Monday, 20 January 2014

Exploring NM 63 high up into the Pecos Valley

We decided we’d explore more of the Pecos Valley by following NM 63 to its end high up in the mountains, at Cowels, well that was the plan.
Driving into Pecos, we turned left and followed the road as it wound its way up the canyon, it’s a very picturesque drive.
On the map I’d seen a sign for an area with the intriguing name of ‘Holy Ghost’, but when we reached the turning the road was closed.   

We stopped to have a look at the old bridge crossing the river

After exploring for a while, we crossed the new bridge and arrived at Tererro, we didn’t go any further as it looked as though from there it was a rough dirt road, so as we didn’t know the road conditions further up we turned back.

On the way back we stopped at the lovely old church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in San Antonio-El Macho.   The existing church was built by Spanish American colonists in 1858, replacing the church originally built in 1830.   It was restored in the 1950’s after a back wall collapsed.

During the restoration 35 wooden coffins were found under the church floor and reburied in a common grave.    Before 1900 people were buried either ‘en la capilla’ or ‘en la iglesia’, the first recorded burial is in 1904 although there must’ve been burials before that.  There is an old cemetery on the hill above the churchyard, but in the church records there is no distinction between churchyard and cemetery.

The church is only 16’ x 26’ it has nine rows of pews on each side of the aisle with room for 4 people in each pew.

We really enjoyed our trip up the Pecos Valley, but what we hadn’t realized was that because of the devastation caused by the Tres Lagunas Fire earlier in the year and the danger of mud slides in the burnt areas caused by the torrential rains, the whole area had been closed until the end of August and almost all of the campgrounds and day use areas were still closed.

Have fun, we are!

Villanueva State Park, New Mexico

After reading about Villanueva State Park and how nice it was, we headed east on I25 exiting on NM3 and then followed the narrow two lane road into what was once Old Mexico.
Our first stop was at the church in San Miguel del Vado.   The Spanish Government approved the San Miguel del Vado Land Grant in 1794, settlements, including San Miguel were established along the Pecos River.   Once a port of entry, travellers and caravans entering from New Mexico paid customs and taxes to the Mexican government, customs activity continued until the area became part of the United States in 1846.

Once through San Miguel, the road follows the river most of the way, the verges were covered with wildflowers and bright green fields ran down to the river, it was very pretty.   In places we could see where sand and mud had washed over the road before being bulldozed away.    When we came to the sign for Villanueva State Park we turned left. 

The long narrow park is right on the banks of the Pecos River, with sites along the river and higher up the side of the valley.   This is a very historical area Conquistadores, including Coronado in 1540 came this way, followed by Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado, Fra Augustin Hernando and Rodriguez Gallegos in 1581, and Antonio De Espejo and Castaño De Sosa in 1592-1593.

Unfortunately for us the day we visited the visitor centre was closed, but a friendly ranger gave us a park map.  In view of all the recent floods in the area we asked if the park had been flooded, he told us that although the river had been very high and they’d been on evacuation standby they hadn’t needed to.  In fact he told us that at this time of the year (September) the river wasn’t usually this high.
Map in hand, although as this was the only trail across the river and we couldn’t get lost, (yes, we’ve heard that before as well!) we crossed the river and turned right to follow the trail to the top of the mesa. 

The trail climbs steadily up, passing a ruin on the way up.   From what the Ranger said it’s not known whether the ruin is Indian or Spanish, maybe it was Indian and then used by the Spanish, it’s a good spot for a lookout so maybe that’s what it was used for, but who knows.

We followed the trail right to the top and lookout, the views were tremendous and you could see for miles, in fact far in the distance we thought we could see the Wagon Mound but as we forgot to take a bearing we couldn’t really be sure. 

It was quite windy at the top and we needed to hang on to our hats, we tried calling Mum, but the call floated in and out with the wind so after a brief chat we gave up. 

This is the view of the campsite and river from the top of the mesa.
After enjoying the view for a while we followed the trail across the top of the mesa,

Before heading back down to the river, this section of the trail is steeper and rougher I was really glad we’d started off the other way. 

Once at the bottom the trail followed a ledge just above the river back to the bridge. 

Back at the truck we explored the rest of the park and then headed back, it’s a great little park and we really enjoyed our visit. 

Have fun, we are!