New Mexico Road Trip
We had slept in a cave in Farmington the previous night. Not a damp, bat-filled stalactite-having cave but Kokopelli’s Cave. Kokopelli is a 1700 square foot, Alexa equipped, bed and breakfast built into the cliff face overlooking the La Plata Valley.
After adventuring out of the cave, we were on the road towards Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, ash colored cone shaped rocks formed by volcanic eruptions over 6 million years ago. It was a bright November afternoon with clear skies. The GPS said about three and a half hours and fortunately New Mexico’s scenery is beautiful with rock formations and random alpaca to help pass the time.
Road Sights to Tent Rocks
It was smooth sailing for about the first 2 hours. At some point we were instructed by the GPS lady to turn off the main highway and onto a smaller road. A few miles up the road the asphalt turned to dirt road.
Wait…We Were on a Road Before…
“Is this right? Is this even a road?” Angie asked.
“I’m not really sure. The lady said turn there. It looks like we have to go through this national forest to get there.” I studied the map and then I looked back at the GPS. We had lost our signal for the GPS but the blue dot seemed to be heading in the right direction.
A Whole Lot of Dirt and Mud
There didn’t seem to be any other traffic on the road and at some points it almost seemed like a 4×4 off roading trail with big giant potholes filled with water and mud ker-splashing on the windshield.
Is This Even a Road?
After about 30 minutes on the winding dirt road through forest and rock boulders, snow started to appear on the sides of us and on the road. Our nervousness about being lost soon turned into nervousness about getting stuck in mud…and then the level of snow on the road piled up. Now we got to add getting stuck in the snow to the list. It was a good thing for some prior tire tracks to let us know we were actually on a road, or at least what someone else thought was the road.
Two Guys With an Ax
We crept along and around a rocky bend and there were two men walking along with an ax.
“What do you think that’s all about?” Angie sped up a little. “We don’t see another human for over an hour and now there’s random ax bearing hikers out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“Um…the doors are locked right?” I inquired.
Angie hit the button and we plowed cautiously forward. About a mile after passing the ax wielders, we saw a number of 4 x 4 vehicles pulled over and people in various stages of cutting down Christmas trees and/or tying them to their roof.
“Ooooohh…” we breathed in relief.
The snowy road/not a road continued to wind through giant rock formations and pines. About an hour later we began to see asphalt up ahead.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
As we wound through the hills, it became increasingly snowy and slippery again. We both held on and hoped for a clearer road ahead. Finally, we began to spot random tent rock looking formations in the valley below.
“Ooooh…pull over…there they are!” I exclaimed, fumbling for my camera in the back seat.
Angie found something resembling a pulloff and stopped. We both hopped out…happy to not be gripping on tightly for dear life for a few minutes.
There were only so many vantage points because we were at the side of the road and the road overlooked the valley below. We peeked in-and-out of trees to try and get the best view of the tent rocks that were below us. The tall tan cones rose in bunches through the trees. The blue sky rose above the mountains behind them.
How Do We Get to the Trail?
“I know there’s a spot where there is a few trails that we can walk among the rocks at ground level…with a slot canyon.” I peered down looking for anything resembling a trail.
“If there is, I don’t think we’re finding it today with the roads like this.” Angie said, ducking behind a rock for photos.
“Close enough.” I agreed.
We hopped back in and were able slip and slide and navigate out of the snowy hills and back on to some dirt roads towards Jemez Springs. I was really looking forward to the springs. Most of our trips seemed to revolve around hiking in unique nature formations, soaking in hot springs, and checking out breweries and ruins.
Hatch Pepper Heaven
It was a slow hour and a 1/2 ride and when we got into town we were hungry. We stopped in at The Second Alarm Brewhouse and Monica’s Firehouse grill for anything serving hatch peppers. I was obsessed with consuming as many hatch peppers as I could while we were in New Mexico and Monica’s did not disappoint.
A Little Spring Out West
A little further up the dusty road we spotted signs for Jemez Hot Springs (formerly known as Giggling Springs). We were unsure we were at the right spot. It looked like a little cowboy village in a Western. We checked in and were brought outside for a quick tour. My eyes were happy to see the gleaming teal water and I hopped around waiting for the go ahead.
“We have four outdoor soaking pools varying in temperature from 98° to 105°. Our springs are geothermally heated from the Valles Caldera National Preserve, 17 miles north of here.” The ponytailed blond showed us the changing area and we were on our way.
It was chilly outside, maybe 52° F. I was not able to contain my excitement when I saw the shimmering aquamarine pools. I did a rapid fire change job in the dressing room and raced out to melt myself into the closest soaking spot.
And Now…The Moment Been Waiting For…Jemez Springs Hot Springs
After kicking my flip flops under a pool chair, I eased down into the first steaming pool. Angie joined me and we relaxed against the side, taking in the mountain view around us. The hills were streaked with red and sandstone and covered in evergreens.
After relaxing sufficiently we stepped carefully up the concrete and tiptoed down the path, our goosebumps building and stepped into the next hotter pool. Cabanas and shaded areas were between the pools. Meditative statues and large stones surrounded the area. Billowing white clouds filled the fall sky.
We breathed the cool air and sunk into the hot mineral waters, floating and wandering around. A bubbling spring ran alongside the soaking areas. We went from pool to pool, hotter to cooler and back to hotter for the entire 90 minutes of our allotted time.
It was nearing 5 p.m. and pink sunset clouds began to shine over the hills. We trudged back to get dressed…not looking forward to the over an hour drive ahead of us to Albuquerque.
But Wait…There’s More…
We started down the road and passed a rock shop…backed up and pulled in for a little look. Angie and I are always attracted to rock stores. We look for rocks everywhere we go, in nature and in shops so this was a little thrill.
The Road Ends With Albuquerque
We loaded up with interesting rocks and noticed it had gotten dark outside. We had a couple more items on our waterfall and nature list that we were not going to be able to see. Our flight home was out of Albuquerque at 6:00 a.m. We are already looking forward to going back for another New Mexico adventure.
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