Apr 11 - The Mountains and That Feeling

  • Move from Roswell to Santa Fe, NM.
  • Route: pretty much US-285 all the way
  • Miles Today: 215
  • Total Spring12 bus-house miles : 939
  • Total Spring12 toad miles : 353
  • Tonight's camp: Santa Fe Skies RV Park
  • Weather: morning low 58, high 76, some sun, some clouds, a few rain showers on the horizon, another brisk tailwind.
  • Notables: 1. Vast amazing square miles of open and sparse land... not even many cattle or pronghorns... certainly even fewer people. 2. It's good to see mountains again... and I mean real mountains... like 13,000 foot mountains. 3. Just after we parked at the RV Park an old B-17 flew right over our site, low and groaning, as it approached the Santa Fe airport.


Trying to take advantage of lighter morning winds, we were out of Bottomless Lakes State Park by 8:15am. For us, that's nearly a record. Bright blue skies kept watch as we snaked our way through downtown Roswell and shot out the north end on US-285... a four lane road with very sparse traffic. Our luck with the persistent tailwind this spring held up and we were quietly pushed along as we climbed from 3,400 feet of elevation to over 6,000 feet at Santa Fe. The weather for the next few days is unsettled... generally windy conditions, higher chances of rain, and colder. But we're also learning that even unsettled weather days in New Mexico can be marvelous.

I don't know if the area we drove through today is unusually sparse... even for New Mexico. Looking at the state highway map it's one of those areas that jump out at you because of all the white space... which means few roads. Mile after mile of range land... an occasional small group of cattle... and even more occasional group of pronghorns... no trees. Some might call it a wasteland. Some might say it has no purpose. Some see it only as an obstacle to be endured, a travel time waster. But for me it's some of the most valuable land there is. OK, I wouldn't necessarily want to live out there. Few do. But it's important that it exists, if for no other reason than to provide a place where we're not stacked on top of one another, crowded into high density housing, living like ants. It's important to provide contrast, to provide a counter-balance to human culture and development. It's important to help me keep things in perspective. It's nature.

During the last 50 miles or so the landscape evolved. More trees, rocky hills and outcroppings, ridges, and then, in the distance, mountains... the 12,000 and 13,000 foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north and east of Santa Fe seemed to communicate with us... and let us know we've arrived. We're among the mountains now.

There's a feeling I get, inside, whenever I'm in the mountains. Living and growing up in Wisconsin I didn't see a real mountain until I was 18 or 19 years old. A friend and I drove my Volkswagen Beetle out to Colorado... just for something to do. Well, we did have a shopping list from other friends left behind... one item on the list... Coors beer. At that time it was unavailable in the Midwest and, like anything someone tells you you can't have, you'll go to great lengths to get it. Anyway...

We hadn't even driven all the way through Iowa and I was starting to look on the horizon for snow-covered peaks. When I still hadn't seen anything all the way through Nebraska and we were now in Eastern Colorado I was nearly disheartened. Eventually they appeared. And we drove through Denver and into them... tall stately mountains... bigger than I'd imagined... certainly more beautiful. That's when that "feeling" was first felt. It's a combination of the fresh clean thin air, the majesty, the smell of the pine forests, the wildlife, and the outdoorsy nature of the people. It's never failed to come back to me when I'm in the mountains.

We're here primarily to see the State Capitol Building... it'll be our 21st. Tomorrow, Thursday, we're taking the New Mexico Rail Runner mass transit train from a station just a mile or so from our camp to downtown Santa Fe. I'm sure it'll be a fascinating day.

Slightly Better than Most