Archive for the ‘Bloomfield’ category

Behind the Scenes with Richard: Trail of the Ancients

January 16th, 2010

Long before I moved to New Mexico I had been told stories by my grandfather and grandmother of the great cliff dwellings and Native American ruins that they found during their travels here in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.  I just couldn’t imagine what these “houses” must have been like.  I found pictures in National Geographic and read books in the library and eventually, as technology advanced, sought information on the internet.

Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, Aztec, Salmon Ruins and Gila are all part of our early Native American Culture along the Trail of the Ancients.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when we sat down in a Travel Guide New Mexico television production meeting and the topic of the “Trail of the Ancients” came up.  It was interesting to learn that, perhaps, many of the cliff dwellers came from the same Native American tribes and how they split and moved in different directions.

I knew this was a trip of a lifetime and I wasn’t disappointed.

I have visited Bandelier near Los Alamos many times when relatives and friends visit and I always look forward to going back.  To me it is a very magical place in a magical location.  Often times we spot deer drinking and relaxing along the stream where early inhabitants drew their daily water supply and irrigated their fields.  If you’re up for a hike you can climb out of the canyon and peer down on the ruins or head south to take in the two waterfalls that feed into the Rio Grande.

However, I had no idea that Puye Cliffs on the Santa Clara reservation was just a few miles from Bandelier near Espanola.  And I had paid only a brief visit to Aztec and Chaco Canyon and couldn’t wait to get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings near Silver City.

At Puye Cliffs, Lucretia Williams met us in her Santa Clara native garb and gave us a first hand tour of this wonderful place.  In many cliff dwelling communities we see a main “village” under the cliff dwellings.  At Puye Cliffs the “village” is on a mesa above the cliff dwellings … something I was unaware of until Lucretia drove us (you can climb but dusk was approaching) to the top of the mesa for a spectacular view of the surrounding area.  Now this is a place where I could have lived!  You have to take a guided tour here and don’t be hesitant to do so.  Your family will learn a great deal about the early inhabitants and the Santa Clara people today.

Chaco Canyon is one of those places that you scratch your head and ask why people came here in the first place?  Many theories abound with trade from Mexico and California not to mention trade routes from the north and east as well.  From the air we were told you can still see the outline of these routes.  What we don’t understand is why Chaco was chosen.  Wood beams were cut and hauled many miles to make the ceilings of the dwellings secure and the rocks used to build the structures were carried from about five miles away.  Imagine doing all of that hundreds of years ago before horses and wagons entered the scene.  It is just mystical.  Be sure and ask the guides about the theories of Mayan and Aztec influence in the region and at Chaco in particular.  Especially as 2012 looms before us …

North of Chaco is the Aztec ruins located right in downtown Aztec.  The most notable part of Aztec is the reconstruction of the Great Kiva, which gives you a real look at the kiva as a meeting place and this is one HUGE kiva!  I was blown away by its size and can only imagine what actually took place here.  One incredible place for a family reunion!

Right next door to Aztec is the Salmon Ruins named after the family that homesteaded the area surrounding the ruins and kept them in pristine shape.  Interestingly enough these ruins were not pillaged by those searching for pottery and other ancient artifacts.

It was well into the 1970’s before the ruins (just outside of Bloomfield) were excavated and research is still ongoing there today.  The Salmon brother’s home is still intact and if you peer into the windows you can see dishes still in the kitchen.  Other buildings of the Salmon family are right next to the ruins.

Take time to talk with the volunteers and staff members inside the visitor’s center.  They’ll be happy to show you around and explain what they have found there.   Larry Baker, the superintendent, has been there since the first excavations and has many great stories to tell about the ruins and the people believed to live there.  He’ll talk your ear off with wonderful information and will make you yearn for more!  Larry is an all around great guy with a true passion for what he does. Someone who has undertaken his job as a true labor of love.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings require about a 90 minute to two hour drive through the Gila National Forest from Silver City and it is well worth every mile you drive.  The views of the forest are nothing short of eye popping.  The hike to the cliff dwellings is about a half mile along a narrow and unpaved trail.  I wondered about this before we started and then quickly began to understand that this walk is one the Ancients made daily and hiking without the benefit of concrete or asphalt gave me a real feeling of peace and serenity along the small stream lined on both sides by massive rock formations.

When you first see the dwellings you might feel a little disappointed.  Why? Well, you can see the face of the dwellings but the magic here is the 100 plus foot climb up to the dwellings and then your first look of what lies behind the stone face.  There is a whole city built back into these giant caves with hundreds of rooms with a view!  I was taken back by what we experienced.  And the great part is that you can climb into the cave to experience much of what life might have been like hundreds of years ago.  I’m adding this to my list of places to take family and friends when they come to visit.

Gila is a full day trip.  Two hours in … two hours out … and a few hours of just looking around.  You can camp there and might want to consider doing so. We talked with a few campers who said they had never seen stars at night like they saw at Gila.  I can only imagine.  Oh … there are other isolated cliff dwellings you can see and enter along the hiking routes outside of the main cliff dwelling area and near the camp grounds.  Great places for the little ones … and old ones … in your family to explore!

Staying in Silver City as part of your visit is well worth the time.  Billy the Kid … museums and a growing art community make this a great place to “camp” while exploring.  Fort Bayard is an 1850’s army post which was home to the famed African American Buffalo Soldiers and a national cemetery with graves dating back into the 1800’s.  This national treasure is still today a place where our soldiers are laid to rest.  I must ad that several of our Buffalo Soldiers who were stationed here were honored with the nation’s highest award for valor …  the Medal of Honor.

There is much more to see in Silver City … Pinas Altos and early gold mining town and home, for a short time, to the famed Judge Roy Bean.  Stop in at the “PAPO” … that would be the Pinas Altos Post Office and Ice Cream parlor as the locals call it,  for one of the biggest and most delicious banana splits that I have ever consumed!  Tell them that Richard sent you.

And remember … the Trail of the Ancients is your trail to another great family adventure in the Land of Enchantment!

Bloomfield Best Western

December 19th, 2009
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Best Western Territorial Inn & Suites, located in Bloomfield, New Mexico is a captivating gateway to natural splendor of the Four Corners area. Relive ancient civilizations at Salmons Ruins, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Canyon De Chelly or Mesa Verde National Park. Enjoy world-class bass, trout and salmon fishing in the quality waters of the San Juan River. Navajo Lake State Park affords exceptional boating and fishing opportunities while an incredibly scenic journey awaits you on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Wines of the San Juan

December 19th, 2009
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Wines of the San Juan vineyard, tasting room, and winery is an Arnold family business. We are a boutique winery, flourishing in the bosque of the San Juan River, offering a simple and relaxing atmosphere for those seeking a short escape or a new journey. Whether returning from a rugged canyon quest, day ride on a motorcycle, or fly-fishing adventure on the famous San Juan River, enjoy a trip to our family winery.

At the winery, you will discover much of what the Arnold family has to offer. We have milled logs into the timbers that form our rustic structures, and then pinned them together with wooden pegs. Our in-house artists create doors, mirrors, paintings and music to please and soothe the mind, ear, and eye. Our winemakers tediously crush, press, taste and bottle nature’s pure fruit, all in celebration of the mighty grape. Hail, the juice of love! We offer our guests a taste of fine New Mexico made wines ranging from the semi-sweet and fruity, to dry and toasty – something for every palate.

Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park in Bloomfield, New Mexico

December 19th, 2009
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Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park – These 11th Century Pueblo ruins, historical buildings and museum are located near Bloomfield. Initial builders and occupants, referred to as the Primary occupation, were colonists from or had very close ties with the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon.

Angel Peak in Bloomfield, New Mexico

December 19th, 2009
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Angel Peak Scenic Area offers more than 10,000 acres of rugged terrain recognized for its scenic and scientific wonders. The nearly 7,000-foot Angel Peak, a landmark composed of river deposited sandstone from the San Jose Formation, is visible for miles in any direction. However, the banded colors of the badlands and the deep sculpted fingers of the canyon at the base of Angel Peak are only fully revealed to those who make the short journey along the rim.

The panoramic view of the canyon offers the visitor a spectacular glimpse into the earths past. This landscape etched by time, has been more than 60 million years in the making, and the geology of the area is as important to understanding the evolution of mammals, as it is spectacular to view.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

December 19th, 2009
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Follow ancient passageways to a distant time. Explore West Ruin, a center of ancestral Pueblo society that once housed over 500 masonry rooms. Look up and see original timbers holding up the roof. Search for the fingerprints of ancient workers in the stucco walls. Listen for an echo of ritual drums in the reconstructed Great Kiva. Adventure into the past.

Chaco Canyon

From AD 850 to 1250, Chaco was a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area–unlike anything before or since.

Chaco is remarkable for its multi-storied public buildings, ceremonial buildings, and distinctive architecture.  These structures required considerable planning, designing, organizing of labor, and engineering to construct.  The Chacoan people combined many elements: pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture–one that still awes and inspires us a thousand years later.

San Juan Quality Waters & Charlie’s Sporting Goods

December 19th, 2009
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Try Fly Fishing on the San Juan with Chuck Domenici of Charlie’s Sporting Goods of Albuquerque!

The San Juan River in New Mexico is one of the finest tailwater fisheries anywhere! The 4.25 miles of San Juan river quality water below Navajo Dam holds over 80,000 trout. An average San Juan river trout is 17″, but fish over 20″ are abundant. To fool these selective San Juan trout requires tiny flies, fine tippets, proper presentation and attention to detail. My first San Juan river fly fishing trip over 26 years ago left me skunked. Since then, I’ve learned a great deal about fly fishing and fly tying on the San Juan river in New Mexico as well as other tailwaters.

The San Juan River Fly Fishing website is dedicated to sharing helpful information on the San Juan river and related fly fishing and fly tying resources.  Within the site you’ll find fishing reports, information on hatches, fly patterns, tips & techniques, the latest news, FAQs and answers, an informative discussion forum, fishing photos, and guide service and lodging information.  Browse around and find out why so many fisherman from around the world are attracted to fly fishing the San Juan River.

Visiting Bloomfield, New Mexico

December 19th, 2009
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Visit Bloomfield, New Mexico to delight in skiing, biking, hiking, Jeeping and golfing while marveling at the architecture of the Ancient Ones at Chaco Canyon. Fish for trout in Bloomfield’s renowned quality waters or enjoy water sports on Navajo Lake.

The town of Bloomfield is located in the heart of the Four Corners area near Farmington, New Mexico. Bloomfield sits on the banks of the San Juan River, just 25 miles downstream from Navajo Lake. The area has an abundance of natural gas and is home to installations by Conoco, El Paso Natural Gas, Williams Field Services and Burlington Resources.

Bloomfield offers a temperate and dry climate, rural setting, excellent city services and a moderate cost of living. Bloomfield is close to many diverse cultural and recreational activities – come see Bloomfield to learn why New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment.

Behind the Scenes in Bloomfield, New Mexico

December 19th, 2009

If you’ve ever driven north on Highway 550 from Albuquerque to Farmington and Durango you’ve had a chance to visit or drive through Bloomfield.  Your first impression would undoubtedly be, “why would I want to spend any time here … there’s nothing to do!”  Boy would you be wrong and Bloomfield Mayor, Scott Eckstein and City Manager, Keith Johnson, would beg to differ, too!  We were in Bloomfield for three days and could easily have spent three more.  Fishing, hiking, eating, ruins exploring and a whole lot more make Bloomfield one of those places you do want to stay for awhile.

So … what did we see?  Let’s start with Larry Baker, the Superintendent of Salmon Ruins, which is nearly in downtown Bloomfield.  These ruins were in pristine condition and unexplored until excavation began in the 1970’s.  That’s right … the 1970’s and Larry was there when it all started.  The Salmon family lived right next to the ruins and obviously cared enough to keep looters and vandals out.  The visitor’s center is loaded with information about the ruins and all you’ll see.  A great gift shop gives you many reasons to open your wallet (as I did!) and make spending several hours a real treat.  Larry and his staff are there to answer questions and maybe even take you on a walking tour of not only the ruins but of the Salmon family home and other buildings on the premises.  This is another of those “WOW!” experiences that you wouldn’t expect to find right in town.

Unless … you go next door to Aztec to see the Aztec Ruins, which also happen to be right down town (okay … close to it).  The Aztec Ruins big draw is a completely reconstructed kiva that gives you a first hand view of what it would have been like to participate in meetings and ceremonies that may have been conducted here.  The ruins themselves are spectacular and the kiva is really the frosting on the cake.

Like fishing?  Well the San Juan Quality Waters offers some of the best fly fishing in the entire country.  Our Travel Guide New Mexico fishing guide, Chuck Domenici from Charlie’s Sporting Goods in Albuquerque, gave us some great insight into how to the catch the big ones.  If you’re into fishing be sure and watch Chuck’s piece on our TV show or right here on our website.

On Location with San Juan Quality Waters

On Location with San Juan Quality Waters

My oldest son, Ian, came from Wyoming to fish the Quality Waters and was blown away.  He said he had never had a fishing experience like this one and that says quite a lot from someone who regularly fishes the Snake River in Wyoming.  He’s planning on coming back and spending a week in Bloomfield fishing and I’ll be right there with him.  And there’s lots of boating, swimming and paddling just on the other side of the quality waters dam!

After a tiring day we took a walk with our four legged friend, Jack, along the brick river walk.  Jack, star of “Jack’s Tracks” on our TV show, had a great time as did the rest of our crew just crusin’ down river walk at dusk.  A great time!

Angel Peak is an easy drive south on 550.  Chuck and I didn’t know what to expect at Angel Peak, which you can see while driving down the highway.  Well let me tell you about a mile off the road (exit at mile marker 137)  we had the surprise of a lifetime.  The road into Angel Peak comes to a dramatic STOP … and down below, several hundred feet, is the “Badlands of New Mexico” with Angel Peak pointing the way!   Now this was ab-so-lute-ly incredible!  You can drive the rim and get a close up view of Angel Peak.  Or, you can backtrack about 6.2 miles to mile marker 143 and head down San Juan County Road 7020 into the labyrinth of the badlands.

This road is well maintained because it is used today by oil and gas companies and it is a real trip to see the Bad Lands from up above and then down below.  All kinds of interesting rock formations, peaks and dry river beds.  Oh … be careful when you go because you do need to cross back and forth over the river beds and we all know what can happen quickly in New Mexico with a little rain!

Pack a picnic lunch and take plenty of water.  There are no facilities of any kind in the Bad Lands and I promise you’ll want to drive the entire length and width.  Lots of hiking opportunities both down below and up above.  On top there are FREE camping spots, picnic tables and overnight camping is permitted on a first come first serve basis.  This is one place you’ll want to spend a day or two.  We did and wished we’d planned an overnight stay just to see Angel Peak at dawn and dusk as well as the starry night!

We stayed at the Best Western (one of two hotels in town) and were treated like royalty … and we weren’t alone.  Everyone we talked with said it was one of the best hotels they’d stayed in.  We’ll second that … and we’ll raise our hands high when asked whether we’ll return to Bloomfield and all the area has to offer.

One last thing … like wine?  Then visit Wines of the San Juan … a great winery with lots of interesting wines.  I picked up several bottles of “Girls Are Meaner” to give as gifts.  After all, why not?  Then I tasted the wine and decided to get a couple of additional bottles for our home consumption.  Several of the wines are named after fishing lures (makes sense, right?) and they all were excellent.  I do like wine and thought this was some of the best New Mexico wines I’ve sampled to date.  Now I have a couple cases at home to keep my memories of Bloomfield ones that put a smile on my face! 

Jack’s Tracks in Bloomfield, New Mexico

December 18th, 2009
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Hello there from Travelin’ Jack… on the road. This time with a totally new twist. My TV screening debut for the television show, Travel Guide NEW MEXICO. Yep, you heard right!!! This silly bulldogge has landed a spot on this wonderful television show. It will be called Jack’s Tracks. Each week I will highlight a activity and destination in our beautiful state. Doggone lucky, I would say!

Read more about Travelin’ Jack here.

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