Rocky Mountain High

Yesterday morning Jody the Pooch and I set out on an excursion through north central New Mexico.  We began by driving the old El Camino Real trade route and finished by coming down the old Santa Fe Trail.  The Trail ended here in Santa Fe and the Real went all the way to Mexico City.  Both were major trading routes of the Old West.  We drove up to Taos along the Rio Grande Gorge then headed east through Taos Canyon to Eagle Nest.  There we encountered old Western mining and ranching towns.  Eagle Nest sits on a broad plain with a man made lake used to irrigate much of the eastern plains of northern New Mexico.  The Rocky Mountains begin just south of Santa Fe and divide this region between the desert of the west and the Great Plains to the east.  Rain falls on the eastern (lee) side of the mountains and huge ranches sit there where grass fed beef, pigs and lambs are raised.

Cimarron Canyon marks the demarcation between the Rockies (here called the Sangre De Christo Mountains) and the Great Plains.  Before getting there though we spent a bit of time in eagle Nest then turned north to Red River.  We went through Bobcat Pass at an elevation of 9300 feet and I found myself gasping for air at times.  The views were amazing with grassy areas atop the surrounding mountains.  I thought of Brokeback Mountain as we drove up through Red River and back.  Unfortunately I didn’t encounter Jake Gyllenhall on the way.  

Red River is an Old West town now filled with tourists and fishermen.  The fly fishing in those parts must be good as they were everywhere.  Once we retraced our path back to Eagle Nest and went through what’s called The Palisades along the Cimarron River flowing out of Eagle Nest Lake we saw fishermen everywhere.  The narrow canyon was wide enough for the road, the river and a few small campgrounds.  The high rock walls of the Palisades surrounded us.   We came out of that and entered Cimarron Canyon.  This ended at the junction of the mountains and the Great Plains.

We encountered rain as we got to Eagle Nest because we were so far up in elevation.  We were literally in the clouds.  Once we got to I-25 and 176 miles from Santa Fe we got some serious rain coming off the mountains.  Once we passed Las Vegas, NM and rounded the south side of the Sangre De Christos the sun was out and shining brightly all the way to Santa Fe.

Though the John Denver song about a Rocky Mountain High was about Colorado we were just south of the state line and I could channel what he was feeling as we drove through this gorgeous region.  Unlike him though we didn’t run out of gas while soaring.  Seven hours after starting the journey we arrived back in Tesuque enriched by the experience.

Tomorrow I begin packing and preparing for Wednesday morning’s flights home.  As usual I come home richer for having been in the Land of Enchantment.  Enjoy the pictures.

Taos Canyon:

Coming into Eagle Nest (elevation 8200 feet)

More pictures are under the fold…

Eagle Nest, NM

It was so cool in Eagle Nest I stopped and bought a sweatshirt.

The Palisades:

The Great Plains outside Cimarron, NM:

Wagon Mound, NM:

Leaving Las Vegas (New Mexico)

I made a side trip on my journey to Santa Fe stopping in the old west town of Las Vegas, about an hour from The City Different on the opposite side of the Sangre De Cristo mountains which are the southern end of the Rockies.  Located along the old Santa Fe mercantile trail (also the El Camino Real) it bills itself as the place “where the mountains meet the plains.”  They seem to want to attract tourism but the locals drive the tourists away because they are the rudest people in the world.  I spent three days there Saturday night finally forced into sleeping in the car.  Mind you I’d just driven 1900 miles in four days and was exhausted.  The side trip to Las Vegas was planned as some R&R before arriving and I looked forward to visiting the 900 historic, old west buildings, the plaza where Gen. Kearney declared New Mexico for the USA in the Mexican War and the local hot springs.

I rolled into the Comfort Inn Las Vegas around 3 PM.  The drive up from Santa Rosa was beautiful and this town, at the foot of the mountains, promised some definite rest and relaxation, or so I thought.  That was not to be because of the locals.  When I stopped back into the tourism office Sunday morning to recount my night of horror the lady said “these are the locals, this is how they act.”  If so they can kiss their tourism industry goodbye.  This is NOT how you treat travelers and tourists if you ever want them to return.  This is how towns get bad reputations and decline.

It began when I entered the lobby.  Ashlee, the desk clerk couldn’t complete my check in for some reason (I went through Expedia).  The manager was standing a few feet away watching the USA-Ghana World Cup soccer match (about an hour remained in the game).  He refused to separate himself from the TV and aid her so I had to stand there for ten minutes until he deigned to check me into his hotel.  I then stood in a hallway for fifteen minutes while my room was prepared by a maid named Anita.  That was the best part of my experience at The Comfort Inn.  The nightmare was but a few hours away.  I set off to explore the Rough Rider Museum which closed at 4 PM, stop at the visitor center and explore Hot Springs Road where something called the Montezuma Castle is located.  I returned to the hotel from hell and went to the pool and spa just down the hallway.  The area is small for a hotel and was posted as allowing just 4 people in the spa and 9 in the pool at a time.  That seemed reasonable considering their small sizes.

I lounged in the spa for about 45 minutes and another gentleman joined me just before four wild rug rats and their irresponsible mother entered the room.  For some strange reason parents think spas and hot tubs are kiddie pools.  In fact because the heated water elevates your pulse they can be dangerous.  This is why hotels usually post rules disallowing children under 14 or 16 from their use.  No such rule was posted here and the four kids, including a toddler in a diaper, jumped into the spa.  No matter that two men were lounging in it and trying to relax, they swam around kicking our legs with no regard for manners or civility.  They began jumping in and going underwater before exiting to jump into the 3-5 foot deep swimming pool.  The posted rules clearly established that no running, jumping or diving was allowed.  Maybe none of these out of control people could read but, more likely, they simply didn’t care.  They didn’t care what anyone else was doing, thinking, or trying to do.  It was all about them.  Soon there were 11 of these wild children and many parents in the area, parents drinking openly and encouraging the kids to do somersaults into the pool, run around like wild animals and make our experience hell on earth.  They drove everyone else from the pool/spa as they got louder and louder and the beer flowed.

The worst part for me was the toddler in the diaper.  I simply cannot comprehend how any responsible parent would allow a child with no control of their bowels as yet to enter a spa with adults.  I even mentioned this concern to the mother and she did nothing.  Eventually the kid started drinking the water spritzing into the spa.  Chlorinated water…  The two girls loved this little feature and greatly enjoyed using it to direct the stream right into my face.  I was sure one chubby boy about ten was going to smash his skull into the concrete side of the pool with his constant gymnastics into the 3 foot shallow end of the pool.  I stayed thinking there had to be one responsible adult around to call 911 when it happened.  Things got so loud and offensive from the alcohol flowing I left.

I got to my room, did some work on the computer and hit the sack, exhausted.  I wasn’t able to relax much in the spa as my blood pressure kept rising due to the arrogant and unbelievable rudeness of these locals.  They had 9 of them in the spa at a time and a dozen in the pool.  No one else could enjoy the amenities and they didn’t give a damn what you thought about their wild behavior and absolute lack of manners.  The pool/spa area closed at ten and they moved their party to their rooms.   I was in 110 and they were in room 108.  Adjoining rooms…  That’s when it became hell.  Finally at 2:38 AM local time (4:38 my time) I surrendered and went to sleep in the car.  This didn’t work really well though since I couldn’t recline the seat (it was fully packed).

Morning arrived and I told the hotel I refused to pay for my room.  I said these were the rudest people I had ever encountered and that I would be writing an article about my horrid experience in their town.  That’s the danger with being home to the rudest people in the world, you never know who it is who you are mistreating.  In this case it was someone with the wherewithal to write my story and put it out to the world.  No one should ever consider stopping in this god forsaken town for any reason.  Do so at your own risk because as the woman at the tourism office said:  “these are the locals, this is how they act.”