Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Villanueva State Park, New Mexico

October 13 - 16, 2016:

There are several routes to take for our journey, we chose the one they call the “high road to Taos” or route 518.  It travels up and over the Sangre De Christo Mountains, past the Sipipu Ski Area and through the Carson National Forest.  The autumn leaves were fantastic in places especially coming downhill out of the mountains.  This road travels through several quaint old Mexican towns, very picturesque, such as Cleveland, Mora, La Cueva, Buena Vista.  At Las Vegas, we get onto route 25 south to the exit for route 3 passing through several small ancient Mexican towns to Villanueva.  The road is narrow, rough in places and twisty and you continue past the town of Villanueva a few miles to the Villanueva State Park. 

Beautiful views along route 518

Historic old Mill at La Cueva, New Mexico

It’s a beautiful State Park on the Pecos River with a scenic red rock canyon wall background.  There are a couple of excellent hiking trails in the Park and there are historic Spanish ruins and a grain threshing pit along the Canyon Rim trail.  Various Indian tribes have resided in this area for approximately 9,000 years.  The first Anglos were Spanish Explorers such as the famed Francisco Vasquez Coronado and others from 1540 to 1592.  They were searching for the seven lost cities of Cibola reported to be filled with riches of gold and Silver.  When this became Mexican Territory, a wave of Mexican settlers came who were farmers and many of their decedents remain today.

The Spanish gold seekers most likely camped here too ?

We have a dry camping site, the electric sites are all reserved, but we are next to a water spigot, have decent sun for the solar panels and it’s fairly warm and there is a shower room, no problems.  The downside is no phone signal or internet.

The view from the top of the Canyon Trail

The town of Villanueva was founded in the1790’s  and was a walled settlement for protection against the Indians, with portions of the wall remaining. The Mexican settlers dug miles of irrigation ditches that feed from the Pecos River to enable farming.  These irrigation ditches have been maintained and are still used today.  As you ride through, it looks ancient with so many adobe houses and buildings, some in good conditions, some falling apart.  There is the usual impressive Lady of Guadalupe Church, build in 1814,  which looks too large and expensive for a town of its size.  I went into Josie’s General Store and was quite surprised, it was neat, clean and well stocked and it’s the only store in town. I believe the nearest real supermarket in 35 miles away in Las Vegas, NM.  There is also a community water well building in the central downtown area.

It appears you need a key to use the Community Well these days 

Nice old building in town

Lady of Guadalupe Church in Villanueva

Josie's General Store

There are several other small very old historic towns along this route 3.  The one that struck me was the town Ribera with its San Miguel del Vado church, settled in 1794, that was the Mexican border entry station for the Santa Fe Trail travelers.  This changed in 1846 when this area became part of the United States.  Actually as you ride around this area you feel like you are in old Mexico. 

Beautiful red rocks along route 3 near the campground

Almost everything here is built of adobe

Many nicely tended green irrigated fields

The historic San Miguel del Vado Church
built in 1806

An old fallen Cottonwood Tree along the road
that someone has turned into a wild beast

We make a trip to Las Vegas on Saturday, it’s a favorite town of ours in New Mexico with a beautiful old town square and hundreds of historic buildings.  We roamed around a bit, not much appears changed since our last visit.  I was hoping to see more historic preservation activity on Bridge Street, in particular at Estella’s Cafe, but didn’t see any action.  The Railroad Historic Area also looks about the same although the planned restoration of the Old Harvey House Hotel, the Castaneda, should eventually drive preservation of that area.  I wonder how the man who I had talked to last year is doing with the old boarding house across from the Hotel is doing.

Sign on corner of the town square

I always am amazed at the Plaza Hotel built in 1882

And the Charles Ilfeld Building

And wish someone would help the decaying Estella's Cafe on lower left

And the vacant old Kiva Theater

A mural in Las Vegas that I have not seen before

Another cluster of murals under a highway overpass

We were told that this food truck was excellent

We stopped for lunch at a favorite restaurant, Charlie’s Spic and Span Bakery and Cafe, which was filled to capacity.  Happy to say, the food was even better than we remembered.  This is not an elegant dinning spot, breakfast and lunch only, specializing in Mexican food with freshly made Tortillas from a machine in the restaurant, but everything is great !!!

The parking lot was filled because the food is great !

I do the short hike on the River Trail along the Pecos River and the El Cerro Trail that climbs up to a rocky ledge overlooking the Park and the surrounding valley.  We also do the Canyon Loop Trail that goes from the river up to the Canyon rim overlooking the campground and then along the Canyon rim looping back to the river. 

The bridge over the Pecos River at the State Park

Red Tail Hawk was circling overhead

Spanish ruins of grain threshing pit off the trail

View from the top of the Canyon into the valley

View looking up the Pecos River

Lots of Staghorn Cholla here

Along the River Trail

View from the cliff tops on the El Cerro Trail

Crazy spines on a small barrel cactus

Be sure to check the two previous blog posts, I've been busy this week,
Next stop is Fort Sumner State Park, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico,

Twinkles and Slick

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