Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Questa, NM and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

October 10 - 12, 2016:

It’s a beautiful morning until as I am looking at the rear tires on the RV, I notice a puddle of liquid underneath the rear axle.  On closer examination, it’s oil and appears to be dripping from the bottom of the rear differential cover gasket.  I am unsure how long this has been leaking and don’t want to run it dry so I stop at the first town hopping for a repair shop or at least an auto parts store to add oil myself.  The town of Fort Garland has nothing, so I continue to the next town of San Luis for a repair shop.  I arrive at the Speedway Garage about noon, they look at it and can replace the seal as I wait, a stroke of luck !!!  This gives me time for a nice Mexican Taco plate across the street at Sam’s Covered Wagon Bar and Cafe.  It’s great to get some real Taco’s again.  Also time to tour this most interesting old town.  In fact this is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Colorado.  It was settled in 1851 by hispanics who started farms and developed an irrigation system. The town is quite known for its beautiful historic church, the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross that sits up on a hilltop overlooking the town.  The Speedway Garage mechanic was very good, so if have to break down, I recommend you do it in San Luis.

The Speedway Garage is a real "old school" auto repair shop
with a excellent mechanic

Next door is another former auto shop that was a custom cycle
shop, now closed, with a custom paint job

Low Rider's rule around here

Nice mural with historic church on hilltop in background

Nice mural accentuated by old plow in foreground

Another interesting culturally stimulating mural

The R &R Market is the oldest continuously operating
market in Colorado

I eventually arrive at the town of Questa, New Mexico where Twinkles has been waiting a number of hours at the Sierra Hermosa RV Park.  The park owners are perhaps the most friendly RV Park owners we have ever dealt with. The husband and his wife both came over personally to make sure all was well.  
We have a really great view of the mountain ranges in the distance and a small meadow and pond directly behind us.  I was awakened in the morning by about 25 ducks in the pond right quacking away, better than an alarm clock !  There isn’t much to the town itself as you ride through on route 522.  However if you ride around and explore, there are many side streets and houses everywhere.  They have an impressive old church undergoing a total restoration that  will really special when done.  There are numerous nearby outdoor activities such as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the Carson National Forest and the Cimarron Canyon State Park.  In winter, there are several good ski area within a 50 mile radius including the world reknown Taos Ski Area.

The Questa welcome sign

The San Antonio del Rio Colorado Church under restoration

Beautiful stained glass windows

Many old decaying adobe buildings

The single traffic light in town and an interesting shop

Welcome sign with Sangre de Christo Mountains in background

The Questa Cultural Center

Mural on the side wall of the Cultural Center

We make a food shopping trip to Taos in the morning, followed by sewing for Twinkles in the afternoon.  The true gypsy of this team, that would be me, can not sit still and am off to the old mining town of Red River.  The ride there goes through the Carson National Forest with many good looking campgrounds and past the Questa Chevron Molybdenum Mine.  This Mine was a major employer in the area, but closed in 2012 although reclamation work will continue for a while.

The town of Red River was originally a mining town established in 1870's.  The Mining days are long gone, today it’s tourism and mainly the winter version as they have the Red River Ski area with lifts right on Main Street.  The town is only partially open this time of year, but it’s gearing up for a thanksgiving ski opening.  It’s a fairly rustic ski town, not too much high end tourist stuff.  The town is quite remote as it sits between mountain peaks and is very scenic.

A nice portrait in Taos

Another art work with reflection in storefront window

The historic Taos Plaza

A detour on a side dirt road on the way to Red River

The Questa Molybdenum Mine from the highway

View of the Red River Ski area

Red River downtown view

In the evening, I take off again to the Taos Mesa Brewery where there is a nationally touring band, the "Band of Heathens", playing.  This is a great music venue inside this large quonset hut type building with a large dance and stage area.  The band shows moments of potential, but was mostly noise with two guitarists just sort of blowing each other out.  The best moment was when a former band member, who just happened to be there and joined them for a while.  He was good, they need to get him back in the band.

The Band of Heathens

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is a new one created by presidential decree in 2012.  It is about 15 miles from Questa, more like 5 miles as the crow, or as the raven flies here.  The Rio Grande River and the Red River, over the eons, have cut huge deep canyon here and they come together in the National Monument.  There are several small campgrounds, a visitors center, picnic areas and miles of hiking trails.  We started with a relatively flat trail, the Rinconada Loop Trail, along the Rio Grande River Canyon rim.  It is forested with Juniper and Pinon trees and many grasses.  It was a beautifully clear day and the views along the canyon rim were fantastic.  
We then went to the La Junta Overlook for a view of the confluence of the two rivers where there is also a trail down to the rivers.  The rock and stone work in the trail walls was some of the best I’ve ever seen.  We went down the trail a short ways, looked down at the river, thought about it and returned to the Jeep.
Next we drove to the Big Arsenic Spring trailhead which switchbacks down the side of the Rio Grande gorge for 760 rocky feet.  Twinkles went about 100 feet and had enough, back to the Jeep to read, while I did the hike.  The worse part of this hike is that you do the hard, unrelenting uphill climb on the return.  I kept thinking of that as I went easily downhill.  It was a beautiful hike and the river, when I got there was worth it.

Yes, the Tarantulas are out again

View overlooking the confluence of the Red and Rio Grande Rivers from the point

The Red River canyon side

The Rio Grande River canyon side

Beautiful stonework on the trails

Part way down the canyon Ponderosa Pines appear

I had to absorb this view for a few minutes

Incredibly huge polished Basalt boulders at the river

Wonderful sunsets are easy to come by here !

Sometimes the hillsides across form the sunset are better than the sunset itself

The sunset itself was not too shabby

We are trying to avoid places we have been to before which is getting harder and harder to do.  This is why we came to Questa, instead of a campground closer to Taos.  This have really enjoyed our stay in Questa, sometimes good to be off the beaten path, could stay here longer and will probably return.  

Next stop is Villanueva State Park, New Mexico,

Twinkles and Slick

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