April 22, 2012

Exploring Santa Fe and Bandelier National Monument

After all the excitement of the last few days, we decided to take a day off. We booked another day at the RV park in Alamogordo and chilled in the air conditioning watching unending episodes of Weeds. (We have a bad habit of finding a new show on Netflix and then loosing whole weekends to watching season after season…). It was awesome.

Thursday afternoon we packed up, dumped and refilled, and then hit the road. Our original plan was to head straight to Albuquerque, but at the last moment we decided to check out Santa Fe.

On the way from Alamogordo to Santa Fe
Driving up to Santa Fe
We called the St. John’s United Methodist Church, because of their near proximity to Santa Fe’s downtown, and asked if we could park overnight. Again, the answer was “of course, just park to the side”. Sweet!

Our sweet parking spot at the church
We drove in just before sunset and set off to walk our dogs around the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The architecture of the homes in Santa Fe is very different from anything else we’d seen on this trip so far, most of the homes are adobe made with stone, stucco and raw wood. I have discovered that I really dig that style of housing. That is one of the cool aspects of going on this trip, we get to discover new things, new ways of life, and then we can possibly incorporate the best of everything when we settle down.

Around Santa Fe
Our night in the church parking lot was uneventful, and we woke up early to explore Santa Fe. We had thought we were going to bike to downtown proper, but after Google Maping the distance we discovered we were only 1.5 miles away, so we decided to walk. We walked down Old Santa Fe trail, and on our way encountered the State Capitol building. We also saw the oldest church in the US, the San Miguel Church, as well as the oldest house in the US!

San Miguel Church, the oldest church in the US!
Downtown was very walkable and picturesque. There are lots of Indian vendors selling their beautiful jewelry and blankets. Everywhere you turn, you get a pretty view of the mountains rising above Santa Fe. We ate our picnic lunch on the Plaza, then grabbed an iced coffee from Starbucks to continue our walk.

Around Santa Fe
Mountain views in Santa Fe
Santa Fe was surprisingly small, we felt like we had seen most of what there was to see in a half a day, so we made our way back to our home around 2.

On a whim, we decided to visit the Bandelier National Monument. On the way there we drove through a Safety Corridor. We'd never been in one before, so I Googled it to see what that meant. Basically, its a stretch of road that has been determine to have a higher than normal crash and fatality rate. Interesting.

Safety corridor signs on the way to Bandelier National Monument
At Bandelier National Monument we discovered towering, sheer cliffs of red rock with thousand year old homes built into the bluffs of Frijoles Canyon. These are old Indian settlements, and for $12 a vehicle you can explore them yourself on the Main Hiking trail.

You can climb into the caves and explore!
Peeking in
One of the trails leads you to the Alcove home, and there is a sign saying that you have to climb a 140ft vertical ascent on ladders and stairs, folks with health problems need not apply. Sky, always up for a challenge, of course set off for the climb. I would say it was well worth it, as we were treated to gorgeous views of the canyon from the top of the Alcove home.

A visit to the Alcove house
Views from the Alcove house
At the entrance gate we had been advised that we couldn't take our trailer down to the visitor’s center parking lot because of the steepness of the drive and lack of parking down there. Turns out there is a hiking trail from the campground where we parked our truck to the visitors center, but we didn't study the map well enough, we chose to ride our bikes down. Needless to say, it was a painful ride back up the VERY steep hill. :o)

To get to our next destination, Albuquerque, we had two options: either take the same way we came in through Santa Fe or take back country roads. We chose the back country roads as the map said they were through National Forests. Within a mile of driving we saw a sign warning us that the road ahead was very mountainous and steep, through trucks should seek alternate routes. We drove on anyways, and boy it was a pretty scary ride. We drove high into the mountains (there was snow on the sides of the road!), and there were U-turn shaped curves in the road, with steep cliffs. Thankfully we were on the bluff side of the highway, not the cliff side, so we hugged the shoulder and chugged our way up the mountain. Sky did a great job of making it look easy. The road was extremely scenic, but we would not recommend it for folks pulling trailers. We came through several Elk viewing areas, but didn’t see any.

Driving through National Forest
Gorgeous red rocks everywhere
After two hours of sweaty hands driving we arrived in Albuquerque, where we are staying in a casino parking lot for free! :o)

See more pictures of Santa Fe and the Bandelier National Monument, click here.

Happy Scary Mountain Driving,


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