New Mexico

New Mexico

Albuquerque Attractions

The historic and beautiful San Felipe Neri church in Old Town
Another shot of the church
Inside the church with a worshipper
Inside an Old Town chapel
Can you guess which one of these two figures is Our Lady of Guadalupe?
from other angles
Christmas in Old Town Albuquerque by day
Christmas in Old Town Albuquerque by night
OK, "attraction" might be pushing it, but I liked this view inside the Octopus car wash
Silent parking before 5 PM?
University of New Mexico
The campus is located downtown

Get Your Pix On Route Sixty-Six

Route 66 Details Directions: In Albuquerque, old Route 66 is the east-west arterial Central Avenue and the ordinary-sounding north-south arterial Fourth Street.
Hours: 24-7. It's Route 66!
Pets: allowed.
Main attractions: A slice of American road history!

Route 66 was immortalized in the 1980s group Depeche Mode's song of the same name. That was a cover from the 1960s? No! By Bobby Troup, the guy who played Dr. Early on TV's Emergency!? Really?

Even if you didn't grow up watching Emergency! or listening to New Wave, it's still possible to feel the magical appeal of this road. For travellers in Chicago where Route 66 originated, it was the passage to the promised land, the American West.

Today Route 66 has been turned into city streets, paved over by the interstates or relegated to the sidelines as the frontage road. Oh the tragedy! But in some parts of New Mexico, the old road survives.

Guess where the Route 66 Diner is in Albuquerque?
This "blurry" pictures captures the frenzied essence of Route 66. OK, OK, I snapped this while driving.
La Puerta Motel
The Owl Cafe is on Eubank Boulevard, not Route 66, but its neon sign is a hoot!
Inside the Owl Cafe is a diner's delight!

Turquoise Trail

Turquoise Trail Details Directions: Heading east from Albuquerque on I-40, take exit 175. Highway 14 is also known as the Turquoise Trail.
Hours: 24-7 since it's Highway 14, but most shops keep regular business hours.
Pets: allowed.
Main attractions: 50-mile scenic byway includes the Sandia mountains that flank Albuquerque's east side, Tinkertown museum, historic towns of Golden and Cerillos, the old mining town-turned- artists' community of Madrid and eventually to Santa Fe. Check out the official website for more info.

Sure, I-25 is faster for travelling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. But the Turquoise Trail is way more interesting as it curves through the pinon- and juniper-starred foothills. This back road connects San Antonito, Golden, Madrid and Cerillos, historic mining towns that were once abandoned.

These former ghost towns have been resurrected as a growing population moves in. Rusted mining shacks have been cleaned up and turned into houses. New housing developments have sprung up.

The white adobe church in Golden comes with a cemetery.
But it's really pretty!
Sometimes you have to wait your turn before taking a photo.
But it's worthwhile!
Down the road from the church, the Golden Merchandise store sells high-quality, beautiful Indian jewelry and pottery.
A September 11 memorial in Madrid.

Santa Fe and Nearby

Santa Fe's Loretto Chapel is famed for its legendary miraculous staircase, which was built without nails and by a mysterious man with no name. It's pretty.
The Sanctuario de Chimayo is famed for its soil, which reputedly has healing powers
More Chimayo
Las Trampas
Las Trampas
On the road to Taos
Won't you try to cheer up this cafe on the road to Taos?

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument Details Directions:
Hours: 8-5 everyday except New Year's and Christmas
Main attractions: Ancient Indian ruins. For more info, see official website

Bandelier National Monument is very nice indeed.

Bandelier National Monument is very nice indeed.

Bandelier National Monument is very nice indeed.

Bandelier National Monument is very nice indeed.

Bandelier National Monument is very nice indeed.

Checking out the view from inside the cliff dwelling at Bandelier What's outside: a view of the kiva ruin At Tsankawi, the trail means climbing down this ladde This long, long ladder
The trail down the ladder leads to this cave dwelling
This trail through the rock is shallow here but gets deeper much deeper This ancient trail was created by the Anasazi Indians who lived here centuries ago
Judging from how narrow it is, people were smaller then!

Pecos National Historic Park

Pecos Park Details Directions: Exit 307 at I-25 leads north for 5 miles on Highway 63 to the park entrance.
Hours: 8-5 everyday except New Year's and Christmas
Pets: Leashed pets may walk the ruins trail but not venture into buildings
Main attractions: 1.25-mile walking trial leads to Pecos Pueblo Indian ruins and Spanish adobe church ruins. For more info, see official website

You can find ancient Indian ruins and Spanish churches in many places in New Mexico, but at Pecos, they pop up in the same park. An occasional rock wall and some exposed kivas are the most visible signs of a Pueblo Indian town of some 2,000 people.

Spanish conquerors arrived to convert and colonize in the 1500s. The remains of the church they built look like a fortress, perhaps because it's a replacement for the one destroyed by the Indians in the Pueblo revolt of 1680.

What's down there in the kiva?
The Spanish adobe church
A church doorway glows
The Plaza Hotel in nearby Las Vegas, New Mexico

Tent Rocks Details Directions: From Albuquerque, head north on I-25 and take Exit 259 and follow NM 22. Stay on NM 22, then turn right on FR 266 till the parking lot.
Hours: 8-5 November 1-March 31, 7-6 rest of the year
Pets: allowed on leash
Main attractions: unusual rocks shaped like, how did you know, tents; slot canyons. See official website for more details.
Tent Rocks was featured in that Big Chill Western, Silverado, and Young Guns II. But they're worth a visit, anyway. Sandstone has been eroded and whittled away into, yup, tent-shaped formations at this site, located between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

An easy hike takes you into a slot canyon where the walls get closer and closer to you. The other goes to an overlook of the tent rocks.

Tent Rocks became Kasha-Katuwe ("white cliffs" in Keresan) National Monument in January 2001.

Tent Rocks
The slot canyon at Tent Rocks

Three Rivers Details Directions: From Albuquerque, head south on I-25 and take Exit 139 east to Highway 380. Take Highway 54 and head south. Take County Road 30B and head east to the parking lot.
Hours: TBA
Pets: not allowed.
Main attractions: Indian petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site has over 20,000 Indian rock art images carved into the volcanic rocks that lie scattered on a gradual rise of a hill. Some of the petroglyphs are as old as 1,000 years old. The rock art is thought to have been made by members of the Mogollon tribe.

The petroglyphs include numerous circles and geometric shapes. Some of the human and animal figures are carved with decorated, geometric bodies.

Another one bites the dust
These mysterious circles are obviously signs of UFOs! Or the sun.
An animal with a decorated body.
A figure with splayed limbs. Is it a man? Animal? Or Manimal?

Chock o' Chaco

Chaco Culture National Historical Park Details Directions: From Highway 550 (formerly 44), take the signed exit to Chaco Canyon at about mile marker 112.5. 5 miles on paved county road 7900 and 16 miles on good unpaved county road 7950 lead to the park.
Hours: sunrise-sunset
Pets: Leashed pets may hike on backcountry trails but not enter "cultural sites"
Main attractions: Vast Indian ruins dating as far back to the 800s, astronomy programme at on-site observatory, hiking. The official website has more information, but as usual the the fan page is more fun.

"When you leave Chaco," said the park ranger in his talk, "it will be one of the saddest times of your life." Definitely one of the most mysterious and intriguing places I've ever been, Chaco Canyon holds a number of huge ancient ruins built by Indians starting in the 800s.

Most ruins here used to be great houses built with as many as hundreds of rooms. Some researchers say Chaco used to be a city of the Anasazi Indians who flourished here in the Four Corners area. But some disagree. Pointing to a relatively small amount of trash and buried bodies found at Chaco, such researchers argue that very few people actually lived here.

So why build Chaco? And how?

Not only that, but linear roads 30 feet wide originating from Chaco have been detected by NASA. Instead of conforming to the land's features, these prehistoric roads are absolutely straight.

Doorways ... Pueblo Bonito...
...look bigger...
...than they really are!
But the Pueblo Bonito ruin is no illusion. It's really grand!
The west side of Pueblo Del Arroyo...
...has a unique three-walled kiva
...and another kiva on the inside!
Pueblo del Arroyo ruins are well-preserved...
...despite being built on an arroyo
The chief attraction of Casa Rinconada is this giant kiva.
I said, the chief attraction is the kiva!
Wonder if this is where they held gladiator fights? (It's that big.)
Near Penasco Blanco, this pictograph is painted on a cliff overhang.
It's thought to represent the supernova of 1054.
Even though it's a 6.5-mile round trip hike to Penasco Blanco, there's always a pesky tourist taking photos of everything!
Want a room with a view?
Penasco Blanco's got one for you!
This local was as scared to see us as I was! Luckily for me, it's a non-poisonous bullsnake.
This gorgeous claret cup cactus near the Una Vida ruin is part of Chaco's flora
This panel of Anasazi rock art is located high on the cliff near the Una Vida ruin
These petroglyphs are located on the trail to Penasco Blanco
Fajada Butte can be seen from Hungo Pavi
Chetro Ketl has another big kiva
The enormous flat round rocks supported beams that held up the kiva roof

Aztec Ruins

Aztec Ruins Details Directions: From Highway 550, go north on Ruins Road for 0.75 mile and arrive at Aztec Ruins
Hours: 8-5 everyday except New Year's, Thanksgiving and Christmas
Pets: not allowed on the 0.25-mile trail through the ruins
Main attractions: Indian ruins built beginning in the 1000s. For more information, see the official website

I confess, I really like Aztec ruins. I may like it even more than Chaco Canyon, which lies just over an hour away. Chaco Canyon is on an immense, incomprehensible scale but Aztec is the first ancient Indian ruin site where I get a sense that people actually lived here.

A stone metate, used for grinding corn into flour, lies on the floor of one room. Across the way, a door hanging woven from willow remains. And in one room, early anthropologists found the remains of several bodies.

Built by Anasazi Indians in the late 1000s and eventually abandoned in the 1300s, these ruins are located close to the Animas river banks. And despite the name, the ruins have nothing to do with the real Aztecs. Nineteenth-century white settlers mistakenly thought whoever built the ruins was linked to the Aztecs in Mexico. The nearby town of Aztec took its name from the ruins, and it's been named that way ever since.

Aztec seem to be the most charming of the three towns in the northwest corner of New Mexico, more than nearby Bloomfield and the bigger town of Farmington. Plus, how can you resist a town that proudly holds an annual Aztec UFO event as a library fundraiser?

Whistler's Mother at Aztec Ruins
Just like at Chaco, the builders at Aztec really liked doorways
Really, really liked them
Look closer and you'll find someone still lives at Aztec
Or just another tourist!
Or two!
Outside the big kiva
Inside, the big kiva has been restored
Yet another kiva

Ship Rock Details Directions: South on Highway 666 from the town of Shiprock, look for a historical marker on the right called "Shiprock." After passing the marker, go right on Indian Highway 13, a paved road that goes to the southern base of Ship Rock. We see several photographers parked right off highway 13 itself, so we do the same, run up to the fence and start snapping away.
Note: Since there are no lodgings in Shiprock, those planning on staying must travel to Farmington, a half-hour drive east of Shiprock.
Hours: 24-7.
Pets: allowed on the side of the road.
Main attractions: views of Ship Rock, the remnant of an ancient volcanic plug.

Shiprock in New Mexico means two things: the town and the rock. Shiprock is the name of the town on the Navajo reservation in northwestern New Mexico and Ship Rock is the name of the rock. Or maybe it's the other way round.

We start the long drive to Shiprock that morning from Albuquerque. After dallying too long in Santa Fe, we head northwest. We find the previously small town of Espanola has grown into a metropolis with its very own multiplex cinema, the highway filled with middle-aged bikers going the opposite direction from us, and the road to Abiquiu (also known as Georgia O'Keefe-Ville) to contain the most awesomely beautiful scenery: "layers of red and orange and white and purple rock rising out of the earth to form cliffs" (from my travel journal).

North of Abiquiu, New Mexico sheds its desert skin, revealing its evergreen forests and wide, green meadows. Eventually we return to the desert as we near Shiprock. A dust storm engulfs us. By the side of the road, little kids pedal their tricycles looking like ghosts in the storm. Once we emerge from the dust, golden sunlight lights up the cliffs in the distance and a double rainbow stretches over Navajo land.

And here is our pot of gold.

Ship Rock at sunset A close up of Ship Rock Another view of Ship Rock

Bisti and De-na-zin Wilderness

Bisti and De-na-zin Wilderness Details Directions: Bisti: South of Farmington on Highway 371, after milepost 71, left at County Road 7297 goes for 2 miles and reaches a BLM parking lot.
Denazin: Approximately 10 miles south of exit to Bisti on Highway 371. Left on County Road 7500 goes for 13 miles and reaches a BLM parking lot.
Hours: 24-7, since this is wilderness
Pets: dogs unknown, horses and cows okay
Main attractions: Lunar landscapes!

Want to know what it's like to walk on the moon and can't afford the $20 million space shuttle ride? New Mexico has just the thing!

The Bisti landscape is so unlike anything else I've seen, the best I can do is describe it as an alien landscape. Its closest cousin in terms of looks, Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, doubled as an alien planet in the movie Galaxy Quest. In contrast to the park, Bisti is immense.

And it's completely isolated.

There are no real trails, so we head northeast for 30 minutes, cross two barbed-wire fences and find a shallow valley of hoodoos. Doubling back and heading east along the dried-up river bed for 45 minutes takes us to an immense valley of hoodoos and sculpted rocks.

The 70 million-year-old rock formations here date to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. In fact, fossils have been found of the plant-eating, duck-billed parasaurolophus, meat-eating albertosaurus.
Bisti hoodoos can be tall
far and away
or small
shaped like toadstools
or T-shaped
or long and low
In Bisti, you'll find lots of them!
Lots and lots in this valley of the hoodoos!
How'd they get that way? Well, it can't be from water erosion.
Steve looks out for Karl
De-na-zin has loads of ancient petrified logs
Sunset at De-na-zin
De-na-zin denizen: Not all New Mexico residents are happy to see us!

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