My last day in New Mexico was perfect. The sky was clear and temperatures were comfortable for hiking through a sea of shattered black basalt, searching for the markings of another people from another time.
On my own for the day (Hubby was working in Albuquerque), I wandered over the the west side of the city to see the famous Petroglyph National Monument. The Monument is a huge park consisting of thousands of acres containing over 7000 petroglyphs carved by Native Peoples up to 3000 years ago with more recent markings by the Spanish from the 1600’s. There are even a few modern additions. Dirt roads and tiny parking lots were out of the question for my large vehicle, so I spent the morning at Boca Negra Canyon. Can you see the RV in the top photo?
I was fortunate that the only canyon with a trail to the top and a view over the mesa and the Sandia mountains had the biggest parking lot. Much of the city was cast in a haze. A bird with the most beautiful voice landed beside me and called my attention to the view. High above the clouds, we climbed the dragon’s spiny back to heaven.
I didn’t see many people that morning. After descending the back into the Canyon, I had met only one lovely family from Michigan. I sat and had my lunch surrounded by sagebrush and stone and enjoyed peace that one might find unexpected on the edge of Albuquerque. It is difficult to describe how intense the light is here. I found myself taking photos through the viewfinder and forgetting that my sunglasses were still on.
I am not often behind the wheel of our 36′ RV. I am happy to be the passenger and let my husband drive. With my driver unavailable and a desire to see Albuquerque’s Old Town and the Rattlesnake Museum, I became the horror of narrow city streets and was watched carefully by drivers and police alike.
The drive into Old Town from the west is on old Route 66. It has been widened to four lanes. Four narrow lanes.
By the tentative way I was being passed, I wonder if I had been using both western lanes. OK, maybe just a lane and half? There is a beautiful archway that is in all the Route 66 tour books. I held my breath as I rolled beneath it, wondering if I might catch it with my A/C unit and watch sparks of neon shoot off on my wake. It was everything I could do not to stop traffic while crossing the bridge over the Rio Grande. The monochrome cadmium orange of the leafless trees and coral soil contrasting with the cobalt blue of the river was – well – enough to stop traffic. I did manage to find parking suitable for my rig behind the convention center and I headed in to the narrow streets of Old Town. I imagine everyone else breathed a collective sigh of relief when I was relieved of driving duty later that afternoon.
Old Town is strikingly similar to old Santa Fe with a large Catholic Church at its center with buildings flanking close over each street and an open square. After visiting inside the Church and walking around the square, I found the Rattlesnake Museum on the south east side. It is a tiny storefront and easy to miss because it lacks the imposing frontage of the other museums in the area. I bought my pass and wandered into the rooms containing snakes of all kinds, every rattlesnake you can imagine; a beautiful, blind, white Texas Rat Snake and even a small boa. The rattlesnake right at the entrance was so large that I couldn’t help thinking that he was sitting, waiting for tourists to pass into his lair like trapped rats. Past him was the only way out of this place and that glass terrarium did not look like it could possibly hold him for long. In fact, when I didn’t immediately see a snake in his terrarium, I began to wonder…
“What if they got loose?”
My own lizard brain started to heat up and get busy when I discovered that not only were there many of North America’s venomous snakes, but there was a Black Widow spider, a Brown Recluse and a Tarantula to boot. I have no pictures because the snakes don’t like flashes and it was too dark to go flash free.
Yes. Low light, small rooms, snakes and spiders – what was I thinking??
As beautiful as they were, I found myself letting out an audible sigh of relief when I sneaked past the gatekeeper and out to safety. Now I know why your entry ticket commends visitors for their courage. I am happy to say that these were the only rattlers I encountered on my trip!
I met my my husband in the square and relieved to be serpent free and no longer required to drive, I enjoyed another hour of wandering through shops with wonderful Navajo jewelry and Mexican crafts and as the sun began to lower in the sky, we set off for home. New Mexico was reluctant to let us go without flaunting her beauty one last time. The multicoloured soil and stone buttes wandering the desert captured the sunset behind us and lit our final moments, reminding us that we were leaving ‘ the land of enchantment’.
I have already booked my summer return.
To read about the summer trip to Taos and Anglefire…. (click here)