Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas


Have a magical Christmas
 
 and
 
 truly wonderful New Year

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico

Snow covered the top of the Sangre De Christos mountains on a sunny but very chilly day as we drove north on I25 to Fort Union, once the largest military post in the southwest.
 
On the edge of the plains the fort was established to protect surrounding settlements and travelers on the Santa Fe Trail from Comanche, Kiowa and Apache.

The view across the plains from the road leading to Fort Union.

Fort Union from the same spot.

The fort was the main supply depot for other New Mexico forts, anything and everything you could think of was purchased or traded at the fort which was probably the Walmart of its day!

Wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail cover the plains around the fort and in places the ruts form deep ditches.   I don’t know why but I always imagined the wagons went in single file, in places there were so many ruts it looked like an interchange on I40!
 
If you look closely you can see a depression in the ground, this is part of the Santa Fe Trail.
The fort that stands today is the third fort, two other forts were built, the first was built in a star shape the second was so close to the bluffs that it was within easy reach of enemy canons.
 
Officers Quarters

A cool wind blew across the plains the day we visited, whistling around the remains of the fort, we were told that the wind drove some people mad.   I loved the wide open views, but DB said it’d get to him after a while.
 
The wide open plains from the edge of the fort.

Rangers and preservators were busy working on the adobe walls on one section of the fort on another section they were working on the foundations of one of the buildings.

The fort covers a large area
 
and was home to many different types of building, Sutlers Stores, Stables, laundry, Officers and Mens Quarters, Laundry and even a jail.  
 
The jail and remains of the laundry
 
A huge hospital lay a short distance away and was used by both those at the fort and the local population.
 
After weeks of travel along the Santa Fe Trail, crossing mountains, rivers, plains, canyons, in all types of weather arriving at the fort must’ve been a huge relief.
 
We had no idea there was so much history in this area and we only covered a fraction of what there is to see, I think we'll have to come back!

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Ranches and Movie Stars

Our last ranger guided tour at Pecos NHP was with Ranger Patricia to Forked Lightening Ranch.
 
Our tour started at Kozlowski’s Trading Post, the last  major stop on the Santa Fe trail before arriving in Santa Fe itself.
 
Travellers arriving here after days of jolting along the trail must’ve felt like they’d died and gone to heaven as the trading post boasted comfy feather beds. Mrs Kozlowski was likely to feed you a dinner of fresh trout from the Pecos river about a ½ mile away as well as her famous piñon pudding filled with a liqueur and brought flaming to the table. 

Across the road from the trading post the ground is filled with the remains of wagon ruts from the famous trail.   I don’t know why but I always thought that the Santa Fe trail would just be a line of single wagon ruts, but in actual fact there are ruts everywhere and it was probably like I25.   Once the Aitchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad arrived in Santa Fe the trail was practically abandoned overnight. 

The trading post was part of the Forked Lightening Ranch which was home to Greer Garson and Buddy Fogelson. 

The ranch entrance

Forked Lightening ranch was originally built by Tex Austin the father of modern day rodeo, he took his rodeos all over the world, including London, but he had no luck with money.   Buddy Fogelson an oil baron bought the ranch.   He saw Greer Garson in the film ‘Mrs Miniver’, asked Hollywood friends to introduce them and the rest, as they say is history. 

The deep salmon of the buildings and the blue of the window frames of the ranch were specially formulated to closely match the colours of the sandstone of the surrounding mesas and the deep blue of New Mexico skies. 

At the front of the ranch a deep portales (verandah) has amazing views over the confluence of the Pecos river and Glorieta creek.   Two flagpoles at the front of the house flew the British and American flags when Greer Garson lived here.

Our tour took us through the house, which is slowly being restored to look as it did when Greer Garson was in residence.    

One of the bedrooms.

All the rooms lead from one to another and all open onto a central courtyard.

It’s a beautiful house, just the sort of place you could imagine living in. 

Buddy Fogelson liked to hunt Greer Garson didn’t so they comprised by ‘skeet’ (clay pigeon) shooting.   The view from the range has amazing views across the ranch lands to the Rocky Mountains

and across to the ‘convento’ in the park.

On Greer Garson's death the ranch house and part of its lands were left to the Pecos NHP.

Have fun, we are!

The Battle of Glorieta Pass

The next day we returned to Pecos NHP to walk the Glorieta Battlefield trail before taking the ranger guided battlefield tour.
 
For some reason, I had this idea that the battlefield trail would be flat,   why when Pecos is surrounded by mountains I have absolutely no idea, but I did.  So as we were taking the tour in the afternoon we walked the 2½ mile trail much faster than normal.
 
This is at the top of a mesa and how the trail looks now,
 
but in March 1862 Union and Confederate troops would’ve had a very different view.   Local farmers and ranchers would’ve felled the trees for fuel or building and grown crops in the cleared fields.   Soldiers on both sides would’ve had good views and ditches and arroyos would’ve provided much needed cover for both sides during the battle.
 
There is a lot of information about the battle, which is also known as the Gettysburg of the West, but trying to put it in a nutshell, the Confederates saw the Santa Fe Trail
 
Part of the original Santa Fe trail

as a way to conquer the west, opening up a route to the pacific ports and the Colorado goldfields.   Union soldiers from Colorado and New Mexico blocked their way. 

Things seemed to be going the way of the Confederates who had their headquarters at Pigeons Ranch

however their supply train was left near Johnsons Ranch the Confederate commander, thinking ‘there was no way’
 
it could be attacked left only a small party guarding it.   What a mistake that was!
 
Union soldiers marched from their camp near Kozlowski’s Trading Post,
 
climbed Glorieta Mesa, attacked and destroyed the supply train, then marched back and joined in the battle.   That’s at least 12 miles, marching, climbing mesas, engaging the enemy and then returning to fight a battle! 

Part of the battlefield is in private hands just of I25, it is open to the public, there is no charge to visit, although donations are appreciated.   
 
Ranger Roger who led our tour was really enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable on the subject giving us masses of information.   Naming the Generals involved, although I must admit that sometimes I got lost with the names and wasn’t sure which General was on which side!  The fact that the battle took place in March so it would’ve probably been cold and snowing, not something I thought about on a nice sunny day. 

Even now discoveries are still made on the battlefield, not so long ago during house renovations a mass grave was discovered and the remains removed for reburial. 

Not far from Pigeons Ranch there are memorial stones for the men who fell during the battle.

We had a fascinating day gaining an insight into one of the battles of the American Civil War. 

Have fun, we are!

Pecos National Historical Park (before the shutdown!)

When we decided to visit Pecos NHP we had no idea just how much history there is in this park, from Pueblo Indians, the Santa Fe Trail, Civil War Battles, Old Route 66 to English movie stars!   It is a gem of a park and the rangers have to be some of the most helpful and friendly we’ve ever met.
   
On our first visit, yes we went more than once, we first hiked the Ruins trail.
 
Situated at the mouth of the narrow pass at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, Pecos Pueblo was an important trading place between the Indians of the plains and the coast.  The pass now known as Glorieta Pass is one of the few easy places to cross this part of the Rocky Mountains, it was also a strategic location during the Civil War and on the Santa Fe Trail.
 
The pueblo was separated from the area where traders camped by a wall, the remains of which can be still be seen.   Obviously the residents of Pecos weren’t going to allow them inside the walls just in case they turned out not to be friendly.   Visitors are allowed to climb down into the reconstructed kiva,
 
this is what it was like inside.

The pueblo was once 4 stories high, the steps in this photograph lead up to the 2nd storey, another kiva is shown on the right.

Further along is the convento built by the Spanish.   The remains of the existing convento are built inside the walls of the original building, which was destroyed during the pueblo revolt.

Inside the convento looking towards the altar.

Looking from the convento towards Glorietta Mesa

In the afternoon we took the ranger tour to Arrowhead Ruin.   There are quite a few ruins that make up Pecos Peublo, but most of them are on private ground.   Arrowhead ruin is only accessible on a ranger tour.   Our tour was led by Ranger Eric who as a native of the Pecos area has a fount of local knowledge. 

Arrowhead Ruin was partially excavated with some areas reconstructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930’s.

 
The pueblo is in a strategic location on a bluff overlooking the Pecos valley.

Although it’s called Arrowhead Ruin, very few artifacts and no arrowheads have been found.   The name derives from Arrowhead Lodge at the bottom of the hill and once a stopping place on route 66.   A steep path led up from the Lodge to the ruins, so it’s more than likely that travelers back then took away ‘souvenirs’ of their visit.

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Rain, floods, grey skies, it was almost like being at home!

On Old Highway 60 about 1½ miles from Kiva RV Park and Horse Motel is the Rio Puerco, the major river drainage we thought was a small local creek, it normally looks like this, just a narrow dry ditch.
 
There’d been quite a bit of monsoon rain in New Mexico and this time when we arrived it looked like this.

Although there were late afternoon showers in the forecast, we decided to drive out on CR12 to find the ghost town of Riley, then continue on to Magadalena, look at another ghost town called Kelly and then drive back on the paved roads.
It was a lovely drive on a reasonably good dirt road, with great views of the mountains.
 
We crossed quite a few dry river beds and washes along the way,

To get to Magdalena we had another river crossing to make, but as drove further along the dirt road we could see the afternoon storm clouds starting to build.
  
We continued on until we reached the Rio Salido which we expected to be dry however, there was a narrow channel of fast flowing water in the middle, thinking about it now I have no idea why, when the Rio Puerco was running we expected this river to be dry, but we did.
 
This wasn't what we'd expected and while we’ll drive dirt roads when they’re dry we’re not used to crossing muddy, fast flowing rivers no matter how narrow.   As the sky was steadily getting blacker, and with the thought of the afternoon showers the last thing we wanted to do was get caught on the road in a downpour, so we decided to turn back.   We never did find Riley or Kelly. 

The next day it rained all day, the RV park looked like this,
 
CR 12 looked like this, well at least the start of it did, we have no idea what it was like further up and we weren't going to find out.

 and this is the normally dry Rio Puerco.

 
 
Didn't look much like a dry ditch that day!

Have fun, we are!

Pinkerton Detective Agency

While we were at TTRV we went to the Rendezvous of Gunfighters in Tombstone, where we met this very interesting lady.
 
Kate Moore, she also had many aliases, was the first lady detective with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  I don’t think Pinkertons were overkeen on employing her but as she pointed out she could go where no male detective could go.
 
Sadly there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of information about her, but it is known that she had a very successful career and among other things was instrumental in foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Plans? What Plans?

When we flew back into Tucson at the end of August, we had a plan, we always have a plan, this time it was to explore California, working our way up from Yosemite and then back down the coast.   But all the fires in California contained or not seemed to be where we wanted to go.   So we headed off to Tombstone Territories RV Resort http://www.tombstoneterritories.com to think about it.
 
We chilled out in the sunshine, thought about it and decided we didn’t want to get into possibly smoky conditions so we’d visit California another time and go to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado instead.
 
Luckily for us, we’d only got as far as Kiva RV Park & Horse Motel, http://kivarvparkandhorsemotel.com just south of Albuqerque when the monsoon storms hit causing devastating floods across New Mexico and Colorado.   At Kiva we were lucky as the absolute worst of the storms seemed to go all around us, but not actually hit us, yes we had rain but nothing compared to the storms ranging all around us.   Some of the lightening shows were spectacular, scary, but spectacular. 
 
About 1½ miles from the RV park is the narrow, normally dry ditch which is the Rio Puerco.  We always thought this was a small local creek, but it’s actually a major river draining from the mountains up near Cuba before flowing into the Rio Grande.   Although the river flooded, the RV park wasn’t affected but sadly the small community of Bernardo on the other side of I25 was very badly flooded.
 
We sat out the storms at Kiva and then moved up into the mountains just north of Santa Fe, where unfortunately Verizon didn’t work and the campground internet was mostly unusable as everyone was trying to use it at once.
 
Now we’re back in the land of internet connections, I knew we researched stuff on the internet but didn’t realise just how much until we didn’t have a connection, so I’ll get caught up on our travels eventually.
 
As for our latest plan – what plan?
 
Have fun, we are!

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Isle of Anglesey, North Wales

On a simply gorgeous day we headed back to North Wales where we crossed the Menai Straits over to the Island of Anglesey and to Lligwy Bay.   We parked on the beach car park with its cheery little beach café
 
The words on the shutters made me smile 'Bring me Sunshine', I almost expected Morecambe and Wise to come dancing round the corner.   After enjoying a coffee and admiring the view we decided to walk round the coast path to Moelfre.   

Moelfre’s a pretty little place, only a couple of miles away it’s a fairly easy stroll with no huge ascents or descents unlike the Devon coast path.      

The village is in a small bay with a pebble beach, lifeboat station,

and a great little pub, needless to say that’s where we had lunch.    
 
Afterwards we took the same path back to Lligwy Bay and walked out across the beach to the sea, I’d decided I was going to have a paddle.   I did and it was absolutely freezing, my toes were practically turning blue!
 
On the way home, we stopped to have a look at the Din Lligwy historical site where there are the remains of an ancient settlement, a Medieval chapel of ease and a Neolithic burial chamber is nearby.   Din refers to a defensive/protective wall surrounding a settlement.   Although hundreds of Roman pot sherds from the 3rd & 4th century AD have been found here, the site of the settlement is thought to go back to the Iron Age when it may have been a farming community.   Archaeological excavations have found round structures that are thought to be houses and rectangular structures that are thought to be barns or workshops.   

We followed the short path across the fields and up onto a small wooded mound to the settlement, it’s a fascinating place especially in the early evening light.  
 

Walking back across the fields, we stopped to admire the view out across to Lligwy Bay and the sea     
 
before continuing to the Medieval chapel of ease.   The tiny 12th century chapel was used by the widespread community of Penrhos Lligwy, some parts of the chapel were rebuilt in the 14th century and a small extension chapel was added sometime during the 16th century.   I've no idea when it was last used.

Inside there’s an open crypt before what was once an altar, in the gloom I could see some flowers and it looked intriguing but there was no way I was going down into that dark hole, especially as DB had disappeared.

Outside a herd of bullocks at the back of the chapel stopped my wanderings I’m not happy being in a field of bullocks on my own, so I left them be and headed back to the car.   We had intended to look at the Neolithic burial chamber but somehow or other, probably through lack of attention, we, okay I, totally missed the turning and we ended up back on the main road, so we’ll have to save that for another trip.   It was a fabulous day. 
Have fun, we are