Summer 2021 New Mexico Tour: Going Home

In this episode, we wrap up our trip to New Mexico. Thursday, July 22, 2021, was decision time. Do we turn the truck for home? No. We weren’t quite ready. Not yet. Hey, Twin Falls was only about 720 miles away, albeit mostly north rather than west. We could make that drive in a couple of days. So, the next day, we loaded up, hooked up, and climbed into the cab.

Depiction of Powell and his crew on an expedition at the Wesley Powell River History Museum

Green River

Shady Acres in Green River, Utah, looked like a good place to stop for a couple of nights. We’d have time to catch up on the laundry, the museum in town looked interesting, and we could visit Green River Coffee Shop. We had picked up a nice batch of freshly roasted decaf coffee beans and pastries at the coffee shop the last time we drove through town.

Campsite at Shady Acres
The Green River Golf Course and farm land surrounds the RV park.
From the museum looking north up the Green River
J.W. Powell River History Museum entrance
Panels and artifact displays tell about the river’s history, geology, and the people who lived and ran the river.
Details in the statue’s base depict scenes from Powell’s expeditions.
This metate is only one of many artifacts displayed.
Running Rapids
Dinosaur exhibit with Utahceratops gettyi
The Boat Room shows different styles of river boats that navigated the rapids, including this bull boat. American Indians and frontiersmen used boats made of wooden frames and covered with buffalo hides.
The boat No Name met its fate at Disaster Falls when it broke in two during John Wesley Powell’s first voyage down the Green and Colorado Rivers. No lives were lost, only cargo.
This was Norman Davies Nevills boat used in the 1940s.
Sample of paintings in the art gallery. Carol Bold paintings: Reflections Adrift, Winding Around the Bend, and Preserve the Reserve.

Outside, next to the museum, is a walking path along the river.

Main Street’s Green River Bridge

Here are a couple of unexpected sights in the museum’s parking lot.

Need a charge traveling I70 in Utah? Tesla has a charge station in the museum’s parking lot.
Watermelon used as a float in the Melon Days Parade?

Sadly, there were no coffee beans for sale on this trip, and the muffin we shared was not what we remembered. Oh well. We were still in the middle of a pandemic and our laundry piles were waiting for us back at the trailer.

John Wesley Powell River History Museum

Jon and I spent a good part of two hours exploring the John Wesley Powell River History Museum. Betsy Hatt, “in memory of Vail Hatt and his commitment to the betterment of the community and tourism,” donated the property where the museum stands.

Conceived in 1987, the 23,000 square foot museum opened its doors in 1990. It is owned and operated by the city in partnership with the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, Inc., established in 2008 as a non-profit organization.

We enjoyed wandering through the historical exhibits and reading the information panels, as well as the art exhibit and the science exhibit featuring dinosaurs. The museum’s focus is on the impact that exploration of the Green and Colorado rivers had on the history and culture of Southeastern Utah.

Visitors will find historical exhibits detailing the Crossroads of the West, John Wesley Powell, the River Runner’s Hall of Fame, and the Boat Room. Temporary art exhibits are also available for viewing.

One of the most notable observations we made about the town of Green River was how neat and clean everything was. Most of the properties, whether occupied or not, had been swept clean of debris and landscaped with flowers planted in barrels.

Following our two-night stay in Green River, we headed north to Twin Falls, Idaho, where our friends Sonia and Marv Baima had moved to from Sparks, Nevada.

Twin Falls, Idaho

On our way to Twin Falls, we stopped for lunch at the Tangerine Eatery in Price, Utah. They serve healthy choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And patrons will find plenty of toppings for their favorite frozen yogurt selection.

We arrived at Twin Falls KOA around 6:30 p.m. after a long drive from Green River. We met up with our friends, Sonia and Marv Bamai for breakfast then went to Shoshone Falls to gawk at the Snake River rushing over the boulders and cliffs. Then headed downtown for good eats and beer at Koto.

Rainbow in the Mist 1
Rainbow in the Mist 2

Historic Twin Falls Downtown

Twin Falls, founded in 1904 as a planned community, is the county seat of Twin Falls County, Idaho, and has seen significant growth and development since 2006. During our visit, we noticed several new shopping centers and recently built homes.

All’s Quiet in Downtown
Need a pot, pan, or other kitchen goodies and gadgets? Rudy’s has you covered.
Guess the painter hasn’t gotten to the upstairs part.
Check out Koto for good food and beer.
No crowds here today.
Take a seat and watch the water dance.
The Surveyor – A Vision of Tomorrow is a bronze sculpture of The Twin Falls surveyor John E. Hayes created by Dave LaMure Jr. Hayes surveyed the town in 1904.

The next day, a hike to the Devil’s Washbowl Outlook along the Snake River helped us compensate for the food and beer intake of the previous day.

Looking from trail back to kiosk and parking lot
Water everywhere
Devil’s Washbowl from a distance
Devil’s Washbowl
View from the end of the cliff

We were glad we had left for our hike early in the day. The air conditioning was a welcome treat when we returned to the car, so we opted for a drive to Murtaugh Lake—I forgot to write the name down, so I could be wrong.

If my memory is correct, this is Murtaugh Lake. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

For more information on Twin Falls, Idaho, check out our blog post [add link]

Sparks and Victoria City in Nevada

Our next stop was Sparks, Nevada, to meet up with Sonia and Marv again at Virginia City for the Hot August Nights event. And as usual, we stayed at Sparks Marina RV Park.

Picnic and beach area at Sparks Marina and Lake

It’s always a treat to see the Victorian homes in Virginia City.

Reminds me of the Addams Family House
Cozy yellow and green cottage
Love this house with its wrap-around porch

And now for the cars.

The detail on this woody captured my attention.

Woodie, woodie, you so fine!
Updated wood dash with modern digital gauges
Put together like puzzle pieces
The beats of rock-n-roll with Lady and the Tramps
1959 Desoto
Beep, beep goes the jeep
Shelby GT 500 Mustang
Mechanic at work
Marv’s 1967 Jeep Gladiator J-3000
Some of the buildings are in need of repair
Meet us at the Red Dog Saloon
The Way it Was Museum will stir up your memories

And finally, our 2021 Summer New Mexico Tour comes to an end. We’ll be back next time with our 2021 fall tour. Hope you join us as we whirl around Southern California and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, to check in with family and friends.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Chama, New Mexico Episode 3: Echo Amphitheater and Heron Lake and Dam

In this post we wrap up our time in Chama, New Mexico, with a quick visit to Echo Amphitheater and Heron Lake State Park.

Echo Amphitheater

As we headed west on US 84 from Ghost Ranch toward Chama, we noticed Echo Amphitheater and had to stop. The rainbow of sandstone cliffs were created during the Triassic and Jurassic periods between 251 and 154 million years ago.

Entrance
A cave in the making to the left and amphitheater to the right

We followed the concrete trail and ramps until we reached the dead end, where concave cliffs towered above and wrapped around us. Water cascading over the sandstone cliffs created the amphitheater over millions of years.

Information panels tell the amphitheater’s geological story
Flower growing in the parking lot

Picture the land mass of New Mexico as a grassy plain in a tropical or subtropical region located only 10 degrees north of the equator. Deposits from flood plains, lakes, and the rivers that once flowed across the grasslands created the Chinle Formation, which we recognize as the red siltstone and fine sandstone in the lower layers of the cliffs.

Jon stands on the observation deck

Then along came the Jurassic period, when a large lake formed across the Chama Basin region depositing additional layers of basal limestone and shale. As the lake evaporated, a layer of gypsum formed to create the gray caps on top of the cliffs.

Myths of murder posit the cause of the stains. I’ll believe the scientific hypothesis.
From bottom to top: red siltstone and fine sandstone, then basal limestone and shale, gypsum forms the gray caps on the top.

Native Indians and Hispanos harvested the limestone to prepare maiz concho (a hard-shell white corn) into pozole (a dish similar to hominy) and corn tortillas.

The rounded edge of this cliff, with its protective beret on top, seems to evoke a sense of power and movement

At the observation platform, we tried a few shy yells, and then we followed with full throated hoots and hollers. We couldn’t help but smile when the sounds echoed off the walls. It’s too bad carrying a tune is not in my repertoire of skills. I could only imagine what it would feel like to belt out a song in that space.

Dead or alive?

Besides the amphitheater, visitors can find tent camping spots, a hiking trail, and covered picnic tables at Echo Amphitheater.

Heron Lake State Park

One day while in Chama, New Mexico, we drove south on US 64 and transitioned to NM 95, where we stumbled upon the Heron Lake State Park. At the visitor center, we looked at the small exhibits, paid our $5.00 day-use fee, and picked up a map.

Don’t forget to pay the $5.00 fee

We pulled into one of the day-use sites at the west end of Heron Dam. The colorful rock mesa and lake landscape caught my attention and became my subjects for several photographs.

Heron Dam

The earth-filled Heron dam is part of the Colorado River Storage Project and operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. It measures 1,221 feet (372 m) long and 276 feet (84 m) high. Constructed in 1971 near the confluence of Willow Creek with Rio Chama, the dam creates Lake Heron. At its fullest, the reservoir covers 5,905 acres (23.90 km2) and contains 401,000 acre-feet (495,000,000 m3) of water.

View of lake from dam

Developed and primitive RV and tent camping are available, some of which are along the shoreline. Only a few of the sites have full hookups, many have electricity and water, some have no electricity and/or water, and about half require a reservation. Campers will enjoy having fresh water, the dump station, and restrooms with showers.

View from day-use site

Visitors will find plenty of recreational activities to engage in year round. Fancy a bit of winter ice fishing or cross-country skiing? Lake Heron has it. In the summer, anglers can try their luck catching trout, or kokanee salmon.

Shoreline camping

Motorboats are allowed at trolling speed only, so no summer water skiing is allowed. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and sailboats are welcome.

Colorful rock mesa

For adventurers who prefer to keep their feet, or wheels, on the ground, the 7 miles of hiking and biking trails should suit them just fine. While hiking and biking, keep a watchful eye open for black bear, elk, deer, marmot, bald eagles, and osprey. They all call the park home.

Where’d that onion come from?

Then we went to the other end of the dam to see the water flow out and down river to El Vado Lake, another storage and release lake of the Colorado River Storage Project.

Backside of dam
Outlet from Heron Dam
Ponderosa pine forest in the canyon

Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit El Vado Lake where there’s a day use area, mostly tent camping, a few RV reservation sites, and a launch ramp.

Next up: We stay a couple nights in Green River, Utah, and visit the JW Powell River History Museum.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Chama, New Mexico Episode 2: Ghost Ranch

Our second activity while in Chama, New Mexico, was a trip to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu about 46 miles from Chama.

Ghost Ranch

I learned of Ghost Ranch about 15 years ago when I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Taos. Ever since then, I have wanted to see the place where O’Keeffe found creative inspiration and spent much of her life.

Ghost Ranch Welcome Center

Ghost Ranch History

  • During the Triassic time period, we would have seen dinosaurs roaming through jungles and swamps along a seacoast. Contrast that terrain with the multicolored canyons and cliffs, plains and grasslands, and streams we see today.
  • The ranch’s archaeological record predates adobe walls and kivas. Hearths and other sites found on the property are dated 6,000 BCE, or 8,000 years ago.
  • More modern times saw cattle rustlers hide their stolen property on the land.
  • A working ranch became a Dude Ranch in the 1920s.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe came to the ranch in 1934 and bought 12 acres at the edge of the ranch in 1940.
  • Arthur and Phoebe Pack bought the 21,000-acre ranch in 1936.
  • New Mexico’s state fossil Coelophysis was found at the ranch in 1947.
  • The Packs donated Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955.
  • The National Ghost Ranch Foundation was established in 1972.
  • Several movies used the ranch for their setting, including Indiana Jones, Cowboys and Aliens, City Slickers, and Silverado, to name a few.
  • In 2018, the Presbyterian Church transferred operations of Ghost Ranch to the Foundation.
  • The year 2020 marked the 65th Anniversary of Ghost Ranch.

What to do and see

The ranch offers several tours: some on a shuttle bus, some on horseback, and others traversing one or more of the nine trails on foot.

We chose the Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour. Our mask-wearing group climbed aboard the bus. The tour guide’s skill in telling stories about O’Keeffe and the history of the ranch while driving down a dirt road amazed me. Maybe navigating dirt roads with no traffic made it look easy.

Our tour guide holds up a photo of O’Keeffe’s painting of the dead tree

She pointed out subjects of O’Keeffe’s paintings and passed around laminated photos of them for us to compare to what we saw.

Without the tour guide, we can see what O’Keeffe might have seen

I could almost see O’Keeffe standing in the middle of the desert with her easel and paints and brushes as she captured an image on canvas.

Standing in front of another painting subject of O’Keeffe’s.
What do you see in the shape of the mounds?
O’Keeffe’s summer home is not open to the public
Colors shift from muted to bright, depending on the sun’s light

After our tour, we visited the Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology and Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology to see the ancient artifacts from Paleo-Indian culture through contemporary pottery and weaving from local Pueblos. Although small, the museums had informative displays, which kept us busy for about an hour.

Museum building
Example of Indian Rug sold in federally licensed trading posts established after the American Frontier Wars ended in 1890
Indigenous farmers placed Corn Mother effigies—representing nourishing qualities of mother earth—in their fields
Black and White pottery found around Piedra Lumbre Valley
Paleo-Indian display of bison head, a modern atlatl and spear, and various spear points.
Museum’s Courtyard

Besides tours and museums, Ghost Ranch is a place for relaxation, reflection, and spiritual rejuvenation through its many retreats and workshops offered during the year. Visitors can hop on a horse for a guided trail ride on the property and, in the summer, jump in the pool to cool off.

Not sure if the Georgia O’Keeffe Cottage was a meeting place or overnight rental

Various “simple and rustic” accommodations are available, ranging from private rooms with baths to communal living spaces and shared baths, to tent and RV camping facilities.

Meals are served cafeteria style in the Dining Hall. Since we didn’t see any other places nearby to grab a bite to eat, we bought meal tickets for lunch at the Trading Post.

Eat inside our outside at the Dining Hall

Wrap up

I hope to return to Ghost Ranch, spend a few days, and perhaps sign up for a retreat or workshop. I’d also like to wander around on the trails and explore more, ride a horse, or go to the nearby lake and paddle board. It was too hot the day of our visit to do much more than ride around in an air-conditioned bus and walk through the museums. I’d also like to take the tour of the O’Keeffe House and Studio in Abiquiu. It’s open with limited reservations available.

Next up: Our last Chama, New Mexico, episode will feature a quick peek at Heron Lake State Park and Echo Amphitheater.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Chama, New Mexico Episode 1: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

On Friday, July 16, 2021, we moved our base camp to Chama, New Mexico. The short two-hour drive on US Highway 64 through lush canyons and meadows was a delight. About halfway, we stopped at an overlook and picnic area where wildflowers were in full bloom.

Yellow-orange daisies
Green, lavender, white, and yellow among the thistle

I imagined where we live in the Bay Area, the drought would have already forced the wildflowers to shrivel up and die. So, it was a treat to see their smiley faces at their peak in New Mexico’s higher elevations.

Little Creel RV Park in Chama squished us into a small space that crowded the trailer next to us. The park owner said not to worry. The men next to us would leave over the weekend and might not return on Monday, and they didn’t all week.

Although the room slide encroached on the neighbor, the awning and picnic table area had plenty of room, especially since no one pulled in next to us until two days before we left.

All set up

First on our agenda while in Chama, was to ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. At Coffee & Espresso Bar, we started our day with a breakfast sandwich, Danish, and a cup of coffee, and then we watched the volunteers prepare the engines and hook up the cars.

Listen to live music while sipping coffee
Cozy up to the fire pit and stay nice and toasty
Chama depot, store, visitor center, and restrooms
Rail yard
Fire ‘er up
Coupling the cars
All aboard

We ended up in the first seat in the first car behind the engine. One would think a steam engine would be preferable to diesel because of the smell. In order for the steam engine to work, it needs fire to heat the water to create the steam. And what fuel did they use for the fire?

Our car behind the engine

Coal. I could barely stand two minutes outside on the platform. Soot and red-hot embers of coal swirled around me and flew in the door whenever it was open. And forget about resting your arm on the windowsill unless you wanted a holy shirt sleeve.

View from the train

It was comical to see one passenger—a man in his fifties—so excited about riding the train. He stood on the platform for the entire trip while soot and embers rained down on him. His grandson brought him snacks and drinks, but the man never budged.

The train, the train.
Whoa! Where are we going?

Pulling the mountain was not much faster than walking due to the incline. We were thinking it would be faster on the way back, but we were wrong. The Engineer/Conductor told us the old-fashioned brakes required they keep the downhill speed to a minimum to avoid becoming a runaway.

Say cheese
Hmm . . . settings, settings.
New Mexico State Road 17
Quick stop in Cumbres for water
Filling the tank
Homes and cabins in the meadow
Join the party in the open car
Los Pinos water tank and rail crew

At the Osier train stop in Colorado, we all disembarked for a buffet lunch in the dining hall. On one side of the building, they served a turkey dinner, and on the other side, they served meatloaf. Salads were also available downstairs.

Dining Hall

I opted for the turkey dinner. The turkey and gravy were tasty. All I can say about the canned green beans is that they weren’t fresh, and a couple of bites of dressing were more than enough. The best part of the meal was the not-too-sweet pumpkin pie with whip cream and flaky crust. I should have had two slices.

Livestock loading pen

After lunch, everyone gathered outside, wandered around the other buildings, and waited for the train to return.

Osier was once a small community with a store, rooming house, and depot. The volunteers built the water tower in 2000 using materials and specifications as the original.
Section House built in 1881 for the section foreman and family. Restored and renovated from 1993 to 2003.
Original or replicas?
Cascade Creek
Tiny blue daisy-like flowers dotted the grass
Trains use the double tracks and loop to turn around

All the passengers climbed aboard for the trip back to Chama, taking the same seats as before. The atmosphere in the car was a stark contrast. Those of us in the front were mostly quiet, enjoying the scenery outside the windows, or nodding off into a tryptophan coma. In the rear, a group of women may have had more than their share of the alcohol served during lunch.

Covered bridge waiting repairs
Picture the aspen dressed in their fall colors?

The women giggled, they laughed, they squealed, and they teased one another. When we stopped to refill the water tank, one lady came up to the open seat across from us and alternated hanging out the window to yell at someone to get the water guy’s attention, and ducking back into the car to yell at her sister, “Alma, come here.”

Approaching Lobato Trestle, the second highest bridge on the line at 100 feet (30.5 meters) above Wolf Creek

Apparently, the water guy was good-looking and Alma was single. And then there was the man who showed up at each road crossing. The women would hang out the windows, and wave and squeal like teenage girls.

Wolf Creek below the trestle
Bringing up the rear

It was a kick to watch a group of middle-aged women acting like teenagers and the grandpa acting like an excited boy. Their antics were just as engaging as the scenery outside the window. It was also cool to see all the people who parked and got out of their cars to take photos and wave at us.

Bustle racks above the seats. It’s in the details.
Time to go

What could be better than riding on a historic train, gazing out at the scenery passing by, listening to the docent tell stories about the people and history of the railroad, and snuggling in the seat with a best friend and spouse? Not much in my book.

A few facts about the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (CTSRR)

  • The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (DRGWR) operated from 1880 to 1968, transporting ore, livestock, freight, and passengers.
  • Cumbres Pass, Colorado, is at 10,015 feet.
  • The 1920s ushered in automobiles and graded roads, reducing the need for passenger rail service.
  • DRGWR discontinued passenger service in 1951 and freight shipments in the late 1960s.
  • The States of Colorado and New Mexico jointly purchased 64 miles of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1970 and renamed it the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
  • CTSRR was designated as a National Historic Landmark on October 12, 2012.
  • Since 1981, Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec’s vibrant volunteer program has and continues to preserve and restore the buildings, property, track right-of-ways, signs, and rolling stock. Through its assets and scenic tours, they also interpret the history of the railroad.
  • Each summer, the Friends hold volunteer work sessions in Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico. Volunteers can choose from “mechanics, woodworking and painting to landscaping, food service, photography, and record-keeping.”
  • Catch a train ride at either Chama, New Mexico, or Antonito, Colorado.

Interested in learning more about Cumbres & Toltec Railroad? Visit their website at https://friendsofcumbrestoltec.org.

Coming up in future episodes: Ghost Ranch and Heron Lake State Park

Safe Travels