October 27 - 29, 2015:
It was a short 60 mile move from the Valley of Fire BLM Recreation Area to the Bosque Birdwatcher RV Park in San Antonio, New Mexico. We have now made the transition from the Santa Fe Trail to the El Camino Real. As the name implies, this is a birdwatcher RV park as it is adjacent to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. This is a world class bird sanctuary with thousands of ducks, birds and hawks. In the winter over 100,000 migrating Sandhill cranes, Snow Geese and Ducks fill the wetlands and fields here. They have 12 miles of driving tour roads and hiking trails in the preserve and many observation blinds along with an excellent visitors center. In early November they hold the Festival of the Cranes which attracts thousands of bird lovers from all over the country.
|Sandhill Cranes are amazing fliers|
|In perfect formation|
|They look like stealth fighters coming in for a landing|
|Twinkles has the binoculars out|
|The Ducks flip over head down to feed|
|The colors of the Bosque are special|
|The Rio Grande flowing muddy after rainfall|
We love the birds, but are not fanatical about them and have to chuckle when seeing the serious birders. Actually they are no less bizarre than sports fanatics, science fanatics, history fanatics, music fanatics, TV celebrity fanatics or anything else. There is a point where if you let your obsessions start to control your life, you become a little wacky ? This blog may be becoming one of them ?
The quail in a feeding frenzy outside our RV after Twinkles threw bird seed out.
|The males (the pretty ones) are aggressive and|
rather nasty, chase the others away from the food
This is an area with an amazing history, most people just blow right by on I-25, if they stop at all, it’s for a green chili burger and then back on the interstate. It’s hard to imagine now, but in the early 1600’s the Bosque de Apache (Woods of the Apache) had the free flowing Rio Grande River with its seasonal floods and verdant flood plain. The river no longer flows that way, it’s tamed by dams, but the Bosque de Apache Refuge now has canals to artificially flood the fields for the bird life.
The Spanish came through and plotted the “El Camino de Tierra Adentro” or the “Royal Road to the Interior”. It became a international trade route between Mexico and its new settlements in the southwest. A number of forts, towns and missions were established along the route. This was the interstate highway of its day and the towns of San Antonio and Socorro were notable places along the way.
San Antonio is now actually partly ghost town with many deserted houses, vacant lots and poverty. The town was originally founded in 1629 as the “San Antonio de Senecu Mission” a short distance away which was destroyed by the Apache Indians in 1675. The town rebuilt near its present location in 1820, then shifted somewhat in 1880 to be near the railroad when it came through. It is hard to believe that Hotel Magnate, Conrad Hilton was raised in this town, working at his fathers Mercantile Store and Hotel and went on to start the Hilton Hotel empire. San Antonio has many interesting old adobe buildings in various degrees of ruin, some railroad history and two of the highest rated chili cheeseburger restaurants in the country. There is the “Owl Bar & Cafe” with its historic old bar which is reputed to have been saved from the Hilton Mercantile Store. The “Buckhorn”, almost across the street, on the other hand is famous for winning the Food Network challenge and being rated # 7 in the world by GQ magazine. I sampled both burgers and they are very similar and outstanding. I enjoyed the Buckhorn burger more, but much prefer the ambiance of the Owl Cafe.
|A decaying old adobe building in San Antonio|
|Gallery in San Antonio|
|The old San Antonio Train Station|
|The Crystal Palace is a mystery|
|The distinctive mural on the Owl Bar & Cafe|
|The historic old bar in the Owl Bar|
|Green chili cheeseburger at the Owl Cafe|
|Sign inside the Buckhorn|
Also not to be missed is the town of Socorro about 10 miles away and another historic old west bar, the “Capital Bar”. Socorro has a beautiful old town square with an attached historical park area. It has some of the best historical signs incorporating artistic tiles that I’ve seen anywhere. There is also a very historic Opera House completed in 1887. Last but not least, it has the second oldest church in the United States, the “San Miguel Mission” built in 1615 which is now celebrating its 400th anniversary. This church was under attack by the indians when the Indians suddenly retreated for no apparent reason. Afterwards it was learned from a captured indian that an image of a sword bearing angel was seen over the Mission doorway, which prompted the retreat.
|The Garcia Opera House|
|The San Miguel Mission|
|A section of the steel casing from the Atomic bomb|
set off at the Trinity site
|The Capital Bar|
|Historic buildings in Socorro|
The legend of Elfego Baca is another amazing story. He was not happy with the sheriffs efforts to control the lawless cowboys who came into town and terrorized the local Hispanics. As a result, he took over the job unofficially and soon after arrested a drunken cowboy. The cowboys friends demanded his release, Elfego refused. The next morning there were about 50 armed cowboys involved in a shootout against Elfego who was holed up alone in a small cabin. The shootout went on for 33 hours and when it was over there were 4 dead and 8 wounded and Elfego had survived. He agreed to surrender to the Justice of the Peace, with his guns and no one allowed within 30 feet of him. He was tried for murder and acquited. He went on to become the sheriff of Socorro County, a US Marshall, school board president, mayor, lawyer and prosecuting attorney. He died peacefully at age 80 in 1945.
|The tile historic marker for Elfego Baca|
We took a hike at the Wildlife Refuge, mostly flat ground that Twinkles can handle since her injury. It was great but the birds were mostly hiding out. They tend to do that, much patience is required in this sport. We did get a couple of sightings and some interesting wildflowers and a 1934 date nail that looks almost new from an old discarded railroad tie in the rail right off way.
|View along the trail|
|Many small sunflowers still in bloom|
|These caught my attention|
The El Camino de Tierra Adentro, commonly referred to as “El Camino Real” or (The Royal Road to the interior) was the old Spanish road from Mexico City to San Juan Pueblo just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The road originated in 1598 for the purpose of trade and colonization. We visited the El Camino Real historic Trail Site which is a museum that focuses on much more than the road itself. It reviews the Spanish presence in the new world, their conquest of Mexico, the colonization effort in New Mexico, the interaction with the native Americans, Mexican independence and finally the United States takeover. The road was a major trade and supply route that remained in use for close to 300 years until the railroads came upon the scene in 1878.
|Old Acheson, Topeka and Santa Fe sleeper car|
at a rest stop / RV park along route 1
|Entrance to the museum|
|Monument on the road to the Museum|
We have a weather front coming through that is dumping much rain, it seems that we have had more rain in our recent travels than all last year combined. I need to take a look at the roof, it’s making me nervous.
Next stop is Caballo Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico;
Twinkles and Slick