Friday, June 12, 2020

Southern Rockies in June

June found me spending some time in the southern Rockies in northern New Mexico, working on a photography project, learning new techniques and exploring a few new roads.

Love the peaceful aspen meadows in the afternoon light.

The elk come out to eat at dusk after sleeping all day. She looks pregnant and this is calfing season. Soon, Mama, soon...

Rode down to Mora to revisit a rancher I met a few years ago, Don Patricio.
This is what a New Mexican native picket fence looks like

Stopped to talk with this roadside barber. He was combing one of his top donkeys. Suggested I not park downwind as he only does this "de-thatching" of their heavy winter coat on VERY windy days.  The field mice must love getting all this free donkey hair for their nesting material.

These are much larger donkeys than what I saw in Mexico. He said these were mammoth donkeys and would outlive him, even though they were already 20+ years old. Even had to designate who was to inherit them in their wills. 

Near Mora, road construction stopped everybody in the hot sun. Lucky me, got the last piece of shade to wait in. 

The next day rode thru Red River on way to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
Looking at down Main street Red River, a tourist destination summer and winter.

Doesn't look like much, as the gorge ahead drops off into a significant site. This is where the Red River flows from the tallest mountain in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak, to join the cold Rio Grande river rolling down from the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado. 

In the deepest and widest spot of the 1,885 mile long Rio Grande gorge is La Junta (Spanish for the joining). Red River on the left and the Rio Grande on the right meet at the tip of what looks like a green rocky tail of a dragon.

Being a Monday and with the corona shutdown, not many people out here. All camping sites were closed.  The only security ranger on duty said he was as lonely as the Maytag repairman.

Remember the New Mexican picket fence above? This home owner ran out of native pickets but managed to round up enough discarded abandoned skies to complete his fence. Hmmm, not many pairs of ski there either.

A few days later, tackled Route 17 between Chama, NM and Antonito, CO, with two mountains passes of over 10,000 ft elevation in between. This loop has several great riding sections: Chama to Antonito, Rt 64 Tierra Amarilla to Tres Piedras, and Taos to Eagle Nest to Questa, but not the shorter Rt 522 from Taos to Questa.

Again stopped by road construction, traffic is reduced to one way only following the pilot car.

At Manga Pass, a mule deer photo bombed the shot. 

Cumbres Pass gives name to the Cumbres-Toltec Railroad that still runs today for tourists between Chama and Antonito with their antique coal powered (don't tell the evironmentalists) steam engines.

Stopped to click a photo of this hard working cowboy. 
Be it cattle or sheep, the cowboy's life is hard and lonely.

Toward dusk, the nighttime critters come out. Better to slow down and watch the road edges. If one deer crosses the road in front of you, cover the brakes and expect others to follow.

In case you thought this was a sidecar vacation, have also been working on several photography projects, learning new techniques.

For example, using slow shutter speed to capture moving water. The water is looking okay, but the leaves were fluttering in the wind so they also came out blurred, not okay. 

This shot is a little better. Lots of mountain streams around here with fast moving water 
to practice with.

Don Patricio, the high plains rancher in Mora, let me practice taking street portrait shots using the iPhone camera.

A different look

That's all for now.  Am here for another week, so more riding and practicing of photo techniques.

Ride safe and sanitize my friends.



  1. What a story you can tell! So peaceful, such beautiful country, I am so jealous. I really like riding across hwy 64 and the Carson Natl Forest. Hard to believe it peaks at over 10k feet. Let me know anytime you need a driver so you can hold the camera...

    Jerry M

    1. Thanks for the offer Jerry, am not quite ready to turn over the handlebars to a "chofer" just yet. I love this country up here, exploring it, riding thru it, learning about the culture, the history, photographing it. Is rich in all those areas.

      Was hit with a cold mountain rain, then hail today around 10:30 am when the weatherman said it would not rain until 2 pm. Can't trust anyone...

  2. Nice pics and ride report CCjon! I've been to parts of northern NM such as Chama and Cumbres was back in July of 2009 and I was on my '87 R80 Beemer.....lovely countryside and riding conditions I recall.

    1. Thanks Dom, hmmm not since 2009? Time for a revisit. Still as scenic as ever. Everything is green this year too.

  3. Ah! Just beautiful! Looking forward to exploring more the next time we head out there. So glad you were able to get a nice bike ride in. Learn something new every time you post about your travels (like how skis work well for fencing. haha). Also, very cool photography of the stream. Had no idea how photographers are able to capture shots like that.

  4. Thanks Lily, a tripod is required for slow shutter speed photography. I also use a remote shutter button so as not to jiggle the tripod. Am only using my iPhone for these shots.

    I bet if you go down the the ski area first aid station, you can find discarded single skis... cheap.


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