Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
On Sunday October 22nd, we broke camp in Santa Rosa, NM and headed west on I-40 until we reached Clines Corner where we turned northwest on Hwy 285 to Santa Fe. Hwy 285 hits I-25 just south of Santa Fe. We took I-25 southwest of the city to Santa Fe Skies RV Park. This is a fairly new park perched on the hills south of the city with a view of the mountains to the east and to the north. It’s not cheap but then places near cities rarely are. We got a full hook up pull though site for $44 a night.

One of the investors in the park is a metal sculptor and collector of old engines. So there is a collection of old engines on one end of the park.

Old engines Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Along with this wonderful old International truck nearby.

Internation truck

We got set up and had lunch and Walter discovered that he could get over 32 TV stations over-the-air here. And both of our phones worked. The WiFi worked great when we first arrived and then of course as folks came back from their outings and the park filled up for the night it got bogged down. But it was pretty good most of the time during our stay.

Walter settled down to watch football and I set out for a walk. At the end of the row where we were parked there were a pair of sculptures.  

Puff the Magic Dragon sculpture

In the foreground is Puff the Magic Dragon made from parts of a snow removal machine from the ski area. Behind him is a piece entitled Seismograph.

Across the road on the way to the Dog Park is a great piece made of old bicycle handlebars called When You Ride.

When you ride sculpture

And down a little ways is a piece of machinery I just loved but I don’t know what it was.

Old engine Santa Fe Skies RV Park

The park has a lot of resident bunnies and I finally found one who would stay still long enough for me to get a photo.


There’s a walking trail on the outside of the fence and it took me a while to find a way out to it. Part of the fence is brand new and has these nifty pieces of hardware on the tops of the fence posts.

Hardware fence posts

I followed the trail around and found another piece of sculpture along the way.

Sculpture Santa Fe Skies RV Park

The trail loops along the north edge of the park and the fence is just barbed wire there. And you get a great view of the mountains to the north of Santa Fe.

View from Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Those great big patches of gray are not old burns. When we drove up the mountains on Tuesday we discovered that those are huge stands of aspens. A few weeks earlier in October the gray would have been bright yellow!

To the west you can see the Ortiz Mountains.
View from Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Along the way there was one lone little tree that had turned bright yellow. You could see splashes of color out across the valley but not much in the park itself.

Fall color yellow leaves

Up on the tip top of a Lombardy Poplar I spied what turned out to be a Merlin, a kind of falcon that one doesn’t normally see in New Mexico.

Merlin Santa Fe Skies RV Park

The path crossed the entry drive and I turned in there past a lovely sculpture called Pyramid.

Pyramid sculpture Santa Fe Skies RV

And one that I think is my favorite called Politics.

Politics sculpture Santa Fe Skies RV

I came back to the trailer in time for Walter to want to take a little walk so we wandered up to the main office building and checked out the showers. The bathrooms are nicely tiled and at least the Women’s showers all had stools to put your stuff on. We ended up using them the next day and they were nice and warm and had plenty of hot water.

Along the way I spied this sculpture called Eve.     

Eve sculpture Santa Fe Skies RV

About half the sculptures (the painted ones like this one) are by Joe Forest Sackett and are for sale. The others are by John Brown and don’t seem to be for sale.

This one by John Brown was created to shade some electrical equipment. It’s called Butterflies and they swing a bit in the wind.

Butterflies sculpture Santa Fe Skies RV

Along about dinner time the sky even to the east began to turn pink. I went out with my camera while Walter finished cooking (it was Sunday which is his day to cook).

It was lovely and pink to the northwest.

Sunset Santa Fe NM

And deep orange to the southwest.

Sunset Santa Fe NM

And off to the west it was a nice mix of orange and pink.

Sunset Santa Fe NM

It was all over pretty fast but the orange did transition to pink before it was gone.

It cooled off fast (it had been in the low 70’s during the day) and got down to 36 and was clear and sunny yet again the next morning. We headed into downtown Santa Fe (about 10 miles away) to enjoy a walk through the old town section. The streets are narrow, the buildings are ooooold and the parking is all metered. We found a spot in the Saint Francis Cathedral parking lot and paid $5 for 4 hours knowing that would be plenty for us.

First up was just a wonderful SW style building. Everything in the main part of Santa Fe meets design criteria so it fits in with the old buildings. I love it. You can tell it’s new but it looks like it belongs here.

Interesting Santa Fe NM building

Just around the corner we got our first view of the St. Francis Cathedral.

St. Francis Cathedral

This cathedral was build in the mid-1860’s in the Romanesque Revival style. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the architecture here but it’s gorgeous nevertheless.

It’s very impressive inside with a lovely vaulted ceiling.

St. Francis Cathedral

That baptismal was the biggest I’ve ever seen and at the center of church.

Baptismal St. Francis Cathedral

The main altar was really different too.

Main altar St. Francis Cathedral

There were side chapels that were too dark for decent photos (no flash allowed). But on our way back towards the rear of the church we got a very nice view of the large rose window.

Rose window St. Francis Cathedral

And I really loved this dove window which was added in 2005.

Dove window St. Francis Cathedral

Outside there was this lovely statue of Saint Katerina Tekakwitha, the first US Native American saint. She was a Mohawk.

Saint Katerina Tekakwitha

We walked on towards the main Plaza and we could here drumming and chanting that sounded like a large group might be performing there. When we came around the corner we discovered that all that wonderful sound was coming from two men and one drum.

Drummers Santa Fe Plaza

The fellow facing us had a BIG voice.

Here’s a shot of the Plaza.  

Santa Fe Plaza

There were fresh chile ristas hanging from all the light posts here.

chile ristas light post

The tourist season is just about over (thank goodness) so there weren’t tons of people around and not a lot going on in the plaza. But that was okay by us.

On the far side of the Plaza is the Palace of the Governors, built in 1618. It is the oldest continually occupied public building in the US. It served as the seat of government for centuries. It’s now a museum.
Palace of the Governors Santa Fe NM

We continued on, map in hand, to explore the area. I stopped to take a photo of yet another gorgeous unknown building across the street from the Plaza.

Near Santa Fe Plaza

We continued up the block past galleries with all sorts of fun stuff out on the sidewalk. Like this wonderful shiny-toed dog.

Dog sculpture Santa Fe NM

Just down the block a ways stands a wonderful bronze of Allan Houser Haozous. He was an Apache Indian sculptor, painter and teacher. The sculpture was done by Phillip Hauzous in 2001. I love the aliveness in this. It’s like he’s about to step down and talk to you.   

Bronze of Allan Houser Haozous

We turned the corner and headed up the block opposite the City Hall. This lovely flower lady had no label and the gallery she stood in front of was closed on Monday.

Flower lady sculpture Santa Fe NM

Across the street in front of the City Hall is a great statue of Medal of Honor Recipient Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry. I read on-line that he parachuted into town on the day they unveiled his statue.  

Statue Sgt Petry Medal of Honor

Just up the block from the City Hall is another big museum. Out in front is a piece called The Fish of St. Anthony—a school of fish heading up a river of gravel. I wonder if they sing and dance late at night when no one is watching.

Fish of St. Anthony sculpture

The ristas hanging here were wonderful and the building gave a good background to see them.

Chile rista

At the end of the block we came to the Presbyterian Church with lots of lovely fall color.

Santa Fe Presbyterian Church

We continued on our way and took a short cut through Burro Alley. At the end of it there was this great bronze of a burro.

Burro Alley burro sculpture Santa Fe

We’d been walking for some time and the altitude was beginning to get to Walter (it’s over 7,000 feet). So we sat down on a couple of benches in front of a closed restaurant (open only for dinner and not at all on Monday). Across the street was this wonderful gallery (Seret and Sons) housed in an even more wonderful old building. There were wooden shutters on the insides of the windows upstairs.

Seret and Sons Gallery Santa Fe

Having rested a while we turned up the Alameda and I spied the only really happy flowers I’d seen in Santa Fe. Someone puts a lot energy keeping all these hanging pots happy at the Inn of the Governors.

Flowers at Inn of the Governors Santa Fe

And yes, that car in the middle says Just Married. Santa Fe would be a great place for a honeymoon.

We crossed the street to walk along the Santa Fe River which is really just a little trickle that they’ve contained below street level. I did like this little stone bridge along with some fall color.    

Stone bridge over Santa Fe River

Just before we made it back to the truck I spied this pair of wild horses on the roof of a place called the Courtyard. They were part of a Year of the Horse project back in 2014.

Wild horses Courtyard Santa Fe

We found the truck again without a hitch which is a big win. One could spend days exploring all the galleries in Santa Fe and eating their way through all the marvelous restaurants. For me this was just about right. There weren’t a lot of people out. We had a lot of art to enjoy and got a nice walk too. Neither of us are city people but Santa Fe manages to feel more like a small town when you’re down in the heart of the place. However, in the summertime it is supposed to be a real zoo.

From here we made our way out of downtown to the Whole Foods. It was lunchtime and the place was FULL. Finding a place to park the truck was interesting but we succeeded. We did our shopping and got the makings for lunch and then made our way to the Albertsons near the RV Park and did our weekly shopping. Oh wonder of wonders a familiar grocery store brand!!!! Heaven.

This was a full day for us doing shopping and an outing but it was great.

Tuesday morning October 24th, it got down to 35. Brrrr. It warmed up slowly and by late morning it was 58. We packed a lunch (which in the end we ate back home but hey always be prepared) and drove back to Santa Fe and then up Artists Road which leads into the National Forest and eventually up to Ski Santa Fe at the top of the mountain (over 10,000 feet).

Up at about 8,000 feet the aspens were big blasts of gold filling draws and canyons with color.

Aspens Artists Road Santa Fe

Across the road from these aspens were some narrow-leaved trees that were orange.

Orange fall color above Santa Fe

And the trees lined the road with yellow as it climbed up the mountain.

Fall Color Artists Road Santa Fe

Up near 8,500 feet we came to Hyde Memorial State Park. The aspens there were gold too.

Aspen fall color Hyde memorial SP

The main campground had just closed but they have a small RV hook up campground with 7 sites and they were all full. I don’t want to think how cold it was up at 8,500 feet overnight. It was only about 45 in the middle of the afternoon! But if you want to hike this is the place to camp. There were lots of trailheads nearby.

We still saw lots of golden aspens up to about 9,200 feet and then after that most of them were bare. There’s a wonderful picnic area/viewpoint up at 9,900 feet called Aspen View. It gives you a view across that upper section of the mountain that looked gray in my photo from the campground. I cannot imagine how stunning that must have been just a few weeks earlier. But instead we had seas of white trunks to look at.

This was across the road from the overlook.  

Bare aspens Ski Santa Fe

We continued on up the mountain and just before you come to the ski area at the end of the road, you come to this lovely overlook that gives you a view southwest across Santa Fe all the way to Albuquerque.

Overlook Artists Road Santa Fe

Those are the Ortiz Mountains with Sandia Peak left of middle and Albuquerque in the low spot way off in the distance.

We drove on to where the road ends in this lovely gate that said that Ski Santa Fe was closed.  
Ski Santa Fe gate

You could park and go up the stairs to the lodge though if you wanted to.

Ski Santa Fe entry

It was 42 up here but with the sun it really didn’t feel that cold.

We drove on down the mountain and since it wasn’t lunchtime yet we took Hwy 599 (the Santa Fe by pass) back to the campground since it literally runs right up to the little road that the campground is on. We stopped and talked to our new neighbors (there are lots of folks who only spend one night here on their way across country) and then settled in for a quiet afternoon.

Wednesday October 25th, we broke camp one more time and headed south on I-25 about 190 miles to the exit for Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Along the way we saw tons of bright yellow cottonwoods.

Yellow cottonwoods Rio Grande NM

The Rio Grande runs down through here and the cottonwoods make a lovely yellow line all the way down the valley.
Yellow cottonwoods Rio Grande NM

I-25 even crosses the Rio Grande along the way.

Rio Grande from I-25

Elephant Butte Lake State Park has 144 hook up sites (with a bunch up lake at another section of the park) and nearly all of them were taken! Sites that are on the reservation system are available for only one night but we were lucky enough to catch the camp host and find a spot that at that moment at least was available for 2 nights. We registered for one night and hoped for the best. The sites in the Lions Beach Campground are fairly close together but there’s a water view from the picnic tables.

Elephant Butte Lake SP campsite view

The sites in the other two campgrounds in this section of the park don’t have water views but aren’t quite a close together. On Thursday afternoon we drove up lake and explored the Monticello portion of the park. The sites there aren’t as close together but the good lakes view sites are mostly on the reservation system. Note to self, if we want to stay here again, make a reservation!

We settled in and late in the afternoon a large flock of Gambel’s quail came through. Most of them fluttered off when I came out but I managed to get a photo of one.   

Gambel’s quail

We had a road runner that came through several times but they’re way too skittish to get photos of if you have to open a door!

Our hot spot worked here and then we discovered that we were right next to one of their WiFi towers and their free WiFi actually worked pretty well most of the time. Both our phones worked too!

It was pleasant that afternoon with the high in the low 70’s. It wasn’t as cold that night and the next morning it was 48—much better than 35! We allowed ourselves to have a lazy morning surfing the web and then set out to visit the town of Truth of Consequences which is just south of the park. This town used to be called Hot Spring, NM. But in 1950 they entered a contest to be named after the radio (and later TV) show Truth or Consequences and they won! We stopped at the Tourist Information Center in town (where we heard about the town’s name) and picked up a map so we could explore the area. We explored the old downtown—where there are motels and spas where you can soak, none of them looking particularly wonderful. They’ve got a ways o go before this will be a destination.

We drove back out of town and out to the Elephant Butte Dam.

Elephant Butte Dam

This was the site of a previous dam that was finished in 1916. It was the first dam on the Rio Grande. The current dam was completed in 1940 and it provides both irrigation water and hydroelectric power to this part of New Mexico. In addition, it results in Elephant Butte Lake which is the biggest lake in New Mexico. Because it’s only 150 miles from Albuquerque it’s clearly a popular summer playground.

We drove up around to the other side to get a view of Elephant Butte. Walter claimed he could picture the elephant but I admit I just can’t see him.

Elephant Butte NM

Our camp host told us that they lake was coming up after having been drawn down for irrigation across the summer. It was coming up 3 feet a day while we were there. So soon at least part of that bathtub ring will disappear under water.

There’s a large marina on this end of the lake and there were lots of houseboats moored in the inlet to the right of the butte.

Elephant Butte NM
There was another large marina not far from our campground.

This is pretty stark desert country and it reminded both of us of Lake Mead. But clearly the summer and fall rains had done their jobs because there were ocotillos with leaves (but no flowers) and here and there I saw a few flowers. There were a number of Southwest Pricklypoppies (Argemone pleiacantha) in bloom.

Southwest Pricklypoppies (Argemone pleiacantha)

And there was one lone purple flower that I think is some sort of Four O’clock (Mirabilis).

Four O'clock maybe

There were lots of Slender Goldenweed (Xanthisma-gracile) in bloom both here and along the roads.  

 Slender Goldenweed (Xanthisma-gracile)

We continued around the loop road and got a view of the top of dam. Once upon a time you could drive over the top of the dam, but no more.

Top of  Elephant Butte Dam

Later that afternoon we drove up along the lakeshore and had a look at the Monticello campground. It’s a nice place with great views and was nearly empty. There’s not much out in this area and it’s ten miles from I-25 while the Lions Beach area is only 4 1/2 miles from the freeway and is close to both the little town of Elephant Butte and the larger town of Truth of Consequences. I can understand why folks opt to camp down at Lions Beach if only so they can easily get gas for their boats and have someplace to store them in the large storage yards in town.

It was hot that afternoon (85 or so) and REALLY dry (15% humidity). It was still warm well past 11 pm. And then at midnight the wind came up and the temperature began to drop. It didn’t get COLD but it was cool enough for us to turn the heater on in the morning for a while since it was under 60 in the trailer. We broke camp and headed south on I-25 to the town of Hatch where we headed southwest on Hwy 26 to Deming. Hatch calls itself the Chile Capitol of the World. There are shops and farm stands along the Hwy selling ristas and wreaths of chiles. I saw some out in the fields drying on the plants and I even saw an entire roof of a small adobe covered in chiles put out in the sun to dry. Please note: In New Mexico they are called chile not chili.  

Hatch NM farm stand

A while later, in the middle of nowhere we noticed a lot of very large birds in the air and then more of them landing off to the north. I grabbed the camera and sure enough it was a big flock of Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Cranes NM

Hwy 26 takes you to Deming where we picked up I-10 and headed west to Lordsburg, the last town of any size in New Mexico. We had a reservation at the Lordsburg KOA since one of the reasons things had been so full at Elephant Butte was that the snow birds were holding off going to Arizona because it was still so hot there. We didn’t want to get to Lordsburg and have nowhere to stay so we did the easy thing of making an on-line reservation. The place was pretty empty when we arrived. We got a full hook up (30 amp) pull through site which was a little short so we parked the truck across the front of the site—all for just $38.54 a night which is cheap for the KOA.

There isn’t anything particularly lovely about the place but it serves it’s purpose. It had great cable TV and the WiFi worked great the first day and not so well the next even in the morning after everyone else left. Both our phones worked and the freeway wasn’t too loud however there were trains too!

It cooled off again in the night down into the 40’s so we just stayed snuggled in the bed late on Saturday morning waiting for the heater to warm things up. I did laundry and Walter watched football, including the UW-UCLA game which the Huskies won handily.