Apr 10 2007

Angel Peak, Farmington and Chaco Canyon

We are so blessed to live in a state that has so much to offer. I love to take road-trips and explore the NM countryside. For the Easter-weekend, Michele and I went into the far north-west corner of the state to see Farmington and Chaco Canyon. You can follow us along on this trip by using the a Google Map that I created just for this weekend trip: click here to open the map in a new window/tab (i will refer to the numbered waypoints on this map – hmm, wish there was an easy way to link to the waypoints from the article itself).

On Saturday morning I drop off Pia at her moms and right after pickup Michele at her home. The day before I had gone to the airport in Santa Fe to pickup a rental car. Had to do the trip in style …

(and if you’re planning to get one of those babies pictured above, think very carefully about it – we are both mighty underwhelmed by the performance of the car)

Unfortunately the weather looks like the top of the convertible will stay on for the duration of the trip: it’s cold and rainy that Saturday morning and the forecast does not look too good for the Santa Fe area.

We head north on 84/285 and turn in Pojoaque onto 502 towards Los Alamos (waypoint 2). After going through little-California (Los Alamos) we head towards highway 4 up to Valles Caldera (hey, since when do you have to go through a checkpoint trying to get up to 4?). As we snake up the hill (waypoint 3) through burnt forests the clouds get thicker and thicker and just before hitting the peak, it starts to snow pretty hard. So much for a nice ride in the sunshine …

Valles Caldera is beautiful as always, even under thick clouds and snow. The original plan was to take 126 across the mountains into Cuba (waypoint 4). I’ve only been able to travel on this road once since I moved to New Mexico. Most of the time the road is impassable, especially during the winter months. At the turn-off to 126 there’s a convenience store and I ask the owner whether it would be safe to take the road on that Saturday. He asks “What car do you drive?”, I respond “Mustang” and he says “Do yourself a favor and go through Jemez Springs – it’s longer mileage-wise, but it’s shorter time-wise”. Knowing the road conditions on 126 we gladly accept his suggestion.

After going past the hot springs in the Jemez mountains (there are always people there), we stop for lunch at Deb’s Deli in Jemez Springs (waypoint 5). Looks like a lot of other people have the same idea and it takes quite a while before the food is on the table. Throughout lunch we can see that it is still snowing/raining outside. 45 mins later we head further down the road and finally turn onto 550 in San Ysidro (waypoint 6).

We are not as far as I wish we would be and we decide to scratch the Chaco Canyon visit the same day and instead plan to go there the next morning. That gives us some extra time to kill and just before Cuba, we turn onto 197 (waypoint 7) to visit an area that had huge amounts of petrified wood in the past (in 2005 I had paid this area a visit and you can read more about that trip here). We park the car in the middle of nowhere and hike around the areas where there is usually some stuff to find (waypoint 8). By now the weather has turned and the sun is beating down on us. We find a few nice pieces and climb up on one of the smaller hills to get a gorgeous overview of the area.

As we continue, the weather is nice enough to take the top down. The wind makes things a bit chilly, but with the heating on that turns out to be no problem.

For quite a while we continune on 550 through the beautiful landscape (waypoint 9). Just past the turn-off to Chaco Canyon park, Michele spots a sign that points to Angel Peak (waypoint 10). We both had never been there, so we decide to turn off and head to the overview (waypoint 11). What a splendid idea! We are greated with the view below:

We rest for a while and enjoy the views there:

Half an hour later we continue on 550 and turn in Bloomfield onto 64 (waypoint 12). It is about 5pm when we arrive in Farmington. A week earlier I had booked a Bed & Breakfast there and we have no problem finding the Casa Blanca Inn (thanks to the little bluetooth GPS receiver and my Blackberry Pearl – waypoint 13). We checkin, unload the car, shower and then head out for dinner. The inn-keeper has menues from a lot of restaurants in town and we pick Three Rivers Brewery as our destination for that evening (waypoint 14). We both like what we ate there and decide to take an Apple cobbler back to the Inn after dinner.

There’s something about the mattress of our bed that makes both of us toss and turn the whole night. We both wake up with slight back pain and blame the mattress for it. I can’t speak for the other rooms at the Inn, but if you happen to have back-issues when sleeping on a soft/bad mattress, do yourself a favour and avoid the courtyard-room in the far right corner of the Inn (I think it’s the only one that only has a shower, as opposed to shower/bath in the other rooms).

As we head out of Farmington that Sunday morning, we stop at Sonya’s Cookin USA (waypoint 15) for breakfast. It’s very busy, because of Easter Sunday, but the time is cut short by people-watching. What an interesting crowd in there …

We back-track on 550 and finally turn off at CR-7890 (waypoint 16) around 11am. The weather is nice, slightly overcast, but the sun is peaking out every once in a while. Our bones get shaken on the 20 mile dirt road into the Canyon and we are glad when we finally reach the park’s paved roads just before noon. We purchase a pass at the Visitor Center (waypoint 17) and start our trip through the Canyon.

The rest of the day is spent taking photographs all over the place. I’m not adding a comment to all the photos below:

We find a 1000 year-old Chacoan straw hat:

I’ve been to Chaco Canyon several times before and I am shocked by the amount of new vandalism since my last visit. Between two of the larger ruins, there’s a “Petroglyph walk”. All along the walls one can find beautiful petroglyphs on the vertical rock-walls. Idiots from all over the world seem to enjoy adding their own petroglyphs right over the original ones. I have no idea what’s going on in those people. We can see large areas where Park rangers attempted to “hide” the new petroglyphs (by plastering over them) with more or less success:

Inside “Pueblo Bonito” – the largest structure in the Canyon (waypoint 18):

At the western end of the park, there’s a narrow, steep passage that brings one up to the plateau in order to reach the ruins up there (waypoint 19).

It’s a short ascend, but one is greeted with top-of-the-world views up there:

Close to 4:30pm we head back down in order to be out of the park by 5pm:

Travelling with somebody else has not only the benefit that you have somebody to share the experience with, you also get photos of each other:

On our way back to Santa Fe, we stop again in Cuba and look for a place for dinner. Because of Easter Sunday everything in town is closed and we snack on Beef Jerky and sunflower-seeds on the highway instead.

We finally arrive back in Santa Fe around 7:30pm on Sunday evening.

Thanks for a nice weekend, Michele …

4 Responses to “Angel Peak, Farmington and Chaco Canyon”

  • Mike Laursen Says:

    I’ve always wanted to rent one of the new Mustangs! (When I was younger, I built a ’66 Mustang out of parts from three cars.) I guess it wouldn’t matter that it has no performance, I drive like a granny, anyway.

  • Darlene Says:

    Okay, it may be this monitor. It may be my old-ish eyes. But are your pictures actually grainy? Are you using your phone’s camera??? Some seem sharp. Some seem fuzzy. Don’t post this!

  • jason Says:

    hi tobias! i think it is my dear cousin’s old-ish eyes–she is much older than i… the pictures are beautiful! how have you been?? jason

  • ron spruill Says:

    I camped in Chaco Canyon for 4 days recently. Highly reccomend the camping experience. The tent camping area is in a box canyon and is well protected. After a couple of days your senses seem to magnify. I got to the point that I could identify a Raven flying by just by the sound of the air through its wings. What a magical place.

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