second Saturday of each month, reenactors sound reveille and spend a day as 19th-century soldiers.  And every Saturday, a ranger prepares food as it was done 100 years ago, using hornos, fireplaces, and Dutch ovens.

Jemez State Monument:  Explorers declared the Pueblo at Jemez a Spanish colony in 1598.  Catholic priests forced the Puebloans to build grand missions, but in 1680, the Jemez people helped oust the Spanish during the Pueblo Revolt.  The Mission fell into disuse.  Beginning in 1910, archeological excavations and subsequent WPA and CCC restorations revealed colorful frescos on the mission walls, which visitors can see at the monument, a mile north of Jemez Springs.  A rare octagonal bell tower of the San Jose de los Jemez Mission (1610) still watches over the stone walls of the 500-year-old Giusewa Pueblo, where the ancestors of today's Jemez Pueblo people lived.

Lincoln State Monument:  Just the name "Lincoln" brings images of the state's Wild West days.  Except for the gunplay, little has changed since the famous Lincoln  County War - a real-life tale fueled by greed, corruption, violence, and ambition - and the legend of Billy the Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrett, who is credited with killing the Kid in 1881.
The State Monument comprises the entire town of Lincoln.  Among its 17 historic buildings sits a torreon (guard tower) built before 1860, and the Wortley Hotel, once owned by Pat Garrett. The Tunstall Store holds 1870s merchandise such as spats and a coffee grinder.  Walk the halls of the County Courthouse, where exhibits today recount past dramas.

All of these sites are wonderful places to visit with your family on short day trips around New Mexico.
(Taken from New Mexico magazine).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Head south to a wildlife refuge and hot springs  (Allow two days).
South of Albuquerque, tour Socorro's architecture, including the San Miguel Mission, Garcia Opera House, and the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Depot.
San Antonio which is south of Socorro, may be small but is has a huge reputation for green-chile cheeseburgers.  The Owl Bar and the Buckhorn Tavern, literally across the street from each other continually duel for the right to claim that theirs is the best version of the state's signature dish.
The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is a gorgeous setting year-round.  From November to March it is filled with migrating birds, including thousands of sandhill cranes.  It's home to the annual Festival of the Cranes and the bird watching opportunities are endless.
Truth or Consequences is a resort town and artist gathering place, which is famous for its hot springs, which are accessible by the many inns in town.  Nearby Elephant Butte State Park offers fishing, boating, rafting, and kayaking at the state's largest lake.
Taken from the New Mexico Vacation Guide.


This road trip will allow you to encounter nature, up close and high in the sky.  (Allow two days to enjoy)
The Albuquerque BioPark comprises four great attractions, all of which are suitable to kids.  The Rio Grande Zoo is among the finest in the western US, and is a well-known center for breeding and preservation efforts.  Animals from all over the world reside in the zoo in their natural settings.
The Aquarium brings ocean life to the high desert.  You can watch aquatic creatures through immense glass walls as you walk alongside and even beneath them.  The Botanic Garden showcases landscapes of the world within a beautiful featuring xeric plants.  Grab your rod for fishing at the lakes at nearby Tingley Beach (or take the train that links all parts of the BioPark.)
To experience Albuquerque's airborne history, visit the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum.  Then take the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway which is the world's longest, to the top of 10,378 foot Sandia Peak, to take in 11,000 square-mile panoramic views of the Rio Grande Valley.
Taken from the New Mexico Vacation Guide.

Road Trips in the Heart of New Mexico

Take in majestic views along this scenic drive.  The Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway (N.M. 14) links Santa Fe and Albuquerque with breathtaking views of mountains, canyons and forests.  Prehistoric peoples, Spanish missionaries, and miners in search of glory have all thrived on this route.
From Santa Fe head south to Cerrillos, a ghost town turned artists' gathering.  At their peak in the 1880s, Cerrillos mines produced gold, silver, lead, zinc, and turquoise is still mined today.  The village is also home to the Cerrillos Hills State Park, a trading post, and a petting zoo.
Artists have turned Madrid into a community thriving with galleries, shops, and restaurants.  Take in the Mine Shaft Tavern.  Down the road a little way, take a side trip up the skyward drive leading to Sandia Crest with its incredible views of Albuquerque proper.
In Tijeras, visit the Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site, or continue past the Manzano Mountains (this is along the Salt Missions trail National Scenic Byways) to visit the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument where you can explore three separate sets of ruins of old Pueblo mission churches.
If I have omitted anything of interest, please add to comments for this post.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Mexico History 1993 - 2002

Even though the United States was building fewer nuclear weapons in the wake of the Cold War, the need to store these items securely was the country's biggest concern, a concern that was tragically reinforced by the rising terrorist threat and the events of September 11, 2001.
For years the military had stored much of its material at installations in the Manzano Mountains.  The need for greater security led the Air Force to construct the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex which opened in 1994.
After years of producing and studying nuclear weapons and other items, tons of high and low level nuclear waste that had previously been stored in other dangerous locations found a new home.  With the help of Sandia National Laboratories' scientists and engineers, a Waste Isolation Pilot Plan was built 2,150 feet below ground east of Carlsbad and opened in 1999.
In 2000, a "controlled" fire in the forest near Los Alamos grew out of control and burned 42,000 acres and destroyed large portions of the Pueblo Indian land and much of  Los Alamos - but not its labs.
In the meantime tourists continued to arrive in New Mexico during one of the most prosperous decades in American history.  Special celebrations continued to draw tourists to other towns across the state, including the Hatch Green Chile Festival, the Roswell UFO Festival, the Great American Duck Race in Deming, and of course, the Santa Fe Fiesta.
There are so many great places to visit and things to do in New Mexico that it is a wonderful place to spend your vacations or a lifetime.