Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Great Western Adventure-First 5 days

The Great American Road Trip is a cultural icon that draws many people's attention. It certainly drew mine, and I began planning my own take on a tour of the country about a year ago. A couple of days ago, my sister, my two cousins, and myself left Alabama with a tentative plan to meet my father at the Albuquerque airport. The first day we drove to Birmingham and stopped at my niece Lydia's birthday party. My brother in law, Clarence, generously gave us his vehicle-mounted fridge while we were there. We left from there and drove for many hours to arrive after dark in the Ouchita National Forest in Arkansas where we camped for the night. 

We drove from there to the north for a short distance to the highest point in Arkansas, Mount Magazine. 

We camped at the State Park's campground, which was very nice. I did not take any pictures of it. 

The next day we went west, towards Oklahoma. We drove through the seemingly endless eastern forest, which suddenly ended after we drove through Oklahoma City. West of there it became grassland and farms. At the end of the day, we arrived at Black Kettle National Grassland where we camped that night. 

There was a lake there that we swam in, and some hiking trails that we walked on. 



The next day, we set our sights on southern Colorado. We set out west across the flats of northern Texas. It was interesting, as it was very different from home. The vastness and flatness was also somewhat unsettling.


We eventually made it to New Mexico, where the land slowly became less maddeningly flat. 



It wasn't long before we saw the snow-capped Rockies in the distance. The Colorado line wasn't far ahead. 



Colorado quickly turned into a stunningly beautiful place. 


As we neared our planned campsite in the Rio Grande National Forest, the views became indescribable. The pictures cannot do it justice. They can't capture the clean feel of the air, the Christmas-like smell of the fir trees, the crisp breeze feeling cold even though it was June. It was spectacular, and I am lucky to have experienced it. 




We then drove further up the mountain, to about 10,000 feet above sea level where the campground was located in a meadowed valley between several large peaks. 

We met the campground host, who was very nice. We walked down to an overlook in the middle of the campground, where a waterfall had carved a canyon into the earth. 



 Soon after we returned, it began to rain. Luckily we had a large tarp which we tied between the cars and made a nice dry area for us. The wind and rain at that altitude was something to witness, but it soon passed and we went to bed. 


The next morning I crawled out of my tent, knocking ice off the fly, and witnessed the cold mountain morning. With clear skies, that valley was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Again, pictures just can't get it. 





We reluctantly packed up camp, as we had to go pick Dad up in Albuquerque that afternoon. However, we had extra time so we drove around the area to see more of the sights. Near the campground, which was called Trujillo Meadows, there was a reservoir that looked like something out of the Alps. 

We then drove down into a nearby valley, where there was a small village. The people there were nice, and the views were amazing. 

The area was home to free range cattle, and cowboys who still herd them on horseback. 


At around noon, we turned back, went back over the pass past our campsite, and headed down towards New Mexico and Albuquerque. 


The land quickly became more arid as we descended from the mountains. 

We stopped and ate at the Boxcar Diner in Chama, New Mexico at the base of the pass, which was very good. From there we went south, and watched the landscape change drastically, as well as heat up drastically. Photo credits to Johnathan for most of these driving shots.

Ft. Cowboy Johnathan 

The architecture is very much what one may stereotype New Mexican architecture to look like. 


The rivers we passed were almost all dry. The air was also very dry, and us Alabama folk had some issues adjusting to it. It felt as though we were being mummified by the air. 

We eventually made it into Albuquerque, where the air was incredibly hot and the traffic was crazy. We found the airport on time regardless, and picked up Dad who bought us dinner and a hotel room. We took showers and I was able to type and post all of this, Tomorrow we are going to head northwest to Monument Valley, if things continue to go as well as they have been. This has so far been an epic adventure, and worth the trip already. Hopefully this is just the beginning, and there will be more stories to come. 

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