Late Summer. The mountains called. One more camping trip wanted to happen before Autumn, cold weather and holidays set in. So we went.
Up into the New Mexico mountains we climbed. Jemez had been trying to contact us for quite a while, and this time we decided to pick up the line. It was a dusty trek above Santa Fe, a windy road past the Bandelier turn-off and an upward slope to the rocky canyon that laid East of our destination.
As dusk threatened that Sunday afternoon, we traveled through a strangely sleepy town. We meandered past laboratories and government buildings tucked into pine groves. An overhang of dismal clouds and listless streets added to the mysterious atmosphere. The outdated buildings brought an unfamiliarity akin to another country or a different era. Tiny homes quietly sat like small children at a parade; bored with anticipation. The main street sent us in circles and finally through a secure gate where a man requested our I.D.’s, instructed us not to take photographs, then scooted us on our way. If we hadn’t known the history behind the ho-hum community, I’m sure I would have claimed it as a typical small town. But in truth, when you pass though an area that is well-known for being the home of the Manhattan Project, you can’t help but feel the residual eeriness that resides in the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
After exiting the government land, we ascended into the mountains along a small and WINDY road. The bare trees and cloudy sky remained a clinging slap that echoed the haunting town and history we left behind an hour before.
Santa Fe and Los Alamos were behind us, and Jemez Springs was right around the corner.
As we rounded the corner out of the trees…
…we stopped at the scenic viewpoint of Valles Caldera:
We were able to drive into the preserve right before they closed. Although we didn’t get to hike or check out the visitor’s center, we witnessed some classic New Mexico beauty!
In my next posts I will be sharing more about the surrounding area, including the best camp spots and hot springs! Here’s a map with a closer look at the Jemez mountains:
I posted another photo of the 13-mile wide crater-shaped landscape (Valles Caldera) here. For more info about this natural preserve, visit this website.