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.
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 Great Plains outside Cimarron, NM:
Wagon Mound, NM: