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?

Petrified Forest
Finally some added security to keep people out of the restricted areas!

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!

Petrified Forest
To me this is really nature’s art – a chunk of a tree completely transformed into stone!
Petrified Forest
An entire giant fallen tree – turned to stone
Petrified Forest
Many petroglyphs covered this boulder at Newspaper Rock
Painted Desert
Ah, the Painted Desert – so unique and so unforgettable

Painted Desert

Painted Desert

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.

Canyon de Chelly
The ancient ruins have become a fascination for me during the past few months.  The effort required to build them in these locations boggles my mind!

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.

Canyon de Chelly
This is a very extensive canyon system – several of the viewpoints were a long drive away
Canyon de Chelly
This view just grabbed me –

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly
My favorite shot up one of the canyons

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!

Canyon de Chelly
The White House Ruins were my reward at the end of this hike. I never get tired of these structures and the thoughts they conjure up

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!

Canyon de Chelly
This is on full zoom – a small farm at the bottom of the canyon. There was a cornfield and livestock nearby.  These people must feel like their being spied on all the time!

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!

Balloon Fiesta
The laser light show at 6:00am got things started. Pretty cool, reminded me of the last Rush concert I attended

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.

Balloon Fiesta
This is the awesome Dawn Patrol that went up before sunrise to test the air currents and give the crowd a thrill
Balloon Fiesta
Next, many of the balloons in this group took paying customers and other lucky folks up for a flight

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.

Balloon Fiesta
I thought this one was pretty cool, and it got a big round of applause from the audience when it launched – as all of the cute balloons did!

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.

Balloon Fiesta
Mona Liza and I once took a balloon flight from the airport next to our home in California.  This photo brought back memories of balloons cruising over our home on weekend mornings

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.




    • Thanks for the comments, I’m getting used to this little camera but I do miss the zoom power of our other one. Looks like you’re enjoying great hikes out there and seeing some beautiful places!

  1. We’re all glad that MonaLiza is back “home” and will resume her blogging duties, but I have to say how much I’ve enjoyed your point of view and photographs. We always assume that a couple sees things the same way and enjoy things in the same way, but reading your blogs made me remember that we’re all have different points of view, even if we live in 300 square feet together! Thanks for taking over Steve, you should do a “guest spot” every so often, we’d all love to hear from you.

    • Hi Sue, thanks for the kind comments! Except for the technical posts I’ve done, I haven’t really posted travel experiences from scratch. Definitely takes a lot of time – just going through all of the pictures is tedious. I hope to write a helpful post about my water heater/plumbing issue soon.

    • It will be a challenge getting ML back here to see everything I’ve seen. Maybe we’ll check out some of the Arizona sights next spring, but the things I saw in Colorado MUST be done in the Fall. Take care!

  2. Wow…what a whirlwind trip! I just wrote about the Painted Desert too, but we never made it to Canyon de Chelly…that’s a mistake I must correct. You’ve done a wonderful job with the blog while your lady was gone, but I’m sure you’re both very happy she’s home.


    • Thank you for the kind words, I’ll be happy to have ML back and return to our “old routine”. Doing these posts from scratch has been a lot of work, as you well know! I guess things will slow down as we settle in for the winter here. Cheers!

  3. Steve, we always enjoy MonaLiza’s posts, but it’s been a lot of fun to read your posts, too! Think about “guest blogging” once in a while. I wish I could talk Eric into doing the same. 🙂 You certainly hit the high spots in your travels — we haven’t been to Canyon de Chelly in years, but it’s on our list. We’re captivated by the ancient Anasazi ruins, too. Give ML a welcome home hug for us.

    • Hi Laurel, thanks for your comments and I do intend to stay involved in our blog. But most of the “from scratch” ones I do will be technical in nature. I’m happy just editing and adding sections to ML’s work. Take care!

  4. You have really been a busy lone traveler these days. Love your pictures. We’ve been to Petrified and Canyon de Chelly and both are places I’d love to go back to. I love Anasazi ruins. Thumbs up to your decision to go to the Balloon Fest. You sure captured the excitement. Thanks for keeping the blog going in Mona Liza’s absence. Welcome home Mona Liza!

    • Hi Sherry, the traveling and blogging has certainly kept me busy. I have seen so many beautiful places and now I need to figure out the best way for ML and I to get back to them together, and at the right time of the year.

  5. Well you sure didn’t slow down on the explorations. We drove through the Petrified Forest NP a couple of weeks ago and I look forward to going back and exploring it leisurely. Big hug and welcome home to ML.

  6. Thanks for the blogs while ML was away. Looks like you didn’t slow down much. Love the balloon festival and Canyon de Chelly pics. Say “Hi” to ML from us.

  7. Glad you got to see Balloon Fest – but also Canyon de Chelly – it is a special place.

    • Canyon do Chelly really is special – I can’t wait to go back. I think we might take one of the jeep tours through the canyon next time, it should offer an interesting perspective of what life is like for the folks who still live and farm there.

Comments are closed.