Natural Wonders

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29 articles in category Natural Wonders / Subscribe
Abiquiu, NM

On our last sunny Sunday in the Chama River Valley, Monty and Niko and I hiked to the top of Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch Presbyterian Retreat. I have a soft spot in my heart for Ghost Ranch, because I spent several summers here growing up. I remember each little nook and cranny, all the paths, all the good rocks to climb, because as a kid I was always exploring. Okay, I’m still exploring, but in this particular place it brings back fond memories. Here is some perspective: Yeah, I know. I can hardly believe I was that high up either. Monty and Niko probably thought that was the top of the world. I had to tie …

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Abiquiu, NM

The Piedra Lumbre Basin (or Valley of the Shining Stone) stretches from Abiquiu to Chama along the Chama River. And it is, probably, the most beautiful place in the world. I’m biased, though, I have many pleasant memories from childhood vacations here. Its icon is Pedernal, a 9000 foot mountain whose cap was produced in the Jemez volcanic field. Georgia O’Keefe lived in the valley below, and she painted it many times. I couldn’t help but take a zillion pictures of it. It’s like a benevolent version of the eye of Mordor, looking over everyone in the basin all the time, rain or shine. The lake is Abiquiu Reservoir, and from atop the dam you can see …

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I know you feel awful for me, but I had to take a beautiful drive in order to do laundry and buy groceries. I’m not sure I could manage it all the time, but for the one time, I was VERY glad I needed such errands. The road from Ojo to Taos is long, smooth, flat and GORGEOUS. There are almost no trees in this part of Carson National Forest, and you can see for miles around. There is little development, besides a cattle farm here and a mobile home there. I drove almost 20 miles in the wrong direction, all the way to Tres Piedras, and I didn’t even care. Coming into Taos, you cross the …

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Monty and Niko and I spent every morning over the last two weeks hiking. There are five less-than-4-mile trails at Ojo, and we hiked every single one. Each has it’s own different geography: one along the river, one down an arroyo, one to an old mica mine, one to an overlook, and one to the ruins of an old indian pueblo. At almost 6,000 feet above sea level, hiking in northern New Mexico is a little more strenuous than at home. There’s a bit less oxygen for the ol’ lungs. It is dry, even in winter, and we had to drink lots of water. But after a few days, it got easier, and felt great. The smell …

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As an addendum to my “Amarillo is kind of a nice play to stay a few days, if you’re into weird Texas culture and 72oz steaks” I will add my trip to Palo Duro Canyon, which is 30 miles south from here. This is what Texas looks like, okay? It’s big, extremely flat, brown, with almost no trees and you can see for miles in every direction. You can bet then, that I was surprised to find this: Seriously, you just drive for a long time through the flat-nothingness and then suddenly a gorgeous, desert canyon happens. Monty and Niko and I hiked all day here. Unlike the Oklahoma version, this canyon is the REAL DEAL. They …

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Route 66, known as the Main Street of America, was once a bustling highway full of classic cars, drive ins, and motels with kitchy furnishings. Now, to be honest, it’s full of potholes and, in places, difficult to recognize as a road, let alone a highway. I’m headed west on Historic Route 66, which parallels Interstate 40 across Missouri, Oklahoma, the top of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It’s been some time since I’ve posted, and I apologize, but there simply is no internet here. The internet lives and breathes in the 21st century, but it is solidly 20th century in these parts. In fact, I’m pretty sure I entered a live-action version of the movie Footloose …

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When I was growing up, my family always spent Thanksgiving with my “grandmother” Gladys. She wasn’t actually my grandmother, but that’s not the point. The point was that she lived in Murphesboro, Tennessee (pronounced MUR-fis-burrrr-ah, Tin-EH-see) and I got to spend a day or three wandering 200 acres of farm land complete with cows, goats and hedge apples. I have vivid memories of my father and I using hedge apples for lawn bowling when we were bored and waiting for the turkey to cook. I have no other memories of the use of this strange plant. What is a hedge apple you say? Why let me tell you all about them! Traveling through the Ozarks I was …

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I haven’t been cliff diving, but I did find pie! I’m in Hermitage, MO at Pomme de Terre Lake State Park. In French, Pomme de Terre means literally “apple of the Earth” which in English, means potato. I’m at Potato Lake. The Hermitage side campground definitely rivals Thompson Causeway (IL) and Indian Lake (MI) for most beautiful campground I’ve stayed in. It may be possible I’m biased because there are more deer than people at this campground, as in, I have it all to myself. There is a ton of wildlife here, and I’ve even seen ANOTHER bald eagle. I swear, I’ve never seen a bald eagle in the wild in my life and now I’ve seen …

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The Ozarks (from the French ‘aux Arcs’ short for ‘out of Arkansas’) is a hilly plateau that stretches through southern Missouri and into Arkansas. It is known for its rolling forested hills, rocky plateaus, caves and ‘hillbilly’ culture (as depicted in the show The Beverly-Hillbillies, who were supposed to have come from the Ozarks). I am staying in a campground on the Lake of the Ozarks, which is a fingery lake surrounded by hills. Fall is nearly at a close, and the leaves are shades of golden brown. Most of them are oaks. It rained for several days, cold, with large drops hitting the trailer roof over and over, making me nearly insane. After the rain, however, …

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Finally, after traveling all the way through southern Iowa and into Missouri, I have found warmer weather! I’ve not traveled much in the middle of the country. There are probably many things to see, but none of them are obvious. I am trying a few things out to see where they take me.  In this story, I headed for what I thought might be exciting campgrounds. My first was Geode State Park in Iowa. This is a misleading name. There were no geodes (as in the rocks with pretty crystals in them) from what I could tell. I looked. There was a very pretty man-made lake and many long trails, which Monty and Niko and I took …

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