Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pecos, New Mexico area - Sept. 28-30, 2010

This trip was a short one, only 3 days and 2 nights, with the goal of checking off a couple of the National Park Service sites that aren't too far away. Getting the camper loaded on the truck took about 1.5 hours and I learned a few things that should make it go quicker next time. After loading some fresh water and a few food items, I got started about mid morning.

Lunch was in Santa Fe, where I took Cerillos Road into town. I hadn't been this way in a number of years and noticed quite a bit of growth toward the west end on town. Afterwards, I headed east (technically north but it is east on the map) on I-25 to the town of Pecos, New Mexico. Just east of there is the Pecos National Historical Park which showcases the remains of a large indian pueblo.

The site was a good place for a pueblo. It lies in the natural pass between the indians of the Rio Grande valley and the indians of the great plains. This made for very good trading based economy and the pueblo flourished. At its height, it had about 2000 inhabitants and the pueblo itself was 4 stories tall.

In 1540 the Spanish arrived. By about 1600 they had begun the conquest of New Mexico and built a large church next to the pueblo. The pueblo revolt of 1681 threw the Spanish out of New Mexico and the church was destroyed. That didn't last long, however, with the Spanish reclaiming control and building a new, much smaller church on the ruins of the old one. By 1780, disease, Comanche raids, and migration had reduced the population of the pueblo to about 300. By the time the Sante Fe trail was established through the area in 1821, it was almost a ghost town.

Since the pueblo was built of adobe, it has mostly crumbled into large piles of grass covered dirt. A few of the kivas have been excavated and the remains of the church have been uncovered and preserved. A few of the wagon wheel ruts of the Sante Fe trail can be seen skirting the edges of the ruins.

A view of the small church built by the Spaniards. I am standing on the large mound that is all that is left of the pueblo, itself.

Another view of the small church. The foundational stones in the foreground are part of the original church, which was one of the largest missions built in the Southwest.

A forest fire was burning up in the mountains west of Pecos.

After taking the walking tour around the site and viewing the museum, I headed off to the east on I-25 and exited at the town of Villanueva. Following the road for about 15 miles led to the Villanueva State Park where I camped for the night. The park is located on the banks of the Pecos river with yellow and red sandstone cliffs protecting the area.

My campground at Villanueva State Park.

The following day I drove farther up I-25, past the town of Las Vegas, NM, to visit the Fort Union National Monument. This fort was established in 1851 to guard the Sante Fe trail. There were three differnt forts built over its 40 year history, each larger than the last. The third incarnation was the largest fort in the southwest.

It served as a training base for civil war troops and as a base for troops during the indian wars afterward. Kit Carson led some of these actions. The coming of the railroad in 1879 led to the decline in the importance of the fort and it was abandoned in 1891.

Since a good part of the fort was built of bricks, the remains of the foundations and walls are still there. A walking tour leads you around the area which is fairly large. There are quite a few Santa Fe trail ruts to be seen here, as well.

Fort Union National Monument

A recreated camp used by one of the commanders.

Ruts from the Santa Fe trail. If they weren't labeled you wouldn't know that's what they were.

Officer's quarters.

The flagpole in the center of the parade ground.

Remains of the church.

The prison. It is better preserved since it was made entirely of stone so that prisoners couldn't dig out.

Next stop was back in Las Vegas for lunch and then back through the town of Pecos and up into the mountains. The road narrowed quite a bit but was generally in good shape. I was hoping to see some fall foliage on the trees but it was a couple of weeks too early - at least for the elevations I was at. I made it up past the turnoff to Holy Ghost and then found a nice National Forest campground to stay at - also on the banks of a small river. Only one other camper showed up for the evening.

The next morning was chilly and the heater in my camper quit working. The inside temperature was 55 which wasn't bad for sleeping but once I was up was too cold to sit around. I decided to head for home and got in about noon which left plenty of time to get the camper unloaded.

Campground in the National Forest.

The view out the back door of the camper. I couldn't find the name of the little river on my maps.

Miles driven: 393
MPG: 10.1

It was a nice trip, seeing a couple of historical places that I had never been to before. Next up is a longer trip through Southern Arizona and over to San Diego.