Itchy feet, indeed. Jim and I have trouble staying in one place
for very long. There's just so much to see and do in this wide,
wonderful land of ours!
In this entry I'll wrap up some loose ends about our week in Los
Alamos, NM, describe our trip north to Colorado Springs today,
and tell you about our plans in that area over the next week and
a half. Then it's on to another campground for another race just
west of Denver.
LOS ALAMOS SCENES
We did a lot more exploring in and around Los Alamos last year,
visiting intriguing places like Bandelier National Monument, the Tsankawi
cliff dwellings, the nearby town of White Rock, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Jemez
Springs, the Bradford Science Museum, and other historical
places in Los Alamos.
I wrote all about those adventures in the
Ashley Pond on Thursday: Jemez
Mountains (L) and farmers' market (R) in background
This year we were lazier. It was too soon to return to some of
those places. It's more exciting the first time, or at least the
first time in a long while (we'd been to Bandelier before, but
the other places were new to us). We were so lazy this past week
didn't even eat out at the local restaurants we enjoyed
We both needed more rest. We
listened to our bodies and took it easy.
That doesn't mean we sat in our camper all day, every day. We
still got plenty of exercise and found ways to
I hesitate to use the word "camping" to describe what we did in
our Cameo in Los Alamos the past week. "Parking" is more
Life was even more interesting this year at the city's RV park
on NM 502 at the
eastern edge of town than it was last year, when the large
city/county maintenance facility was being built right below us
in Pueblo Canyon.
Those buildings are completed but new ones up on the mesa next
to the RV parking area are being terraced and landscaped. It was
interesting to watch the progress as workers used heavy
equipment to move large concrete retaining blocks into place and
fill in the dirt behind it:
Instead of parking right next to the busy, noisy street like we
did last year, this time we camped farther from the road and
next to the fence overlooking the maintenance facility at the DeColores Restaurant end of the parking
That spot was great our first two days on the weekend when
hardly anyone else was using the parking area. It was also OK
Monday to Friday during the morning and
the construction work was quieter than rush hour traffic on Hwy. 502)
but it became very busy with restaurant traffic at lunch and dinner
on the weekdays.
Several other campers were in and out during the five days we
I numbered them 1-5 in the photo above. We're #3.
This really is an RV camping area but you wouldn't guess
that from these pictures. Restaurant patrons are forced to
park there, too.
For some reason, the restaurant has only about six parking
spaces (same thing last year, and there wasn't adjacent
construction then.) Employees park across the busy highway. Patrons who
value their lives use the
RV parking area so they don't have to cross the road.
We were amazed how many vehicles wedged themselves into that
parking area! We don't remember the restaurant being near that
busy last year. On the cloudy day I took these photos, over thirty cars and trucks found places to park there.
I imagine some were mumbling about all the campers in their way!
Fortunately, no one bothered us or blocked us in when we wanted
to leave in our truck (background right in photo above).
Here's a picture my brother will like.
One day a handsome motorcycle parked between us and the trash
behind our camper. We noticed its license tag right away, as did
several restaurant patrons who stopped to admire the bike and
comment on the tag, which reads "A BOMB."
How's that for a double entendre in the city where the atomic
bomb was developed?? I don't know if the owner works at the
National Lab and/or thinks his bike is "da bomb."
We were more than happy Friday morning to move one mesa north to
the parking area near the Posse Shack for the Jemez races. I don't now if it's
city, county, or private property but race
entrants are allowed to use it on the weekend and we appreciate
being able to park there for two nights.
Ah . . . that's much better, more like a real
campground. (No, the limbs weren't
touching the camper, even in the wind.) We never left Cody
outside at the other place but this was great for him. Of
course, he'd rather be inside with us when we're home than
outside alone, even at the most perfect campsite. He's not a
house dog; he just wants to be close to us, no matter
where we are.
Cody needs a puppy! (That's been my mantra since Tater died.)
Although we were again surrounded by vehicles during the race,
it was very quiet (and dark) both Friday and Saturday nights.
Free, too! There isn't any water or a dump station here. We
dumped our gray and black water at the RV park on Hwy. 502
before we left that location and put enough fresh water in the tank for
several days. We used our generator and solar panels for power
in both locations because neither has electrical hookups.
On Sunday morning we walked over to Marcy and John Beard's
nearby camper and shared war stories
about the Jemez race. John (below, right) blitzed the 50K and Marcy
stormed the 50-miler.
We'll get to see them again in July when they're acclimating in
the Silverton, CO area for Hardrock.
NORTH MESA STABLES
Part of the fun of camping out near the Posse Shack and using
the trails on the adjacent Kwage Mesa is traipsing through the "streets" of the North
There are dozens of little plots of land with
barns, horses, chickens, roosters, and other critters. The
variety of structures is interesting. The day I
took these pictures several
owners were out feeding their stock, shoeing horses, and doing
other chores on their mini-ranches.
What a great alternative for urban dwellers who want horses but not
the expense of several acres of pasture.
The farm girl in me always enjoys a trek through the stables!
Cody likes rubbing noses with the horses, too.
THE THURSDAY FARMERS' MARKET
On Thursday I was taking a short walk in the Ashley Pond area
downtown while Jim was doing laundry near the science museum. I
spotted some tents and canopies in a parking area across Trinity
Street and discovered the weekly Los Alamos Farmers' Market.
missed it last year because it's only held on Thursdays during
the growing season.
Although I didn't buy anything I enjoyed seeing the tempting
homegrown or home-prepared products for sale -- things
like goat cheese, honey, jams and jellies, buffalo jerky,
bread and other baked goods, Southwestern seasonings, herbs, fresh vegetables, flowers, and
other items. About twenty local vendors offered their products
I walked through the adjacent city library complex, admiring the
attractive water fountains and landscaping, then headed toward
Bathtub Row. I wrote about the historical significance of the
houses along Bathtub Row in one of my
entries last year.
I paused before crossing the quiet residential street for a
woman on a bicycle. We both realized at the same time that we
knew each other -- it was ultra runner Charlie Thorn's
wife, Andi Crohn (sp?). Charlie used to work at the National Lab
in Los Alamos; I believe he has retired and does contract work there
now. Andi and Charlie still live in the area and also have a
house in Silverton, CO.
We'll get to see them again at Hardrock in July. Both are very
active with that race.
I took these photos of pretty spring flowers in the yards of two
houses along Bathtub Row:
I think the second house is the one that used to belong to
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of the Manhattan Project in the
Before I had time to visit the 1200s-era Pueblo dwelling foundation or
historical museum again, Jim called to say he was done with the laundry.
That's OK. I remember those from last year.
Many of our plans for this trip are fluid. Jim isn't sure
exactly which races he wants to run or work and there are some
gaps between dates certain that we haven't completely filled in
yet. That's OK with me; I like making it up as we go!
About ten days ago Jim came up with a great idea to fill the gap
between the Jemez race and his next race a little west of
Denver. Why don't we stay at the US Air Force Academy in
Colorado Springs? They have a "Fam Camp" (family campground)
that is available to current and retired military personnel and
their families. We haven't camped there before but the
description sounded nice and it's convenient for many activities
in the area.
View toward the USAF Academy cadet complex
and Rocky Mountain Front Range
Both of us have had several enjoyable visits to Colorado Springs
over the years. We haven't been there for a good while, however,
so I was definitely game to go for a week and a half if we could
What we didn't know until Jim called the Fam Camp was that 1,001
cadets would be graduating this Wednesday! That's a huge deal,
just like a West Point graduation ceremony. We were extremely
lucky to get the last campsite that is large enough for the
Cameo. We're not so lucky with graduation tickets;
extras for the public are sold out.
HOW TO GET THERE?
We weren't sure which of three routes we'd be taking to Colorado
Springs until we left the parking area near the Posse Shack in
Los Alamos this morning. Talk about flying by the seat of your
Last year we went through Colorado Springs on I-25 when we left
Los Alamos and headed for northern Wyoming for the Bighorn
Mountains. We liked the scenic drive we chose then on Routes 68
and 64 through the Taos area and over the Sangre de Christo
Range, intersecting with I-25 just below the Colorado border.
That route was fairly slow, however, with lots of narrow
A second option was backtracking to Santa Fe to catch I-25
there. Although longer, it would be faster with
more freeway miles.
I lobbied for a third route that would be new to both of us:
heading north on US 285 along the Old Spanish National
Historic Trail to Alamosa, CO, then turning east on US 160 to
intersect with I-25 at Walsenberg. We'd be topping out over
9,400 feet when we crossed the Sangre de Christo Mountains that
way, too, but driving through fewer towns that would slow us
Better yet, it was a new route to both of us -- that's
what convinced us to go that way! "Our heritage is written of
exploration," and all that.
Even with three stops, we reached Colorado Springs a little
faster than we did last year and we enjoyed it even more. Here's
a synopsis of our route for others who are curious about
traveling this way, particularly with an RV.
We drove east on NM 502 to NM 30 going north, which we knew from
last year's trip was a smooth, fast road. We quickly dropped
from 7,300 feet in Los Alamos to 5,700 feet in Espanola, most of
it in the first few miles on NM 502. The descent is not killer
if you shift into a lower gear, use a tow/haul transmission
setting, and/or use engine brakes.
In Espanola we followed US 285 north to Alamosa, CO. This is an
excellent road most of the way, with very little traffic (on a
Sunday, at least) and only a few little towns in 102 miles. We
passed through the Carson National Forest and had great views of
the long Sangre de Christo Range to the east:
There is still lots of snow on the peaks of the 12-13,000+ foot
mountains, making this a scenic drive in May. We passed several
elk and cattle crossing signs but saw only cattle.
We gradually climbed up to 7,800 feet by Tres Piedras, NM and
reached 8,500 feet on the eastern flank of San Antonio Mountain.
We enjoyed lunch at a pull-off at the NM/CO border, where we
began having great views of Blanca Peak, a Colorado 14er we
could see for many miles.
The brown sign on the right says, "Welcome
to Colorful Colorado!"
US 285 was even smoother and prettier in Colorado as we dropped
down to 7,587 feet in Alamosa. That's where we headed east on US
160 for about 74 miles to I-25.
US 160 (below) was more hilly and curvy than US 285 but it's still a
great road. We passed a road leading to the Great Sand Dunes
National Park and Preserve, which we had considered visiting
before we made reservations in Colorado Springs. We'll save it
for another time, maybe one of those "gaps" we have later in the
The next five pictures along US 160 are "windshield shots"
(taken in our moving truck while Jim was driving) that aren't
perfect but came out well enough to post.
We ran into a little more traffic on US 160, probably because it's closer
to the freeway, but there are plenty of opportunities for faster
vehicles to pass slower ones.
This road is very scenic as it approaches 14,345-foot Blanca Peak
(next two photos) from the
west and curves around the mountain on the south. I imagine the
views are just as nice going west.
The climb from the west to the two La Veta
passes, both about 9,400 feet elevation, was gradual:
so close together that I didn't realize until we were going down
the eastern side that we'd gone over two passes!
I can't believe this road isn't designated "scenic" on the AAA
map until a few miles before I-25 when passing Spanish Peak:
There are numerous scenic highways in Colorful Colorado that
aren't marked as such. It's my guess that there are simply too
many stunning roads in the state to mark them all as such!
We really liked this route over to I-25, which we followed for
another 98 miles to our destination at the USAFA. Compared to
last year's route, US 285 and 160 were faster, straighter, and
smoother, had fewer towns and easier climbs and descents, and
were more relaxed to drive.
We entered the Academy at exit 150 to the south gate, passed
through security quickly, and immediately fell in love with the
huge, attractive base at the foot of the Rockies -- not just the
Rockies, but Pike's Peak, too, one of my very favorite 14ers.
USAFA display of a Northrop T-38A Talon
supersonic pilot trainer; Pike's Peak in background
This is gonna be a great week and a half, revisiting old haunts
and discovering new ones!
We'll share photos and stories about the USAF Academy, cadet
graduation, and Thunderbird air show; the trails we run
and hike; scenic drives on Pike's Peak, other local
mountains, and through the Lost Creek Wilderness Area; a
tour of the US Olympic Training Center; rock features in
Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks Park; the annual
Territory Days Festival; a special Memorial Day
commemoration of those who have died in service to our country;
and other topics.
I doubt we'll get through the whole list of things I'd like to
do and see here. That means we'll have to come back!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil