We finally paid this unique and scenic place a personal visit!
Over the past five years, we have traveled regularly to northeast New Mexico in the summer to escape the heat at home a bit. However, on our drives to and from the area, we have never had time to stop at a rather prominent national monument along the way. We have always enjoyed seeing it as we drove by and always remarked that we needed to make the time for a quick visit in the future. So, on our week-long trip to the area back in early September by ourselves, we finally decided to take a little time to make the short drive from our route to check it out in person.
Capulin Volcano National Monument is definitely worth a quick (or even longer) visit when driving on Highway 87 between Clayton and Raton. Since we started visiting this area each summer a few years ago, I have truly loved the beautiful and unique scenery in this remote area that is comprised of extinct volcanoes and grasslands because is it so unique, unlike any other area we have visited.
Highway 87 cuts across the Raton-Clayton volcano field, and Capulin Volcano is actually one of the youngest cones in this area, listed as *probably* extinct, which I find a little fascinating. It last erupted 56,000 to 62,000 years ago, and there are about 125 cinder cones in this field. If this area in northeast New Mexico has been blessed with good rains, this entire area is truly a spectacular sight to see, but I find it spectacular pretty much every time we make the trip, it seems.
Our side trip to the monument only took us a little over an hour, but it was an hour well-spent just to drive up the volcano to see the amazing views.
The visitor center sits at the base of the volcano and has a small gift shop where we bought our traditional souvenirs when visiting state and national parks, a magnet for me and a hiking stick medallion for Hubby. His wooden hiking stick, made from an old broom handle that his father had, is really an impressive thing now. He did such a great job staining it and adding some thin green rope accents, and it is displays his many medallions in a most impressive way. He used to use it as his regular hiking stick, but now, it is primarily a display piece in our RV. My magnets just sit on our refrigerator at home, not nearly as impressive, but I enjoy seeing them everyday and letting them remind me of so many beautiful places and fond memories.
After parking the RV in the visitor center parking lot, we loaded up in the car with the dogs for the drive up the volcano. The drive to the upper lot was not a long one, but it was pretty curvy in parts while also offering some great views, at least for the passengers. 😉
Even though the park allows some folks to drive their RVs to the top, after stopping two-way traffic on both ends to allow the RV sufficient room to make the drive up and back down, there is absolutely no way we could recommend anyone doing that! The parking lot at the top has very little room for cars, much less RVs. Just leave the RV in the lot at the bottom and drive the car to the top… and save some aggravation to others by not inconveniencing them on their own drives up and down the volcano.
We were slightly disappointed that the parking lot at the top wasn’t actually very close to the top of the volcano, as we hoped it would be. It was still a pretty steep hike on a long sidewalk to the top of the volcano, and we couldn’t take the dogs along on any trails up there. I walked up the very steep sidewalk just a bit to grab a few photos, but it wasn’t a good plan to go too far, since I was wearing my flip flops.
Nevertheless, the views of the extinct volcanoes in every direction from this vantage point were fabulous! Taking in the views of the area while driving on Highway 87 is great, but taking a little time to see these ancient volcanoes from on high was even better.
I’m glad we finally made this little side trip to see Capulin Volcano, and I certainly encourage others to do the same when in this area. (Just leave the RV at the visitor center.) The views are spectacular, especially on a clear day.
There is also a small, privately-owned RV park (Good Sam rated) nearby in Capulin just a few miles away, that would probably be nice for a night or two.
Also, be sure to check the park hours of operation before planning your visit, as they shorten their operating hours at the park in the off season.
We certainly enjoyed our nice vacation week in northern New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle, but it’s always good to come home again, too. After all, there’s no place like home and our always magnificent sunsets.
Our own personal “summer” of RV travel was finally beginning after our long, hot actual summer months at home, and little did we know how much fun we would have on our shorter trips in the coming weeks with a family member, with some friends and also on our own. More to come.
In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of our adventures in the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico. Most of these were places that we visited on day trips away from our RV base camp at Angel Fire, but today, I want to share about our fun time in Angel Fire. I previously shared about our visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located just outside Angel Fire, too.
We stayed six days and five nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, which is part of Angel Fire Resort properties. This year-round RV park opened in May 2015, and it sits a few miles away from town, just off Highway 64. We were referred to this park by another RV friend who was quite impressed by it on a previous trip, and we opted to stay here because it was also centrally located for day trips to Taos, Eagle Nest and Red River.
The best option for us to drive to the area was Highway 64 from Cimarron, and the pass between Cimarron and Eagle Nest was very do-able in the RV, although *very* crowded with traffic on Labor Day with many people leaving the Enchanted Circle area to go home.
Angel Fire RV Resort guests are granted full access to all resort amenities, no matter where they are located in the area.
Hubby played golf at the resort on our first day in the area and received a discount, and we were also given two free passes to ride the chairlift to the top of the ski mountain, compliments of the resort, worth $24. It’s definitely worth taking these free and discounted items into account when deciding where to park the RV in this area.
RVs older than ten years must be pre-approved to stay at Angel Fire RV Resort. Since ours is more than ten years old, I sent a few photos to the RV resort office by email, and we were immediately approved for our stay. I will also share that this is definitely the most expensive RV park we have ever stayed in at about $70 per night, but after our awesome experience there, we would do it again in a heartbeat for a special vacation week such as this. If we took a nice vacation, stayed in a hotel and boarded the dogs, we would spend almost $60 per night just on boarding, so being able to bring them along on a nice vacation helped to justify this nightly rate. Plus, we had them along for the fun! After all, we are dog people.
We truly loved the spectacular views from the park, especially on the surreal foggy mornings we enjoyed our first few days there.
All the RV park amenities can be found on their website. What we enjoyed the most was the pad site itself (long and level), nice views of the area, gated security (since it is just off a busy road), outdoor hot tub, gorgeous landscaping everywhere in the park and the big, grassy “Bark Park” to let our dogs run off-leash a few times each day, which was a lot of fun for all of us.
While this is already a beautiful RV park with amazing landscaping and flowers, it’s going to be even more beautiful in a few years as the trees grow taller. There are a lot of trees in the park, and it should be a stunning place, for sure.
The large conference center on property is really nice. It also houses another camper restroom/shower facility with an outside entrance. This was the closest restroom/shower facility for us, and we opted to shower there on two days, just because it was so very nice! Just outside the center, we also enjoyed simply rocking in the nice wooden rockers in the evening after the campfire was lit.
To say the pups were happy at the “Bark Park” is an understatement! Next time, I will bring their Frisbee along. Having this nice dog park made us realize how much we wish other RV parks would consider adding one, too.
On the food front, there is a nice, well-stocked grocery store in Angel Fire, which is good to know since we discovered that there are only a few restaurants in the area. On the morning we departed for home, we also filled the RV with gas at a pump at the grocery store, too.
We dined out twice in Angel Fire and certainly enjoyed our food both times. We enjoyed a good pizza at Angel Fired Pizzafor lunch. This restaurant is located on the second floor of a shopping center next to the grocery store, and we had a great view of the ski mountain as we dined. We also ate breakfast at The Bakery and Café at Angel Fire on our last full day in the area, and it was so good! I had a huge breakfast burrito, and it was almost more than I could eat, but somehow, I managed to eat the whole thing. They are not open for dinner, just breakfast and lunch.
Trails in the Angel Fire area allow dogs, something that is actually a bit rare for many areas in New Mexico.
We really enjoyed hiking one of the resort trails with the dogs one cool morning, and this trailhead is located just behind the Angel Fire Visitor’s Center in town.
The resort golf course is very pretty and is located just outside town. Hubby enjoyed playing the course, even though some brief rain showers interrupted play for a bit.
The resort lake, which is just past the golf course, is also a pretty place to visit, picnic, fish or rent a paddle boat.
One of the highlights of our trip was using our complimentary tickets from the resort and riding the chair lift to the top of the ski area. In years gone by, we brought our kids skiing here on a few occasions with other families from our church, so it was a bit surreal to ride the chairlift with no snow on the ground below us. It was even more awesome to ride it back down with the fabulous views of Angel Fire below us, growing closer and closer as we approached the base of the lift. Truly, the views riding back down were just fabulous!
In the warmer months, Angel Fire Ski Resort transitions to Angel Fire Bike Park, offering a large selection of downhill bike trails.
On the Friday we visited, there were several cyclists riding the chair lift up with their special bikes to ride the trails back to the bottom, and I admit that it looked like a lot of fun, too. The trails are rated by difficulty, just like the ski trails in winter. We could probably ride the green trails and may have to give this a try before we get much older. If we opt to do that, we will rent our bikes and other gear at one of the local shops nearby.
We dined at the outdoor grill at the top of the mountain for lunch. On the day we were there is was not too crowded, so it was a pleasant experience for us with great views.
At the top of the mountain resides an 18-hole disc golf course. We walked over to the first two holes after lunch, and it looks like a lot of fun. Just be aware that the altitude might take a bit to get used to. I started to feel pretty lightheaded while we were there, so we decided to forego any further exploration and head back down the mountain.
The resort also offers a zip line at the top of the mountain for those inclined to even more adventure. I’m not sure I’m ready for something like this, but I might could be talked into it, too.
We also made a quick afternoon drive to check out Coyote Creek State Park to the south of Angel Fire. This state park is remote, very pretty and has some hookups, but I doubt we ever take our RV there, since RVs are not permitted on the road between the park and Angel Fire… and for good reason. Vehicles over ten feet are not permitted on this road that is quite narrow in one stretch. Visitors to this state park must drive their RVs in from the south instead.
The drive to and from the state park was beautiful on a narrow and winding road through the tall trees, and we even stopped at one pullout to let the dogs get in the creek.
Girly Girl jumped right in the water, but Big Red wanted none of it. Fortunately, we brought along some old towels on the drive. Carry old towels is something we actually do most of the time when on vacation, especially when bringing the dogs with us.
We had a great time re-visiting this area after many years and look forward to returning again in the future. Our experience with Angel Fire RV Resort was so good that I suspect we will continue to base camp there, even if we stop over at Cimarron Canyon State Park for a night or two and maybe a night at Eagle Nest Lake State Park on the way next time. I also hope to spend a little more time in Taos and Red River next time, if possible, especially Taos.
We didn’t actually drive the Enchanted Circle highway between Taos and Questa, and that was our plan for this trip due to time constraints. On a future trip, we hope to complete the circle and visit that area, too.
I have one more post to share to complete my posts on this great trip, sharing some sights we saw on our drive to this area, especially Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico. Look for that one soon!
For more good, detailed information on visiting the Enchanted Circle, please check out the article below.
On our recent trip to the Enchanted Circle area in New Mexico, we opted to load up ourselves and the dogs for a day trip to Red River on Thursday. The clouds had finally melted away, and the sun was shining, so it was a great day for a scenic drive to a beautiful area.
As we approached the base of Bobcat Pass, though, we encountered a long delay of twenty minutes due to road construction that resulted in only one lane of traffic across the entire pass. In fact, the wait was so long that several cars finally gave up and turned around toward Eagle Nest. We considered doing the same, but I’m glad we waited it out.
Finally, the lead pickup escorted our very long line of cars across the steep pass (9820 ft.) and back down into Red River, taking it very slow the entire way. We were certainly glad that we were not in our motor home for this drive on this day, and we smelled hot brakes from other cars as we arrived in town. Fortunately, our brakes were fine. Hubby did a good job to not ride the brake as we came down off the pass.
FYI – Bobcat Pass is the highest mountain pass in New Mexico.
The dogs dearly love to go anywhere at any time, whether on a walk, a car ride or a RV trip. We only have to say “let’s go in the car” one time, and they are off to the car! 😀
As we approached Red River ahead of us, I remembered the words to the chorus of “Red River Valley” that I learned as a kid, and it made me smile. I almost broke out in song… almost. Hubby didn’t need any distractions on this particular drive, so I’ll just share it here.
Then come sit by my side if you love me Do not hasten to bid me adieu Just remember the Red River Valley And the cowboy that’s loved you so true
Once we approached the edge of town, we were finally free from the long line of cars and were ready to do some exploring!
This is a truly beautiful area with lots of tall trees, and quaint little Red River is a cute, touristy town with an Alpine theme. It offers year-round fun with snow skiing in the winter and outdoor fun in the warmer months, especially in summer when so many people are looking for a cool area to escape the heat at home. The ski lifts are located in the middle of town and are easily accessed by walking from several lodges nearby and just a short drive from all the other lodges in town.
Throwback: Hubby and I skied the slopes in Red River many years ago with a group of friends before any of us had children, and we have some great memories of that particular trip. Our group rented a large cabin for two nights, and the heater struggled to keep us warm. It also sounded something like a 747 taking off, too. It wasn’t too much fun at the time, but we certainly laugh about now. Good times, fun memories!
We carried a picnic lunch with us on this day trip, since we had the dogs along for the ride, and we found a perfect picnic spot right in the middle of town at a pretty park in front of the Red River Conference Center. It was just a short walk over to the river just behind the conference center, and we enjoyed a quick walk there after lunch with the dogs.
I wish we would have had more time to just walk around town and along the river, but we were also on a little mission to check out RV campgrounds in the area. We certainly enjoyed the hour or so we spent eating our picnic lunch and walking along the scenic river, though.
After our picnic and walk along the river, we got back in the car and proceeded to check out the RV parks and national forest campgrounds in this area. Well, I should say we tried to check out the national forest campgrounds, but just like the ones at Cloudcroft, most of them were already closed for the year, even though it was only the week after Labor Day. It looked like there might be some nice ones, but once again, they are not made available to the public as they should be, a continuing gripe of ours concerning the national forest campgrounds in New Mexico.
There are some decent options in the private RV parks in or near town, so if we ever opt to take the RV over steep Bobcat Pass into Red River, we will likely stay at one of them if we can actually secure a reservation. For the record, our first choice of the private RV parks would be Road Runner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch RV Park. We were especially impressed by the staff and facilities at Road Runner RV Resort, too. I honestly don’t think we would consider any other RV parks in this area, but summer time visitors would certainly want to check out the national forest options, too. I wish we could have seen them.
Based on our experience on this day, though, we will likely base camp elsewhere in the RV and make a day trip to Red River instead. It is such a popular tourist town, especially in the summer months, so it is generally not easy to secure reservations due to the many RVers who reserve far ahead of time and stay in this area for the entire season to escape the summer heat.
We might also consider reserving a pet-friendly room in Red River overnight if we want to have a bit more time there on future trips while leaving the RV elsewhere in the area. Several motels and lodges there are pet-friendly and can be found at the link below. Most are also in town within walking distance to most everything we would want to see, which is not the case with the RV parks.
The very first memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans is in New Mexico
In early September, we were fortunate to be able to spend a lovely week in the Enchanted Circle area of northern New Mexico, and one of the most memorable sights we saw during that week sits atop a hill near the small community of Angel Fire. In fact, we could see it off in the distance from the RV park where we stayed during the week. When I researched sites to visit in this area ahead of time, this one stood out as a “must-see” spot, so we planned our visit for Wednesday.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park at Angel Fire is actually the very first memorial to honor Vietnam Veterans and was also the inspiration for the large memorial that now resides in Washington D.C. Over time, people have placed red bricks here to honor family members and other loved ones that served, and they border the sidewalks throughout the memorial.
I have always had a personal connection to this war because my brother served in it for two consecutive years. My brother was fourteen years older than me, and I was a young child while he served. I remember writing letters to him regularly, and we also put together a box of goodies for him every other week and sent it by mail. In later years, he often shared how much he looked forward to receiving those care packages, too. I lost my dear brother back in 2007 to diabetes and congestive heart failure, but this visit brought back so many memories of him and this time period in history.
Many specific memories of my brother’s service came flooding back to mind as I toured this beautiful memorial. It’s amazing how things like this can go dormant in our minds until something prods them back to the forefront so vividly. As I looked at the various exhibits in the small museum, the memories continued to return, especially seeing those red, white and blue air mail envelopes that we always used to mail our letters to my brother.
The story of how this memorial came to be is so special and so touching, and I encourage anyone to read more about it on the memorial’s website. I won’t take the time to try to share it here, but it is well worth the time to read about it. You can also make a contribution to help support the memorial, if you would like to do so.
The weather was overcast on the day of our visit, and while the conditions kept me from capturing better quality photos, it provided the perfect setting to match my rather somber mood while I toured the facility. Before we finished our tour, I also made the decision to order a brick to honor my brother and have it placed there in his honor and memory. I look forward to returning to the memorial again someday to see his name and service honored along with so many other veterans.
I’ll just let my photos share the rest of the story about this touching place, and I’ve opted to share quite a number of them today because this placed touched me so much.
I would highly encourage anyone visiting this area to visit this beautiful memorial for an hour or two or even longer if you want to explore the museum in more detail. I’m so glad we took the time to visit this special, yet somber, place. It is free to visit. Donations are accepted from those that would like to make a contribution to help with upkeep of the memorial.
On our recent vacation to the Enchanted Circle area of northern New Mexico, we revisited the amazing Rio Grande Gorge again after more than twenty years. This area is actually a state park now, but it is still mostly just a natural scenic area, spanned by an amazing bridge.
Just prior to our visit to the Rio Grande Gorge, our first stop that Tuesday afternoon was a brief hour-long visit to Old Town in Taos, where we walked with the dogs and met so many nice people there who spoke to us and petted them.
Dogs are the perfect ice breaker when meeting new people, and even though we only went in a few stores while alternating outside with the dogs, we had a great time. We would never have met so many nice people and chatted with them without having the dogs along, and the dogs relished every moment of the attention while getting some good exercise in this unique and historic place. Big Red is such a people person, offering his paw to shake hands with pretty much everyone that spoke to him, and Girly Girl sat reasonably still when kids came up to pet her, wagging her long, fluffy tail as fast as she could.
Fun times, nice memories and lovely people, and I’m thinking a girls trip here sometime in the future would be so much fun! It would be fun to spend a long weekend here sometime, for sure.
After our quick visit to Old Town, we then headed out of town toward the Rio Grande Gorge.
In the remainder of this post, I want to share two aspects of this place that seem to stand in stark contradiction to each other. Sometimes life sends an unexpected dose of reality my way when I least suspect it, and such was the case on the day we visited this park.
First… the beauty.
The Rio Grande Gorge is a beautiful, magnificent sight to see. I vaguely remembered it from our quick visit many years ago, but seeing it again made me realize that it was truly more beautiful than I remembered it to be.
As we drove out from Taos to Rio Grande Gorge State Park, we would never guess such an amazing sight existed in the flat land just ten miles from town if we didn’t already know it was there. The delightful thing about canyons is how they sneak up on you and thrust their beauty right in your face all at once, unlike mountains that you see coming at you for hours ahead of time. We couldn’t see anything about this famous place in advance, and I happily savored the “shock” factor when I saw it.
This was our first real sightseeing excursion on our trip to the Enchanted Circle area. The lighting that afternoon was a bit challenging to capture both the canyon and the sky in a decent manner, but I’m pleased with the photos, given that no photo can actually do justice to a place like this anyway. There is no way to capture such massive three-dimensional beauty in a small, two-dimensional photo, but I gave it my best “shot.”
A small herd of elk was grazing near the bridge, but they never would turn around to capture a better photo. This was the best I could do… elk behinds!
Now… onto the reality of this place.
In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a photo that I took at a lookout spot on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. It is a photo of a suicide crisis call unit, and these units are now pretty much everywhere on the bridge. I certainly did not remember seeing those units on our previous visit.
I am going to freely admit that seeing these units everywhere on the bridge really affected me deeply, and seeing them also left a huge impression on my take-away feeling from seeing this beautiful natural sight. I initially left this area with a heavy and conflicted heart, seeing such magnificent beauty while witnessing the evidence of a hard reality of the struggles that apparently have brought far too many people here in recent years for a vastly different reason.
It is unsettling times like these that cause me to dig deeper until I find something I’m looking for. While we were enjoying a lovely getaway in the mountains for a week of vacation together, someone else was going through their own personal hell. I confess that I personally cannot relate to something like this, even though I have a close family member who has attempted suicide twice via drug overdose. Thankfully, there are others that relate to these situations and are gifted to do something to make a real difference.
As I continued to ponder this dichotomy of life, a quote literally came my way in a Facebook post by a friend…
“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”
And it hit me like a ton of bricks… the beauty of what was happening in the placement of those call units. The sight that initially unsettled me terribly and caused me to dig deeper for a few days, is now a thing of beauty itself.
I have a long-time friend that lives near this area, and subsequent to our visit, she told me that the units are making a difference in the lives of the courageous people that push those buttons and make those calls. For this outcome, I find myself with such admiration and gratitude for the people that have devoted themselves and their time to try to save others and help them at the most dire time in their life.
Seeing people through the eyes of love changes everything, and those call units and the people that staff the phones 24/7 on the other end are truly beautiful… far more beautiful than even this magnificent canyon. These people have already seen in advance the beauty of the lives of the hurting people on the other end, and they are determined to make a difference. God bless them for their significant efforts and life-saving impact in these beautiful lives.