We spent a few days in Albuquerque to wait for improved weather along our route and to see the local sights. Our first impression was not that impressive, as everywhere we went were warnings about securing your personal property against rampant local crime, even at a national monument. We also noted that every building in town had security bars on all the doors and windows.
We visited the old town section of the city which was the original site of the settlement started in 1706. Needless to say that this section is now devoted to tourist restaurants and gift shops. It was never the less a pleasant change from the modern city environment.
We then headed to the Petroglyph National Monument, which preserves over 20, 000 thousand Petroglyphs that may be as old as three thousand years. Most are thought to be 400 to 700 years old. These in most cases are the only written history left behind by these people. The meaning of some of these images is lost to us but others are still used by native people today. There are several miles of hiking trails available to enjoy these glimpses into history. Watch out for rattlesnakes which are very much in evidence in the rocks.
Finally, we took the scenic drive listed in the American byways book known as the Turquoise Trail which provides great views of the valleys around the Scandia Mountains and also takes you to the old mining town of Madrid. This is an early 1900’s coal mining town that has –you guessed it-turned itself into an artist colony and want to be tourist trap. It is nowhere near the level of Jerome or a number of others we have been to, but its “real” feeling was enjoyable. We spent almost an hour talking with one of the shop keepers who was a refugee from the hectic life of California, who just loved the life here in the New Mexico wilderness. The town population is around 400 and there is no mad growth spurt on the horizon. We spent an enjoyable afternoon wandering the single street and mixing with the locals.