Friday, November 11, 2011

Going North on the New Mexico Road Trip!

Feel free to click on any image to enlarge it.

From Truth or Consequences we headed north toward Socorro. Along the way we saw lots of wide open space and the Rio Grande for the first time. No photo's of the Rio Grande yet because to be honest I was underwhelmed. It looked more like a stream at this point, not like the mighty river it should be. Socorro is famous as the site of a well-publicized UFO incident. A local policeman named Lonnie Zamora was chasing a speeder when he saw the UFO. Project Blue Book, the US Air Force's official study of the UFO mystery, also sent investigators to Socorro. They interviewed Zamora and also checked the supposed landing site. Project Blue Book's supervisor, Captain Hector Quintanilla, later wrote that the Socorro case was the best documented and most puzzling one in their files. "There is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him. There is no question about Zamora's reliability." Quintanilla ruled out hoax and thought maybe Zamora had seen some secret U.S. craft, though a thorough search disclosed no such craft that could account for the object. The actress Jodie Foster stayed in Socorro while filming the movie Contact at the Very Large Array fifty miles west of the city. Damn...I just missed her!

The San Lorenzo Canyon is in between Socorro and Albuquerque. Some of the geological features you can find on a hike in San Lorenzo Canyon are arches, shelter caves, and interesting rock formations. The area has remnants of old ranches and homesteads; springs and tiny creeks also are hidden in the canyon bottoms and washes. It is a little hard to find but well worth it. Hiking boots are a must and so is a lot of water because it is hot there. At the entrance there is a sign warning that high riding vehicles should be used in the canyon. I would follow this warning...just saying.

I know this looks like a tiny little rock and some sand, but the photo does not show the true tale and if I had been thinking I would have documented this better. But at the time I was a little worried and upset. I drive a low riding Honda Civic, not a good vehicle for this terrain. The sand became very soft so I got out of the car to see where we could park it without too much trouble. Unfortunately, when the car was being backed up it went up and on to this tiny rock. The car was stuck and would not go back or forward. Here we are in the middle of nowhere, it's hot, no one else is around and the closest town is an hour away. Oh what to do! So we searched around for a whole bunch of flat rocks and put them under the front tires. Then rocked and pushed and the car came carefully move car to more solid land!! Luckily no snakes, bobcats or other critters were around to witness this.

Heading from San Lorenzo Canyon up to Albuquerque.

We travelled east toward Mountainair and headed to the Abo at Salinas Missions National Monument. The Missions are said to date back to the 1300s. It was a major trading station during its time. Puebloans inhabited this remote frontier area of central New Mexico. Early in the 17th century Spanish Franciscans found the area ripe for their missionary efforts. However, by the late 1670s the entire Salinas District, as the Spanish had named it, was depopulated of both Indian and Spaniard. What remains today are austere yet beautiful reminders of this earliest contact between Pueblo Indians and Spanish Colonials.

Remains of the old mission church.

On to Albuquerque, it is the largest city in the state of New Mexico. The Sandia Peak Tramway is located adjacent to Albuquerque. It stretches from the northeast edge of the city to the crestline of the Sandia Mountains and has the world's third longest single span. The tramway ascends the steep western side of the highest portion of the Sandia Mountains, passing close to dramatic cliffs and pinnacles, from a base elevation of 6,559 feet (1,999 m) to a top elevation of 10,378 feet (3,163 m). A trip up the mountain takes fifteen minutes to ascend 3,819 ft (1,164 m).

The sun shining on the rock and the shadow of our tram as we climb.

Standing on the top platform watching another tram come up.

Sunset over Albuquerque, I shot this from the tram as we were coming back down.

From Sante Fe we headed past Los Alamos and on to Bandelier. The radio telescope located in Los Alamos is one of ten dishes composing the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). There is also a laboratory in Los Alamos that was home to the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II.

Bandalier National Monument is a 33,677 acres National Monument preserving the homes of the Ancestral Peublo People. The park's elevations range from about 10,000 feet to 5,000 feet at the Rio Grande. Much of the area was covered with volcanic ash from an eruption of the Valles Caldera volcano 1.14 million years ago. The tuff overlies shales and sandstones deposited during the Permian period and limestone of Pennsylvanian age. The volcanic outflow varied in hardness; the firmer materials would be used by the Ancestral Pueblo People as bricks, while the softer material was carved into homes.

A view through the trees of the cliffs and dwellings.

Patterns in the rock.

A large bat cave in the side of the cliff. This photo does not show the immense size of the cave.

Living area of the Ancestral Pueblo People.

Love this sign...and no I did not climb the ladder.

Valles Caldera (or Jemez Caldera), is a 12 mi (19 km) wide volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. Within its caldera, Valle Grande (local pronunciation: vai.ei grande) is the largest valle (grass valley) and the only one with a paved road. Valles Caldera is one of the smaller volcanoes in the supervolcano class. The caldera and surrounding volcanic structures are the most thoroughly studied caldera complex in the United States.

The red rocks along the Jemez Trail.

Just one of the many churches to be found through New Mexico, this one is near Sante Fe.

Church doors.

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