Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Woke up to another fine day, packing up and heading right out on the road. Made a short detour to the mining "ghost town" of St. Elmo, a suburb of Iron City. Looks like people have begun moving in and making slow progress fixing the place up. Back out on the highway, heading south into the San Luis Valley, 14,000 foot peaks on either side of the valley.

Breakfast in Salida. Our first stop was the UFO Watchtower in the middle of the valley. A guy on a golf cart took our $5, telling me he's seen nothing unusual, but that his aunt has seen over 1500 UFOs in her many years living nearby. It was an interesting detour, breaking up the monotony of the drive.

Our next stop was just down the road at the Alligator Farm. The original purpose of the farm was to raise fish for sale in stores and restaurants, the gators used for cleaning up the resulting scraps. But the gators stole the show and with a bunch of other reptiles are the main attraction and money maker for the farm. It was surprising how busy the place was considering the steep entry fee charged. Many alligators lounging in the pools, soaking up the sun, old tires used as pillows. People brought their dogs along and I kept on thinking what would happen if they were tossed into the alligator pen. The alligators seemed so well fed that I think any live animal in the pen would come out ok.

Arrived in Taos, New Mexico in time for lunch. Parked the car and walked the streets in the downtown area where an amazing number of art galleries are located. An art festival with booths selling everything from sculptures and paintings was also happening in the park. Too much to see, especially when the kids tire of it quickly. By late afternoon it was time for a diversion.

Before leaving home I checked and confirmed there were a pair of natural hot springs in the area, both located a short distance from one another, but on opposite sides of the Rio Grande River canyon near Arroyo Hondo. The first one we visited was a short distance off a hairpin turn on the road out of the canyon, the turnoff occupied by a group of Spanish speaking guys who were drinking beer and playing their music on the car stereo. Their version of "party on the pass." Black Rock Hot Spring was a small pool at river level, the water in it lukewarm in temperature, but still warmer than the melt water running down the river. Not enticing enough to get in so we return to the parked vehicle, another one or two new car having pulled in for the beer drinking party.

Our next objective was Stagecoach Hot Spring somewhere downstream on the opposite bank of the river. Rutted backroads lead towards our destination, visible by the old pony express road leading down the wall of the canyon. After a couple of missteps, I figured out the correct location of the trailhead, but by then it was late and we decided against going down to the spring. Back to Taos where we had a fine dinner at Anotonio's, closing the place down. We drove north on the highway out of town into the national forest where I found a secluded turnoff into the Ponderosa pine forest where we set up the tent and spent the night.

Coffee and microwave breakfast burritos from the gas station kick start the day. Back on the bumpy roads to the trailhead and on down the canyon wall following the old pony express road to Stagecaoch Hot Spring. Clear water filled pool alongside a fast moving muddy river. The view up river revealed an advancing party of people filled rafts and kayaks, our seclusion to be short lived. Soaked in the bathwater warm pool enjoying the warmth and sunshine. I could have spent hours lounging around down there. Shortly thereafter the steady stream of people began to arrive, either hiking down the trail or pulling ashore from rafts on the river. We were done shortly before noon and returned to the waiting car above. I took the better road out to the highway, driving through a community of odd and interestingly designed homes, noting the entry for future use next winter when I ski Taos and look for a place to soak my bones afterwards.

Back to Taos where we hit a few more art galleries and had lunch at The Alley Cantina. I could not leave town without purchasing something to add to the collection at home.

What was most unusual about this Memorial Day weekend was that this artsy town was filled with bikers on their motorcycles. Apparently there was a biker festival in Red River, both that mountain community and Taos being located on the road known as the "Enchanted Loop." Endless streams of loud motorcycles, what I envision Sturgis, North Dakota being like in August. It was nice leaving the area and the ever present roar of the road bikes.

The kids were anxious to get back home. I was burned out on art galleries. By Sunday afternoon we turned around and began driving the 300 miles back to Denver. But not before taking a detour through the Wet Valley on the east side of the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountains. By late afternoon, I saw where they got the expression "purple mountain majesty." The range is stunningly beautiful, with the 14,000 foot tall Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle and Humbolt Peak dominating in its center. Down to the Arkansas River, through Colorado Springs and we arrive home around 10PM. Enough time for a virtual concert!

I grabbed a flask, cigar and CD, heading out to the prairie where I put the new truck to the test, especially after having the stereo taken out of the old truck and put in the new one. What's great is that the additional door that provides access to the backseat area allows the rear speakers to now broadcast their sound directly outside. Great sound! I popped in The Bunnymen's "gray" album, the remastered version with several bonus tracks. Having parked in a remote location, I cranked up the music and thoroughly enjoyed myself, watching the near full moon rise up over the eastern horizon. Back home sometime before midnight.

The justice system
Marching to the law's drumbeat
Lives break underfoot

The cold moonlight
It shines on everyone
And yet for no one

Left so suddenly
Shadows of their memory
Never to grow old

Gunships deadly fire
Laugh as the bodies crumble
Bloody hands high five

Drumbeat marks wars toll
Marching towards the dark summit
Grim, far off mountain

No comments: