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I am FINALLY out of the mountains. Hello, Nevada! I knew I was past the hard part when I exited the HUGE Virgin River Gorge outside St. George, Utah to be greeted by the town of Mesquite, which has a desolate and lovely view, yet can still grow palm trees I visited Valley of Fire State Park, which borders Lake Mead. It gets its name from the bright red sandstone rocks that are pitted and shaped by the strong wind. You can see three sets of mountains from the vista (usually) though today snow was happening. For once, I didn’t have to avoid it, and it avoided me. The park gets only 4 inches of precipitation annually. …

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Zion, UT

We woke up to MORE SNOW. Even though I’m sure that it was gorgeous, I’m pretty glad that we drove the road down into the canyon at night before it iced over. I took one look at it in the morning and I knew that there was no way I’d be able to go back that way. At least the wind had died down a bit and the sun had come out, so Monty and Niko and I hit the Pa’rus trail. It is the only trail in the park where dogs are allowed, and it snakes along the bottom of the canyon along the beautiful Virgin River. We took many pictures of snow covered canyon walls …

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I took the northern route out of Piedra Lumbre west, past Pedernal, towards Farmington and the Continental Divide. On the map, it looks like a flat plain. In a way, this is true. Going into the drive, I thought I would come out of mountainous territory and slope downward towards a place that resembled Texas. It was not like Texas. (Also, I had to take quick snap pictures as I went, because I was trying to avoid an impending snow storm. His name was apparently Cleon. Who names these things? If you click on the first photo, a slideshow of the drive between Piedra Lumbre and Page, Arizona will appear. It will be like you’re actually driving …

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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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So, guys, this is the primary reason that I haven’t posted for a couple weeks: I was too busy sitting in hot springs. Yeah, I know, tragic. Ojo Caliente (hot eyes) is a tiny, tiny town north of Santa Fe and south of Taos. The Ojo Caliente Mineral Spa is at the foot of some beautiful hills and hiking trails. And there is an RV park at the spa, maybe 200 yards from the springs. Need I say more? Confession time: I have been to the springs before, but never stayed longer than a day or two. The hotel is a little pricey, maybe not for west-coaster’s, but it’s more than 100 bucks a night. The campground …

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Happy Thanksgiving to me, we had snow. More snow than I thought we’d have certainly, almost two or three inches. It’s a good thing I bought those boots in Santa Fe, or I’d had pretty cold toes. After the initial shock, however, I found I liked the desert just as much in the snow as in the summer. The air is crisp, but not wet, and the mountains look glorious with their white caps on.

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