Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gator Heads and Bull Horns

No gators here ...
If you think that this is an unlikely headline for an Easter trip to the Land Of Enchantment you obviously have never been on I-40 between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The  hundreds of billboards along the interstate are a constant source of entertainment, or an assault on the natural beauty of the land. The "Gator Heads and Bull Horns" can be found either at Clines Corners ("Well worth waiting for!") or one of the various truck stops/tourist traps along the way. Kachina Dolls and Hillbilly Figurines, Minnetonka Moccasins and Live Rattlesnakes, Breakfast All Day and Peanut Butter Brittle, Black Hills Gold and Suncatchers—dude, it's a veritable cornucopia of tinnef that's meant to pull your dollars out of your pockets. But probably the best billboard of all times was the one that Martha photographed a few years back along that stretch: "Eat here—get gas!" Priceless!
Entering the Jemez Valley from the South
But my trip out west was not meant to be an eduction in pathetic marketing practices on Lamar boards but rather a quick weekend visit with my friend Liz who had moved to Albuquerque sometime last fall. I hadn't seen her in a while (or her new adobe-style digs on Nob Hill) and there is always the lure of Albuquerque's brewpubs and restaurants. Couple that with a low Saturday night rate in the wonderful Hilton Santa Fe (government price of $83 with a $30 breakfast included—and then the upgrade to the $500 casita came through on top of that!) plus a superb weather forecast, and  voila, there's your Easter trip.
Soda Dam Falls, close to the village of Jemez Springs
In Liz's Prius we took off on Saturday morning to drive via the gorgeous Jemez mountains to Santa Fe. Along the way we stopped numerous times for pics; the springlike weather brought out the New Mexican colors in ways that are hard to describe. No wonder this part of the world has attracted so many artists. I have been visiting this area pretty much since arriving on these shores in 1977, and I am still struck by its beauty. Our plan was to do some hiking, and we decided on the 5-mile trek up to McCauley Warm Springs and back. It's an easy and enjoyable hike that ends up at the warm pond of the springs. With a whole bunch of people around we first had our picnic (cheese, salami, grapes, baguette, and a bottle of Torrontes) before a 7-minute window opened up that allowed us to quickly skinny dip in the luke-warm, tad pole-populated water before another batch of hikers, kids in tow, appeared. Oh well, so much for clean adult fun.
Tad poles take care of the exfoliating duties at McCauley Warm Springs
We hiked back, through the dry forest that is anything but healthy: Bark beetles have done quite a bit of damage, the continuing drought doesn't help any, and recent forest fires have done their part to stress the area's flora. But it still is beautiful, and things will rebound, one way or the other. When the volcano exploded many years ago hurling huge basalt blocks for miles, the trees probably took their beating, too.
I'm glad I wasn't around when this baby flew through the air, and landed!
Saturday night Liz introduced me to one of her favorite restaurants, the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe. Nothing like authentic and well-prepared New Mexican food, which of course is always chile based. Add a nightcap of Marble's IPA, overlooking the square, and you've got the perfect day.
Sans mots
After our scrumptious breakfast (lots of red and green chile, again) we headed back toward Albuquerque, this time on the backside (east) of the Sandias. We stopped over in the old mining town of Cerrillos and learned a bit of the history of the town that almost became the state capital. Easter morning in Cerillos is pretty relaxed, let me tell you.
Cerillos, on the Turquoise Trail
All the food and drink calories had to be burned off somehow, so we drove half-way up to the crest of the Sandias, parked the Prius, and went for another hike. After about 2 miles of climbing we made it up to the crest trail and were rewarded with the amazing view that one has of Albuquerque and the land to the west.
A few remnants of snow reminded us that it was, indeed, March
Upon my friend Scott's recommendation we made a final pit-stop at the Greenside Cafe in Cedar Crest for more beer (Liz enjoyed a Marble Oatmeal Stout while I opted for La Cumbre's Elevated IPA) and a huge order of nachos. Perfect.
The Greenside Cafe has quite a selection of fine local brews on tap
Yesterday morning Liz had to go back to the mines, to once again slave away at the VA, while I got into the Miata and drove the 5 1/2 hours back to Lubbock. What a fine Easter weekend!


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a very nice weekend- Cheers!