Out and about in Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM

The northernmost point of the Turquoise Trail officially ends at the junction of State Highway 14 and Interstate 25, just south of Santa Fe.  We set up camp at Santa Fe Skies RV Park (Steve’s review here), which offered spacious sites and panoramic views of four mountain ranges.  The park was recommended by our friends Ayn and Chuck, who are now part-time residents of Santa Fe and part-time travelers.  Our little reunion with them was our main reason for stopping, and we had a couple of excellent meals together.

Although we were greenhorns in the blogosphere in 2012, our interactions with other bloggers were already in high gear.  Ayn and Chuck  of Roadlife were the first bloggers we met up with on the road, in Anchorage, Alaska no less.  Three years later here we were in Santa Fe, and we spent plenty of time recalling our adventures in the “North to the Future” state.  It was great catching up with them, and we hope to meet again somewhere down the road.

Santa Fe was a revisit for us, as we were here about 12 years ago to check it out as a possible place to live and work.  This time we just meandered around town and checked out what had changed since our last visit.  It remains an intriguing old city known worldwide for its art galleries and pueblo-style architecture.  You don’t see tall buildings here, and even government buildings have retained the distinctive southwestern style that is based on the adobe (mud and straw) with wood construction look of the past.  Here are a few photos:

I learned a few facts about Santa Fe during this visit; it’s the capital of New Mexico (all this time I thought it was Albuquerque), and at 7,000 feet of elevation it is both the highest and oldest capital city in the US.  Those are just boring stats, but this city has lots to offer – especially if you’re artistically-inclined.  If you want to learn more about Santa Fe, Ingrid of Live Laugh RV has written several posts about their visit here.  She really captured the essence of the area through her excellent stories and vivid captures.

Our short stay in Santa Fe also brought us various weather-related scenarios.  Most mornings it was beautiful with clear skies framing the mountains.  But by early afternoon the winds kicked up and broadsided Betsy with vicious dust clouds.  In fact, it was so bad that we left our right-side slide in during most of our stay.  Our runny noses and sneezing continued as we tried to control the dust in the RV.

On departure day, we awoke to a winter wonderland, as about two inches of the white stuff had blanketed us during the night.  We were excited, as it was the first time we had been snowed on during our travels.  Fortunately, it had all melted by the time we were ready to head on down the road.

Robin building nest

Neither rain nor snow stops the Robin’s nest-building project

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

One clear sunny day, the mountains are visible for miles

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Afternoon winds and dust obscured the mountains and made us miserable

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

Then it snowed, who cares about the mountains?

Santa Fe Skies RV PArk

Betsy survived her first snow event!

After all of the weather excitement, we continued on to Las Vegas, NM, which is only about 66 miles to the north.  This was just a quick pause to break up a long drive to our first stop in Colorado.

The nearby Las Vegas Wildlife Refuge beckoned to me.  We drove around their 8-mile auto tour route, but we didn’t walk the trails due to the bone-chilling cold and relentless winds. The Visitor’s Center displayed a great collection of bird egg replicas that represented all of the species that find sanctuary at the refuge.  I found them very interesting; they were all unique in their colors, textures and sizes.

Bird Egg Replicas

The wind finally died down the next day, so we drove 29 miles south to catch up on our hiking at Villanueva State Park.  It’s nestled between high sandstone bluffs that form a canyon along the Pecos River.

Viewpoint Trail, Villanueva State Park

Up and up we went

We followed all three of the trails and got a great workout as we ascended the Viewpoint and El Cerro trails.  They did not disappoint, as we had a panoramic view of the wide open New Mexico skies with a few mountains dotting the landscape.  We saw the town of Villanueva in the distance, with the Pecos River running alongside the bluffs of the park below.

Villanueva State Park

We heard some kind of a critter shuffling around in the tin cover of this shelter, but we never did figure out what it was

Pecos River

The Pecos River cuts deep along the red bluffs

Villanueva State Park

Looking down at the camping area of Villanueva State Park

But alas, it was time to go.  The only thing we didn’t like in the Land of Enchantment was the wind and dust, which apparently lasts an average of three months every year.  Other than that we enjoyed the scenery and loved our journey through this beautiful part of New Mexico.  In the fall we will head back through the far western part of the state on our winter migration.  We’re excited to find out what new adventures await us in that part of this great state.

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Next up:  Highway of Legends, Colorado