Monday, June 29, 2015

New Mexico to Colorado

We enjoyed our time in New Mexico, where we finished out our month long visit at two (2) more State Parks and a City Park.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park features the largest lake in New Mexico

Elephant Butte Lake State Park
South Monticello Campground
Elephant Butte Lake

We spent the week leading up to Memorial Day here in South Monticello Campground, which didn’t even fill up over the holiday weekend.  Every campsite was very spacious and had a covered picnic table.  The weather was hot, dry, and windy as every other place we’d  stayed so far in New Mexico.

Coronado Campground is run by the city of Bernalillo, which is just outside of Albuquerque. This was a quaint little campground, previously owned by the state, and each picnic table was enclosed in it’s own painted adobe hut type shelter. 

Coronado Campground Picnic Shelter

The best part was our campsite overlooked the Rio Grande River and Sandia Mountain.
Our View from Coronado Campground at Sunset
Sandia Mountains and Rio Grande
Photo by Henry

While here, we did some stocking up on groceries and other supplies at our favorite places like Costco, Trader Joe’s, and REI.  We had been researching carbon fiber trekking poles and purchased them at Costco, since much of our hiking is rocky and mountainous, and Costco had the best price by far.  And we have found we like using them!

We spent part of a day checking out Petroglyph National Monument.  Another day we visited Old Town Albuquerque, which we found to be kind of touristy.  

We also rode the Rail Runner train up to Santa Fe and wandered the streets there for a whole day. 

Rail Runner to Santa Fe
Colorful Santa Fe

The most fascinating sight in Santa Fe is the Loretto Chapel.

The Famous Loretto Chapel

The story of the chapel, particularly of the spiral staircase is one of fascination and mystery.  Read more about it here by clicking on this link:  Loretto Chapel

The Mysterious Loretto Chapel Spiral Staircase

One observation we made while staying in the Albuquerque area was the people here are over-the-top friendly.  Everywhere we went and every person we met was so polite and almost comically nice.

Navajo Lake State Park is the northernmost and second largest lake in New Mexico

Navajo Lake State Park, New Mexico

The campsites here were a lot less spacious than the other New Mexico State Parks we’d stayed at.  Our site had just enough room to squeeze the Rambler in amongst some Juniper and Pinon Pine trees that afforded us some decent privacy.  The deep pine scent coming from these trees was oh, so heavenly, and would send our senses reeling every time we stepped outside.  The campground sits high above the lake and our site overlooked the large marina below, which was quite a busy and noisy place. 

Our View at Navajo Lake State Park

The San Juan River is the water source for Navajo Lake and the stretch of river below the dam is famous for world class fly fishing.  Well, we aren’t fishing type folks, but this same stretch of river was also a great place for us to get our kayaks wet for the first time since we left Florida!

Paddling the San Juan River

And THEN, we crossed over to Colorado…..


Like I said, we enjoyed our time in New Mexico, but I swear, just crossing the Colorado state line, you get a different vibe.  Of course, the snow capped San Juan Mountains on the horizon probably had a lot to do with that vibe.  

Snow-capped Colorado Mountains

Almost immediately, though, it’s majestic mountains, towering evergreen trees, tumbling mountain streams, and rugged looking western towns welcome you to Colorado.

Idyllic Old Barn and Snow-Topped Mountains

Now, I’ve been to Colorado quite a few times on camping and backpacking trips over the years, but other than the Denver airport, Loretta has never been.  So early in our current journey, we decided to spend two (2) months of the summer in Colorado.  We’ve spent the first ten (10) days in the Durango area and there may not be a better place to start our time in this state. 

The Historic District is really cool, with it’s old western style buildings and streets lined with shops and restaurants.  This town has six (6) brew pubs and at least ten (10) coffee shops – my two favorites.  

Animas Brew Pub
Durango, CO

There’s the Animas River Trail, which is a paved pedestrian and bike trail that winds for seven (7) miles alongside the river and through town with numerous small parks and green space along the way.  We biked the entire trail - even the hills!

Biking the Animas River Trail

The most famous attraction in Durango is the Durango and Silverton Steam Engine train that has been in continuous service since 1882.  I rode this train several years ago with my backpacking buddies.  The train dropped us off in the Weminuche Wilderness and we spent five (5) days backpacking and then caught the train back to Durango.  (Flashback)

Durango & Silverton Steam Train

One day Loretta and I ventured out to Mesa Verde National Park on an unusually cool and rainy day.  To see these structures built several thousand years ago is mind boggling.

Mesa Verde Ancient Structures
The Cliff Palace
Square Tower House

We made a trip to Silverton, which sits at over 9,000 feet in elevation.  We had to travel over two (2) passes where there was still a good bit of snow on the ground. 

Snow in June at Coal Bank Pass
Elevation 10,640 feet

Near one of the passes we came upon several Bighorn Sheep licking the road!  

Bighorn Sheep

They were very intent on getting the salt or minerals off the pavement and did not seem to mind the vehicles that had to creep past them.

We're Busy - Go Around!

Silverton is a very old, rustic town that mostly survives on the three (3) train loads of tourists that are deposited here for the afternoon every day by the steam engine train.  There will be a future post on Silverton.

Of course, we also got in a couple of days of hiking.  One day we hiked a few miles of the Colorado Trail, which starts barely a few miles outside of town.  Another day we hiked a stretch of the Vallecito Creek Trail, which follows and rises high above this beautiful mountain stream.

View along Vallecito Creek Trail

I’ve been telling Loretta for years about Colorado and I think she’d agree.

This place is great!

And we get to spend at least two months here!


  1. It is so cool to get to see all that your getting to see out West! I have never been and can't wait to see for myself one of these days, the pics are amazing also! Also haven't rode on a train, I bet you could see a lot from it! I like the breweries as well Henry!

  2. It is cool to be able to share our travels via this blog. Most of this is all new to me, too. And try as I may, the pics just can't do justice to the vastness and beauty we witness. The scale is grand! Thanks for following!