Wednesday, June 18, 2014
We started our day at El Parisol restaurant with their breakfast burrito. The restaurant is less than two miles from our RV park and is located almost at the start of the Turquoise Trail.
The Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway has beautiful scenery, unique small towns (offering shops, galleries, museums and restaurants.) New Mexico State Road 14 (NM 14) is a 54-mile-long state road located in northern New Mexico. The highway comprises most of the Turquoise Trail, a National Scenic Byway which also includes NM 536 (Sandia Crest Scenic Byway).
The Turquoise Trail encompasses 15,000 square miles and is located in the heart of central New Mexico. The Scenic Byway links Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The name comes from the blue-green turquoise first mined by the early Pueblo people, an agrarian based society dwelling along the Rio Grande as early as 900 A.D. The Spanish arrived here as early as the 1500s. Francisco Vazquez de Coronado was the first of many explorers in New Mexico. Missionaries, Spanish settlers, and Anglo-Americans all followed and joined the native American Indians already here.
The Trail begins to the South in Tijeras and the Cibola National Forest, then heads north through Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Edgewood, Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos, before ending in the San Marcos/Lone Butte Area. In spite of the recent growth to the area, The Turquoise Trail remains historically quaint and Old West.
We started at the north end of the Scenic Byway in Santa Fe. We came across the Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden and stopped to see the pieces of metal sculpture. There was a nice walking path by the sculptures, including several that looked like origami but they were made from cast stainless steel and brass. The prices for these pieces of art ranged from $15,000 to $150,000… waay out of my price range!
The first town we encountered was Cerrillos. Cerrillos is the site of one of the oldest mines in the United States. Turquoise was being mined at Mount Chalchihuitl by Native Americans as early as 1000 A.D. Spanish explorers knew of minerals in the area in the late 1500s. Cerrillos means “little hills,” and these little hills contained gold, silver, coal, and zinc, in addition to turquoise and lead. On March 8, 1880, the railroad came to town and that day became known as Founders’ Day. The 1880s were the peak of Cerrillos mining activity. The mines were played out by 1900, and that signaled the start of the decline of Cerrillos. Today, most of the shops and restaurants on Main Street in Cerrillos are closed. The town had the feel of a ghost town although there were still some historic homes that were occupied.
Many of the historic buildings on Main Street had yellow history plaques on each one, with the history of each building.
I kept hoping this white car would move, but….
The next town we drove through was Madrid and I regret that we whizzed on through without stopping. Madrid is a thriving town. There were definitely some interesting shops, restaurants and a coffee house I might have enjoyed. Madrid also has an interesting history. From the 1830’s through the 1850s, wildcatters established coal mining camps in this area. The town was established in 1869. In 1919, Oscar Huber was made the superintendent of mines at the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company. Huber wanted Madrid to be different and he had frame homes brought in on the train from a coal town in Kansas. Madrid became a “company town.” At it’s peak, Madrid was inhabited by 2,500 to 3,000 people of many different ethnic backgrounds. Madrid had electricity early and was very technologically advanced for a town in the Southwest. After World War II, and the decline of coal as a heat source, Huber closed the mines in 1954. Miners left town abruptly leaving dishes and furniture in their homes. Huber sold everything he could and listed the whole town in the Wall Street Journal for sale for $250,000. He got no takers. Today, Madrid’s economy is based on tourism and the buildings have been renovated to house galleries and shops.
Further along the Scenic Byway, we stopped at the Henderson Store.
We next headed to Sandia Crest. We started at 7082 ft elevation, and traveled to 10,400 ft on top. The landscape and plants changed quite a bit over the 3,000 elevation gain… We saw lots of wildflowers, and a spruce/fir forest at the top. The view from up top was terrific… I don’t know how far we could see, but it was a long ways. We had burgers at the snack bar, checked out the gift shop, and continued on our way.
Our day ended in Albuquerque at Camping World, looking for a few needed RV parts. We hurried home on the interstate rather than the back roads…