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USA 2007
Adventures in Arizona and New Mexico
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3

Saturday, 12th May, a.m. sunny, p.m. partly cloudy, approx. 30 °C
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site - Valley of Fires - Salinas Pueblo Missions
Accommodation: Club House Inn, Albuquerque
Miles driven: 241

We left at 8:30 a.m. and drove to Three Rivers Petroglyph Site ($2 or national parks pass). The trail was one mile return. The next stop was Valley of Fires, where we arrived at 11 a.m. This was only a short trail on a tarred track.

At 1 p.m. we reached Gran Quivira, our first stop of the three Salinas Pueblo Missions. At Montainair we stopped at Rancho Bonito of Pop Shaffer. At 2:40 p.m. we arrived at Quarai, another of the Salinas Missions. We also did the 1-mile loop Spanish Corral Trail. We didn't visit the third mission: Abó which would have meant an 18 miles detour.

At 5 p.m. we arrived in Albuquerque. We had booked a room at Club House Inn for three nights ($72 + Tax AAA Rate). This is a very central location at the I-40/I-25 and not far from the Old Town. We had dinner at 66 Diner on historic Route 66 (Central NE).

Sunday, 13th May, sunny, 30 °C
Turquoise Trail - Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
Accommodation: Club House Inn, Albuquerque
Miles driven: 180

After a free buffet breakfast at the hotel we drove up to Sandia Peak ($3 or national parks pass). This is at an elevation of 3000m with a great eagle's eye view of Albuquerque. This is also a skiing area in winter. You can also go up by cable car.

Then we drove the Turquoise Trail in the direction of Santa Fe. There are three ghost towns on this route: Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos.

Via Cochiti Pueblo and a few miles on a gravel road we reached the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks at 1 p.m. Here we did the 1.5 miles long (one-way) Canyon Tail. This passes through a slot canyon and then to the valley of tent rocks. We climbed up to the canyon rim where we had a great view. At the end we also did the Cave Loop Trail. We were back at the car park after a bit more than 2 hours.

We continued the gravel road for another 3.5 miles to Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Overlook (or Cañada Kamada Overlook). Then we reached Indian reservation area (No Trespassing). We were back at the hotel at 5 p.m. and went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

Monday, 14th May, cloudy with occasional sunshine
and local thunderstorms, 25 °C
El Malpais NM - El Morro NM
Accommodation: Club House Inn, Albuquerque
Miles driven: 180

We got on the road at 8:40 a.m. and drove on the I-40 towards Grants. It were 70 miles to El Malpais National Monument, about a good hour's drive. El Malpais is Spanish for badlands. We were advised by the rangers not to drive the Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway as this dirt road could still be muddy after the rainfalls the day before.

We drove to Sandstone Bluffs Overlook and La Ventana Natural Arch and through the Narrows with lava fields to the right and sandstone cliffs to the left. Shortly after 11 a.m. we reached the trailhead to the Lava Falls Area. 1.2 miles and 45 mins. later we continued to the Chain of Craters Byway but a rain front was coming up, so we turned back the 36 miles to the interstate.

After a lunch stop in Grants at 1 p.m. we drove to El Morro National Monument, another 40 miles from Grants. When we got there it started to rain. Lightning was flashing over the rock of El Morro, this was impressive! In any case we did the 0.5 miles Inscription Rock Trail at the base of the rock. There's a waterhole at the base of the rock where the first settlers left their inscriptions on their journey to the west. In this weather it wasn't a good idea to climb to the top of the rock on the 2 miles Mesa Top Loop Trail.

So we turned back and the rain stopped shortly afterwards. We turned into the Chain of Craters Byway from the other side to reach the Big Tubes Area. The 7 miles long route was definitely not suitable for normal cars in its current condition. When wet the road becomes impassable even for 4-wheel drive. But we took the risk with the rainfront in our back. The road was mostly dry. Shortly before 4 p.m. we started off on the 2 miles loop trail. This was one of the best hikes we did. We climbed across lava rocks following stone cairns. The lava caves and bridges we saw were impressive. We passed Seven Bridges, Four Windows Cave, Caterpillar Collapse and Big Skylight Cave on the way. After 1.5 hours were were back at the car. We met noone on this trail.

Via Zuni Canyon we drove back to Grants. We didn't make it to Bandera Crater and Ice Cave and to the El Calderon Area today. We were back in Albuquerque shortly after 7:30 p.m. We managed to see the Old Town Plaza in the light of the setting sun. It has a beautiful church. We had dinner at Applebee’s on Menaul Boulevard.

Tuesday, 15th May, partly cloudy, approx. 20 °C
Ojito Wilderness, Jemez Mountain Trail, Bandelier NM
Accommodation: Super 8, Santa Fe
Miles driven: 177

We left at 9 a.m. Our first destination for this day was the Ojito Wilderness near San Ysidro. Via a dirt road, Cabezon Road, we reached the trailhead to the Puñi Views Hike after 10 miles. Here are the directions and a description of the trails. The Puñi Views Hike leads to a viewpoint with some petroglyphs. It is 1.2 miles.

Then we drove the Jemez Mountain Trail between San Ysidro and Los Alamos, passing by Soda Dam, Battleship Rock, missing Spence Hot Springs somehow, and the Jemez Caldera or Valle Grande, with an extension of 14 miles one of the largst volcanic craters in the world. We also did a short hike to Jemez Falls.

Around 3 p.m. we arrived at Bandelier National Monument ($12 or National Parks Pass).We walked the Main Loop Trail to the Big Kiva and several cliff dwellings (Tyuonyi, Talus House and Long House) and did a 1-mile (return) detour to Alcove House (Ceremonial Cave); here is a trail description. You have to climb up a ladder of 140 ft. to see the cliff dwelling. We left the park after two hours, and after another stop at White Rocks Overlook with a view of the Rio Grande and the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains we arrived in Santa Fe at 6 p.m. Here we had booked a room at Super 8 ($52 + Tax AAA Rate) for two nights.

Wednesday, 16th May, a.m. cloudy, pm. partly cloudy, approx. 20 °C
Santa Fe - High Road to Taos - Taos Pueblo - Rio Grande Gorge
Accommodation: Super 8, Santa Fe
Miles driven: 185

This morning we got on the road at 9 a.m. We visited the Old Town of Santa Fe first with the San Miguel Mission, Loretto Chapel, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi and the Plaza of course. Via Chimayó with its beautiful adobe church we reached the High Road to Taos where we arrived around 1 p.m. We visited Taos Pueblo ($10 each plus $5 per camera). This Indian village is still inhabited, so it was an interesting visit. Taos itself also has a nice plaza.

We continued on our way at 2:45 p.m. Our next stop was the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, then the San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos. We followed the Rio Grande back to Santa Fe.

Thursday, 17th May, partly cloudy, 26 °C
Abiquiu - Chaco Canyon - Angel Peak
Accommodation: The Region Inn, Farmington
Miles driven: 302

Shortly after 8 a.m. we left Santa Fe in the direction of Abiquiu which also has a nice adobe church. We drove to Ghost Ranch where Georgia O'Keefe lived and where you can find some red rocks and colourful badlands. Via Cuba we continued to Chaco Canyon, or Chaco Culture National Historic Park ($8 or National Park's Pass) which can be reached via a 16 miles long dirt road. We arrived here at 1:30 p.m. and had a look at Pueblo Bonito, some petroglyphs on a cliff wall, Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Arroyo. On the Pueblo Alto Trail we hiked to the Pueblo Bonito Overlook (1 mile one way).

We left the park at 4:30 p.m. and stopped once more at the Scenic Overlook at Angel Peak south of Bloomfield with a view of some beautiful badlands.

We reached Farmington at 6:30 p.m. Here we had booked two nights at The Region Inn ($65 + Tax AAA Rate).

Friday, 18th May, a.m. sunny, p.m. cloudy
with local thunderstorms, approx. 28 °C
Bisti Wilderness - Aztec Arches
Accommodation: The Region Inn, Farmington
Miles driven: 233

We left Farmington at 8:15 a.m. to see the Bisti Wilderness. Bisti is badlands in  Navajo. Access is 35 miles south of Farmington via 3 miles of dirt road. We had found GPS details on some German internet sites. We found the Brown Hoodoos, the Bisti Arch, the Cracked Eggs, the Eagle’s Nest, the Valley of the Bones and the Stone Wings. It got quite hot around noon. After 4 hours and 13.5 km we were back at the car.

We drove back to Farmington and in the afternoon we turned from hoodoo hunters to arch hunters, trying to locate the Aztec Arches. Here are some tour descriptions. It's quite amazing how quickly the weather can change sometimes and how locally different it can be. We were now driving right into the thunderstorm while it was still dry south of Farmington. But at least it stopped after a while. We were a bit apprehensive of driving dirt roads in this weather. We found the Arch Rock, the Anazasi Arch or Cox Canyon Arch (we had to do some rock climbing to get to it), Petroglyph Arch, and Rooftop Arch.

At the end of the day we drove to Navajo Dam which took a bit longer than expected. We were back in Farmington at 8 p.m. and went to the Mexican next door for dinner.

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