Exploring the South West: Day 1

By | September 13, 2015

1,297 photos, keeping 1,142 and 2.4GB of photos. Oh visiting a beautiful place.  This trip came about partially on a whim, partially driven by books.  There was a Jet Blue fare sale and an expiring flight credit, but there was also Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series which put Mesa Verde on my radar.  As I mentioned before, I wanted to hit somewhere I hadn’t been and that narrowed the choices down to Denver and Albuquerque. I was initially leaning Denver because the Rockies were home and I’ve long wanted to explore the area, but then Taste had all the rooms sold out and I didn’t relish driving in from the airport area daily. So, New Mexico it was.

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All I really knew about New Mexico was that Santa Fe was a better option than Albuquerque and that it was absolutely beautiful. Four Corners has been on my USA bucket list for as long as I can remember so that was added to the NM planning map. That was quickly joined by the High Road to Taos and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I raided a friend’s Instagram for ideas and another friend forwarded the New York Times36 Hours in Santa Fe. At some point, I looked at a map and realized that Mesa Verde National Park was so close to Four Corners and was absolutely worth it. I fell in love with Mesa Verde (and every other National Park!) in Nevada Barr’s writing and my one lament was that I’d never get there. So much for never…

The plan changed a few times, but on Friday morning after spending some time noodling along Route 66 in Albuquerque, I pointed my Kia Rio northwest and made my way toward Four Corners via San Ysidro, Cuba, Farmington, Bloomfield and Ship Rock. While Google Maps says it’s only a four hour drive, I found it took me a lot longer due to the scenery and historic markers. New Mexico is very good at its historic markers and I was pleased to find them marked ahead too. Among my stops were:

  • the Continental Divide! This made me happy after seeing a sign for but not being able to get close while in Banff 11! years ago
  • the “badlands” of Angel Peak-absolutely gorgeous earth science that put the Grand Canyon back on my travel bucket list
  • Salmon Ruins, my first introduction to the pueblo ruins and pueblo culture
  • Shiprock, an amazing volcanic remnant, considered sacred to the Navajo. It looks bizarre, but its proximity to Monument Valley makes me think it’s the rest of the flat lands that were really odd. The Wiki has some fun history. As this is sacred to the Navajo, it wasn’t actually a stop as it’s off limits.

Besides hitting Route 66, this day’s drive took me to the western most end of Route 64–I love road nerd stuff! All that said, it was a long day’s drive but so well worth it to get to Four Corners. There was something magical and mystical about being on Navajo land. It felt sacred. I don’t really care for the internet debate as to if the marker is off spot, and in which direction. It was still pretty cool. Isn’t that what road trips are about? The remoteness keeps it from being as overwhelmed with tourists as Tent Rocks is, but it’s magical even if its history was clouded.

By the end of the stretch at Four Corners I was tired: a mix of late night, poor sleep, driving and jet lag. I was very glad I’d decided to stay in Cortez rather than Durango and dragged feet into Colorado’s Welcome Center to plan Saturday’s trip to Mesa Verde.

More later…

One thought on “Exploring the South West: Day 1

  1. Pingback: Southwest Day 2: Cortez to Taos | travellingcari.com

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