Friday, July 8, 2011

AMARILLO BY MORNING...My Solo Journey Westward

Back in April, I became interested in embarking on a sort of "self-discovery" trip...driving the Turquoise Trail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I had never really traveled anywhere completely by myself, so we purchased a new vehicle - Chevy Equinox LT - and I began packing! Zack was up in Colorado working for Adventure Experiences and would need a lift home, so I decided to combine the Turquoise Trail with Taylor Park...After some research, I found that most of the pueblos were off the beaten path of the Trail, and I was a little apprehensive to do that much "self-discovery" for the first time, so I made some amendments to my itinerary and elected to travel directly to Santa Fe and stay with a friend before heading north to Colorado. On June 28, 7:36am, I was Santa Fe bound!



















Of course, I had to travel in my "bejeweled way", so with the XM radio, Onstar, my cowhide duffle and a pair of red cowboy boots, I was on my way! I headed my "steel horse" north on Hwy 287 to Amarillo and then a jaunt west on a portion of the old Route 66 (I40).
From the shortgrass Texas prairie rangeland to the dry buttes of Tucumcari...the semi-arid, vast expanses were hypnotic and captivating! The obviousness of the pre-Cambrian seas, that once owned this land, was staggering...














The newly established wind farms were a sight to see and definitely not able to be fully captured through a cheap camera lens. It was indefinite like the land.

The feedlots were equally as difficult to seize with my low rate digital Walmart camera. (I got pretty good at snapping pics as I drove, though!)








Leaving Amarillo and heading west, a flutter of excitement gathered in my soul. Santa Fe. I couldn't believe I was going to be in Santa Fe in a matter of hours! I had never ever been - even though I look like a Santa Fe/turquoise/southwestern poster-child! I was finally going to make it there...check that one off the ol' bucket list!




As the flat Texas terrain merged into small elevational rises, deep cuts/canyons, vast expanses of sage, red dirt, windmills and pure desolation, an occasional pre-depression era farm, with out-buildings in all stages of disrepair would pass. Some close to the road, others not. Networks of cattle trails connected the inoperative weather-worn windmills. With such barren, indecipherable origins, it truly pulled at your heartstrings to understand who the faces of those farms were and why they made this heinous place their home. Definitely looked like a John Wayne movie set!




I traveled on, lost in a certain solitude that I had never really known. On those forever-straight ribbons of blacktop, you fall into your own family convoy of cars and mostly big-rigs; leapfrogging your way west, them passing me, then me passing them. The speed limit extends to 75mph out there and you seem to get sucked into those trucker's tailwinds and before you know it, you've gone nearly 100 miles!






ENTERING NEW MEXICO: The Land of Enchantment







Overcome with anxiety, excitement and arrousal...I had to stop at the first rest stop after crossing into New Mexico! I met two girls (mother and daughter, I think), who were moving from Illinois to Nevada right that very moment...they drove a small, black compact car, with dealer tags and they were alternating turns taking each other's picture. I offered to take their photo and then they returned the favor.

Then a few miles later, I decided to stop and gas up at a huge and most beautiful rest area in Tucumcari. This sculpture commanded my attention, so I took a quick shot before I got on my way. Later I discovered that Tucumcari was founded around a tragic Apache love legend...google it...

Woo-Hoo...gettin' closer!!


As I turned north just prior to Cline's Corners, the elevation climbed among the motts of juniper and pinyon. It still had that vastness to the land, but it was now interrupted by huge plateaus and mesas. There seemed to be a cadence of the land.




The outskirts of Santa Fe were bustling. The roads were narrow, the vehicles many, and the scenery was beckoning me to stop every mile and take some pictures...Almost immediately, I felt a freedom and a diverseness that I had not felt since I was in East Africa back in '86. Santa Fe - the oldest capital city in North America and the oldest European city west of the Mississippi. The entirety of the local construction was, of course, adobe: various, almost "edible", hues... from caramel to mocha to dark chocolate, butterscotch and peach. Beams, posts, and desert southwest landscaping... Straight from the pages of some high-end travel magazine! The traffic was crazed, so there was no way I could stop to document what I was seeing! In entering the city limits of Santa Fe, I knew that I needed some help from a higher place, so I activated Jake's GPS, and after a few turns following this automated male's voice...I found my friend, CeCe's amazing adobe townhouse! I was ready to kiss Texas good bye and immerse myself in the breathtaking, old world style and grace of this Spanish Colonial time capsule. It was dizzying. Charming. Body, Mind & Spirit. Rolling hills studded in juniper. Magnificence in the distance. I had read something about Santa Fe and it became so real...The sky is an ever changing canvas painted by the light. Perfection.


























The old Spanish door entry to the courtyard by her front entrance.







The view from her driveway...

The view from her back patio where I journaled my first morning there.

Her gracious home wore the colors of the earth. Hand plastered crisp white walls, rounded corners and arches, high ceilings, beams, glass tiles, giant floor tiles and a gorgeous corner adobe fireplace. Her decor was OUT OF THIS WORLD...literally! A luxurious melting pot of cultural treasures - each with its own story. The pure definition of excellence and an unmistakable palpable "peace" throughout the entire space. We visited and toured her home and then decided we better get the 2 hour Santa Fe tour underway...I was only there for a short time, so every breath counted. She gave me a driving tour of the outlying hotspots including the Farmer's Market in the historic railyard, and Georgia O'Keeffe's museum. We parked near the Plaza and walked to the square. Fat, juicy hanging baskets of overflowing flowers hung everywhere around the square. We started at the historic Palace of the Governors - where the local Navajos had their wares spread out on sidewalk blankets...exceptional craftsmanship...wow! We circled around the square hitting some of the more elaborate places. Places I had only learned about from the glossy pages of my Cowboys & Indians magazine!! Ortegas, Back at the Ranch, Rocki Gorman...








The infamous St. Francis Cathedral - which was closed that particular day. I had heard about its staircase that has no nails...








The turquoise was to die for! Most places did not allow photography, so it is really frustrating to try to document what the downtown Santa Fe shops and galleries were like...one place did allow pictures and the jewelry was world class! Well known artists like Douglas Magnus, Mummy's Bundle, Gilbert Ortega, Richard Schmidt, Coreen Cordova, Vintage Revival and famous clothing and accessory lines such as:Tasha Polizzi, Double D, Old Gringo, Lucchese, Patricia Wolf, Pat Dahnke and OH SO MUCH MORE! I felt like I was living in the pages of C & I!

This very city is the heart of the American Southwest, from which it pulsates around the planet.

































We walked off the Plaza into award winning galleries, some of which were only "by appointment only"! Premier, Provocative and Permeating! I ran out of descriptive vocabulary words...









I saw the infamous "red couch" at Back at the Ranch!!!!














The living pace seemed to be in sinc with the landscape - sweeping, staggering, grounded, intrinsic, and VERY inspiring! Although I was willing to risk stiff consequences for photographing this next place, I decided against it since I couldn't even understand the middle eastern tongue with which they were speaking. We walked through Seret & Sons: a middle Eastern/Morracan bazaar market filled to the ceilings with amazing textiles, architechural elements, massive carved wooden pieces, antique Tibetan furnishings...it was staggering and highly overwhelming! UNBELIEVABLE!







ACC - American Country Collections - is a showcase for exquisite and unusual upholstery, lighting, accessories, antiques and worldly furnishings. From its modest exterior, you would never guess the depths of this place and the beauty of the pieces inside. This is where some of my Old World Santas were sold last year. I was excited to meet Trish, who I had spoken with and worked with over the phone. What a brilliant, joyous woman!

As the sun slid further to the west, we decided, because of the fevered pace that we had been assuming - trying to get everything in, in one fell swoop...we needed to engage in some local color with some refreshments and appetizers. We agreed on Coyote Cafe - a rooftop cantina! Margaritas, like I have never wrapped my lips around before, fabulous chips, a deep red spicy salsa and a chunky guacamole that you could easily live off of! The views of the street below were exceptional, the people were happy and it was a slice of heaven in every direction!

(below) A bed and breakfast next door to Vanessie's... LOVE the architecture!

After some more shop-seeing..excellent boutiques with furs, leather, turquoise, sterling, textiles and souvenier trinkets, we decided to head over to Vanessie's - an upscale piano bar/restaurant. An amazing pianist named David, caressed and floated his fingers along the keyboard without any visible music sheets, producing extraordinary montages of Broadway showtunes, while his partner, Julie, sang the words with flamboyance, and sassy Broadway-caliber vocals! We each ordered a pile of delectable fried Portabella mushrooms and a drink (or two)! We sat back and just let the show surround us until about 11:00! It was enchanting, vibrant and compelling!




After a dreamy and heavenly sleep, we headed out to the infamous Canyon Road - where there are over one hundred galleries in a mile stretch. Quaint adobe galleries introduced by beautiful flagstone walkways, water features, giant-like sculptures - all accented with half-whisky barrels and other creative planters bulging with spectacular flowers! Truly a polychromatic feast for the eyes!































































Bistros and outdoor garden cafes captivated the senses! Following a delicious early lunch in one of Santa Fe's fabulous and intimate mexican cantinas, I, with great sadness, had to think about heading north. I drove CeCe home and then pointed my Equinox north toward Chama.




Los Alamos - a nearby town - was the site of a recent and ongoing fire. The smoke lay thick in the atmosphere above me, but visibility for driving was fine. It settled around the small towns like a gray wool blanket - thick, all-encompassing and impending. As the 2-lane road snaked its way north, I began feeling this immense awesomeness as I drank in the landscape. Magnificent raw cliffs stood as sentries of the highway and I whipped along - down into one canyon and out the next. Massive rock formations whispered their age as the breezes kissed the canyon walls. The further I went, the more ancient the land became until I grew closer and closer to Chama. Deep emerald meadows were introduced into the scene and herds of horses, belly deep in thick, green grasses seemed to be painted into the landscape. I thought of Ed and Biscuit and how they'd romp and play if they had such a pasture to pass time in. The sparkling mountain streams ran furiously, mirroring the turquoise sky above. The cattle were fat and grazing everywhere - dotting the endless pastures. It was a place that would completely fit the biblical scripture of Psalm 23:1. Beauty in its purest form. Soon after descending from one of the mountain passes, all of this heavenly, epiphanatic emotion was sucked away in a vacuum once I realized that the New Mexico State Police vehicle that I had just zoomed past, had turned around. In the rearview mirror, the flashing blue and reds that are only synonomous with law breaking, were honed in on me and my new Equinox. I think my last speeding ticket was when I was in high school, so the ol' ticker sure was pumping visibly through my neck. I was found guilty of operating a motor vehicle at 71 mph in a 50mph zone. I accepted my fate on the citation and we parted ways...darn. Of course for the rest of the adventure, I was hyper-sensitive and jittery as I followed the setting sun toward Creede, Colorado and then on to Lake City and further to Gunnison. I still had a long way to go and the 30-45 mph posted speed limits sure made traveling tedious...At least I had the staggering views to gaze at! FINALLY at 8:30 pm, I pulled into Gunnison to fill one tank and empty another. One more hour to go. It was 47 degrees.


TAYLOR PARK, COLORADO:






















The view at the top of Taylor Canyon as it opens into Taylor Reservoir. (impressive 13,000 ft snow capped peaks of the Sawatch Range)

Luscious Lupines dotted the landscape everywhere!


Our memories and life in Taylor Park - at Adventure Experiences Inc.- has certainly come FULL CIRCLE! Zack (14) had an AMAZING and very POWERFUL opportunity working for Tim and Linda at Adventure Experiences' Base Camp - the very place that Dyke and I worked -1986 -1992...we were married there in '88 (in a sage brush elk meadow). So this amazingly powerful Christian place and its owners, Tim and Linda, hold a remarkably special place in our lives and hearts! How strange to have Zack working up there! Me and Dyke, on a rest break, back in 1988 or so, leading a backpacking group up Grizzly Peak.


When we worked up there, we would leave Texas in May, stay up in Colorado until September or sometimes even October. Several years before the adventure basecamp also became a hunting basecamp, Dyke taught himself how to elk bugle and was very successful at honing his bow and arrow skills to harvest an elk each year. Above photo..."skinny" me fleshing (part of the tanning process is to flesh out the hide...take off all the extra meat, membranes and fat) an elk hide for a rug in our cabin. On my days off, I helped the local cowboys gather and work their 2,000 head of cattle that grazed summer pastures up in the park. One year, I even helped drive them up over the mountain ranges from Gunnison - it was a 2-day drive and I will never forget it! CAN YOU FIND ME???????? (front row, third from the left)



Lupine Lodge: This structure (the main lodge) was already built when we started working up at AE. We put the finishing touches on it like, rocking in the pillars, adding solar panels to the roof, running gas lines for the antique gas iceboxes, and 2 gas stoves that we had, and of course the annual maintenance that the cabin required...(There was WAY more that we did to that particular cabin, but my "old age" memory fails me at the moment!)


It's still used as the main cabin today. Each morning is bible study. It begins with a "seed thought", after you write down the seed thought, everyone disperses (for about 20 minutes)to contemplate, journal and read from the bible concerning the seed thought. Here are the two seed thoughts that I took part in: 1. A hurried life is a shallow life. A life not shared is a life wasted. Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil - there is no point. 2. We were made for God and nothing less will ever satisfy. What is your substitute for God? How can we keep Him at the forefront?

Lupine Lodge


Zack was part of the Trail Blazer Program, giving younger "adventurists" the chance to learn, grow, live and work at the remote base camp - receiving the many and varied experiences as their compensation. He worked under the guides who lead the backcountry trips: backpacking, challenge course, fly fishing, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. He worked with Tim and the Senior Guides on work projects including construction and maintenance of the camp. Everyday was a problem solving task - you had a job to do and you had to figure out how to complete the job...sometimes you had help, sometimes you were on your own...Zack got REALLY close with the guides! All of them are college guys from all over the U.S. and very strong Christian role models! Zack misses them GREATLY and REALLY had a difficult time adjusting to being away from all of that. He said that when you are with a group of people for 3 weeks, night and day, they become your family and there is a special bond that will always be there forever! He said it was like he was leaving a part of him behind - leaving his family behind.
Zack and his good buddy, Eli (from Tennesssee)!

Zack and some more of the staff on Zack's last day...





Zack already had a tight bond with Tim, as they have duck, deer and turkey hunted together back in Texas...so he was pumped to escape the oppressive summer heat in Texas for the cool mountain breezes, lush valleys, snow capped peaks and crystal trout streams of central Colorado.






The Dining Hall - breakfast time - serving 50 campers from East Texas
There is a long list of changes from when we worked there and one of them is this beautiful dining hall - complete with an industrial/commercial kitchen. Our last year there, we put the foundation in for this building.

Outdoor Chapel - Zack built the podium while he was up there.

Indoor Chapel



This is the view from inside the indoor chapel.

We built this cabin and it serves, still today, as the equipment building - backpacks, camping gear, rock climbing ropes etc... The evening before our wedding ('88), Dyke and Tim finished putting the roof on and the upstairs part was our first home together! No heat, one small solar light, raw timber shelves and lotsa' blankets! Our cat even had kittens up there!
Home Sweet Home -23 years ago! (Zack & Eli lined the driveway area with those huge rocks...)

The infamous DOUBLE DECKER OUTHOUSE! This was our first outhouse and it's still basically the same, except there's a septic tank underneath that gets pumped out each year...we used to have to knock the "piles" over by putting a long stick down the hole and swinging it to lower the accumulated piles. We even had to shovel it out one year, into big black trash bags and haul it to the dump in town...boy, times have changed! It was great to hear that Zack had outhouse duty while he was up there!
This is the new wood burning hot tub (to the right)...the original one we built was out of redwood, but this one is a pre-fab concrete tub that holds more people. It takes all day to heat the water, so you have to keep stoking the firebox.








The sweat lodge - by heating local volcanic rocks in a firepit - all day...the rocks are then transported from the fire to the holding pit inside the sweat lodge. When everyone is crammed shoulder to shoulder inside on the short benches that line the perimeter of the building, one person splashes water on the hot rocks and instantly the steam fills the crowded space. For more of a Native American experience, small segments of sage are thrown on the steaming rocks - sort of a smudge pot effect. Temps can get up into the 140's and whenever you are ready, you crawl out the small exit door, run down the hill to the creek and jump in! The intense heat and shockingly cold mountain water sure does put a charge in your veins! Great way to ease sore muscles after a backpacking trip.





The Climbing Tower - part of the high challenge course






Upstairs in Zack's cabin where he and 3 other staff members called home...(they said that they had cleaned that morning...really?)
Melba Edwards' cabin, on the lower Illinois Creek (down below basecamp). I got to be good friends with Melba when I was up there. She was probably in her late 60's when I got to know her. She hauled her own water from the creek, had 2 lanterns for light, a wood cook stove and her pistol. She was very private and a bit eccentric! The mail lady would bring her some supplies, if she left her list in the mailbox at the end of Illinois Creek. Her "boyfriend", Melvin, had a mining camp way up in the mountains (back in the 40's and 50's) but I never knew him. Melba took me there one time - on foot, but that's a whole other blog topic!! wow! She spent her winters in Lincoln, Nebraska and we used to write letters back and forth. She was tough as a boot...one of the last pioneers of the area...She has passed now...what a character.





GUNNISON:

One of the mornings I was up there, I decided to head down the canyon to check out Gunnison, emerse myself in the local color see and how much it had changed over the years. There was a Saturday Farmer's Market. The streets and sidewalks were bustling and the enormous hanging baskets of flowers were the most vibrant and juicy hanging baskets that I have ever laid eyes on!


How could I NOT go in this cool place??? Traders Rendezvous on Tomichi Ave. in downtown Gunnison....Colorado's largest display of mounted trophies and antlers...




CRESTED BUTTE: Hippie Central! Flip flops, long skirts,halter tops, tourists, bicycles, live music...such an eclectic mix of hippie snowdogs, rafting rats, trustfund babies and tatted/bandana'd bikers! Old clapboard buildings with amazing paint colors - eggplant, turquoise, hunter green, butter yellow... you name it...there was a building with that color! I was ready to move in!!! The cool mountain breeze, hummingbirds zinging around, live music filling the air, laughing, talking, drinking and enjoying life! Vernon seems like it's on the other side of the globe!

After ambling up and down the street, in and out of shops, I decided to stop off at the Idle Spur to wet my whistle...I enjoyed 4 greatly overpriced prawns wrapped in bacon and drizzled with horseradish and a cold PBR. As I sat on the porch of the 'spur, I caught up on my journaling, frequently looking up as the steady streams of people passed by me. The photo above is my view - GINORMOUS hanging baskets of fabulous flowers. The warm sun skated across the high sheen of the varnished log table where I sat. I knew Joline and Bucky were in Gunnison, so I called her. She happened to be parking the car down the street from where I was! Woo-Hoo! Is that crazy or what? It felt so strange to see her there in CB! We enjoyed visiting and catching up over a nice drink!
She had a dinner engagement, so we only spent a short time together, but IT WAS GREAT! I finished up, paid my tab and headed down the street. More shops, warm sun and lots of people to dodge on the sidewalk, gave me a need for another quencher! I stopped in at the Brick Oven...an indoor/outdoor pizza/bar & grill...It was teeming with people sitting at outdoor umbrella'd tables - laughing, talking, and enjoying their favorite beverage of choice. The only seat left at the humungous wooden bar outside was in the sun...no seats at the tables and people started waiting in line to get in once I made it to the bar. WOW! As soon as I sat down and ordered, a blonde woman came over to admire my turquoise jewelry -we talked for a few moments, gave her one of my business cards and then she returned to her seat at the corner of the bar - in the shade! A seat finally came open in the shade...I was cookin' in the sun so I grabbed my backpack, journal and drink and headed over. She was there with ther boyfriend and they were such great people! We enjoyed a few great drinks together and even some cheesy pesto bread and then as the sun slid down the backside of the nearby peaks, I decided that I better get back up the canyon. What a day! It was so relaxing, refreshing and rejuvenating!






Zack with Tim and Linda on our last morning in Taylor Park...










Tim and Linda's gorgeous home! One of the views from their huge front porch!!
The living area - it was so expansive, it was difficult to get a good picture that covered it all!











The kitchen!






My first morning in Colorado - the view from Tim and Linda's porch toward their barn. The temperature was in the 40's... The sound of Illinois Creek, fast paced and winding, was proof that there was an enormous amount of snowmelt from the heavy winter. The valley was filled with fog and as the sun peaked the summits, it all discipated. Magical and mesmerizing. It's like it went from black and white to techno-color, in a matter of moments...






Linda's farrier came up from Gunnison to trim and shoe her two horses, Kentucky and Twister.
Linda and Twister...














Just before our long trek back to Texas...






On top of Cottonwood Pass (elev. 12,126 ft) leaving Taylor Park-headed back to Texas...



We headed south and passed this massive ranch that has a huge herd of buffalo. It was so iconic of the western landscape that we were traveling across. We drove the entire way home (12.5 hrs) and when the Texas heat descended upon us, we both wondered why we had come back...

3 comments:

Pollye said...

OMG..........love, love, love it! What an illustration. Made me feel like I was there. You're so very awesome..

Carancahua Creek said...

so glad to read about your journey and can't wait to hear it over the phone! and a speeding ticket? didn't you mention your spouse? I do - works every time! It can't hurt anyway! you'll need to frame that - make a pendant out of it!

call you tomorrow. glad you're back!

kaydesigner said...

This is AMAZING!! I literally hung on every word. You are such a fabulous writer. The pictures are awe inspiring. Of course, I now want to live in Santa Fe OR in the very least, take a trip there. WOW...your friends home is absolutely gorgeous. LOVED looking at the old pics of you and Dyke. hee! This was truly such a great read. ...and not to mention, that you look DIVINE! Huggers, Kay