Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Magical Trip Through an Enchanted Land

Two weeks ago, my friend and critique partner, Joycelyn (hereinafter known as “J”), and I drove out of Albuquerque on Interstate-25 for a trip through New Mexico’s Jemez Mountain country. We had three goals: to take in the beautiful, vivid autumn mountain foliage, to spend some time at a picturesque picnic and hiking area J knew north of Jemez Springs, and to visit the most beautiful place on earth—the magnificent Valles Caldera south of Los Alamos.

Sandia Pueblo Flag
Less than fifteen miles north of home, we passed Sandia Pueblo, a fourteenth century Tiwa Indian village, which still bustles today. Its traditional name, Na-Fiat, meant the “Place Where the Wind Blows,” although today, the natives referred to it as the “Green Reed Place.” This was a reference to the two hundred-mile grove of cottonwoods lining the banks of the Rio Grande known as the Bosque, which ran through part of the reservation. 

A few miles up the road, we forsook I-25 to drive through Bernalillo, a town formally established by Don Diego de Vargas in 1695, although it was a center of Spanish and Pueblo trading long before this date. This was the village from whence the intrepid souls set out to found Villa de Alburquerque (see my post of August 9, 2012 to learn how we lost the second “R” in Albuquerque). 

Upon departing the town via US Route 550, we crossed onto the Santa Ana Pueblo (traditional name: Tamaya). There were the three distinct villages on the reservation, and most families, I am given to understand, maintained two homes…the second of which was in the Old Pueblo some eight miles northwest of Bernalillo, a place mainly used for traditional ceremonies and rituals. 

From there, I turned my 2002 Buick LeSabre up 550 toward our destination. I should explain at this point that my late wife, Betty, and I had a cabin in Los Pinos Canyon deep in the Jemez Mountains, so I had driven this route weekly (except in the winter months) for a number of years. During the summers, Betty and my sons, Clai and Grant, often remained at the isolated cabin weeks at a time while I drove back and forth on weekends. There was (and is) a Blake’s Lottaburger just outside of Bernalillo where we stopped both coming and going because they had the best hamburgers in the state. I must admit, I felt my Betty riding along with J and me on this Sunday excursion. I remembered so many things we had done and places we had explored when my two sons were small and there was no hint of illness or death on the horizon.  

Zia Flag with famous Sun Symbol
A few miles up the highway, we passed Zia Pueblo (Tsi’ ja in Keres), often known as the invisible pueblo. The village actually sat in plain view on a knoll to the right of the road, but it blended in so well with the environment it was difficult to see. But once you spotted the church, the rest of the village began to take shape. Its inhabitants are known for their fine jewelry making. The village may be hard to spot, but its Sun symbol is everywhere you look in the State of New Mexico. We took this traditional Zia symbol as its official symbol. It is everywhere from our state flag to our road signs. 

A church in San Ysidro
We passed a small white mountain which was mined for high-grade gypsum for a number of years. The ore was hauled to an Albuquerque wallboard manufacturer. There the road took a long curve to the north, and crossed a bridge over a dry Rio Salado before entering San Ysidro. This old Spanish village was established in 1699 as a farming community by one Juan Trujillo, who named it after Saint Isadore the Farmer…or San Ysidro. The village sat at the southern end of the Jemez Valley at the junction of US Route 550 and New Mexico Road 4. The latter was the gateway to the Jemez Mountains and our stated goals. 

That’s a lot of history, folks, and we haven’t yet achieved any of our three stated goals. 

Next Week: Entering the Jemez Valley

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Don. That was one beautiful, relaxing, and educational road trip. (Like 3 trips in one.)


Blog Archive