Steve’s final solo excursions in New Mexico and Arizona
With my honey still far, far away, I somewhat consolidated the number of stops Betsy was to make between Durango, CO and Cottonwood, AZ. One city that fell into my line of travel as a mid-way stop was Gallup, NM (my campground review here).
Although the following excursions were all a bit of a drive, Gallup was central enough that I could stay in one place for 10 days. I was also able to repair an unexpected plumbing/hot water heater problem that took several days to fix (more on that in another post).
Petrified Forest –
I have memories of possibly visiting the Petrified Forest when I was very young, but I’m not sure and can’t confirm it now. Still, I’ve wanted to see it for many years and Gallup was a decent home base to do it from.
On the road with a bunch of coffee, I made the 67-mile drive. I did get to sleep in a bit, due to the Arizona timezone making it an hour earlier at my destination. I discovered upon arrival that the drive through the park was 28 miles one-way. Sure glad I gassed up the car last night!
The park somehow looked more barren than I had expected. Some areas had quite a few petrified trees, but the forest part was mostly imagining that this area was once a humid tropical area covered in trees. Maybe I had fallen in love with awesome canyons and Fall colors lately, and needed to come back to reality?
But there’s no questioning the beauty of the petrified remains that are here. It’s always been one of those things in nature that totally amazes me. And the petroglyphs that covered a boulder at Newspaper Rock blew me away. Lastly, viewing the Painted Desert along the way – how could anyone not love this? Well, maybe it’s not so barren after all!
Canyon de Chelly –
This is a place I had never heard of until our friends Vic and Pam recommended it, and since then it’s been on our list of places to visit anytime we’re in the area. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will insist that Mona Liza go back with me someday for some quality photography – then I can be the tour guide!
The cliffs towering 800 ft. above a relatively flat valley floor was impressive enough. But when you add the incredibly colored unique formations and the size and scope of this series of canyons it’s almost overwhelming. There are several ancient ruins that are easy to see from the overlooks and stops.
The biggest surprise for me was all of the greenery in the form of trees and other vegetation in the canyon. A bit different from what I’ve seen lately.
The White House Trail at one of the stops gave me some much-needed exercise, a 600 ft. elevation change over the 1.5-mile one-way walk down the canyon wall. Climbing back out of there got my legs warmed up real good!
I learned that today Navajo families live at the bottom of the canyon, raising livestock and farming the land. I believed it when I saw a little cattle roundup happening at the bottom, but they were so far away that my whimpy little camera couldn’t capture it from the rim!
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta –
This was totally a last-minute bonus stop – I realized when I got to Gallup that the Balloon Fiesta was still underway. It was 150 miles east of me, but how could I live with myself if I didn’t go check out the amazing Balloon Fiesta, even for half a day? So I got online and bought a ticket after learning that the only “mass ascension” I could attend would be on Saturday the 10th. I had to go!
This time I was up at 1:00am with plenty of coffee to arrive at the gate by 4:00. I was parked by 4:30 on arguably the busiest day of the show. It was surreal walking past open T-shirt shops and fast-food tents with thousands of other people – at 4:30 in the morning! The show attendance was massive – the only one larger I’ve been to was the Indy 500 several years ago.
I can’t begin to compete with the excellent posts that Wheelingit created to cover this event. They published multiple posts with facts and stories – including how to crew a balloon – with beautiful photos, of course. For sure these are excellent posts about the show, with helpful tips on how to attend in the future.
I must say it really paid to arrive early and leave early; traffic was epic all morning. Once there, I was quick to get into the spirit of the show and enjoy something absolutely unique in the aviation world.
I headed out to the Meteor Crater RV Park today and got set up. I’ve wanted to see this big hole in the ground since I was a youngster, and by golly I’m going to do it tomorrow. Mona Liza will be back in a few days, and maybe I can sneak a few of my impressions of the meteor crater into her next blog.