Chimney Rock, CO and Santa Fe, NM

Southern Colorado and Santa Fe, NM
September 3-6. 2011

I left Mesa Verde National Park and went to Cortez and got my laundry done and checked my email at the local library. I did some grocery shopping and decided to head east. I was going to stop in Mancos but since they were having a motorcycle rally Labor Day weekend with about 6,000 bikers expected which will take up lots of space in Cortez, Mancos, and Durango.

When I was at the library in Cortez I went online and completed a volunteer application to help at the Balloon Discovery Center in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta. I also called and made a campsite reservation at their RV Park at the Balloon Fiesta. I was able to get a camp spot with no electric or water from September 26 (my 61st birthday) through October 10th when the event is over. I will be able to run my generator occasionally to keep my batteries charged. I will buy some extra water to be sure I have enough and will have to be careful how much I put in my holding tanks since I will have to go at least 2 weeks without filling or emptying my tanks. I will buy some canned goods and more peanut butter to have for food and I’m sure I will be buying some food from vendors for meals as well.

I have wanted to attend this hot air balloon event for about 40 years and I am finally getting the opportunity to do it. I also found out that this is the 40th year of the event. What a coincidence! I figured I would book the campsite for the entire 2 weeks I could. The campground opens on September 26 and the event starts October 1. I figure if I get there several days early I won’t be so overwhelmed by the number of people that attend. I read something about 100,000 people attending over the 10 days. I’m also going to try and sign up to be on a crew to help inflate or chase the balloons. I’m hoping that there are still some positions they will fill on the teams since the online registration for this is closed.

I decided to keep heading east. I stopped in Durango to get some gas and found a local office for the bureau of land management and stopped and found out that they have a campground east of Durango and west of Pagosa Springs so I headed there for the night. It is rough camping, no electric or water, but it was really nice there. Large pine trees and the camp hosts gave me some firewood so I could make a fire and I cooked my dinner over the fire. It was really nice. There were only 3 camp spots filled in this fairly large park.

Here is a link to the album of photos of Chimney Rock and Santa Fe including the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.

I got up in the morning and decided to explore Chimney Rock which was about 5 miles away. I arrived at the entrance and had to drive about a mile and half up a gravel road to get to the visitor center. I then found out there is a guided tour, but I would have to drive my van about 3 miles up the mountain on a gravel road and then walk about 2 hours and drive back down the gravel road. I didn’t like that idea so much so I just looked around the visitor center and talked with the gal inside to learn about the community of Pueblo people that lived there until about 1100.

Chimney Rock



There were 2 hummingbird feeders on the railing of the visitor center and it sure was a busy feeder with about 5 or 6 hummingbirds continually coming for food and hovering around. I stayed a while and tried to get some pictures. I don’t know if you ever tried to take pictures of them, but it’s not easy. They sure are fast and also very small. I did get some pictures though.

After watching the hummingbirds I drove back out to the main road and headed towards Pagosa Springs. It was a nice town and they had a folk music festival going on. I found out the ticket to enter the event was $45 for the day and since I didn’t want to spend the entire day there with the thousands of people, I went into town and just browsed through some of the shops and then headed south into New Mexico.

I didn’t want to drive back to the same campground I was in last night since it was about half hour or so in the opposite direction I was headed. I know it is Labor Day weekend and I was taking a chance that the Corps of Engineer Park Campground further south would have a spot. I drove to it and they really didn’t have anything that I could fit into that was even close to level. So, I drove to Santa Fe which was about an hour south. I stopped at a gas station about half hour from Santa Fe and the guy getting gas near me happened to be from there. He told me about some campgrounds and how to get to them. I asked what else I should see there and he gave me some suggestions. He also mentioned the Loretto Chapel with the miracle spiral staircase. I remembered seeing a show on TV about that and I made a mental note to check it out.

Santa Fe has a National Cemetary and I drove into it since I had not seen one since I was in Washington DC in 1968. It is very sobering to see. There were areas where men were working around the graves installing new sod. Seeing all the tombstones in straight rows for as far as I could see was really touching. I took some photos. From the road I saw markers with World War I, World War II, Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea, etc. The cemetary is really well maintained and is on a hillside on the outskirt of town. There is a shopping center up the street with several grocery and other stores. I noticed driving around Santa Fe that there are many health food and organic grocery stores.

Santa Fe National Cemetary

I finally found the campgrounds. They were about 7 1/2 miles up the mountain. The Forestry Service campground was full so I went to the State campground and was able to get a spot in an area where there were some available spots. I spent the night there and it rained. There was no electric or water but that was okay. I got up in the morning and drove into Santa Fe and found a place to park at the State Capitol which was a few blocks from the downtown area where all the shops and museums are.

Capitol Building in Santa Fe

The Capitol is a very simple design and very impressive. I walked downtown and looked at some of the shops and there was also an arts and craft show in the square with lots of southwestern jewelry, pottery, and artwork. I didn’t buy anything but it was interesting to look. I stopped at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum which wasn’t open yet and as someone was going in to open I asked about the exhibit inside. She told me that the current exhibit is mostly photography from various artists and that there are only a few of Georgia’s paintings inside. So I decided not to pay the admission to see the photographs.

I walked back into the square and went into a few more shops. There were some with really great bronze sculptures and I got permission to take photos of them which I will post in a photo album. I also took some pictures of the downtown area and old churches. All the houses and buildings in Santa Fe and the surrounding mountainside are built in adobe in various shades of tans and reds that are the same color as the dirt in that area. It’s a very harmonious look and the buildings all have similar shaped construction.

Old Church in Santa Fe

I stopped at the Loretto Chapel and went inside after it opened at 10:30 a.m. They have church service on Sunday mornings and open the chapel after it’s over. It was absolutely amazing. I remember seeing the TV show of Unsolved Mysteries about the spiral staircase built by an anonymous carpenter in I think it was 1877. Thew nuns built this church and there was no staircase to the balcony. The nuns prayed and on the last day of their novinas a carpenter showed up and said he can build the staircase for them. A regular staircase would have taken too much of the seating area away. This unknown carpenter built a spiral staircase that did not take up much room. He only used a saw, hammer, and lots of water to shape the wood. He did not use any nails, pegs, etc. to build it. He also built it without a handrail. After the man built the staircase he mysteriously disappeared. He did not ask for or receive any payment and no one knew who he was or where he came from. The nuns wanted a railing put on the staircase so they and the girls would feel safer going up and down to the balcony. There is a picture of the staircase without the railing and it’s hard to believe it was built without any nails. They have it roped off, but we are able to get a few feet from it to see it up close. It’s really quite amazing.

Spiral Staircase Loretto Chapel

The stained glass windows, the alter, etc. are all original and very impressive. It’s a fairly small chapel, but lots of people were able to fit inside and they had speakers telling the history of the chapel which is now privately owned and it does have church services, but is also rented out for weddings, and other occasions.

Loretto Chapel

I’m sure if you do a search for Loretto Chapel you can find out more info.

Alter in Loretto Chapel

I didn’t want to drive all the way back up the mountain on the steep winding road to the campground so I looked for somewhere in town to stay. I found that I was able to park overnight at a Sam’s Club which was on the way out of town in the direction I was headed so I stopped there and spent the night. It rained hard again so I was glad I wasn’t driving. I figured that tomorrow is Monday and that campgrounds would be emptying out after the holiday weekend.

I got up on Monday and drove south towards a Corps of Engineer Park halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The attendant gave me a spot on top of the hill and to one side I saw the hillside with lots of cedar trees, and out another side I could see the lake below. After I got set up and plugged into electricity, I opened the back door of the camper and suddenly a hummingbird flew to me and said hi and then flew away. I may have to get a hummingbird feeder and some sugar to put out when I camp. I had no idea that there were so many hummingbirds in the area. I feel so special and honored when they come to visit me.

Lake Cochiti Corps Park

There are lots of campers nearby and three of them are from various parts of Texas so we had some nice conversations. I made a sandwich for lunch and then decided a nap would be nice since I was tired. I got up an hour later and walked around the campground and then sat and read a book. I made a fire in the grill and cooked some hamburgers for dinner and for leftover lunch tomorrow. There sure are a lot of flies here. I finished reading my book and then when it got dark I came inside. I’ve noticed during the last few weeks while camping how many stars there are in the sky. Since there are no lights on in the parks at night, so many stars are visible. That is when it’s not raining.

I found out that there is a public library a few miles away so I will try and go there to see if they have wi fi to upload my story. Driving to this campground, I drove through several small towns which I could tell are very poor and many have deserted businesses and run down houses. It’s really sad to see some of the living conditions and towns that have deteriorated.

I’m at the library and it has wi fi. This is a small town of 400 people, the library is the same building as city hall so I met the administrator, city clerk, and library director.

Since the campground is really nice, and with my senior access pass it only costs $10 per night, with electric and water hookups, I decided to stay for the entire 14 days I am allowed to be here. On September 19th I will head down towards Albuquerque and try to stay at an RV Park near there until September 26th when I have my reservation at the balloon park.  I am hoping that there will be some places in the rv park because they fill up as it gets close to the balloon fiesta.

Anyway, I am okay for camping until September 19th and I think I will be able to find somewhere to camp when I get to Albuquerque. I’ve finally learned to spell it.

Since I will be basically at the campground for the next almost 2 weeks, I don’t know if there will be anything to update. I might take some day trips, but I am leaning to just staying put and relaxing since I’m guessing I won’t get much rest the last 2 weeks when I am at the balloon fiesta.  I have books to read, yarn to knit into hats, my flutes, and some fabric to make into quilt tops. And of course take naps when needed.

I made a photo gallery with pictures of the above mentioned places, and also some of the countryside as I was driving.


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