Sedona Take Two

Hey Guys!! From Santa Fe we headed to the Sedona, AZ area where we were supposed to spend two glorious weeks hiking, hiking, and hiking some more. It didn’t quite work out that way…well, I’ll explain all of that later.

Excuse the poor quality of this picture. Between the dirty windshield and the sun right in my face…this is as good as I could get from my phone. So! When you go to Sedona from the north you have to make your way down from the Colorado Plateu that norhtern Arizona sits on. This makes for a hair raising…sometimes white knuckled, puckery trip as you make your way down 18 full miles of lots and lots of down. It’s not a steep grade. I don’t think it ever goes above 7%…it’s just that it’s 18 miles of it and you have to watch out that you don’t burn up your breaks before you get down to the bottom.

Fortunately for those whose breaks don’t hold up, the builders of this road put in several runaway truck ramps along with just as many pull-offs so over heated breaks can cool off before continuing on. You have to be smart when driving a big rig down this portion of the highway and if it’s your first time, I would suggest you do it during the daylight hours.

Don’t worry though, we made it to our RV park and into our spot with no troubles! One of our favorite things about our life is all the people we get to meet. We met a couple from Montana (one of our neighbors) who quickly became friends.  It’s always fun to meet back up with friends we make in our travels.

We spent most of Sunday going to Jerome. Jerome has some amazing views from it’s perch on the side of Cleopatra Hill where it overlooks the Verde Valley. Originally a copper mining town, Jerome has faced some pretty big disasters and today is said to be very haunted with a local myth about lost gold in the nearby Sycamore Canyon.

There are still remnants of Jerome’s colorful past scattered throughout town. Apparently, it was a really rough and dangerous place to live at one time.

We went for the views…

and the burgers. The first time we were in the Sedona area we drove up to Jerome in hopes of eating at The Haunted Hamburger, but we couldn’t find a single to park. Anywhere! So, we turned around and headed on. This time, we got there earlier and found a spot not too far from our destination. We weren’t overly impressed with the burgers here. They were just kind of ok for us and the prices…we don’t mind paying for a good meal, but if I’m paying $15 for a burger…it had better be one of the best burgers I’ve ever had in my life! The view from our table was awesome! And…according to their story, the place really is haunted!

The boys have been talking about Bell Rock since we were there back in 2015. It’s a fun place to do some rock scrambling and see how far up you can make it.

Personally, I like to go up part way then find a spot to sit and just take in the view.

One of the reasons we have the two vehicle we have is so we can venture down roads like the one in the picture above. We really loved the Devil’s Bridge hike the first time we were in the area and decided to tackle it again. The hardest part about this hike is getting to the official trail head. For those that don’t have the right kind of vehicle, there’s a parking lot you can park in and add about 2 miles to your hike.

The trail isn’t one of those smooth, flat, well maintained trails…it’s very much a wilderness type of trail where you have to watch where you’re walking.

There’s quite a bit of up with this trail, but none of it is terribly hard. There are a few places that can be a challenge for people with short legs.

Devil’s Bridge is a great TAB (there and back) trail that ends up being around a mile and a half if you can drive to the official trail head. It’s a popular trail so be prepared to share the trail and take turns at the bridge for pictures.

The only other trail we had time for was the West Fork Oak Creek Trail. This is another TAB trail and runs about 4 miles one way. Oh, and you cross Oak Creek 13 times…one way…so that makes 26 chances to fall into the creek.

At the beginning of the trail you can explore a few old structures left over from a days gone by when there was a small log cabin back int the 1860s which later became Mayhew Lodge in the 1920s.

All four of the boys had to smell the ponderosa trees. A ponderosa is a type of pine tree and if you’ve never stopped to smell one…well, you’re missing out. We’ve smell vanilla, butterscotch, toasted marshmallow…it mainly depends on the age of the tree. Try it next time you see one!

The morning we hiked the West Fork trail it was a chilly 30° and the creek was mostly frozen over so we had to plan out our creek crossings.

The ice made the rocks especially treacherous and we took our time at each crossing.

For the most part, this trail was super easy! The only challenge to this trail were the creek crossings…and I’ll be honest, even those weren’t bad.

West Fork Oak Creek Trail ended up being one of our favorite trails in the area. We’ve already talked about going back during warmer weather to hike it again. And if you’re wondering, only a couple of us fell in a few times…you’re going to have to guess who it was though. I’m not telling.

Let’s talk foodies! We found Hog Wild BBQ during our 2015 trip to the area. Places like this is why it’s so hard to pay the high price for an ok burger. This was an awesome burger for half the price.

Juanita’s Taqueria was a recommendation from someone who worked in the RV park. This place has the best shredded beef tacos we’ve ever had. We had plans to eat there again before we left the area, but a monkey wrench was thrown into our plans.

We started having engine troubles when we left Amarillo. We’d had our home-on-wheels to two different Ford dealerships and none of the techs could tell us really what was wrong, only that they weren’t big enough to work on an RV and to check with a different dealership. While we were in Sedona we ended up at a dealership in Cottonwood which led us to contacting a dealership in Phoenix. The dealership in Phoenix told us they were pretty busy and that it would be a week before we could get in…which was cool because we had about a week left in the Sedona area before heading to the Phoenix area for our next stop.

Ready for the monkey wrench? The Phoenix dealership ended up calling us on Tuesday telling us if we could get our RV there that day they could get us in. Now, I should mention here that we’d been hearing horror stories of how long it can take to get stuff done at these dealerships so we jumped at the chance to get our process going. We left the Sedona area (without a refund for the week we’d already paid for at the RV park) and headed to Phoenix. Guys, when we got there…the techs spent 20 minutes (maybe) guessing and then told us they couldn’t get us in until after the first of the year. That would be two weeks from then. So…we were stuck in southern Arizona during the winter snowbird rush without reservations.

I hate to leave you with a cliffhanger, but you’ll have to wait until the next post to see what happens since we’re into the Phoenix area post now.

I’ll leave you with this video of our Sedona adventures!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Arizona, Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, Hiking | Leave a comment

New Mexico Foodies

Hey Guys! I know what you’re thinking…a whole post just for foodies? But, y’all know we love our foodies! Our explorations are just as much about the foodies as they are the views, National & State Parks, and the hiking. Every new area has it’s specialty…certain things that you can only get there or that were started there.

For New Mexico, there are several foodies that you’ll want to seek out while visiting! New Mexican foodies aren’t really Mex, but they aren’t quite Tex either. They’re this happy little medium that usually looks like a plate of goop…but tastes very much like magic! There are six foodies that most people will agree are the quintessential New Mexican foodies so let’s go though those first.

Before we jump into the foodies…let’s get one thing out of the way. In New Mexico…chiles reign supreme. In the grocery stores you’ll find them in these handy little tubs that are good for one meal. You can get them hot, medium, or mild. Fire roasted or not. Chopped, diced, or pureed. You definitely have options.

My favorite (and the most cost effective) way is to get big 5 lb. bags of frozen chopped chiles then divvy them up into smaller one pound bags that I can pull from the freezer and throw into anything.

The most important question you’ll be asked in a New Mexican restaurant is if you want red or green. Until you’ve found your favorite, I’d suggest Christmas style. Half red and half green!

On to the Foodies! I’ll start with the Green Chile Cheeseburger. You can easily find these all over New Mexico, but not all burgers are created equal. Any green chile cheeseburger we’ve had comes with a mound of green chiles and is covered in a white cheese. The easiest place to find them would be at a Blake’s Lotaburger. Blake’s is a total fastfood place. Think Dairy Queen with a New Mexican twist. And while Blake’s isn’t our favorite, it’s where the locals go for a quick burger. After two tours through New Mexico we’ve found two places that we feel have the best all around green chile cheeseburger. We found Rockin BZ Burgers in Alamogordo our first time through NM and dreamed about them for two years before we could get back there. Rockin BZ still number one for us, but a close (and we mean a very close) second is Church Street Grill in Carlsbad. With these two places you’ll get the whole package. The chiles are hot, but not melt-your-face-off, the meat is good quality, the cheese has a nice mild flavor, and the buns hold up nicely. And then you’ve got a decent selection of really good sides.

Green Chile Stew is a New Mexican staple food. Every restaurant will have their own little twist on this dish, but they don’t usually stray too far from the simple dish of green chilies, pork, garlic, onions, and potatoes in a broth. It’s one of our favorite things to make at home so we don’t usually order it out. We’re kind of partial to our own recipe after two years of tweaking and getting it just right for our taste buds. I should say though…anytime we’ve ordered it out, the green chile stew is loaded with flavor and the meat is so tender it falls apart in your mouth!

Sopapillas are fried pockets of light airy dough! In New Mexico they’re served with the meal. You can eat them the way you’d eat a roll or

save them for the end of the meal and have them with honey. Actually, if you get into some big time heat with your meal, this is a great way to help cut the heat.

One of my favorite ways to get a sopaipilla is stuffed. It’s hard to see under that pile of cheese and chile sauce, but there’s a great big sopapilla on that plate stuffed with pork and green chilies, and more cheese. We’ve had some really good stuffed sopapillas! The Sopapilla Factory in Santa Fe and Sadie’s of New Mexico in Albuquerque are two of our favorites!

Breakfast Burritos are a staple in New Mexico. Pretty much every restaurant that sells breakfast has a breakfast burrito on the menu and we’ve never had one we didn’t like. The biggest decision you’ll have to make is if you want it dry or covered. Covered comes with the chile sauce of your choice (red or green) and cheese. Dry is…well, just like it sounds…more of a pick-it-up type of burrito. It’s rumored that the breakfast burrito started at a restaurant called Tia Sophias in Santa Fe back in the 70s. We’ve never had one there, but we have had lunch there and we highly recommend it for an authentic New Mexican meal!

Stacked Enchiladas are exactly what they sound like! Instead of rolled individually, the enchiladas are stacked on top of each other…kind of like an enchilada casserole. I was reluctant to try these. To me enchiladas are rolled up, sitting side by side, little tubes of awesome. But, I wanted the full New Mexican Foodie experience…so I broke down and tried them. And then I ordered them every chance I got. Yup, I’m a fan. My two favorite places to get this magical enchilada casserole-esque dish is at Casa De Suenos in Tularosa and at  Rancho De Chimayo in Chimayo. In forty-three states, I’ve only seen stacked enchiladas in New Mexico. Maybe I missed them somewhere? I don’t know, but I highly recommend giving them a chance!

Navajo Tacos are probably my favorite New Mexican foodie. I know, I know..it’s just a taco…but, y’all, it’s soooo much more than just a taco! First of all, it’s made on Navajo Indian fry bread. It’s the fry bread that totally makes this taco so amazing. Indian fry bread is similar to the sopapilla in that it’s a light airy bread, but that’s really where the similarity ends. Indian fry tends to have more of a chew and the outside is crisper! It really is perfection! There are variations to this, but usually you’ll find a Navajo Taco with ground beef, beans, green chile sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. My absolute favorite is from Twisters in Albuquerque, but the Sopapilla Factory in Santa Fe is a very close second!

So, those are your six main New Mexican Foodies, but they’re definitely not the only New Mexican Foodies!

They’re called rolled tacos…but they’re basically taquitos. A corn tortilla stuffed with a meat and then rolled and deep fried! Usually served with something to dip them in. This New Mexican Foodie is Littlest’s favorite.

Sometimes you’ll find something special on the menu. It’s a burger, wrapped in a flour tortilla, and then deep fried. It’s the ultimate New Mexican hamburger! We’ve seen them dry (where you pick them up) and covered (fork and knife type of meal). You can’t go wrong either way!

In the more authentic restaurants, you’ll find your meal comes with a side of posole. You can see it in the picture above…it’s the white stuff. So, what the heck is posole? Well, posole is a traditional New Mexican stew made of hominy, pork, and spices. It’s usually very savory and filling.  Any posole I’ve had has a bit of a kick to it and the hominy still has just the tiniest bit of chew left. It’s surprisingly good (I’m not usually a fan of hominy)!

If you’re in New Mexico…you have to try some biscochito cookies! They’re kind of cross between a shortbread cookie and a butter cookie spiced with cinnamon and anise.  They’re crispy and sweet and they are a really good way to help cut the heat of some of the food when you’re done with your spicy meal! And, if you need another excuse to try them…biscochitos are the New Mexican state cookie!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the spices and tortillarias in a post about New Mexican Foodies! There is a brand of spices called Chimayo Traditions that I absolutely love! They’ve got some great mixes with recipes on the back like the one in the pic above, but they’ve also got my favorite chile powder! I stock up and horde it to make it stretch out. If you’ve found this brand somewhere besides New Mexico…please tell me where! We can eat ourselves silly on fresh tortillas and chips from the tortillarias! We always take the opportunity to have some with our favorite home cooked meals!

OK, Guys…that’s all I’ve got for you on New Mexican Foodies! Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to take a trip to New Mexico or try your hand at making something new at home. Get out there and try some new foodies!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, Keeping It Real, New Mexico | Leave a comment

Santa Fe Area

Hey Guys! We spent one week in the Santa Fe area trying to hit everything we missed last time and revisit a few of our favorites.

The first thing we did was hit one of our very favorite pizza places. Back Road Pizza. We’ve been talking about this pizza since we discovered it two years ago! The New Mexican pizza is probably our all time fave.

We also managed to hit three National Park Units! It’s amazing how many NPS Units are in this area!

The Pecos National Historical Park preserves two Pecos Pueblo ruins along with old church ruins. Most of the pueblo ruins looked like the pic above. Not much was left. Around 2/3 of the South Pueblo ruins remain in an unexcavated mound.

I wanted to include a picture of this sign to give y’all an idea of what one of these pueblos used to look like. Pecos, at its peak, was a trading place for the Plains Apaches and would have been home to around 2,000 people.

We saw several Kivas. I think I saw that there are 20 kivas at the Pecos Pueblo. You can see the remains of one in the pic above.

During the fall of 1540, the Pecos’ lives would be changed forever when a Spanish expedition claimed the land for their king and demanded the Pecos become Christians. The first mission built was finished in 1625. It’s estimated that the builders used around 300,000 forty-pound adobe bricks to complete the 1625 mission. This first mission functioned for 55 years but burned during a rebellion in 1680. The Pecos people tied knots in ropes and handed them out to everyone. Each day they would untie one knot. When the last knot was untied, the rebellion started. The second mission was finished in 1717. By 1821 Pecos was almost a ghost town and in 1838 the last inhabitants left the pueblo to join their relatives at the Jemez Pueblo 80 miles away.

Fort Union National Monument protects what’s left of the three forts once built here.

When the US acquired the New Mexico Territory at the end of the Mexican-American War, Fort Union was built to guard and aid in the American expansion into the Southwest.

Fort Union was positioned where the Santa Fe Trail’s two main branches met. Some years over 3,000 wagons made a trip up or down the Santa Fe Trail’s 900 miles. For many, Fort Union was the end of a long 800 mile journey through the Great Plains under constant threat of attack. At Fort Union there was someone on watch at all hours for incoming riders/wagon trains on the trail. When riders or wagon trains were spotted Fort riders were sent out to get everything organized and in single file line by the time they reached the Fort. So, what was a trial that would allow up to four wagons to ride side by side ended up being a single file trail closer to Fort Union. Can you imagine having that job? Telling riders at the end of an 800 mile wagon ride that they need to slow down and get in single file line?

Fort Union protected the Santa Fe trail and it’s travelers, aided in protecting against Native American attacks, and was a major supplier for the US Army.

There were three forts built here from 1851-1891 each fort getting bigger and stronger than the one before it.  What once was the largest fort west of the Mississippi River is falling to ruins today. The NPS isn’t allowed to do anything but try to preserve what’s left. They’re trying their hardest to preserve this part of our history.

The grass has grown up over the trail. If there wasn’t a sign, you’d never know you were looking at one of the most important trials in US history. Can you imagine setting off on a 900 mile wagon journey across the Great Plains? Wagons could only cross in the summer or early fall when there was enough grass to feed the mules and oxen that pulled the wagons and they would only make around 8 to 10 miles a day. I’m not sure I’m cut out for that kind of travel. I feel like we’re crawling when we’re going 55 down the highway in our home-on-wheels!

The last NPS Unit we made it to in our week in the Santa Fe area was the Valles Caldera National Perserve. Valle Grande, in the picture above, was formed around one million years ago when a series of huge volcanic eruptions spewed a volume of material 500 times greater than the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. There’s a visitor center here and some trails, but we didn’t’ get to do much because it was cold and icy the day we went. I’d love to come back here during the spring when it’s all green!

Valles Caldera looks like a big bear paw on a map. Can you see it? We heard some of the Natives in the area call it that.

This area is gorgeous even with the forest healing from a big fire a few years back.

One of the neat things about this NPS Unit is due to all of the volcanic activity. There are tons of obsidian laying around! What you might not know (we didn’t) is that when obsidian reaches a certain temperature it turns into poofy obsidian. A what obsidian? Poofy. In the picture above, you can see a normal shiny, black piece of obsidian. Next to it is the poofy obsidian. Poofy obsidian is soooo light and airy! It was pretty neat to see and feel the difference. If you step on it, it poofs. If you hold it too tight, it poofs. Due to the large fire there are tons of poofy obsidian in the park now. If you visit this park, please don’t poof their obsidian.

We also stopped back by Bandelier National Monument to revisit it in hopes of seeing it without snow, but the main trail was closed due to maintenance…so, we hopped back in the car and drove on. The views in this area are pretty stellar!

New Mexico is one of our favorite states. The views, the hikes, the NPS Units, the foodies, and the vibe all speak to us.

I imagine we will come back to New Mexico again and again through out the years!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, National Park, New Mexico, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

World of Zoo Alameda Zoo Park

To my fellow animal lovers I bring to you a post from Alamogordo, NM.

In New Mexico you can find the oldest zoo in the southwestern United States. Alameda Zoo is a real nice little zoo where the animals are happy.

They have nice kangaroos. A big enclosure for them where they can run and jump all they want… just as long as they don’t get out! Kangaroos can jump at least three times there height, that’s a LOT higher than I can jump!

The mule deer were pretty happy too! Some of the zoo keepers drove by and the mule deer started begging for food! They know who feeds them! Mule deer antlers can grow up to a 1/4 of an inch a day. That’s pretty fast.


They have a Mexican grey wolf which just looks amazing!! This lone wolf is endangered. When their habitat is seen on a map, you can cover it with your pinky!

The antelope shared an enclosure with the peacocks. Did you know that antelopes are the second fastest land mammal?


We couldn’t get a very good pic of the emu, but one of them loved us. It kept following us around and yelled out when we left. I wanted to keep him but… he wouldn’t fit in the RV.

The coyote kept his distance. I think it was sleepy but who knows?

The porcupines were foraging for food, I do not want to fall onto one of those. That would be pretty painful!

In the monkey area there was a baby monkey who followed us around. Luckily we didn’t get poop thrown at us! These are the same kind of monkey that’s on the movie Night At The Museum.

In the bird house there was this beautiful bird! No idea what bird it is but just look at it! It looks kind of like a samurai bird to me.

It walked up and all the quail ran away.

There were all kinds of birds in that bird house!

Some pretty ducks! This one looks pretty sleepy.

The ocelot wasn’t too happy. It looks like it was in an accident or something because it’s tail is smashed. A lot of the animals here are rescued.

The mountain lions were snoozing. Reminded me of our cats! They were having there siesta, but they kept a close eye on where everyone was. You could actually walk under their habitat!

There are a few bald eagles, they were being all majestic.

A very sleepy owl.

These are some nice looking hawks to! They posed for us.

There’s a cute capybara. Did you know that capybara can hold their breath for five minuets! That’s at least four and a half longer than I can hold my breath. We hadn’t seen a capybara in a zoo before so this was a first for us.

The tortoise was staying nice and warm under its light. It was pretty cold out that day. This guy was HUGE!!

The lemur was being very active. Running up and down the branches. I don’t think he wanted his picture taken. I had to sneak up on him to get this shot!

 

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beast soon happens to the man.”  I liked this quote from Cheif Seattle a lot so I decided to share it with you.

I’m giving the Alameda Zoo a 5 star review based on the happy and healthy animals we saw! This was just a small county park and was different from the usual zoo we go to, but I enjoyed it just as much some of the larger better funded zoos we’ve been to.

See y’all at the zoo!

Categories: grandwesternloop, New Mexico, World Of Zoo | Leave a comment

Sand, Science, and Chilies

Hey Guys! We spent one jam packed week in the Alamogordo area of New Mexico. This was our second visit to the Alamogordo area and we still didn’t get through our entire to-see list!

The first thing we did when we got back to town was grab one of our absolute favorite burgers! Rockin BZ Burgers is still as good as we remembered them to be.

The second thing we did was revisit White Sands National Monument to get

some sled time!

The Dude thought his sled was going a little slow so he waxed his sled up for some speed,

then he found the tallest dune he could find! We expected a scene out of Christmas Vacation when Clark sprays his varnish on the bottom of his sled. It wasn’t quite that fast, but he did say he could tell a difference!

We did a Ranger guided sunset stroll one evening at White Sands. I love how bright white the sand looks next to the vivid blue the sky is on a bright sunny day, but I have to admit…

I’m kind of digging how soft everything looks in the late afternoon lighting.

And Guys, check out this sunset!

 

We finally made it to the New Mexico Museum of Space History! We tried to make it last time we were in Alamogordo, but we ran out of time.

We learned about Ham, the worlds first Astrochimp who traveled into space in that little capsule you see in the picture above.

There was a whole section on Star Trek. Beam me up Scotty!!

There were some very cool exhibits! This one was a rumble pad where you felt the power of a shuttle take off.

We had way too much fun with the Whisper Dish!

We all took turns whispering and listening to each other from across the Museum park.

We found an old train trestle while we were

out exploring Cloudcroft. Check out the view we found! Can you find White Sands NP in the pic above? It’s there! Check the left side of the picture.

Oh! We found these really yummy and super huge biscochitos at a place called Rizo’s!

We never know what the grocery store is going to be like. The first time we visited Alamogordo we found Lowes and fell in love with it! We were all excited to go back to the tortilleria and grab some roasted chilies from the produce section!

We had to stock up on our faves before we left town. What’s not in the picture is the 10lbs of frozen green chilies we bought. We love green chilies!!

The only  other thing we had time for was hitting up the two pistachio farms to stock up on some tasties!

Alamogordo was one of our favorite places from our first loop back in 2015. When I added it to this loop I worried that it really wasn’t as great as we remember it to be. That burger wasn’t really that good. White Sands really wasn’t that fun. But, it was! Alamogordo is definitely one of our favorite places and after two visits…we still have new things to do there!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, National Park, New Mexico | Leave a comment

World of Zoo the Living Desert Museum and Zoo

To my fellow animal lovers, I bring you my second Zoo post, and this time it’s in Carlsbad,  NM. Now, the Living Desert Museum and Zoo was really neat since all the animals were found within the state park. I’ve been to a LOT of zoos but I have never been to one that is also a state park… how cool is that?!

I liked the views from the zoo, it was pretty neat!

They’ve got two Mexican wolves, sadly they are really rare, but they look amazing!

They’ve got various birds like the golden eagle, which was watching is very closely.

The horned owls took quite a while to find and were very neat, can you find them?

The last bird I’m going to share is a blue jay, isn’t it so pretty?!

I don’t know about y’all, but the prairie dogs were probably my favorite part, it’s hilarious to see their little tails wag when they run! It looked like they just got some food too!

The javelina decided to say hello and came right up to the fence! It’s nose was working trying to sniff out some food.

The black bear they have looked very sleepy. Not only was the bear sleepy,

but the grey fox found a patch of sun and decided to take a nap too! It looked very comfortable!

We must have come during the nap time because the porcupines was sleeping too!

Although the mountain lions were not happy with us making an appearance and kept going back where we couldn’t see them,

the bobcats however, decided to pose for us! Neat!

Walking around you could find some pretty flowers, you could also find some gypsum! We’ve been to some sand dunes made of gypsum, White Sands NP was awesome.

There is a nocturnal area where you can see some rattlesnakes, gave me the heebee jeebees.

Then you walk around the corner and BAM! Giant bat head. Kinda startled me, it’s hidden until you round the corner!

They have a plant area which when you go inside, prepare to take of your jacket because it is warm in there! That area has some plants from all over the world!

It had barrel cactus, some neat trees and pretty flowers.

The tortoise was a fair size and was on the move.

The bison were just lazin’ around like bison do.

The mule deer weren’t doing much either, but look at those antlers!

The entrance had a neat little museum with a touch table and

the coolest part of the museum, in my opinion, was the fact that it shows you what the area looked like a really, really long time ago! The area was under a sea!

Based on the variety of animals and how the animals were all happy and healthy, I give the Living Desert museum and zoo a 5 star review.

I’ll see y’all at the zoo!!

Categories: grandwesternloop, New Mexico, State Park, World Of Zoo | Leave a comment

The Top Of Texas

Hey Guys!! While we were in the Carlsbad, NM area we spent a couple of days at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.

The Guadalupe Mountains sit right on the New Mexico-Texas state line. We were so close, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore another Texas National Park Unit!

Our first day at Guadalupe Mountains NP we did two hikes and the boys completed the Junior Ranger program.

We did the Pinery Trail which is a short trail to the ruins of an old stagecoach stop from the 1800s called the Butterfield stagecoach station. This was a super easy almost one mile paved trail.

The second trail we hiked was the Devil’s Hall trail. This trail started off great with about a mile of constructed trail. We saw some really pretty fall colors on this trail!

Just when you think the Devil’s Hall trail is going to be easy peasy the constructed trail ends and dumps you out at a wash and the “trail” follows the wash for about a mile or so. This was a difficult trail due to the fact that there wasn’t really a trail. There were several times where you could tell which direction you needed to go, but there wasn’t a definite way to get there. And there were a couple of time when we weren’t really sure if we were going the right way. The wash was littered with big boulders and slippery round rocks. So…the going was slow.

One of the things we learned while doing the Junior Ranger program here is what an Alligator Juniper looks like! The bark looks like gator hide. We had fun pointing out the different trees while we were picking our way down the wash.

At the end of the wash you get to a natural staircase that they call a “hiker’s staircase”. You can see The Dude making his way up the staircase in the pic above. It was a little tricky to get up with a camera around my neck. I ended up having to hand the camera up then scale the “staircase” myself.

Once you make it to the natural staircase you’re almost there! I probably took way longer than necessary because I kept stopping to take pictures.

Devil’s Hall turned out to be a short narrow canyon. We walked down it and explored the area for a little bit before turning around to traverse the wash again.

We did another hike on Thanksgiving Day. We did the Guadalupe Peak trail which is a strenuous trail that gains a total of 3,000 feet of elevation.

I try to do my homework when it comes to trails like this. Everything I saw said that if you can make it past the first 1,000 feet or first mile and a half then you won’t have any problem finishing the hike. What they failed to mention is that after that first mile you’ve worked so hard going almost straight up that your legs are shot for the rest of the hike. So, while the rest of the hike isn’t quite as hard…it feels just as hard because your legs are jello! And, I would like to point out…the entire hike is hard. Not just that first mile. Check out the switchbacks we hiked up in the pic above.

Parts of this trail are on exposed cliffs where if you slip…you slide a loooong way down.

Now that I’ve warned you how strenuous this hike is…lets enjoy some of the views! This view was about half way up at the end of one of the many switch-backs.

I thought this bridge was so neat the way it’s right on the edge of the cliff!

Once I got across it and to the other side I got a better look at it and wowzers! It really is right on the edge of a very high cliff!!

Funny story…there was a part right toward the end of this trail where we couldn’t really tell which way we were supposed to go. The couple in front of us each went a different way. I chose to follow the girl and well…we didn’t exactly take the easy way. See those two hikers on top of that rock in the pic above? Yeah, that’s the way we took up to the top. Notice we’re on the trail on the way down. It was much easier! But wait!! I’ve left out the best part!!!

Welcome to the top of Texas, y’all!!

Not a bad place to have a Thanksgiving picnic! We were so hungry from all of our hard work that we promptly sat down on the most comfortable rock ever and ate lunch before we actually looked around at the views. You’ve got to have priorities, you know. Food is very important. 😉

We wolfed down our lunch in record time and then took in the awesome views at the highest peak in Texas! Things sure look different at 8,751 feet up. Oh, I know…there are mountains that would make this one look like a mole hill…but y’all…check out that view!

We spent a good half hour or so eating lunch and taking in the views. We wrote our names in the log book and then started the looonng hike down!

It was faster going down than up and we made it back to our car and the most comfortable seats in the world!

I did find a couple of pretties. Do you remember those little pencil trolls that used to be so popular with the wild hair that went all over the place? That’s what this one reminds me of. Troll hair.

I see this pretty quite often, but still don’t know it’s name. I love it every time I see it.

Well y’all, we made it to the top of Texas and survived the hike! I would say the Guadalupe Peak hike is rated as thehttps://youtu.be/aOw-m8Imk_Y second hardest hike we’ve done so far. The Harding Ice Field hike still holds first place.

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: grandwesternloop, Hiking, National Park, Texas | Leave a comment

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hey Guys! When I was planning the New Mexico/Texas part of our trip back in 2015 (the first time we were in NM) I skipped the Carlsbad area. I kept reading all of these sketchy reviews for the RV parks in and around the Carlsbad area. We were so bummed to pass this area by because we’d heard how amazing the Carlsbad Caverns NP is. But, without a place to park our home-on-wheels…we had to miss it.

This year as I started planning our #grandwesternloop I thought about the Carlsbad area again. There are two National Parks available in the Carslbad area and we love our National Park Units! So, I dug into the RV park search again. And again the park reviews weren’t the best. But, I felt a little better about one in Carlsbad so we took a chance and booked a spot for two weeks. We were completely prepared to move on down the road if the park ended up being totally sketchy, but it wasn’t! It was a decent park and we spent two very full weeks exploring as much as we could!

We finally made it to Carlsbad Caverns National Park! We didn’t make it during the bat flight program, but honestly…I’m ok with that.

The thought of around 400,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats flying over my head just isn’t really appealing to me. I wonder if they offer ponchos to keep the bat guano off of the people watching? The amphitheater where you can sit and watch the bat flight program is in the pic above.

Speaking of bat guano…some of the early settlers used to mine the guano to sell as natural fertilizer. I can’t imagine what that would smell like. We were there several weeks after the bats had moved on this year and we could still smell them.

I really wanted to see the natural entrance to the cave so we walked the steep, narrow trail down 750 feet to get into the cave.

I’m not a professional photographer. Far from it. I point and shoot. Seriously. So when I get into a cave with dim light…well, I take several hundred pictures of everything and just hope for the best. Fun fact: the first pictures taken in Carlsbad Cavern were taken way back in 1915 by Ray V. Davis.

There are more than 11o caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Carlsbad has one of the deepest and most ornate caves ever found.

It’s hard to believe that around 250 million years ago the whole area where Carlsbad Caverns is found was under a shallow tropical sea. Yup, you read that right…a tropical sea! It was this start along with some twists and turns from Mother Nature that made all of the rock formations you’ll find in Carlsbad Caverns possible.

It’s amazing all of this was created one drop of water at a time over thousands and thousands of years.

There are several Ranger lead tours you can take plus a self-guided tour. We opted for the self-guided tour. When it was all said and done we walked about 3 miles. The thought of having to walk nearly 800 feet back up to the surface was a little daunting…

Y’all, I was sooo glad to see an elevator! It only took a couple of minutes to get back to the surface and the visitor center! Sweet! You can also go into the cave by way of the elevator, but I really wanted to see the natural entrance.

The CCC built all of the buildings in the pic above. They’re still being used today.

You might think the only thing to do at Carlsbad Caverns National Park is explore the cave, but you’d be wrong. There are several hiking trails

and even a 9 mile scenic drive! It’s a one way loop that isn’t as bad as it looks. We were told it’s better to have a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle, but we didn’t see anything bad. I wouldn’t recommend trying a trailer or RV on this road, but a car would work alright (in my unprofessional opinion).

We found this magnificent view on the scenic drive. I think…don’t quote me on this…that this was Rattlesnake Canyon Overlook. There was a little pull off so we all got out of the car and walked down a small trail to stand there with our mouths open just gawking at the view before us. Luckily, I remembered to take a few pictures.

I did find one pretty! I love that light lavender color!

The day we went to explore Carlsbad Caverns NP it was bitterly cold and extremely windy. We did one small hiking trail up top, but that’s all we could stand. It was just too cold for us. We thoroughly enjoyed trekking through the cave and the scenic drive! We ended up spending almost the entire day here and we really could have spent more time if it hadn’t been so windy and cold.

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: grandwesternloop, Hiking, National Park, New Mexico | Leave a comment

Back In New Mexico!

We’re back in New Mexico!! We’ve been missing that New Mexico vibe every since we found it back in 2015 during our first visit to the “Land of Enchantment”.

We spent two very very full weeks in the Carlsbad, NM area and Guys…we didn’t even come close to seeing it all! I can’t cover everything we did so I’m going to stick with our three favorite adventures in this area. Littlest will cover a different one for y’all in a different post! The RV park we stayed at had this cool mural on the side of one of it’s buildings.

By chance, I found out about a very cool place in Lincoln National Forest. I’m hesitant to even tell y’all the name because it would be a shame for it to be overrun with people and ruined.  But, because I love y’all so much…I’m going to spill it. Just for y’all. Sitting Bull Falls!

The CCC was assigned to work at the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area in 1940. Most of the structures there today were built by them and they’re still standing strong.

A long long time ago a big portion of the United States was under a Permian Sea. The mountains we know as the Guadalupe Mountain Range is, in fact, an ancient barrier reef very much like the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia today. There are places where the ancient reef is exposed and you can see it. Sitting Bull Falls is one of those places!

On our hike to the top of the falls we kept marveling at all of the fossil bed we could see.

If you look closely you can actually see some of the ancient reef fossils! How cool is that? And how nerdy does it make us that we spent quite a lot of time looking at the ancient fossil beds? Don’t answer that…I don’t really want to know. We’re nerds and proud of it!

When we got to Sitting Bull Falls there was two other families there. One family was leaving, but the other family looked like they were…well, just getting started on a selfie session. They were selfie-ing fast and furious. So…we hiked to the top of the falls to kill some time and see what we could find. We found some really pretty fall colors!

We walked the path beside the stream that made the falls for awhile before heading back to the falls. When we got back that same family was still taking selfies. Seriously…how many selfies does a person need of the exact same spot?

Speaking of the falls…

There are actually three falls. You can explore all of the nooks and crannies at the base of the falls. The boys had the best time here!

We found this little pool of green algae that was flowing with the water. It would move and sway with the current. I took a video of it…hopefully the movement shows up in it. I’ll add it to the video that I’ll add to the last post for the Carlsbad area so watch for it there.

Here’s one more shot of the falls.

And…just in case y’all didn’t know…New Mexico is Cougar Country.

And…if that isn’t frightening enough…there’s all kinds of different types of rattlesnakes. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see these signs before we went on our little hike to the top of the falls.

Let’s see…oh yeah, foodies! Carlsbad was a total surprise to us! In a completely good way! I was expecting more of a wider spot in the road with some touristy shops, but it’s not that at all! We found a great little Mexican place called El Jimador,

another spot called Danny’s Place that not only had some great smoked meat but,

a pretty darn good smothered burrito!

And then there’s Church Street Grill with their Green Chili Burgers and their Texas Toothpicks (onion straws and strips of jalapenos). Guys…this place was soooo good! Too good! Like, I-need-bigger-pants-now good!

They’re not your typical pretties…

but you have to admit…they are pretty.

Well, I think I’m going to have to break the Carlsbad area into a few different posts. So stay tuned for the two National Parks we explored along with Littlest post on a zoo we visited!!

See y’all down the road!!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, Hiking, New Mexico | Leave a comment

The Grand Canyon Of Texas

Hey Guys! The whole reason we stopped in the Amarillo area was to explore the Palo Duro Canyon State Park! We spent as much time there as we could in the two weeks we had in the Amarillo area.

Palo Duro Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas and is the second largest canyon in North America.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park measures in at 27,173 acres…so, there’s plenty of space to explore.

The CCC sent seven companies of young men and military veterans to work on developing roads, a visitor center, trails, bridges and a way to get down to the canyon floor. You can see what’s left of their camp in the pic above. The CCC worked here from 1933 to 1937 and the park officially opened in 1934.

I think the structure in the pic above is called Cathedral Rock. That’s what another hiker told us. And…it does seem to fit that name. If you look closely you can see the boys standing in the mouth of the cave.

We only did a few hikes in Palo Duro State Park due to time. My favorite hike was the Lighthouse Rock hike. We started out as soon as the park opened at 8am and had the parking area and trail pretty much to ourselves. We’d driven by the trail head parking area the day before and it was packed.

The Lighthouse Rock trail is right around 6 miles round trip and takes you by some fantastic rock structures!

This was our first glimpse at Lighthouse Rock. You can just barely make it out on the right side of the pic above about mid way up.

The trail officially ends and there’s no view of the famous rock you’ve hiked all that way to see. No view. But, you can scramble up about a quarter mile of this to get to the real view. The scrambling was difficult in a few places (especially with a camera around my neck).

We scrambled and slipped and slid our way that last quarter mile, but we made it!!

For those who are adventurous enough, you can scramble up onto Lighthouse Rock! It was sooo incredibly windy!!!

But, Guys…check out the view!

It’s always hard to get a good perspective on how big things are in photos. Here’s a pic of The Dude standing near Lighthouse Rock. We had the place pretty much to ourselves. There were maybe three other people there and none of them stuck around long.

It wasn’t until we were on our way off of Lighthouse Rock that other hikers started to show up.

We didn’t see too many other hikers until we were almost back to our car. The empty parking area had filled up and people were waiting for places to park. We were home by lunch and ready to head off on another adventure!

We did find a couple of pretties!

I love these vivid purples!

Here’s a little video of all of our Amarillo area explorations!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: grandwesternloop, Hiking, State Park, Texas | Leave a comment