A Travellerspoint blog

Ojo Caliente, New Mexico

Hot Springs, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Taos & the Rio Grande

About two years ago I had seen (on one of my many internet searches for campgrounds) a natural hot springs resort in the north central area of New Mexico called Ojo Caliente that appeared to be an oasis in the wilderness. I was intrigued with what I saw and vowed that if we were ever in the area we would stay there. We both enjoy a good soak in natural springs and so, after our week in Colorado Springs, we decided a week at Ojo would be well deserved. The resort boasts being the first health spa of it's kind, founded in 1868, although for hundreds of years the local Indians had been bathing in the legendary healing springs. It was so peaceful (quiet zones throughout the spa) and very reasonably priced at just around $20 a day per person to take in the waters (several non-sulfuric mineral baths and mud pool). I highly recommend a stay at this beautiful location, the campground was also only $120 for the week ($20/day, with the 7th day free).
Ojo is surrounded by low hills with hiking trails overlooking the spa. We hiked to the top of the nearest hill in the evening a couple of times during our stay (with chairs, a jug of wine and our pipes) to gaze at the night sky and the Milky Way above us. We also took a couple of day trips around Sante Fe and Taos on the scenic 'Enchanted Circle' drive.

Rio Grande
Outside Taos we found this local brewery that had mountain views on our way to see the Rio Grande river gorge.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
A couple of days into our stay we discovered that Albuquerque was putting on it's annual National Balloon Fiesta and since we were only 2 hours away we decided to do a quick overnight stay (in a hotel) to see the spectacle. We planned to get there for the 'Evening Glow' and stay for the fireworks and then return the next morning 'Dawn Patrol' and 'Mass Ascension'.

Dawn Patrol & Mass Ascension
We thought the night before was pretty cool but nothing prepared us for the spectacular event of Mass Ascension...We thought we'd be a field away from the balloonists but as you can see, we were right in the mix. Truly awesome!

Brad took a hike around Ojo one day to see the abandoned mines.

Posted by curlysharon 10:46 Comments (0)

Colorado Springs

Old Colorado City, Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, 7 Falls, Manitou Cliff Dwellings

After being on the road for days traveling through Nebraska and a smidgen of Kansas we were ready for a week off from driving. One of the best pieces of advice our friend Jim Wood shared was to stay off the interstates and stick to the smaller, less traveled routes so that we would see the real America. I have to agree that if you're not pressed for time you will see more small towns and much prettier sights on the county roads but as anyone that has traveled across Nebraska (and Kansas) will tell you there's a lot of the same scenery, mainly cornfields, dried up cornfields, seed cornfields, etc.
So as we cruised out of the farmlands and into the Colorado Springs area our spirits were uplifted by the mountains and greenery...
We stayed for a week at Fountain Creek CG (campground) right on the edge of Old Colorado City, an historic town that was infamous for it's saloons and wild west society. Now it's mainly a touristy shopping district, we enjoyed biking and walking around the goldrush town. The 2nd day into our stay we made friends with 2 residents of the park, a pair of the most adorable squirrels that would eat right out our hands. Brad nicknamed them Salty & Pepper, you can tell who's who by their coloring, I had never seen a black squirrel. We bought a bag of peanuts because every time we went outside (during daylight) one of them would come up to be fed, they even would paw your leg to get a peanut.

Pike's Peak, elevation 14,115 ft
There are so many sights to see in Colorado Springs, the town itself is nestled at the foot of the Southern Rocky Mountains and is minutes away from local attractions be they historical, geological, or touristy, it's a beautiful area. We made the 2 hour (roundtrip) white nuckle drive up to Pike's Peak and took in the view of the valley along the way.
Unbelievably, there were cyclists all the way to the top!


We had to make a mandatory stop at the gift shop to let the brakes cool off.

After the drive we headed to Manitou Springs situated right at the base of Pike's Peak, the historic town boasts 11 natural mineral springs but none to soak in...Anyway, lovely tourist stop with lots of shops and restaurants, again only a few miles from Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods
The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of red, blue, purple, and white sandstones, and limestones that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Pikes Peak massif 60 million years ago. Evidence of past ages; ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields can be read in the rocks.
We met my niece Christinia and her family for an outing there and walked around. They used to live in Colorado Springs (now in Pueblo) so they were knowledgeable about the area and gave us pointers on what to see and do.

7 Falls
Located in Cheyenne Canyon, we visited the falls, climbed the stairs and enjoyed the marvelous view.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum exhibits relocated Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings. The Anasazi lived and roamed the Four Corners area of the United States Southwest from 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1300, several hundred miles southwest of Manitou Springs. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings were relocated to their present location in the early 1900s, as a museum, preserve, and tourist attraction. The stones were taken from a collapsed Anasazi site near Cortez in southwest Colorado, shipped by railroad to Manitou Springs, and assembled in their present form as Anasazi-style buildings closely resembling those found in the Four Corners. The first six rooms of the Pueblo were built in 1898. It has been expanded three times since then. Until 1984 it was occupied by Native Americans.

What a great stay! Didn't see it all but we'll definitely be back. Now on to New Mexico!

Posted by curlysharon 13:50 Comments (0)

Sioux Falls, Madison & more

South Dakota headed east...

Traveling to our new home town of Madison, SD we stopped in a few small towns along the way. Our purpose for using Madison for residency and mail forwarding meant we needed to register our vehicles there (in Lake County) and thus a trip to the south eastern corner of S. Dakota. It proved to be a scenic, lake filled area where the people were friendly and the local government offices ran efficiently.


The town of Wall, SD home of the tourist stop 'Wall Drug', where you'll find everything from trinkets to various and sundry items, some art galleries and a large cafe that had awesome homemade pumpkin ice cream.

Chamberlain, SD
We stayed on the banks of the Missouri River (did not know the Missouri River ran through S. Dakota) and rode our bikes into the little town of Chamberlain where we met some of the locals and had a good time.

Madison, SD
The next day we made it into Madison and parked the rig in the Lake Herman State Park, which was a beautifully maintained & wooded campground.
We took a bike ride around our little hometown and found that it is a college town home to Dakota State University, a design/tech school without an agriculture program (go figure). We also found a pretty park memorializing the veterans of several wars.
And of course we had to locate one bar to make a friend or two.

Sioux Falls, SD (largest city in S.Dakota)
We made a day trip into Sioux Falls to (what else) see the falls. There is a severe drought affecting S.Dakota for the past few years (so we were told everywhere we went) and therefore the falls were not as full but were still impressive. The falls were created about 14,000 years ago during the last ice age. The Big Sioux River is a tributary of the Missouri River.
View from viewing tower, St. Joseph's Cathedral.

Yankton, SD
The river town on the Missouri River and our last stop in South Dakota before crossing the bridge into Nebraska. We had a fun time and I'm sure in the summer this is a vacation destination.

Crossing the bridge over to Nebraska....it'll take us 3 days to cross Nebraska at our present rate of 3 hours driving a day.

Posted by curlysharon 10:51 Comments (0)

The BadLands, SD

Badass Lands

View Brad & Sharon hit the road! on curlysharon's travel map.

One of the wonders of South Dakota the Badlands National Park is truly breathtaking, especially if you aren't expecting it to be (which I wasn't). I imagined the Badlands to be all prairie, and it is located on the edge of our country's Great Plains but what you see are deep canyons, towering spires and flat topped tables. What had been a flat floodplain, the terrain of the Badlands did not begin eroding until 500,000 years ago when water began to cut down through the rock layers.
The buttes were deposited in layers of sedimentary rocks (the oldest being at the bottom). These 'Yellow Mounds' were once a sea floor that have eroded and weathered into a yellow fossil soil.
The view from our back window in the Badlands campground.
Me enjoying my evening pipe and libation.
I won't soon forget the Badlands, what a joy to behold. The Badlands at the present rate of erosion will completely erode away in another 500,000 years.

Posted by curlysharon 08:53 Comments (0)

Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt. Rushmore & the Needles

Crooked Creek Campground, Hill City, SD

View Brad & Sharon hit the road! on curlysharon's travel map.

We had thought we would stay in Custer while visiting the Custer State Park but we found the town of Hill City to be a more 'happenin' place and so camped for 4 days in the pines.
Hill City main street, home to the Mangy Moose Saloon.
An outcropping of quartz granite in the campground. The area of the Black Hills was created around 70 million years ago by the same volcanic forces that uplifted the Rockies. The Black Hills get their name from the dense Ponderosa pines that make them appear black in the distance.
We spent our first day visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial, begun in 1948 by the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski who spent his life there. We were surprised to find that it is completely privately funded and expected to be completed in 2120. The sculptor's wife Ruth and 7 of his 10 children still work on it today.
Crazy Horse, the Lakota war chief who resisted the US government's encroachment onto tribal burial lands. He was at the Battle of Little Bighorn (located in Montana not SD!) and was finally killed by a soldier, allegedly stabbed in the back.
"My lands are where my dead lie buried."
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Ruth Ziolkowski's bronze horses.
Buda compressor used to run the jackhammer Korczack used. He spent his first 7 years living in a tent.

The next day we spent in Custer State Park visiting the Mt. Rushmore Nat'l Memorial.
Different topography within the park.
The park has 6 narrow tunnels that are carved right through the granite. Most were easily passed through, a couple were a tight squeeze.
The 'Pig Tail Bridge' that corkscrews, constructed of wood and concrete.
The view from parking lot of Mt. Rushmore.
Mt. Rushmore began in 1927 to help promote tourism in the region by famed sculptor Gutzon Borglum and later by his son, Lincoln Borglum.
The project was to represent the first 150 years of American history. The presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. It was finished in 1947 with no fatalities.

Brad's 48th birthday we spent in the park on the Needles Hwy and the wildlife viewing loop.
Wild burros wander the park, they used to be used as pack animals but now they are free to roam.
In the distance a herd of bison that are free roaming.
Then we took a gravel road to get closer to nature and hopefully see more wildlife.
Standing on the outskirts of this prairie dog city is a pong horn deer, the only one we saw.
This is a young bull bison we came across that was just sittin' chewin' his cud.
Up on a ledge we saw a herd of mountain goats.crazyhorse..ore_083.jpgcrazyhorse..ore_087.jpg
The view from the top of Harney Peak the tallest mountain in South Dakota at 7242 ft and the very winding road that brought us there. The view is obscured by the smoke of wild fires in Wyoming.
Wonderful specimen of a young bull bison. I am so taken by the majestic creatures that I feel I must have a bison head tattoo!
Entering the Needles Hwy. where spectacular eroded granite spires dominate the landscape.
We had to fit through the narrowest of the tunnels to access this part of the park. The tunnel measured 8'4" at the widest point, the truck measured 8' at the wheel wells of the duallies. Needless to say, I was a little freaked out, Brad however was fine.
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Sylvan Lake, known as the 'crown jewel' of Custer State Park.
And thus, our travels in the Black Hills were done and we moved on to the Badlands.

Posted by curlysharon 10:09 Comments (0)

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