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2004Travelogue # 22 Santa Fe, Durango, & Pagosa Springs
Hwy 160 RV Park
Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Places of Interest:

New Mexico: Santa Fe: Museum Hill, Bernalillo: Coronado State Monument

Colorado: Durango, Pagosa Springs

7/17 We were up early this morning, driving from Bernalillo to Santa Fe to meet our friend, Virginia, at her home. She wanted us there by 8:30, to be among the first arrivals, at the International Folk Arts Festival on Museum Hill. However, it was already in full swing, with people packed inside large tents erected in the Museum courtyard. We joined the frenzied activity, meandering amidst vendors selling the best of their artistic wares, from countries all over the world. We purchased a bouquet of small, colorful, porcelain flowers on long wooden stems, made in Brazil, which we mixed with dried flowers for a fun arrangement in the motorhome.

After a while, I found a rock under a small shade tree in a garden, away from the crowd, where I could observe the whole scenario. Sitting there, I watched the people of Santa Fe flow by, in their colorful South Western attire. Oh, how these people like to dress, even for a bazaar. Quite the show; if you're into hats, this was the place to be.

Later in the afternoon, the three of us attended a cocktail party/open house, a Museum fundraiser, in the home of one of its patrons and Festival sponsors. This home sat at the end of a dirt road, atop a mountain, in the northern part of Santa Fe toward Los Alamos. I asked Virginia,"With all these multi-million dollar homes, why don't they have the county pave the roads?" She said, "Heavens NO, that would take away the ambiance of the location." Oh…I guess they like the dust.

Not many times, does one have the opportunity to drink a glass of wine, while strolling through a home like this. It was a multi-level adobe, with large windows and small patios overlooking the mountains and hillsides of junipers and pinon pines. I had an enjoyable conversation with the hostess, being curious about her enormous collection of Mexican and Indian pottery place settings. She told me she started collecting as a little girl, learning the art from her mother.

7/18 This morning was special, because my 91-year-old mother and sister were coming through Santa Fe from Buena Vista, Colorado, on their way home to New Braunfels, Texas. With our paths nearly crossing, we drove to Santa Fe, to meet them for lunch and a short visit.

Returning to Bernalillo, we wanted to see the Coronado State Monument (www.museumofnewmexico.org). This Monument is one of five historical sites administered by the State of New Mexico and it happens to be near our RV-Park. The State Monument was established in 1940, to honor the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, whose expedition sojourned these plains about 400 years ago. It's believed that Coronado spent the winter, of 1540 here, near the Indian Pueblo of Kuaua.

Archaeologists, from three New Mexico institutions, excavated the Kuaua Pueblo and in 1935, they rocked the archaeological world, with the discovery of murals painted on the inside of a kiva's walls. These remarkable paintings, uncovered in the kiva, depict images of spiritual significance. The murals are among the best examples, of ancient fine art in North America and are located in the Visitors Center. There are no other Pueblo Indian paintings, of their kind, available for public viewing.

We purchased a "Kuaua Trail Guide" in the Center, which was very informative, for the various stations around the Pueblo but too soon the clouds opened and the rain sent us scurrying into the Center, where we met the Ranger, Elmer Leon.

This Visitors Center is on the Santa Ana Reservation and employs Indians from the Pueblo. We visited with Elmer, while the thundershower passed over. Not only does Leon work for the State, but he is also the Santa Ana Pueblo Tribal "War Chief", responsible for maintaining and continuing the ritual life of the Pueblo. Elmer is active in the traditional life of the Pueblo, participating in the ceremonial dances, being their "War Chief" and artisan.

When Leon was a young man and, as a favor to his grandfather, he learned from him how to make inlayed, cottonwood-stained, straw crosses using cornhusks. The long heritage of Catholic and Indian Ceremonialism, among the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians, goes back a long way. Very few, of the early Franciscan rituals, have survived among the Pueblo people but one still does, the making of straw-inlay crosses. Elmer Leon is one, of only a few, to make these crosses today and they are beautiful pieces of art.

Elmer Leon is one, of those unique people, we are fortunate to meet "on the road'. Not only, was he a good historian of the ruins but, he was also a gentle soul. He said, "I have a deep respect for those who lived and died here and I do my best to impart that feeling to those visiting the ruins." He was kind enough to invite us to the Pueblo tomorrow for a tour but, unfortunately, we were checking out and heading to Colorado.

Our time in Bernalillo, New Mexico, was special. I have a photograph, that I use as the desktop on my laptop, with a view of the sage, a few adobe homes off in the distance and the Sandia Mountains as a backdrop. My thoughts reminisce to what might have been, when a few years ago, we almost built a home in Placitas, on that knoll, backing up to the Sandias.

7/20 We took US-550 through northwestern New Mexico toward Durango, Colorado this morning. The temperature was very comfortable; the skies were clear and wonderfully blue. This Northwestern area of the state is known as "Indian Country" and is the home for the Jemez, Zia, and Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservations.

Driving across this immense area, we were touched by a sense of the past, when the Anasazi or "Ancient Ones", lived in this vast, arid desert. The Anasazi farmed, built stone and adobe cities and are believed to be the ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians.

Between Cuba and Bloomfield, New Mexico are the Anasazi ruins of Chaco Canyon. I have mentioned these ruins before and the impressive Chacoan great houses, kivas, and roads are all hallmarks of the magnificent Chacoan culture.

The road to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park is an unimproved gravel road, about 20 miles long, joining the highway to the Park. We'll make the trip to Chaco Canyon someday, without the motorhome.

Highway US-550, from Bernalillo to north of Bloomfield, New Mexico, is four lanes and wonderful but once we crossed the State-line into Colorado, it became two lanes, with no shoulders.

Arriving at the Alpen Rose RV Park in Durango in early afternoon, we checked- in and an attendant in a golf cart, guided us to our site. Unhooking the Saturn, Peggy followed me but, without her "walkie-talkie". I needed to swing wide on a right turn amidst the trees, but it wasn't wide enough. I saw her jump out of the car waving her arms, as the attendant motioned me to stop. Sure enough, I ran the awning cover into a limb stump on a pine tree, on the passenger side. Guess we've now broken in this coach, so much for being new.

Later that evening, we went into town, which is quite a "tourist town".
The old part has been revitalized and there are many picturesque shops, galleries and restaurants, all in western decor. Needing to find a place for dinner, we stopped at a small sidewalk stand, where two young men were selling rafting trips. I asked them for their recommendation for a good, nearby burger joint. They recommended Old Timers, which was down the street a few blocks.

Old Timers Restaurant has a charming outdoor courtyard, with tables and umbrellas, under a few cottonwood trees lit by twinkle-lights. We were given a table in the rear, overlooking the courtyard, so we could people watch. Even though we came here on the pretense of having burgers, I had the "blackened catfish", which was the daily special our waitress recommended. Peg ordered a burger. While waiting for our food, I noticed a couple being served their dinner and the gentleman, who wore an orange and white shirt, was also having "blackened catfish". Shortly thereafter, our food was served.

Later, as we walked up a side street returning to our car, we passed that same couple from Old Timers, whom I recognized by his orange and white shirt. Stopping, I asked how he enjoyed his catfish. He looked at me, a bit surprised, as anyone would be and said," It was great. How did you know? "

I explained that we were also in the restaurant, even had the same fish dinner; the four of us stood there for 15 minutes, visiting. They were from Carrolton, Texas, Rusty and JoCile Bayh and were in Colorado on vacation. We didn't know then, but we would meet them again.

7/21 It is 60 miles from Durango to Pagosa Springs, where we planned to stay two-weeks, seeing our son and daughter-in-law. The drive on US-160 is an enjoyable mountain drive, following the San Juan River through various canyons. We arrived at Hwy 160 RV Park around 2 pm, checked-in and set-up.

Scott, our son, stopped by after work and Cristina arrived shortly thereafter; after a motorhome tour and brief visit, we followed them home. This was our first opportunity to see their new home.

Driving down the road, we came to their street and their rustic cedar wood house with green steel roof and large cedar deck in the rear. Their yard is spacious and open, scattered with aspens, blue spruce and daisies. It looked just like these two. Standing in their yard, we saw mountains all around in 360 degrees. What a beautiful place! They were excited about giving us a tour and we were excited for them.

Cristina stayed home to prepare for a dinner party for tomorrow, while Scott took us into the heart of Pagosa Springs. We parked in town, at an overlook of the San Juan River and hot springs baths. Across the River was the bathhouse and cascading down the slope, toward the River, were various hot tubs, where bathers relaxed in the soothing mineral water. After a quick overview look, we had dinner at a little restaurant across the street.

Centuries ago, Native Americans were drawn into this spectacular valley nestled in the San Juan Mountains. The Utes called it "Pagosalt" or "healing waters" This charming little town wraps itself around a curve in the San Juan River and is totally surrounded by beautiful mountains…a picture-book setting.

7/25 We met this morning at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church for services. Cristina greeted us in the foyer and we took our seats. Scott and another lady played their guitars, assisting the organist and choir. It was an enjoyable and easy-to-worship service, aided by the sanctuary's large windows facing the beauty of Pagosa Peak and the surrounding mountains.

We were surprised and pleased to see Rusty and JoCile Bayh in church this morning, the couple we met in Durango, from Carrollton, TX. They joined us in the Parrish Hall and it was fun renewing our brief acquaintance.

After church, we drove into town to a quaint little place for brunch, Victoria's Parlor, on Pagosa St. It is a single-story Victorian home converted into a tearoom and gift shop and had tables outside as well as inside. We chose a table outside with a large umbrella, next to a large Douglass Fir. Sitting there, enjoying the sunshine, smelling the air and the fir tree, good conversation with our son and daughter-in-law and wonderful Eggs Benedict, how could it get any better?

Later that afternoon, we drove to their house, picked them up and toured Hatcher Lake, a small residential area on a lake, near their home. Their home sits a couple of 100 yards from the National Forest and has trails leading into the forest. It must be nice to walk out your front door and be in a National Forest!

As the drive and day came to a close, we stopped at the Malt Shop, on Pagosa St. (almost everything's on this main street), picked up some burgers and headed back to the motorhome. We prepared the picnic table, sat down with our burgers and enjoyed a mountain sunset with our son and daughter in law..

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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