One of the great things about living in Albuquerque is that it's roughly in the center of the state- this makes road trips throughout the state relatively easy- many can even be completed in a day. Last weekend we took a trip down south.
Food, one of the great loves of my life, is one of those essentials that can make the difference between a good trip and a bad one. When you're going south and are ready to eat after about 75 minutes on the road there's two excellent options: The Owl Bar in San Antonio, and Socorro Springs in Socorro. We opt for the latter- C gets the pasta, I go for the conquistador calzone (The finest calzone in all the state) and a locally brewed cream soda. We share.
The Blackstone is spiffy, it's clearly getting both maintenance and renovations. In fact, all around T or C it's the spiffiest I've seen it in the last 10 years. Old buildings are getting love- repairs, new paint, even additions. Walking around, we visit River Bend Hot Springs and even it has new private tubs with a fine view of the Rio Grande.
Near the river bend is Ralph Edwards Park with a fishing pond, rocks to climb on, a skate park and more.
Broadway, looking north-east:
That night we have dinner at Cafe BellaLuca, a beautiful, upscale Italian eatery- Jennifer James-class italian food. Yes. In T or C. Their special that night is Osso Buco- a dish I've never before had, but would now be delighted to have once a week forever.
Partial view from our table, love the cheerful colors across the street:
Did I mention the Blackstone has in-room natural hotspring tubs? This one is 2 feet deep, the water is about 108 degrees, and there's hardly a whiff of sulpher. Firewater has in room tubs, too.
The next morning we have an enormous breakfast at Grand Court Parlor, an astonishingly excellent tea house (and book store). After we sit down, they begin stuffing us with maple-walnut scones. There's one menu for tea, another for food (They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner)- I opt for "The Majesty" which includes buttery crust bacon, parmesian quiche, a flaky pastry sausage kolache, 3 flap jacks, and house made apricot preserves and mango chutney. Dear lord, I just gained 5 pounds typing that. C orders a savory tea (seemingly lighter, but it still comes on a 2 tier tray with deserts). Our gigantor meal comes out and everything is delishous. These are the flakiest, richest pastries ever. Even the quiche is excellent. a couple to-go boxes, please!
After breakfast we head out of town- our ultimate destination is Gila, NM, but there is a lot to see and do on our way there. In about 30 minutes, we're in Hillsboro, NM, a charming place. I was first here some 10 years ago for the apple festival and camping. It's a beautiful drive- rolling hills, old-time New Mexico, the foothills of the Gila wilderness. So much of our state was shaped by the gold and silver rush, then left to weather and be reborn. Continuing on toward Silver City we take a quick break to revisit the Black Range Lodge, where we stayed many years ago.
There's a growing community here of environmentally conscious persons building homes with rammed earth, hay bails and other renewable ways. Little remains of the other historic buildings, just the old post office.
Time to get going- Silver City is only 65 miles from the I-25, but it takes almost two hours to get there with the winding scenic roads demanding slower speeds. Many hill sides have been blasted to make the necessary room for the road- exposed rocks are shades of green and purple, red and teal, even now demonstrating how rich in various metals and minerals the landscape is.
The one of the most simultaneously beautiful and ugly things I have seen besides baby pugs, was the Santa Rita copper mine at sunset- that golden southwestern sky lighting the deep gash cut into the earth. There's an observation area where you can normally stop and view the mine, but it's currently closed for blasting. Here's a picture over the fence, though not at sunset.
We park in Silver City and aren't even remotely hungry. It's time to walk.
Like T or C, Silver City has been doing very well the last few years. Buildings are freshly painted. Lots of renovation was completed. It's genuinely handsome walking down Broadway. The booming copper prices the last few years must have been great.
After a couple hours of walking, wandering through antique stores and otherwise touristing-it-up, we stop at Nancy's Silver Cafe.
This is the first New Mexican food we've had in a day in a half, which is some sort of road-trip record for us. It's not deprivation saying this- the fact is, this was some of the best homey NM food I've ever head. C gets a bowl of beans and green chile- full of chunks of pork, hot and flavorful green chile and the beans are just perfect. I get a combo plate which is excellent- then the sopapillas come out. They're so light, you could fill them with helium and they would float- so thin they light up like a frosted bulb when a shaft of sunlight hits them. Sweet perfection, 4 hours away from Albuquerque.
After lunch we do some more walking and shopping. We wander in to the most outstanding hat and girly stuff shop I have ever beheld, anywhere. C runs amuck for an hour. Pictured is one quarter of the store and 1/10th of its hats.
Tonight we'll be cooking our own dinner, so we stop at The Curious Kumquat for a few extra provisions. Take Fremont's, shrink it 75%, add some pots, pans and buffalo lasagne and you have a pretty good idea of the place The locally-made crystallized ginger is excellent- hot and tender. On the way back to the car we do the obligatory walk along the big ditch.
It's getting close to 5 and I'd like to get to our final destination before sunset so we head out. We'll be spending tonight at Casitas de Gila, a private B&B 5 miles of dirt road beyond Gila, NM. As we pull in, it's sprinkling rain and the sun is setting.
The casita is nice- a small home away from home.
That night we enjoy the hot tub, then some pyromania with the indoor kiva, the outdoor chiminea, and most importantly, the clouds break and we see the stars as I haven't seen them in years- bright, vivid, wrapped in the arms of the milky way from one horizon to the other. I am a speck about the size of Mickey Rooney.
At down I get up for a quick hike through the property's 220 acres while C is still in bed. This is the first remote lodging where I thought to myself "These people are not nuts for living so far away from it all." It's misty this morning, cool and moist, quiet and charming.
Down by the stream there are many beautiful rocks- rock-hounds rejoice, they encourage taking a little home with you.
Back on the road, we're ultimately homeward bound, but there will be plenty of stops on the way. A scenic view encourages us to stop pretty shortly after we've started. It's a memorial to Aldo Leopold, the forest ranger who persuaded the forest service to designate the interior of the Gila a national wilderness (the first ever), a designation meaning that it is to be almost untouched by man. Way to go, Leo!
Back on the road, we take a right at Glenwood and arrive at the base of the Catwalk 5 miles and 1 river-crossing later.
In the 1890s this was briefly the home of a small but booming mining community. The site begins at the opening of a slot canyon with an ever-present fast flowing stream coming down. Miners harnessed the power of the water to run a mill. Abandoned and decayed, in the 1930s the civilian conservation corps transformed the slot canyon into a recreation trail by adding wooden bridges and paths up through the canyon. In the 60s, hanging walkways from the sides of rocks 20 feet above the water were installed. We were last here in 2000 or 2001.
The picnic area below:
This is quite possibly the coolest hike in all of New Mexico. The ruins of 1800s mining equipment, the wreckage of old bridges long since washed out, crossing boulders larger than my house, it sings to the post-apocalyptic adventurer in me. There have been many delights this weekend, but this short hike is the greatest. Please enjoy the following 4 minute camera-phone video, mixed down with Cinelerra.
After our hike, we stop in Alma for lunch.
Now we pass the VLA at lightning speed. What is it about this road that so inspires speeding?
Through Magdalena, back into Socorro for dinner and home again, under 600 miles round trip. If any of the above looks like fun to you, I recommend going right away- it's warmer down south and awfully pleasant to be there. Any of these destinations can be reached, enjoyed, and returned from in the course of a day, so go out and see what your state has to offer. Or spend the night and really dig in. We had such a good time we're already planning our next journey.