Skip to main content

Looking Back - 2007 New Mexico Visit - A Spectacular Loop

Another example of a planned but never published item from the old website.  This time it is the second day of my 2007 New Mexico Vacation.  A loop that took me north from Albuquerque into some spectacular scenery and ultimately one of my favorite fall drives of all time.

Route: I-25, US 550, NM 4, NM 502, US 84, NM/CO 17, US 285, US 64, NM 68, US 84/285, NM 599, I-25, I-40.

For my entire set on flickr - head here.

Little did I realize when I booked this vacation that the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta would be taking place while I was in town.  When in Albuquerque everyone would ask me, "If I was in town for the Fiesta?" which I wasn't, but obviously glad I was.   On the morning of this trip, hot air balloons filled the sky and made the Big I and Interstate 25 a little more interesting.



After exiting Interstate 25 at US 550 in Bernalillo, I picked up New Mexico 4 in San Ysidro.  Nearly all of NM 4 is part of the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway and throughout the drive it certainly did not disappoint.


New Mexico 4 at Red Rocks.
If I could do this trip again, I would spend more time in Jemez Springs.  This tiny village is home to numerous shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts.  Jemez Springs is also home to a number of hot springs and spas. Jemez Springs is the location of the Jemez Historic Site that preserves the Giusewa Pueblo.  Unfortunately, it was closed when I passed through.

Just north of Jemez Springs is the Soda Dam.  This natural dam along the Jemez River was formed as a result of mineral deposits from underground hot springs.


For me, the drive along New Mexico 4 was full surprises.  The impressive Battleship Rock at Mile 23 was a great example of such.


Much of New Mexico Highway 4 runs through the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  The highlight of this is the approach to and sudden opening (Valle Grande) into the caldera is amazing.



My old digital camera does not do the wide open expanse justice.  The caldera is the remnant of a long dormant volcano.  The most expansive part of the caldera is known as Valle Grande.  The caldera was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975 and in 2000 became a National Preserve.




Leaving the Caldera, I skirted around Los Alamos and passed on a stop at Bandelier National Monument.  I would then find myself on US 84 heading northwards towards Chama and through some spectacular high desert scenery.





I took US 84 to Chama where I then turned onto New Mexico 17 to head north into Colorado.  It was recommended to me to take this drive from Chama to Antonio, Colorado.  It quickly became one of my most favorite drives of all time.

The Cumbres and Toltec crosses New Mexico 17 just outside of Chama.




For much of the drive between Chama and Antonio, Highway 17 runs along side the historic Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.  The historic railroad begins in Chama and runs 64 miles to Antonio.  It is one of the more popular touring railroads in the country and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012.





Throughout New Mexico, Highway 17 climbs towards the Colorado border.  Once in Colorado - Highway 17 crosses two mountain passes - Cumbres and La Manga - both topping over 10,000 feet.  It is the decent from these passes into the Conjeos River Valley and Canyon that made this drive so memorable.

Colorado 17 heading into the Conjeos River Valley

I loved the bold yellows of the Aspen mixing in with the deep green of the pines.  As Colorado 17 approaches the valley, there is a hairpin turn that is a great spot for photos.



After a small stop in Antonio - I headed south back to New Mexico.  I turned east on US 64 towards Taos and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  The three span metal arch bridge is a spectacular crossing of the Rio Grande hundreds of feet below.


The bridge was built in 1965 and is an extremely popular spot for tourists in the area.  Doug covers the bridge in more detail on the blog here.  It is an amazing site, and it's hard not to be a little anxious when you look down into the gorge 650 below.  However, if you can gather the courage to conquer your fear of heights - it's definitely worthwhile.





From here, I headed back towards Sante Fe along the Rio Grande via New Mexico 68 and then back to my hotel in Albuquerque.  This first real trip exploring New Mexico and Colorado was memorable and I was very excited for the next day - a trip to Mesa Verde National Park.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Onion Valley Road; former California State Route 180 to Kearsarge Pass

This summer I had an opportunity to drive one of the lesser known great roads of California; Onion Valley Road from Independence west to Onion Valley near Kearsarge Pass.  Aside from being massive climb into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains the path of Onion Valley Road was once signed as California State Route 180 and was intended to be part of a Trans-Sierra Highway.


Onion Valley Road is located west of Independence of Inyo County and is 12.9 miles in length.  According to pjammcycling.com Onion Valley Road begins at an elevation of 3,946 feet above sea level in Independence and terminates at 9,219 feet above sea level at Onion Valley.  Pjammcycling rates Onion Valley Road with an average gradient of 7.8% and lists it as the 6th most difficult cycling climb in the United States.  Onion Valley Road also includes ten switchbacks which largely follow the course of Independence Creek.  Anyway you look at it the route of Onion Valley Road is no joke and is definitely a test of driving…

Horseshoe Meadows Road; former California State Route 190 and the legacy of the Lone Pine-Porterville HIgh Sierra Road

This summer I had an opportunity to drive one of the lesser known great roads of California; Horseshoe Meadows Road from Whitney Portal Road westward into Horseshoe Meadows of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Aside from being massive climb into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains the path of Horseshoe Meadows Road was once part of California State Route 190 and was intended to be part of a Trans-Sierra Highway known as the Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road.


Horseshoe Meadows Road is located west of Lone Pine of Inyo County and is 19.7 miles in length.  Horseshoe Meadows Road begins at an approximate elevation of 4,500 feet above sea level at Whitney Portal Road in the Alabama Hills and ends at an elevation of 10,072 feet above sea level in Horseshoe Meadows.  Horseshoe Meadows Road is the second highest paved road in California only behind Rock Creek Road near Tom's Place.  Pjammcycling rates Horseshoe Meadows Road with an average gradient of 6.2% and lists it as th…

US Route 199

I was planning on driving US Route 199 for the third time this weekend.  However "external factors" have pushed my visit to US Route 199 back for the time being.  While I can't do a driving log for US Route 199 at the moment I can still write about it's history.


This blog will be slightly different from the usual flair for Gribblenation.  Generally I have a stockpile of my own road photos from which to draw from.  In the case of US Route 199 I was far more focused on hiking photos during my first two visits in 2014 and 2016 than the actual highway.  At some point I will add a series of modern driving log photos but for the time being I will draw from numerous other sources to illustrate US Route 199.


Part 1; the History of US Route 199

Present US Route 199 is a 80.05 mile highway which connects US Route 101 in Crescent City of Del Norte, California northeast to Interstate 5 in Grants Pass of Josephine County, Oregon.  US Route 199 is one of the original US Routes and …