Ahhhh Monument Valley, a place we have been wanting to visit since our first trip. I am going to include a picture of it (that we didnt take) to show you what we were expecting. We were unable to see a thing thanks to the rain and fog that was in the valley that day, however the good news is that we will be passing back through on our way back to Oregon. We are hoping for much better weather along with some epic photo opportunities. Just before we entered Monument Valley we passed through a small Navajo town, Kayenta, Arizona. Kayenta is home to the Navajo Code Talkers Museum. The museum is inside of a Burger King (yes you read that right), and as strange as that seems, it has some very nice displays, with memorabilia, and fascinating narratives from and about the brave soldiers who used their native language to create the only uncracked code of World War 2.
We attempted to push through the dreary weather in a long haul through the Four Corners area and on to Cortez, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park. As soon as we passed through Medicine Hat we realized that we probably should have gotten gas (remember, our gas gauge does not function on the tow vehicle). Bluff was the closest town with a gas station and it was fortunate that we stopped when we did because unbeknownst to us, one of our trailer tires had delaminated and shredded! The clerk at the gas station was kind enough to let us unhook and leave the camper for a bit. The closest tire shop was 30 miles away, and this would be no simple plug job (we carry the supplies for that), we needed a whole new tire. We removed the tire, tossed it in the back and set off for Blanding. We lucked out and found a shop that had us back out the door in about 10 minutes. We weighed our options on staying in Bluff or continuing on to Cortez. With 3 more hours of daylight to spare, we chose the latter. On the South side of Cortez was a small dirt road with plenty of dispersed camping sites. We made the turn and as we trundled down the road, the conditions deteriorated. The rain from the last day or two had turned the road into a slippery, muddy mess. Large ruts and sharp rocks abounded. After about three quarters of a mile we settled on the last spot before a muddy incline that we were not inclined to attempt. The clouds lit up as the sun started to set, and following a quick run back to town in the truck we bedded down ready for our next day’s adventure at Mesa Verde.
Mesa Verde was surprisingly more diverse than Either of us had anticipated. Most photos that represent the park show only Cliff Palace, the larges dwelling in the park. In actuality there are over 600 cliff dwellings, it is truly remarkable. The drive up the mesa and to the canyons of the cliff dwellings was spectacular. The fall colors streaked the hillsides. The rain had cleared out, and the clouds clung to the mountains. The larger mountains in the distance were dappled with stands of brilliant golden Aspens.
The morning gave way to afternoon and once again we took our leave and moved onward with a planned overnight trip to Northern New Mexico’s Bisti Badlands, little visited wilderness that features dinosaur bones, petrified stumps, and strange rock formations. There are no trails and one must be mindful of getting lost when heading into the badlands. During our exploration we were fortunate to have cool, partly cloudy weather, and clear long range views.
After our hike, we really didnt have an location picked for our next camp, but what we needed was a two night stopover so we could get some work done both in the camper and online. We consulted maps, along with all of our frequent boondocking resources and found what appeared to be a promising area about 2 hours away called Jemez Springs.
Jemez Springs was a true gem. We camped on FSR 376 about 9 miles north of the village of Jemez Springs. There are upwards of 100 campsites dispersed along the road. Most feature impressive rock formations, aspen meadows, or both. Absolutely picturesque and so close to all the area has to offer, such as Spencer Hot Springs and the the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the sites are sure to fill up in the winter. Spencer hot springs is really a 2 pool warm spring a short walk from a parking lot on highway 4. At the upper pool there is a small grotto just big enough for two people to lounge comfortably. Just watch out for the tarantulas that may be out for their morning stroll.
We spent a day working online, organizing the truck/traytray. Morning arrived cold and crisp, and we blasted out, up and over the caldera, through Bandolier National Monument & Los Alamos and coasted down the hill into Santa Fe to meet the parents.