Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

During our visit to New Mexico earlier this month, we visited Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  The western U.S. seems to have hundreds of places like this; state parks, town parks, monuments, wilderness areas, Bureau of Land Management sites.  These small parks don’t get much attention since the more well known parks like the Grand Canyon can be so overwhelmingly beautiful, but they’re still very worthwhile for a visit.

Kasha-Katuwe is known for its tent shaped rock formations, eroded lava cones, and ancient Native American cave dwellings.  Layers of hard rock alternate with softer rock, so as the softer rock erodes large chunks of hard rock are left on top of pyramid shaped towers. Cones of older eroded lava are also seen at the base of the mesa below.  

Here’s a close up of our the photo above, showing some of the towers with rocks balanced on top. 

A boulder balanced on a narrow column of rock.

There are some caves in this slot canyon that were used as dwellings long ago. 

Here’s a close up of one of the cave dwellings.

 Here’s what the people who lived in the cave would see in the evening.  It’s a sheltered ‘U’ shaped mesa, so I’m guessing the area was a good choice since it would be easy to see anyone approaching from the one opening. Mr. C loved imaging what it was like to live here, coming up with all sorts of stories about what it could have been like.

The sun seems to set quickly out West, it was soon too dark for photography.

Scout’s Journey Home – Part 2


Here is the long awaited conclusion of our trip back from New Mexico with our new dog,  the added bonus for this post is that it comes with blurry photos taken from a moving car!

On our first day, we travelled from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Joplin, Missouri, a total of 780 miles.  A bit short of the lower end of our goal of driving 800 to 1,000 miles on the first day, so we’ll have to try to drive further on our second day.

We left our hotel in Joplin as early as we possibly could. It was probably about 6:30 am, and it was still dark out.  We had the added incentive that it was not a very clean hotel room, and the staff were all very surly.  A name brand hotel does not guarantee you will have a pleasant stay, apparently.  It had started to rain when we left and I was hoping to get in as many miles as possible before the rain turned into snow.

After a couple of stops to let Scout run around for awhile, we stopped in St. Louis for lunch at the Blue City Deli. Yesterday’s stop at ‘The Big Texan’ was the highlight of the trip for Mr. C, today’s stop at the Blue City Deli was the highlight of the trip for me.  If we’re ever in St. Louis , we’ll have to stop here again.  Sorry I don’t have pictures of our food, just an interior shot of the restaurant.  Friendly staff, fresh ingredients and some of the best sandwiches I’ve had.  We try to find local places when we’re traveling and this was a great find.  The iPhone helped us out more than once with directions and advice on where to eat. Later in the day, I also found out that you can ask Google to find you a ‘coffee shop near Route 465 in Indiana’ and will receive several results.



We had told Mr. C that something we would see along the way was the Gateway Arch in St.Louis.  So he was excited to finally arrive in St.Louis to see it.  If there was time, we were going to take a tour of the Arch too.  Once we arrived though it really started to rain and the fog moved in, we also found out that the Arch was closed for renovation work.

It was non-stop rain from the time we left the Deli until we arrived home. Here’s the Mississippi River, and the Arch can be seen on the other side of that bridge.  Mr. C was not too thrilled with our view of the Arch.

The rain and fog continued all day.  We drove through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio on the second day, and unfortunately didn’t see much beyond the rain and fog.

This could be Illinois, or maybe Indiana.

Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Springfield, Columbus.  We drove through so many towns and cities on the second day, but saw nothing but fog.

Endless driving from 6:30 am to 11:30pm, exhausted, we arrived in Akron Ohio. A total of 825 miles.  Scout was great in the car, sleeping for most of the trip, but once we arrived at our hotel in Akron, he was filled with energy from sleeping all day.  I had to toss a ball for him from one side of the hotel room to the other for about two hours before he was tired out and could get to sleep.  While Mr. C was sleeping, the dog was running in circles around the room.  It was about 2:00 am before I was able to get to sleep myself.

Day three started early again, 6:30am, and the rain was falling even harder than yesterday. We had to travel through the northern part of Pennsylvania and then through New York today and I was hoping to not get caught in a snow storm.

Northern Pennsylvania looks like it would be a beautiful area, rolling green hills and small historic towns, but unfortunately we didn’t see any of it.  On the third day, we drove from Akron, Ohio through Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and then into New Hampshire, a total of 655 miles.

We were very lucky that the temperature didn’t drop any further, and the rain did not turn to snow on that third day in the car.  The one and only time we hit any traffic on the entire 2,345 mile trip was in Massachusetts, on the Mass Turnpike.  The rain was coming down so hard I could barely see beyond the windshield, and the traffic was moving at a crawl.  Luckily I know a lot of back roads through the state so we got off the Pike and finally ended up home at about 11:30pm.  Once again, Scout was completely wound up from being stuck in the car so we had to throw a ball from one side of our kitchen to the other for two hours until he was tired out again.

For years I had wanted to drive across the country, it was unfortunate that the weather was not better than it was though. I went through a lot of states that I had never visited before; Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri.  I had been to parts of Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but not the areas we drove through. I feel like we missed a lot having to drive at night for long portions of the trip, but at least it wasn’t snowing and now we have some places to visit if we’re ever in theses areas again.

Welcome to sunny New Hampshire, Scout!

New Hampshire?   You took me to New Hampshire?

Scout’s Journey Home – Part 1

It took us a couple of days, and we went through about two thousand alternatives, finally coming up with ‘Scout’ as the name for Mr. Friendly Dog.  There is a state park in Taos, New Mexico, near the shelter where we got him, named after famous western scout, Kit Carson.  The name also seemed to fit his personality as he is a very quite dog, barely barking at all.

The problem was that he was growing every day.  Here he is below, on the first day that we met him, about to sniff C’s hand.  Not too big, maybe we could get him on the plane in one of those pet carriers ?

Here he is two weeks later, looking more and more like a ‘dog’ rather than a ‘puppy’.   There was no way he was fitting in a tiny pet carrier and getting stuffed under an airplane seat.  How big is this dog going to be as an adult ?  So, we had to cancel our airline tickets, rent a car and drive the 2,300 miles home.  Luckily we figured this out before we showed up at the airport where we would have been turned away at at the gate.  Though now we had just three days to do get home.

2,300 miles in a car with a puppy that is not yet house trained, a seven year old, two adults, a pile of luggage that includes skis, ski poles and boots, and Christmas gifts. Would we get lost ?  Would the dog ‘go’ in the back seat ?  Would the seven year old loose his mind from boredom ?  Would there be arguments over what direction we should take ? Would we get stuck in a snow storm on the way? Can you tell that I’ve never driven this far before ?

Our journey would take us through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and finally onto New Hampshire and home.  

We picked up our rental car, and spent about an hour stuffing in our bags like an enormous version of Tetris. Fitting in the skis in the back seat through the gap between the two parts of the  fold down back seat, so that the back seat was divided in half by about two feet of skis, dog on one side, seven year old on the other. Most of the luggage fit in the trunk, but two bags had to be stuffed onto the floor of the back seat, though that did make for a larger area for Scout to sit on.

We left sunny New Mexico, sunny, but there were storm clouds on the horizon.

We had to go at least 800 miles each day, but for the first day we thought we might be able to get about 1,000 miles done since there’s little if any traffic in this part of the country. It would also be helpful to get a good chunk of miles over with since the traffic situation would most likely get much worse once we hit the east coast, and the weather would probably be much worse on the east coast too.

Once we left the mountainous areas of New Mexico, around Santa Fe and Taos, we entered the flat areas of the north-east corner of the state,and the pan-handle area of northern Texas.

Driving through the western states, you really get to see how big the U.S. is.  Most of my photos from this part of the trip look like the one above, just more of the same.   Half of the time I was driving so there’s not a lot of photos from a large portion of the trip.  A lot of the towns on the way seem to rely on tourists who are nostalgic for the old Route 66 days. Though a lot of the old motels with the cool old neon signs from the Route 66 era are long closed as the small towns were bypassed once the faster Interstate Route 40 was finished.

After several bathroom stops, some for the dog, some for Mr. C, some for me or Ms. J,  in six hours we had only travelled about 280 miles, just making it to Amarillo Texas.

We were all tired and hungry and since it was New Year’s Day, there were few if any restaurants open.  Through the magic of smart phone internet roaming, I did find that ‘The Big Texan’ was open though.  It’s a huge tourist spot, normally I would avoid a lace like this but we had little choice.

I have to remember that Mr. C is just seven years old and just loves these types of new experiences.  I later asked him what his favorite part of the drive home was and he said ‘The Big Texan, since I got to eat my meal out of a hat!’   Yes, kids are served their meal in a little tray that fits inside a straw hat which they can take with them.  Exactly the type of touristy thing that makes me groan, but the food was actually very good. We saw that the meals were enormous, so J and I split a buffalo burger, while Mr. C had a small piece of steak.  Something this place does is offer a 72 ounce steak, which is free if you can finish the whole thing, so ‘small steak’ is in comparison to the adult sized portions. C was also impressed that it had a ‘Horse Hotel’ where you could stable your horse while you ate. This was not just for the tourists, as there actually were horses inside. It is Texas ranch country after all.

In the Amarillo area is a huge wind farm, with windmills stretching off into the horizon. As it got dark, you can see the red airplane warning light at the top of each windmill light up from one side of the horizon to the other.  It’s a bit blurry, but here’s a shot of the windmills, below.  A lot of my photos were taken while I was off driving duty, in the passenger seat, so they’re going to be a bit blurry as we sped by the sights.

We made yet another bathroom stop later that night, while still in Texas. In the parking lot of the rest area was a huge flat bed truck that was transporting a single windmill blade.

When we left the restaurant it was already about 6:00pm, and we had about 500 miles to go to get to our goal of 800 miles.  Since it’s January, it was already dark out.  We drove and drove for hours, going through the entire length of Oklahoma in the dark.  So I don’t have much of an impression of that state, besides the various lights of Oklahoma City and Tulsa late at night.    There were so many things to see on the way that we had to put off for another trip, the second largest canyon in the US is near Amarillo, Santa Rosa, New Mexico is the ‘Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest’ (wait, scuba diving in New Mexico ?)  there’s a re-creation of Stonehenge made out of old cars near Amarillo,  Tucumcari looks like it has some neat old buildings on Main Street, and then there’s the entire state of Oklahoma which we missed.  We drove about 500 miles from Amarillo, through Oklahoma, arriving just over the border in Joplin, Missouri at about 1:30 am.  That was day 1.  Mr. C sleep walked into the hotel and fell face first on the bed.  Total miles for the day: 781.  Close to our goal of 800, but there’s a long way to go.

It’s getting colder as we head north, and it’s starting to rain.  After the first day’s  drive, we already miss sunny New Mexico.

Ruff, ruff!

We flew out to New Mexico to visit family for the Christmas holiday. Before we left we made an appointment with an animal shelter to see a puppy they had available for adoption. Mr. C has been asking us to get a dog for years, and this Christmas seemed like a good time to finally get one. 

We had been looking for a small puppy, maybe eight weeks old. The plan being that we would be able to carry it back with us in a small dog carrier on the airplane. Ideally, when it was an adult dog, it would be a mid sized, short haired dog. From the photo and description the shelter had posted, the one we were to visit seemed to be a good match.  However, once we arrived and spent some time with him, it was obvious that this puppy did not care for us. He gave us a couple of sniffs before walking to the far corner of his pen. In the neighboring pen though, were three puppies from the same litter, they all looked similar, but one of them was trying very hard to get our attention.  Jumping up and wagging his tail as fast as he could.

So we asked to see Mr. Friendly Dog. Not at all what we were there to see, he was a three month old, long haired dog. From the size of him, it looked like he was going to be a big dog. 

The manager of the shelter offered to let us take him into a much larger pen, one with a grassy area that they used to exercise each dog individually. C ran around and the dog followed him everywhere, both of them looked so happy. It was immediately apparent that this was a better match. You can’t plan everything in life exactly the way you’d like, of course we this was the dog we got.

The airline had a requirement that dogs had to be smaller than 9″ tall and 13″ long, larger dogs were not allowed on their planes. Ours was 15″ tall and 25″ long.  So how are we going to get back to New Hamshire, which is about 2,300 miles away?

Black Mesa Hike

Ok one more post about Santa Fe. On one of our sunnier days, we hiked into a canyon known by a number of different names. Black Mesa or Black Canyon seem to be the most popular names, though I’m not sure if there is an official name for it. It’s a fairly deep canyon on the Rio Grande just outside of Santa Fe.

Here’s Ms. J and Mr. C hiking into the canyon.


Mr. C noticed that there was a guy climbing the wall of the canyon using a system of ropes and pulleys. Let’s see if my camera can get a shot of him on the wall. There he is in the blue shirt. At first it looked like he was alone, but he did have at least one other person with him at the base of the wall, watching his progress and monitoring the ropes. The climber seemed to be fairly young, maybe in his late teens. Even though it was late December, and we had gone skiing the day before, it was warm enough that day in the canyon for him to climb in a T-shirt.


When I was a kid, my parents were very cautious so I would never have been able to do anything like rappel down a sheer cliff face. Even if I had somehow been able to go through hundreds of hours of training, it just was not going to happen. My Mom and Dad would take different approaches to safety. My Mom would be concerned with the possibility of getting seriously hurt of maimed when doing whatever activity was being considered, with the added bonus of somehow adversely affecting her health as well. ‘Oh, no, you’ll get hurt, please don’t do that, I’m sure I’ll have a heart attack if anything should happen to you’. I’ll call this the “guilt approach”. My Dad would go with what I’ll call the “shock and horror” approach. ‘You know what happened to the last guy who did that? He ended up crushed beyond all recognition at the bottom of the cliff, no one could tell WHAT he was, much less WHO!”. With that two pronged scare tactic, I didn’t do anything remotely risky when I was a kid. Probably the most dangerous thing I did was riding my bike off the loading dock of an abandoned factory once. It was something of a dare, or just peer pressure, from the group of kids that I was with at the time. Everyone else was doing it, so I had to too. Off I went over the edge of the crumbling concrete pad, about eight feet from the asphalt parking lot. I went flying over the handle bars of the bike and scraped the palms of my hands. And no, I did not tell my parents about that.

After all of the ingrained safety training, I might be expected to be cautious with Mr. C. However, it’s been a little bit of a struggle, but I’m trying to not be as cautious as my parents were, within reason of course. I’d like him to be able to ski and hike with confidence, without having to worry too much that I’m going to have a heart attack or have nightmares caused by my cautionary stories about being crushed by falling rocks while hiking. Much as my brain’s safety manual guidelines would require that Mr. C not climb the giant boulder at all, I do let him do it. Watching every step of the way, and making sure that Ms. J is right next to him too. I sweat every step and dig my finger nails into my palms in nervousness until he is on flat, solid ground.

I’m on a de-sensitization campaign with my parents now. Whenever we do anything that they would consider remotely dangerous now, I make sure to take a picture and email it to them. Like this one of Mr. C climbing a huge boulder. Don’t worry, Ms. J is right there next to him, unseen by the camera since she’s a little bit lower, holding on to him to make sure he doesn’t fall. Might be a little bit mean of me to send them a picture like this.

I’m sure that my parents think I’m completely crazy for letting him do some of these things. But at 4 he’s already a better skier than I’ll ever be.


You can see the dark shadow as we enter the canyon here. It must be at least ten degrees colder within the canyon, out of the sun. Must be why it’s called ‘Black Canyon’.





Here’s the road out. You can see the ruts in the dirt from the years of use. 20140113-170151.jpg

Santa Fe Sunsets

One of the things I like about New Mexico is that the Winter weather is much more pleasant than it is here in New Hampshire.  It can get very cold, but it doesn’t seem to stay as cold as it does in New England.  There is quite a lot of snow there, (which surprises just about everyone here in New Hampshire where everyone assumes that New Mexico must be warm year round for some reason), but the storms don’t last for three days at a time.  Even though it is cold, the Winter days are usually sunny and bright, not the three months of unending gray skies and cold clammy days here.

Probably best of all is how much later the sun sets there.  In late December here in New Hampshire, it can start to get dark at about 4:00pm,  since it is so much further south New Mexico  will remain somewhat light at least an hour or so later.   The city is also surrounded by mountains so it’s fairly easy to get a good view of some dramatic scenery.  This combines to make for some beautiful sunsets.  This was one trip where I remembered to take a good camera with me rather than rely on the camera phone, so I’ll just show off some photos of sunsets I took from our trip:







Here comes a snow storm,  a sheet of white moving forward from the horizon.


This one is a little blurry, I was getting cold!