Summer 2021 Tour Taos, New Mexico Episode 3: Village of Red River, Cimarron Canyon State Park, Village of Cimarron

In this episode, we travel a portion of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and stop at a few spots along the way. New Mexico Routes 38 and 522 join with a portion of US 64 to create the circle and connect the towns of Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa, and Taos Ski Valley. We previously included Angel Fire and Taos in episodes 1 and 2.

Red River

Ski Area Summer Fun

The town of Red River is appropriately named after, you guessed it, the Red River. The short perennial river begins its journey high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the top of Mount Wheeler. As the stream flows down the north slope of the mountain, springs add their water, and the river makes its way through the towns of Red River and Questa before turning south and merging with the Rio Grande.

Combo zip line and obstacle course at ski area
Inner tube sliding looked fun

Red River started its life like other towns in the western regions. After the US government forced the Jicarilla Apache and Utes, who called the place home for centuries, to move to reservations, miners rolled into the valley in the late 19th century with visions of gold and silver in their eyes. Established in 1895, Red River’s mining activities were roaring. But they peaked in 1897 and faced a speedy decline until 1905.

Monsoon is on the move

Fortunately, the town did not suffer the ghost-town fate of other mining towns. Enterprising residents recognized trout fishing as a draw for residents and travelers in lower elevations to escape the summer heat of the valleys. And so Red River’s economy switched from mining to recreation.

A river runs through it
Red River Brewing Company was mighty popular

In December 1959, Red River Ski and Summer Area opened for the first time. Partially within public lands under a long-term special use permit with the Forest Service, the family who owns and operates the resort provides activities in both winter and summer.

For those with a sweet tooth
Cozy spot with patio

Besides fishing and skiing, other events are held throughout the year to attract visitors and keep the town hopping. It’s amazing how a town of only 460 people manages to offer so many celebrations like the Songwriters Festival and Mardi Gras in February and the Memorial Motorcycle Rally over Memorial day. Car shows, art and wine festivals, music festivals, and Oktoberfest are other reasons to make the 36-mile trip from Taos or drive up from West Texas.

Fishing allowed in town

Cimarron Canyon State Park

Hiking trails, trout fishing, picnic areas, and campgrounds await travelers and visitors east on US 64 from Eagle Nest Lake. On our way to the Village of Cimarron through the 8-mile long narrow canyon, we stopped to gawk at the craggy cliffs at Palisades Sill. The cliffs are a scenic, historic site and worth a stop. Be sure to pay the $5.00 entrance fee if enjoying the sites. Every bit helps to protect our parks, and pay stations are nearby.

US 64 highway through Cimarron Canyon
Make a wish
The walls rise 400′
Up periscope

Cimarron

About 10 miles from the state park is the small Village of Cimarron, New Mexico, with a population of approximately 865, down 155 people over the past 10 years. Our main goal for driving to Cimarron was to try the restaurant at the St. James Hotel.

St. James Hotel

Our neighbors at Taos Canyon Stop RV Park told us they enjoyed a quiet lunch at the restaurant. We were not so lucky. The day of our visit was Wednesday, and the hotel and restaurant are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

St. James Hotel lobby

With the door open, at least we could wander around the bottom floor and peek into a few rooms. In the hallway, we found photos and signs with historic information about the town, hotel, and people.

St. James Hotel lobby

How cool would it be to stay in a room named after Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, or Doc Holliday? Or how about room 14, where R.H. Howard, A.K.A. Jesse James, reportedly preferred to lay his head while in Cimarron?

St. James Hotel hallway
Looks comfy to me
The Life and Times of Jesse James
We have it so easy with our laptops and keyboards
St. James Hotel courtyard

Aztec Grist Mill Museum

Down the road from the St. James Hotel, towering trees hid the Aztec Grist Mill Museum, and a locked gate barred my entry. Another pandemic victim. While taking photos of the stone building, a ranch hand happened by. While we talked, he ticked off all sorts of treasures sequestered inside the locked museum, whetting my appetite to take a peek.

Aztec Grist Mill Museum

Unfortunately, he didn’t have keys to let us in the locked door. I did learn the Aztec Grist Mill was built in 1864 to provide ground grains for the Maxwell Ranch and the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation.

Antique farm equipment at the museum

Blu Dragonfly Brewing Company

We searched for somewhere to have lunch, and the only place we could find open was the Blu Dragonfly Brewing Company. Their sign said BBQ, which I read as pulled pork sandwich. Inside it was the Dog House Taproom, and the only thing on the menu was hot dogs.

Outdoor seating at Blu Dragonfly Brewing

The menu included a Plain Jane Pup, similar to the classic Nathan’s Famous; Man’s Best Friend, a classic coney with meat sauce, mustard, cheese and onions; and many other dogs in a bun with various toppings. Jon was happy to sit down with his dogs. Me, not so much. I was promised a pulled pork sandwich, so I wanted a pulled pork sandwich, although I did eat my plain hot dog. My craving for the sandwich, though, lasted for more than a week before we found a place that served what I wanted.

Inside eating at Blu Dragonfly Brewing, or was it the Dog House Taproom?

With most everything closed for the day and only a few people about, the village looked as if it was heading toward ghost town status.

Were the businesses closed for the day or permanently? It was hard to tell
Looks like someone is over there in one of those buildings
A sturdy building looking for an owner

I preferred the more promising future told by Burrito Banquet, Hikers Coffee & Co., and the colorful park and hope other enterprises come along soon to revive Cimarron.

No burritos for you today
No coffee either
Cute little park for kids

We hope to make it back to the area some day so we can see and do more than we could during this trip. We missed out on hiking, riding the ski lift, visiting the Taos Pueblo, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, and many other sites.

Next up: San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and the Earthship Biotecture site.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Taos, New Mexico Episode 2: Taos Plaza and Kit Carson House and Museum

In this second episode of our Taos visit during July 2021, we visit the Taos Plaza and Kit Carson Home and Museum.

Taos Plaza

The plaza is the place to be for gatherings, the farmers market (May through October), live music, parades, demonstrations, and art displays. Surrounding the plaza are various shops, studios, and galleries. A day or so before we arrived, there was a big to-do because city staff had mistakenly covered up a public art display in the crosswalks. Oops! Sorry! What else could the city say?

From a distance, the gazebo looked in fine shape. Although, a closer look revealed trip hazards of broken and sunken bricks in the walkway.

Native American music and dance at the gazebo
Watch your step

The veteran’s memorial recognizes all military branches. The black cross is dedicated to New Mexican service members involved in the Bataan Death March during WWII.

Honoring heros

Prominently displayed nearby is a statue of Padre Antonio Jose Martinez (1793-1867). He is recognized as a person of influence in New Mexico’s history through the Spanish, Mexican, and American territorial periods.

Padre Antonio Jose Martinez

Here are a few buildings that surround the plaza. Some of them are holding up pretty well, while others are showing their age.

Pull in to shop

The Hotel La Fonda de Taos is an appealing-looking place to stay. Hotels have occupied the site since 1820 when a mercantile store that also rented rooms opened. According to the website, a recent renovation of the building retained many historical features while including modern amenities for 21st-century travelers.

A historic place to stay

One store had emptied out its stock, and a sign in the window said it had to close because of pending demolition. Further research revealed the building, which once served as the former county courthouse, was slated for demolition and renovation.

The building includes ten murals created by four Taos artists in 1934 under the commission of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). I had to look them up online because we couldn’t see them in person. I hope the contractors can save the paintings from destruction. It would be a shame to lose such a treasure. To see the murals, go to The Living New Deal.

Former County Courthouse

Lunch at The Alley Cantina

After walking around the plaza and visiting Kit Carson’s home, our stomachs growled with hunger. Our map app led us away from the plaza, down an alley, and past Taos Adobe Quilting to The Alley Cantina. We ducked in for a plate of chicken enchiladas and adovada, a red chile pork stew. Both were delicious, as were the margaritas.

We see quilt shops in almost all the small towns we visit
The Alley Cantina has good food
Watch sports under the skylight

Kit Carson Home and Museum

The Kit Carson Home and Museum (owned by Bent Lodge No. 42 of Taos and operated by the Kit Carson Memorial Foundation) seemed like an excellent place to soak up a bit of history, so we sought it out.

Kit Carson Home Courtyard

One might think Kit Carson would have found a fancy mansion for his family. Not so. As I walked through the four rooms, I tried to imagine seven children running around, plus several Indian children Carson took in after he rescued them from their captors and countless other extended family members from time to time.

Enter the door for the Kit Carson visitor center

We started our visit with a movie where several of us gathered along with a docent. When the movie ended, she told other stories of the man and his family and described the home, explaining the use of the various rooms.

Watch a movie about Kit Carson

She led us through the four small rooms, stopping to point out photos, memorabilia, and artifacts. Much of the furniture was not original to the home because Carson’s heirs sold off most of the belongings along with the house when he died. Luckily, collectors have donated some of the objects back to the museum.

Cozy place to snuggle against those cold winter nights

Kit Carson purchased the adobe home in 1843 as a wedding gift for his bride, Josefa Jaramillo. They lived there for twenty-five years, although Carson traveled extensively while on scouting trips with John C. Fremont and serving as an Indian Agent and Army Officer during the Civil War.

Kit Carson’s desk used during his time as Indian Agent

Historical photos show a humble home in this circa 1863 photo

A 1920 photo shows the home when one room housed a licensed Indian Trading Post.

The sign says, Kit Carson’s House 1858 to 1866 Trading Post
Josefa Jaramillo Carson’s sewing kit, including needles and pearl topped pins
Silk dress worn by Josefita Carson, youngest daughter of Kit and Josefa. Six weeks after her birth on April 13, 1868, both of her parents died.
A place to rest
Window, wagon wheel, and stump

Thanks go out to the masonic lodge and foundation for having the forethought to purchase the home in 1910 and turn it into a museum to honor their Freemason brother, Kit Carson.

Murals are a common sight in historic towns, and Taos was no exception. Across the street from the Kit Carson Home and Museum, I spied the mural shown below.

Created by George Chacón 1989

When we returned to our campsite at Taos Canyon Stop, we found a not-so-nice surprise. Before we left for the day, Jon had secured the awning to our picnic table to keep it from flying away during the afternoon wind. What we didn’t count on was a hail storm rolling through the canyon that unleashed rocks of ice the size of marbles. Rain we expected. Hail? No way.

On the bright side, replacing the awning fabric gave Jon a project to work on when we got back home.

Next up: Red River, Cimmaron, and Cimmaron State Park

Safe Travels

Lake Havasu City, Arizona: The Bunker Bar

We interrupt the Summer 2021 New Mexico series, to bring you a more current update. We’ll have blog posts about our Fall 2021 Family & Friends Tour once we finish the New Mexico series. But for now, we wanted to give our friend Chris Blackwell and The Bunker Bar in Lake Havasu a stand-alone post.

Our last visit to Lake Havasu was in November 2019. During that trip, we saw the progress made toward a dream. I understood the concept even though it was hard for me to visualize what the blank slate of land would become.

Container structures for the bar, store, restrooms, and band stage

He and his family had worked for years to bring a desert bar to the community of Lake Havasu. He saw the potential to offer a place about 2.5 miles off US Route 95 for people from town and sport utility vehicle enthusiasts to step off the dusty trail for a cold drink, tasty food, and music.

This container is for the drinks

The simple plan turned into one hurdle after another until on January 1, 2020, when the venue opened for business. A few months later the bar closed due to the pandemic. Another tough obstacle to overcome for a business only opened three days a week during the cooler months of the year.

This container will become the stage for the band

We avoided The Bunker Bar on November 6, 2021, because they were hosting lunch for the Desert Hills PFFA 3rd Annual Side X Side Poker Run event. Come Sunday, we traversed the gravel road and were amazed at the transformation and pleased to see the success of Chris’ hard work and patience.

The Bunker Bar at Thirsty Lizard Road
Ashtrays on each table keep the place clean of butts

While the band plays in the background, gals and guys can sit and talk at the tables (if the band doesn’t play too loud), dance in front of the bandstand, or show off their cornhole skills. It looks like there are enough sets to conduct a tournament.

Great music. Wish I knew the name of the band.
Anyone up for a game of cornhole?

Minnesota Mitch’s Mess Hall serves up hamburgers, sandwiches, and fries. Or one can opt for a hotdog, fish & chips, or chicken tenders. Non-alcoholic drinkers can pick up a Mister Root Beer or fresh lemonade. Step up to the bar for a mixed drink, or choose one of the locally brewed beers.

Food and non-alcoholic drink stands

Stop by the store to pick up a T-shirt, hat, drink cozy, and other products.

Sittin’ in the shade in front of the store
Olive drab trash/recycle drums and helicopter are all part of the military theme

Jon created a 360-degree video of the bar while the band played. Click here to watch the video and hear a snippet from the band.

So here’s to Chris and his family who supported him through the process, and play roles to make The Bunker Bar a success. May the guests continue to roll in, may the drinks and food continue to flow, and may the musical bands continue to play on and on for many seasons to come.

Congratulations to all who made The Bunker Bar possible.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Taos, New Mexico Episode 1: Angel Fire and Vietnam Veterans Memorial

On July 9, 2021, the two-hour drive from Santa Fe to Taos made for an easy moving day. Taos Canyon Stop RV Park was our second choice for staying near Taos. Yet it turned out to be one of our all-time favorites. The wildflowers outside our back window were a surprise, and we treasured the quiet after our stay in Santa Fe.

Orange and yellow daisy
Lavender trumpets
Red lipstick
Papery petals

Terraced lots with brick retainer walls gave us the feeling of having our separate space while encouraging conversation with our neighbors. The drawback was the lack of cell service or usable Wi-Fi, although lack of connectivity has its benefits. An online break now and then can be a good thing.

Jon sets up our campsite
Purple and yellow wildflowers blanketed the Angel Fire valley

Angel Fire Resort

In search of decent Wi-Fi, we drove up to Angel Fire, a ski resort area in the winter and a mountain bike trail during the summer. Horseback riding, hiking trails, and a golf course are other amenities available.

Angel Fire Resort lobby

We drank our decaf mochas and caught up on internet stuff in the lobby area outside of the coffee shop. The cozy-cabin décor looked comfy and instead of typing away on my keyboard, I would have preferred curling up on the sofa, reading a book.

Wi-Fi was best in the lobby area

For a ski resort, Angel Fire, incorporated in 1986, is more low-key than other such resorts we’ve visited. This could be due to the village’s population of around 1,000 people. Participation in sports activities seems more important than shopping, although there are a few sports gear and other types of stores. With the hotel and plenty of condos near the ski area for accommodations, the resort’s popularity is clear. The Village of Angel Fire is 28.84 sq mi (74.68 km2) and encompasses the entire Angel Fire Ski Resort.

Indoor Jacuzzi at Angel Fire Resort

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Angel Fire is also home to one of the best Vietnam Veterans Memorials we have seen where visitors will find a chapel, visitor center and gift shop, and an adjacent cemetery.

According to the memorial’s website, the David Westphall Veterans Foundation honors, “America’s veterans and members of its military forces by memorializing the sacrifices they have made and by recognizing the sense of duty and the courage they have displayed as they answered their country’s call to arms.”

Foundation partnerships with the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire and the Village of Angel Fire provide free retreats for veterans and their spouses diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Doug Scott’s Dear Mom & Dad

Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall conceived the memorial to honor their son, 1st Lt. David Westphall, who died in combat during a 1968 ambush in Vietnam. Constructed between 1968 and 1971, the memorial was the first major Vietnam memorial in the United States and recognized by congress in 1987 as a Memorial of National Significance.

The A/C 670 Huey helicopter, known as the Viking Surprise, served with 121st Assault Helicopter Company (AHC). Damaged, repaired, and reassigned to the 118th AHC. New Mexico National Guard donated it to memorial grounds in 1999. Restored in 2016-17.

Inside the visitor center, we found a walled-off corner where the HBO movie, Dear America: Letters from Vietnam, was playing. We settled into chairs and watched for a few minutes. Then I understood why someone had strategically placed tissue boxes nearby. When our emotions ran high, we left. Better to watch in the privacy of our home.

Senator John McCain is featured in the photo on the bottom left.
Remember A-F-L-Q-V
Lakota Nation-Oglala Sioux Tribe Display
Displays in the visitor center
Helicopter display
New Mexico and Marine Corps displays
Jon served in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam during 1969-70

The US Military Aluminum Mermite Hot/Cold Insulated Food Container shown in the photo below brings back memories from 50 years ago for Jon. The days when the helicopters arrived in the field lifted his spirits. Along with fuel and ammo for the armored vehicles, the choppers also brought hot meals in the Mermites for the soldiers.

Mermite, also known as Hot Boxes

After looking at all the photographs and memorabilia inside, I felt the same sorrow, solemnity, and peace I experienced during our visit to the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial in Oahu several years ago. The thought of all the lives cut short and the families and friends that mourned for their loved ones became oppressive, sending me outside to wander among the trees and flowers and bushes.

State Veteran Cemetery Angel Fire, New Mexico

The State Veteran Cemetery is a recent addition to the memorial and held its first interment on July 2021.

View of cemetery and valley
Recent gravesites
Roundabout and flags

Coming up in future episodes, we explore Downtown Taos Historic District, Red River ski area, Kit Carson Home & Museum, Earthship Biotecture, and much more.

Safe Travels