We began this trip in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We used this city as a base for our entire stay and just made day trips from here for the 4 1/2 days we spent out west. Our first stop, after checking in and getting our bearings, was Old Town, Albuquerque. This area of the city is preserved as a classic Colonial, Spanish village, with a central square and numerous abode buildings around the square, extending for several blocks. We visited an old, adobe San Felipe de Neri Church (Photo #1) and basically walked the entire area — very charming and quaint. There were an incredible number of shops, and, over the course of our stay, we checked out many of them, purchasing a number of trinkets and souvenirs.
The next day was our excursion into Eastern Arizona. We drove first to Meteor Crater (Photo #2), near Winslow, and marveled at the immense depression created by an asteroid or meteor impact some 50,000 years ago. The resulting crater is nearly a mile across and almost 600 feet deep. As a science teacher, I was fascinated by the information presented at the Visitor Center.
Our next stop took us back toward the New Mexico border. We drove southeast to the south entrance of Petrified Forest National Park. The 28 mile scenic drive through the park allowed access to numerous overlooks and trails, and we checked out many of them. Particularly beautiful stops were Kachina Point and Pintado Point. The Giant Logs Trail (Photo #3) was interesting and informative.
This park also includes an area known as the Painted Desert (Photo #4), a striking landscape of multi-colored sandstone mounds which extend even beyond the park borders.
The next day we left early for Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital and the USA’s oldest capital city. The city’s pride in southwestern culture is evident in its architecture. The Old Town is remarkably well-preserved and is ideal for walking. Many artists have been attracted to the area, so there is an abundance of art galleries and museums. The Palace of the Governors, on one side of the main square, is now a museum and Native Americans display their wares on blankets along the front of the building.
The San Miguel Mission (Photo #5) is one of the many lovely churches in the city. Another church with an interesting story is the Loretto Chapel (Photo #6). We were fascinated with the legend about the "miraculous staircase", a spiral staircase with no visible support beams or nails, built by a transient carpenter who left as soon as he was done, without asking for payment or giving his name. He accomplished all this with only a T-square, a hammer, a saw, and a tub for bending water-soaked wood.
From Santa Fe, we traveled northeast on the scenic "High Road to Taos" to visit the famous Taos Pueblo (Photo #7), the oldest continuously inhabited community in the US. It was namesd a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. On the drive, Lee was particularly impressed with El Santuario de Chimayo, a chapel with reputed healing powers where numerous pilgrims have left their crutches and other relics of their infirmity.
Taos Pueblo is a huge complex of apartments at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and also at the source of the Rio Grande River. There is also a lovely church (Photo #8) on the grounds. Our native guide was very informative about the history and lifestyle of the culture. The current inhabitants sell their crafts in some of the rooms on the ground floor. The village of Taos is also quaint and charming.
Our last day trip was to Chaco Culture National Historic Park which preserves the ruins of American Indian habitations which date back to the 9th century. We did an incredible amount of walking on our self-guiding tour which covered numerous ruins. The most impressive was Pueblo Bonito (Photo #9), the largest of the great houses, which had, at its peak, more than 600 rooms, 40 kivas (round ceremonial pits), and was four stories high. If you go, keep in mind that much of the 21 mile access road is unpaved and that there are few services in the park.
When we returned to Albuquerque, we took a nostalgic drive along Historic Route 66, which passes directly through the city and contains a number of vintage establishments (Photo #10) from the days when this was the principal road for travelers from the east and midwest to this part of the country.