Discovering the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, NM

We left the Alien-infested town of Roswell and continued our human trek northward, stopping at Cedar Crest, NM.  We had planned this stop close to Albuquerque so we could catch up on some mundane tasks such as haircuts and a grocery stock-up at Costco.  But we also had an issue with Betsy’s furnace and a recall on our Honda that had to be dealt with. Finally, I needed some time to catch up on my blogging chores, since our stop at Big Bend was so active that we hardly had a minute to sit down there.

Steve Lowe

The handyman at work on the furnace

In between all of the chores (we can’t remain still for long), we were able to explore the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway on Highway 14.  Our home base at the Turquoise Trail RV Park (Steve’s review here) was right at the south end of the Byway.

This Scenic Byway lies in the heart of central New Mexico, linking Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  We checked out the entire 50-mile-long trail along Highway 14 from Tijeras to Santa Fe. Along the way, we passed through the historic mining town of Cerillos and the cool little artsy town of Madrid.

Turquoise Trail

Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

Quirky shops and restaurants lined the streets of Madrid, enticing us to come back for an excellent lunch (great suggestion, Hans!) and a better look around town when we moved Betsy up to Santa Fe a few days later.

Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

Madrid, New Mexico

The Hollar

Stopped at the Hollar for lunch

We continued on to Cerillos, where the mining district is one of the oldest and most marked of the Old Spanish mineral developments in the Southwest.  We stopped here for some exercise and checked out the Jane Calvin Sanchez hiking trail at Cerillos State Park.

Following the trail for over two miles, we climbed several steep grades that really got our hearts pumping.  Old mining operations were quite evident as we passed several abandoned mine shafts displaying interpretive plaques.  We learned a bit of mining history while taking in some beautiful views of the endless New Mexico sky and surrounding mountains.

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The old mine shafts are fenced off to keep people and critters from falling in

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Plaques showed the history of mining here and facts about each hand-dug shaft

Cerillos State Park

We really are in the wild, wild west!

On another day we drove up to Sandia Peak, the highest in the Sandia Mountains. Towering at 10,678 ft., it dominates Albuquerque’s eastern skyline and from there we had panoramic views of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley.  Right at the top we saw a “Steel Forest”, a major communications complex for the southwest since 1945.

Steel Forest of Sandia Crest Electronic Site

Sandia Crest’s Steel Forest communications site

Standing atop Sandia Crest, we were a mile above Albuquerque and two miles above sea level.  It was a clear day during our visit, allowing awesome views in every direction.

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The city of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande lay before us

Sandai Mountains

Granite crags on the west side of the Sandia Mountains

Sandia Crest

Frequent and fierce winds up here cause “flagging” of the fir trees

While returning from a walk along the crest, we found some northward-facing spots still covered with snow, so of course I took advantage of a photo-op!

Sandia Crest

Springtime is the windy season here in New Mexico, and every big gust of wind brings clouds of dust with it.  That caused us to suffer with runny noses and watery eyes (not to mention a dusty car and RV) for a couple of weeks.  When the wind calmed down I took a break from my computer work and ventured around the RV park to see some of the flowering trees showing their buds (the park manager told us that spring begins on May 1st here).

Cedar Waxwing

This Cedar Waxwing enjoyed the flowering Apple Crabtree

House Finch

Who wouldn’t love watching a couple of Finches kissing?

And this cute Prairie Dog appeared from his dugout to say hello to me!

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I hustled back to Betsy as the wind started blowing again.  As we were to soon find out, there was plenty more wind and dust waiting for us at Santa Fe.

 

Next Up:  Venturing along the Santa Fe Trail