I leave Las Vegas which is about 70 miles northeast of Santa Fe, drive around Santa Fe and head for Bandelier National Monument about 40 miles northwest of Santa Fe. I had planned to stay a night at the White Rock Visitor Center (water, electricity and a dump station) because it was supposed to drop down to about 32 degrees. It was basically a parking lot with a wonderful view of the main drag through White Rock. I just couldn't face that – and Miko would have been very disappointed also. I decided to put my big girl pants on and head for Juniper Campground which is located right inside the National Monument. No hookups. I've really only not had hookups maybe a couple of times and I needed to learn and remember how it is done. All in the pursuit of becoming self sufficient and not beholden to anyone.
I found myself a pretty nice site #39 in Coyote Loop. I barely fit and there was not much room for the Cooper but it was level. I had some issues with my refrigerator. Since I had no electrical hookups, it had to run on LP. For some reason it would all of a sudden stop running and when I tried to get it started again, it would just putt putt putt and then give up. If I waited a few hours (8), it would start up again and run for about 10 hours and then die again. Don't know what is the problem, but my frozen stuff seems to be staying frozen with this type of schedule.
Bandelier National Monument is in the Jemez Mountains. It only has three miles of public roads within its 33,750 acres, but there are 70 miles of trails. I did not do 70 miles of trails, in case anybody thought I might. The big draw in this monument is the Frijoles Canyon. Most of these three miles of paved road is a narrow road on the edge of a cliff that drops into the canyon. In the canyon are ruins from the ancestral pueblo people who inhabited this area around 1200s.
The trail I really wanted to do was a four mile round trip trail that went from from the mesa top down into the canyon. It was called the Frey Trail. The problem is that I just wanted to do the downhill portion of it, going straight uphill for two miles was really going to be too much for somebody like me. When I say straight uphill, I am not exaggerating much.
Fortunately, I met a guy named Neill (two lls in his name, don't forget). Neill was camped across the street from me. He had already been in the area for a few days and had all the down low on the trails. He very generously hatched a plan whereby we would drive both our cars down into the canyon and then he would drive me back up in his car to the top so I could walk down, pick up my car and then drive back up. I could never have done it otherwise. The downside to this was that now I was committed to having to actually do this trail in order to get my car back. And we all know how I feel about committing to anything.
The majority of National Park facilities do not allow dogs on their trails so I bid Miko farewell and started off down the trail. The first half of the trail was flat and it was a lovely walk. Weather was beautiful, scenic with the mountains in the background. Someplace along the trail, there was an actual bench and I had internet access. In the middle of nowhere, I was online. Ok, I know it is sort of sad that I had a small rest stop for the sole reason to get online.
I then came to the part of the trail that descends 600 feet down into the canyon. 600 feet!!! I'm talking steep switchbacks. I'm talking cliffs. The trail is about three feet wide – no guard rails, nothing to stop you from plunging over the edge. I have to admit that for the first part of the trail, I was hugging the cliff wall as far away from the edge as I could. I think that according to the brochure, this trail was supposed to take you about an hour to get down. I think it took me maybe three hours. Good thing there was nobody else on the trail, it might have been embarrassing to have others hear me whimpering. Actually after I got past the very top portion of the trail, the drop off edge was a little more sloped and I realized if I went over the edge I would come down on the next switchback and I probably wouldn't die. It was touch and go for a while.
|I'm part way down|
|I'm almost at the bottom - these are some of the ruins|
|I'm down to the bottom|
I am extremely proud to say I did the Frey Trail. It was a huge accomplishment for somebody who is afraid of heights. I came down the mountain. I walked on the edge of the cliffs. I am powerful. I am a mountain goat. I will probably never do that again, but it was way cool. Thank you Neill.
When I got down to the bottom, I walked the Main Loop and saw the ancestral pueblo ruins. I watched a movie and got my Deputy Ranger Patch. For people over the seventh grade level, they don't have a junior ranger badge, you become a deputy ranger.
That night my fridge went out again and when I woke up the next morning I decided I would move on. I had a couple of other hikes that I wanted to do, but my fridge was worrisome – I had a lot of food that I didn't want to spoil. I want someplace where I can hook up with electricity.
I was going up to Abiquiu, where Georgia O'Keefe hung out. It was a beautiful drive – the mountains were incredible. I tried to take a lot of pictures out my front window as I drove.
I am heading for Riana Campground which is a Corp of Engineer campground. As I approach the campground, I am super excited because I see one of O'Keefe's favorite mountains getting closer and closer. I have seen so many paintings of this particular mountain and there it is, right there. I pull into the campground and it says Closed – Opening April 15. It is now April 12th. I guess I forgot to check that important little detail. I go into the ranger station and plead with them to let me in. Just give me a little corner, I don't need anything special, just a little corner to park. No go.
I end up driving another hour to Heron Lake State Park. Nice sites, I have water and electricity – there is hardly anybody else in the park. It will be a nice place to hang out until the 15th cause I am going to go back to Abiquiu. It is too important to me to miss.