Part 1, The World turned upside down.
10 days. From Alaska, through the Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and into Colorado. Nearly 3500 miles… at the end of December and beginning of January. Not a single snowflake fell from the sky. Snow started falling during our allotted day of rest at The Parents’ in Woodland Park. It snowed most of that day, albeit not much. It snowed during the night and while we were packing to leave. It snowed as we drove west into the central valley. It let up as we headed south and we thought we were in the clear. But then it really started snowing.
By the time we hit Monte Vista, I was white knuckled and wild eyed… and I am somewhat familiar with driving in wintery conditions. It snowed off and on all the way to the New Mexico border. And then it started really snowing again; heavy, wet, nasty, slushy snow that mixed with the sporadic sand the DOT spread on the road surface. This frothy, red slurry got splashed up all over the truck and froze in place creating the hands-down, absolutely strangest natural features I have ever seen on a vehicle. But we had not gotten to Santa Fe yet.
The snow had let up as we wound through some low hills towards Espanola. The Wife commented on a low cloud bank in the distance. As we hit the northern edge of Santa Fe we drove into that cloud bank. The same nasty snow we had come through, but on a divided 6 – 8 lane freeway… at rush hour… surrounded by people who were in no way prepared for what was happening. There were cars in the ditch all over the place. We got snarled in a 2 – 3 mile jam, that we discovered was caused by a semi-truck at the top of the hill that thought he could, but couldn’t quite. We made it through safely and by the time we approached Albuquerque, (in the dark and slightly exhausted) the roads were mostly dry.
The hotel was nice enough, the restaurant somewhat sketchy, but all in all it was fine. Despite the frightful conditions of the day before, we actually got lucky, as this was the one night we were genuinely concerned about the contents of our freezer, but below freezing temperatures all through the night kept us solid. The next morning we again were lucky in finding a FANTASTIC little breakfast restaurant just around the corner, called Wecks. Highly recommended if you are ever in the area.
Part 2, The World turned inside out.
After the hearty breakfast, we fueled up and rolled out of Albuquerque, having barely seen it, on into Pueblo country. Heading west on Highway 40, there was almost no snow, relatively little traffic, and plenty of wind. We passed more than 1 casino (I did not pay enough attention to count them), at least 1 set of disheveled, roadside, “Indian Craft” stands, that were wholly vacant as far as I could tell, and way too many tempting signs advertising fry bread. Alas, we did not stop.
At one point, near desperation had us straining for a rest stop, which are not overly prevalent in this part of the country, and at this time of year are often closed. The one we found was like nothing I have ever experienced. First, to get there, we had to follow signs that only told us where to go at the last minute, with no indication of the whereabouts of our sought after destination. We had to exit the freeway, as expected, but then had to cross an overpass, whereupon we had to go through three of the most insane roundabouts we could never have imagined. At one point I felt like we were on some gigantic Mobius strip, over populated with semis. It was nuts. When we finally found the elusive rest stop, it was surrounded with a high, barbed wire adorned, chain link fence. It looked like a minimum security prison and there was a sign that said it closed at 3:30. We drove through the gate, up a winding drive, to the top of a knoll that was bedecked with numerous shelters and restroom buildings, all decorated after the manner of pseudo southwestern style adobe. The winds were vicious and cold, and the restroom interiors were tattered and ragged. Everything about the place was wrong, but it served the needed service. Alas, we had to navigate the labyrinth in reverse to get back on the road, but we made it safely.
Not long after, thankfully, we left the freeway for a much more desirable “blue highway”, that being NM 117, through El Malpais National Conservation Area/National Monument. This is an amazing place and no mistake. The Wife had been excited about revisiting since we had started planning the trip, and there is no question why. Should you find yourself in this part of the world, do yourself a favor and visit this place. It would seem that once upon a time (many times as it happens), a certain Mt. Taylor, went kablooie, tossing its innards all over the landscape. So there is this extensive “wasteland”, or more fittingly badlands (El Malpais means “the badlands”), stretched across the valley, bordered on the east by huge sandstone cliffs and on the west by the Chain of Craters, small cinder cones that seem to be looking on in admiration. I cannot wait to return!
On we went, though it was not much further now. Over some flats, past grazing cattle, up and over and through some winding hills, with more grazing cattle. Down through Quemado, over Red Hill, across the border and finally, down into Round Valley. A stunning view with high snow-capped peaks in the background; graceful, snow-dusted cinder cones; broad, forested hills and mesas; and a rolling valley, with the Little Colorado River winding through it. If this was in fact to be home, I felt right there. Huzzah!
Part 3, The end of the journey, where the adventure begins.
There were some initial complications, but we are settled now, into our temporary housing. We spent the remainder of the day trying to get oriented first and then situated. The second day, we wandered around, first on a very nice riverside trail. In roughly 2.5 miles we saw a Blue Heron, two kinds of ducks (maybe three), numerous songbirds, several deer, a cottontail rabbit, and a Northern Harrier.
We drove on around the area a bit to check out some of the houses we thought we might be interested in, and to familiarize ourselves a bit more with our surroundings. Then we unloaded, unloaded, and reloaded the freezer and finished settling in temporarily. We had Copper River red salmon and kale from our garden for dinner tonight.
And so, here we are. The Wife started work yesterday, while I ran errands, revisited the river trail (glimpse of a beaver and rook of ravens haranguing a golden eagle), viewed a few of the homes on the market, and took little for a much needed hike on one of the nearby Forest Service trails. Today, we run.
It would seem that this blog has run its course. None of this current life “came to me in a vision”, nor does it have much, if anything, to do with the sub-arctic.
That said, I do intend to continue writing, in some form or other. What I may well do, is just do some redecorating; change the title and the style of this here blog-thing so that it is more appropriate. But that will take some pondering, as I adjust to my new surroundings and find the right inspiration.
For those of you that have followed along thus far, I thank you, and hope that you enjoyed some of the journey. For those that wish to read more… hang tight. As one book closes, another opens… as it were.