One of my favorite place to go when I just want to drive is Jemez. Part of it is proximity…I can be in the trees in less than an hour from home. But the main reason is that it is beautiful-in a variety of ways-from red sandstone cliffs to tall pines.
Yesterday, feeling kind of sick and tired, I decided to take a trip. When I got to Hwy 550, there was an accident to the right, so I turned left and headed to Jemez.
The first building on the right once you turn onto Hwy 4 is the San Ysidro Catholic Church.
From there, you head up the hill to Jemez Pueblo.
Jemez Pueblo is one of 19 remaining pueblo cultures in New Mexico. The Jemez people settled the are in the 13th century and by 1541, when the Spanish came, there were close to 30,000 inhabitants. In 1598, under the direction of Fr. Alonzo de Lugo, the first Spanish church was built at Jemez, near the modern day location of the Jemez State Monument in Jemez Springs. Today, most Jemez people live in the town of Walatowa off Hwy 4. Jemez is known for their arts and crafts, especially pottery.
The red sandstone cliiffs are across from the pueblo and often bustle with tourists who stop to buy baked goods from one of the stands.
Just north of Jemez is the cut-off for Hwy 485. This highway winds up through the mountains on a road that starts off as a 2 lanes but ends up and a very narrow one lane. It goes through farms and rocks before reaching Gilman Tunnels and National Forest land.
The Gilman Tunnels were built as part of a rail line that was used to bring out timber from the Jemez Mountains to the railhead in Bernalillo. In 1924, after a lot of legal wrangling, the rail line was built. When they got to the end of the Guadalupe Box Canyon, engineers decided to blast through the rock walls,creating two tunnels. When they were finished the 5/8ths mile stretch through the tunnels cost more than half of the cost of the line.
Several disasters:engine explosions, the Stock Market Crash, and the movement of the logging camp spelled the end of the line for the rail line. In the late 40s, the railbed was converted to road bed to accommodate logging trucks. Eventually, when the logging in Jemez stopped, the roadway was set up for car traffic.
The Gilman Tunnels have been used as a backdrop for western movies, such as 3:10 to Yuma and The Lone Ranger in recent years.
Heading back to Hwy 4, I decided to go ahead and drive to Fenton Lake…which is one my absolute favorite camping spots.So I took my new Jeep up its first mountain and onto dirt roads:)
There were a few people enjoying the beauty. The lake was frozen over. You could see burned trees up on the hillside showing just how close last year’s Thompson Ridge fire came to the campground.
My favorite Fenton Lake story is from the very first camping trip I ever took up there. It was April, we were tent camping, and it was COLD! My son and one of his friends had their toy guns and were patrolling the river. In and out of the water until they got cold. Then they came back to camp and changed into dry clothes. And went back into the river. When they came back, there were no dry clothes to change into, so we bundled them up in blankets around the campfire. Crazy boys were back in the water before breakfast the next morning!
My final stop on the way back home was in Jemez Springs. They run a bathhouse and gift shop. I stopped and looked at the gift shop briefly and then walked down to the river.
Beautiful trip. I came home refreshed and relaxed.