Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jemez Mountains

After our Puye Cliff excursion we decided to explore a different way home via Los Alamos so we could stop in at the Nuclear Museum there. The Bradbury Museum is always free. Most museums in New Mexico are free on Sundays to residents but this one is always free for everyone! Primarily the museum is about the development of the nuclear bombs "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" - the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although a lot of the research oriented exhibits and displays were a bit beyond me I enjoyed finding out about the history of how Los Alamos became the secret spot for the development of nuclear implosion-type weapons. There was a film about how the site was selected, who was recruited and why, how the land was purchased and the secret lives the residents lived... as nameless numbers... that all were born, worked, and lived at the same postal address! There were a lot of newspaper articles and documents about World War II that added more context to the exhibits - there were timelines and information about how nuclear weapons work alongside the replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man. Current research and develop and interactive exhibits were plentiful and you could spend hours here. We spent an hour or so before heading through the Jemez Mountains home.

It was mid-afternoon and the sun was pretty high up. As we headed into the mountains we had no idea what was to come! Everything was very green and the light was amazing. There were trails everywhere and streams and picnic/camping areas. There are many areas to explore. We drove through the mountains on good roads for an hour maybe and suddenly it all opened up with canyons on the right and stratified mesas on the left.

We stopped to take in the sweeping view and thought we had seen the highlight of the drive. Next we came across Valles Caldera which is a 13.7 mile wide volcanic caldera and National Preserve. We didn't have time to stop and this 89,000 acre National Park needs its own weekend, or multiple trips to see. There are elk herds and views everywhere and guided or non-guided hikes. Mountain trails, horse trails, wildlife trails, snowshoeing and skiiing and sleigh rides.... The visitor center is supposedly sitting on a prairie dog homeland. They are working to expand the 80 miles of trails accessible and even have a back country van shuttle so you can go further into the outer trails. It has hot springs and fumaroles. The park is 14 years old and still being developed. There are fees for different activities but I believe that they will be well worth the price! If we can get a car up there when there is snow I can imagine snowshoeing there would be awesome with lots of wildlife! It is surrounded by National Forest, Bandelier and the Jemez Recreation Area all of which need exploring!

After this surprise we continued on. We saw a lot of forest and trails that need exploring. As we were getting closer to home we rounded a corner and all of a suddent everything was a deep red and pink with layers and layers of pastel rock completely different than anything we had seen prior...and this was in the afternoon when the rock was in shadow. I definitely need to go back with morning sun hitting the rocks just to see it. Then I need to learn to use the camera better so I can capture some of the magic. I have never seen anything like it. The rock is completely different than what is behind our house and it is only 45 minutes or so away. Amazing is all I can say ...what a day! It truly is the Land of Enchantment here and I am drawn in by the fabulous textures, colors, and light found in this place! You would think coming home would be disappointing...but nope...another nice sunset just like every other night!



Mike said...

It's "Fat Man" and "Little Boy". Sorry, I'm just feeling picky.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Thanks Mke - corrections and clarifications are welcome! K