On Tuesday Sherry and I initiated our "Monthly Photo Shoot Adventures." This month Sherry planned the day and provided transportation. She came by my office at noon, and we grabbed a quick bite to eat, then hit the road. The weather couldn't have been better - sunshine, blue skies, and only about 80 degrees.
Our route was:
I-40 east from Albuquerque to NM 337 (at Tijeras); south 54 miles to Mountainair
From Mountainair, Highway 60 west (about 40 miles) to I-25
North on I-25 to Albuquerque
We first stopped at the Tijeras Pueblo Archaeological Site. This was not impressive. Sherry and I, at the end of the day, agreed it had been 30 minutes of time that would have been better-spent elsewhere.
On our way south, on 337, we passed through a half-dozen small villages of, probably, 50 residents or less. We found lots of picture-taking opportunities, and pulled over to take advantage of them. Our first stop was an old abandoned "little house on the prairie," with a rusted-out shell of a car parked in front. It was just south of Tijeras and was such an interesting little place. I say "little", but as we went on around to the rear of the house, we saw what was hiding behind the overgrown trees and bushes. The house had obviously grown with the family, for there were three attached structures. The front and rear were stucco, but the center section was a log cabin. (There was some evidence that there had been stucco on these logs, too, at one time, but it had deteriorated and fallen off.) On the rear section hung Christmas decorations, and we wondered how many winters they had seen, since it was obvious that the house hadn't been lived in for many, many years. It was on private property, and was behind a wire fence, so we weren't able to see the inside, though our curiosity was killing us. We also stopped at probably a half-dozen old cemeteries along the way. Some were interesting, but they were not as old as we had hoped, most of the people having died in the mid-20th century. We were on the lookout for snakes all the while we roamed these burial grounds. We didn't see any, but saw their holes everywhere, and at one place found a l-o-n-g snake skin, molted and left lying part-way in and part-way out of its hole. Sherry also spied a small tarantula, which I got a rather fuzzy picture of. It was high-tailing it down its hidey-hole, and wouldn't stop to pose for us.
In Manzano we were grateful to find a small grocery store (the only one we saw on the trip down), where we purchased a cold drink and a snack, and used their restroom facilities. It was a nice, clean little store, and the clerk was friendly. I bought some Carrizozo Cherry Cider there, and it was very good.
Finally we arrived at the first of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, known as Quarai. All of the Salinas Pueblo Missions were built in the early 1600s. They were abandoned in the 1670's, probably due to a severe drought in the area. The missions were built by the Catholic Church, near the pueblos where the Native American people already lived. Surrounding the missions are also some surviving ruins of these pueblo dwellings.
When we arrived at Quarai, the caretaker told us we had only 25 minutes until it closed. We had spent so much time in the grave yards that we would have to cut our time here short. What a shame! Because this was an astoundingly beautiful place. We walked up to the ruins, the walls of which rose at least 50 or 60 feet high. Visitors are free to roam anywhere they wish - in and out of the mission itself, into the labyrinth of small rooms built beside the church, where the Catholic priests lived and studied. It is a totally hands-on experience. We noticed a path that led to a copse of trees, where there are picnic tables. We were determined, after our brief 25 minutes were up, to bring Keith and Dan back and explore this place in more depth. And we'll bring a picnic lunch to eat under the trees.
From the Quarai ruins, we drove the 8 miles on to Mountainair. Keith and his partner (DBA: Eagle Custom Homes) have been building some homes in Mountainair, on a beautiful piece of wild country, called Deer Canyon Preserve. Keith was there, so we drove out to Deer Canyon to see him. We took a tour of one of his custom homes, which is nearly complete.
When we left Deer Canyon, in Mountainair, we headed to a second of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, known as Abo'. It is about 9 miles west of Mountainair. Although it was past the official closing time, we decided that closing time only applied to the visitor center, for the ruins are wide open, with no gate or barrier. When we first arrived, some people were there, sitting in their car, while their children ran and played around and through the ruins. They soon left, and, as the sun was setting, Sherry and I had the place to ourselves. The setting sun made it difficult to get pictures from the front of the mission, but we got some nice ones from the west side, where the last rays were lighting up the rear of the mission. This structure was not quite as complete as Quarai, but, none the less, amazing. There is a trail that leads to the pueblo itself, but because it was getting dark, we had to pass that up this time. There were numerous old adobe ruins within sight of the mission, though, all a part, I assume, of the pueblo dwellings. We must return to this one, as well, with Keith and Dan.
We had no time to drive to the third of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, Gran Quivira. From what we read, we believe Gran Quivira has a completely different type of construction from the other two missions. It is about 25 miles from Mountainair. What was amazing to both Sherry and I was that there were no crowds of people visiting these missions. At Quarai we saw one couple, and two other ladies, one of whom was in a wheel chair. At Abo', after the two children left, we were completely alone. Granted, it was a week day, but for the most part I think these jewels are off of the tourists' radar!
On our way home, we stopped at Los Lunas (on I-25) for dinner. Keith, who was also on his way back to Albuquerque, met up with us there. It was about 8:00 when we sat down to dinner, and every bone in Sherry's and my bodies ached. We had tromped around and through abandoned houses, old gas stations, cemeteries, patches of wild flowers and ruins; and climbed into and out of her SUV innumerable times that day. But it had been so well worth it. I'll be planning the October photo shoot adventure, and I have a tough act to follow!
Okay - be sure you view the pictures here!