Petroglyph, El Malpais, El Morro & Petrified Forest National Park

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy 100th birthday National Parks System!! August 25, 2016 marks 100 years. We celebrated by visiting 4 national park sites.
Petroglyph National Monument
We stopped on our way out of town for a quick look. Most of the petroglyphs required miles of hiking and we really didn’t have the time as we had over 7 hours of driving and that was before I decided to make a detour to the other two national monuments.  We met an older park ranger and learned about the petroglyphs in the area and she gave us a new national parks map. We could not stay long.
El Malpais National Monument
As we were driving to Phoenix on Interstate 40, I was looking at my new parks map and saw that there were two national monuments that were really not that far out of the way and were sort of on the way to Phoenix. We decided what the heck, we are here, let’s go see them. The first one was El Malpais. The name El Malpais is from the Spanish term Malpaís, meaning badlands, due to the extremely barren and dramatic volcanic field that covers much of the park's area. We stoped at the visitor center and realized that to see the cool things of the park required a 22 mile one way backtrack route. We thought what the heck. So we drove to the Sandstone Bluffs overlook and the La Ventana Natural Arch. Both very cool places. We came back from our trip and stopped at a Lotsaburger. It is a New Mexico chain. The burgers were pretty good. Our next stop was El Morro.

El Morro National Monument
We got to El Morro around 2pm, just in time for cake. It was pretty good and I was ready for dessert after the cheeseburger. El Morro is located on an ancient east-west trail in western New Mexico. The main feature is a great sandstone promontory with a pool of water at its base. This was the only reliable water supply in a 40 mile radius so everybody stopped here.  Travelers left signatures, names, dates, and stories of their treks. While some of the inscriptions are fading, there are still many that can be seen today, some dating to the 17th century! We walked to the pool and looked at the inscriptions. What we would be called graffiti now, is a treasured reminder of years past. Very cool place. I also bought a new hat. I really like this hat. I think I look cute!

Petrified Forest National Park
Our last stop on the birthday of the national parks system was at Petrified Forest. It is an easy drive from one side another. Along the way we saw the Painted Desert and little remains of Route 66. Oh how I love the history of Route 66. Finally on the south side of the park we saw what the park was named for, the petrified wood. It is amazing stuff. 

Drive to Phoenix
From there we had a long 3 hour drive to Phoenix. Since we added so many detours, it was pretty late when we left Petrified Forest which meant a lot of night driving on very curvy desolate, mountain roads. It was an interesting drive!  We drove through Apache Forest were we saw snow at the peak! It was a very long steep downhill into Payson, AZ. We stopped at Burger King at like 8pm for some dinner. From Payson we took what I would imagine is a very scenic Hwy 87. It had a lot of hills and a lot of semis. It was constantly an uphill/downhill road with lots of turns. At one point our southbound lanes were on the opposite side of the northbound lanes. That was a little weird at night. We eventually made our way to our hotel. It was in the low 50s in the Apache Forest and some two hours later, it was 98 degrees at 9pm in Phoenix. Crazy weather!

Day 6 miles driven: approximately 500. Wow!

Rafting the Rio Grande, Scandia Peak Tramway and the Albuquerque Isotopes

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rafting the Rio Grande
We started out the morning with a drive to the Rio Grande River with Santa Fe Rafting. We piled into an old van and drove about an hour north of Santa Fe. You know there is always that one person that drives everybody crazy. Yep, we had her in our van. She wanted to stop to see Pueblo jewelry and I can’t remember what else she wanted. She was constantly asking questions. I’m all for ask questions but an hour of nonsense questions got very annoying. Eric and I just looked at each and rolled our eyes. She asked such random things like what is Allsups? (It is a local chain of gas stations in NM) and what does Allsups mean? Like our tour guides know or even care?  It is like somebody asking me what Kwik Trip stands for. LOL! About 15 minutes before we were supposed to arrive at the river we had to stop at some random machinery shop so she could use the bathroom because she couldn’t hold it anymore.  Seriously!?! So we finally get to the spot where we drop the raft in and thankfully Eric and I were paired with Tyler and Cynthia. They were from Austin, TX and he was a software engineer and she was a PT. We had Damian as our guide. Thank God as the other guide was not nearly as good.  And that annoying women was not in our raft. YAY!  We only went over a couple of Level 3 rapids. It wasn’t that exciting of rafting. It was not nearly as exciting as the one in Montana. But to their defense, the river is slower this time of year and it isn’t very high so there were times we got hung up. Overall it was a pleasant experience. Of course I don’t have pictures of the event and they want $20 for one digital pictures. Yeah…I don’t think so. We floated about 2 hours and had some snacks while the rafts were loaded back up and before long we were back in Santa Fe. The annoying women slept (and snored) the whole way home.
Scandia Peak Tramway
We didn’t waste any time getting out there and headed to Albuquerque. I didn’t have much time for ABQ and when our rafting day got switched (we were supposed to go on our anniversary) it really left us with no time. I did the number one thing to see in ABQ, the Scandia Tramway. It was a very expensive ride to the top of Scandia Peak. It was $25 each for 30 minute ride roundtrip. It was fun riding up to the top and seeing the area from 10,378 feet. Once we were up there it was freezing and there really wasn’t much to do so we walked around a bit and took the next tram down. Overall it was an interesting experience but I’m not sure it was worth $25.


Albuquerque Isotopes
The main reason for this entire trip to the Southwest was to see an Isotopes game. So here is the back story, Eric loves The Simpsons and in the episode Hungry, Hungry Homer, Homer accidentally discovers evidence that the Springfield Isotopes are moving to Albuquerque. Homer stages a hunger strike in which he chains himself to a pole near Duff Stadium in order to force the owners of the team to admit they are moving to Albuquerque. Homer becomes thin and sickly, and he nearly gives in after seeing all the fans eating at the ballpark, but he gets visited by the spirit of Cesar Chavez (looking like Cesar Romero, since Homer doesn't know what Chavez looks like), telling Homer to not give up. Thinking Homer's gone crazy and his publicity is wearing thin, the team's owner unchains Homer and, in a public ceremony, offers him a free hot dog. Homer realizes the hot dog is topped with Southwestern ingredients (such as mesquite grilled onions, mango-lime salsa and jalapeño relish), proving the team really is moving to Albuquerque. The crowd then takes notice that the hot dogs are even wrapped with "Albuquerque Isotopes" paper and become enraged.
Ever since that episode aired and two years later the Isotopes actually came to ABQ, Eric has wanted to see a game. So here we are. I loved the stadium. Our seats were cheap and very close, the food was cheap and the entertainment was great. There were Simpsons stuff all around the stadium and they even had a donut shop. Homer loves donuts. I got a new Isotopes shirt and Eric got a hat we watched most of the game. All around it was a fun time.



Day 5 miles driven: approximately 70 (excluding the miles in the van to/from rafting)

Bandelier National Monument, Old Town Santa Fe & Pecos National Historic Site

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

This is how we celebrated our 13th Anniversary.
Bandelier National Monument
This was a relatively short day as far as driving goes. Haha! We started out driving to Bandelier National Monument. It was about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. We had to park in White Rock and catch a shuttle to the actual park. The park didn’t seem that popular that this should be required but alas it was. We got the visitor center and got our map for our mile hike to the dwellings. This place was similar to Gila but I think Gila was way cooler. I also bought a visor for my hike but shortly remembered why I hate wearing hats…I can’t take pictures with the bill of the hat! D’oh! We did the nice hike up to the Dwellings but we really didn’t get a chance to walk inside of them. Bummer. When we got done with our hike we missed the 12:30 shuttle (the other crappy thing is the shuttle buses run every 30 minutes, that is a long time to wait if you just missed a bus!). We had some sandwiches in the snack bar and waited for the next bus. It was a nice place but Gila is better.


 Old Town Santa Fe
Oh, this is what everybody talks about when they mention Santa Fe. The old town. If you are into arts and shopping than you would love this place. We were not that enthused with it. We walked around the old streets and looked around the center square. We stopped at the Palace of the Governors (built 1610, the oldest continuously used public building in the United States) Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Loretto Chapel and the San Miguel Mission, a Spanish colonial mission church built between 1610 and 1626. It is claimed to be the oldest church in the United States. 
Near the San Miguel Mission is the State Capitol building, the Roundhouse. It was a very simply design. We met one of the state senators outside and he encouraged us to go inside. It was cool. There was a lot of art, sculptures and such. We were able to walk to both chambers and the governor’s office. It was just a really neat place to visit and it was free…the same cannot be said for the other things mentioned above…even the churches charged!




Pecos National Historic Site
Pecos National Historic Site wasn’t really on my list of things to do. When I originally researched this trip, I didn’t think this place would be that interesting. I’m so glad Eric said let’s go. Other than the snake incident, I really liked this place. We saw the ruins from Pueblos and Spanish missionaries. You see, the Spanish priests converted some Pueblos and all was well. But in 1680, there was a revolt and the Spaniards left and the original church was destroyed (there is still an outline). But the Spaniards would not give up on saving Pueblo souls and came back 12 years later and built another church. Parts of the church are still there. It was very fascinating.  
The snake incident: We were walking around the ruins and I was reading about what were about to see and all of a sudden Eric freaked out pulled me away from the trail and down to the ground. He was screaming Get up, Go, Go! There was a snake next to the trail and he was big. Eric didn’t mean to push me to the ground but I managed to get scrapped up pretty bad. I brushed off myself and we walked far, far away very quickly. It really freaked us out. I saw it briefly but I’m not that familiar with snakes so I had no clue what it was. We made our way back to the visitor center and Eric relaxed enough to rationally think about it and realized he saw a bull snake and mistakenly thought it was a rattlesnake. Apparently they look similar but bull snakes are bigger (this one was HUGE) and rattlesnakes are not, here is a picture so you can see the differences (there aren’t many): 

Whew! It really freaked us out.

We made our way back to Santa Fe and went out for a nice dinner for our anniversary. Great day (besides the snake)!
Day 4 miles driven: approximately 156