Jemez River – Fall Colors


The Jemez River flows out of the Jemez Mountains past Jemez Springs and the ruined Jemez Mission (1622) through the Jemez Pueblo lands on its way to join the Rio Grande. I spend as much time up there as I can — it’s not far from my house and the drive is enjoyable. Every part of our country has some expression of  beautiful fall colors but here, in a desert environment, we rely on the cottonwoods for the annual show. There are some aspen groves here and there up in the mountains or the high meadows but the cottonwoods are the big performers.


We are pretty liberal with the title “river” around here. I’ve mentioned this before. I’ve been here two years and my way of looking at it, so far, is if the stream has water in it all year long, and maybe some fish, its a river. If it has water most of the time but might go dry once or twice, it’s a creek. If it is dry most of the year and might have water briefly once in a while after big rains, it’s an arroyo. We seem to have more arroyos than anything else.

The Jemez is a nice little river with some trout but on the day I visited it was running very muddy due to some big rains and the runoff from the fire-damaged mountain slopes way upstream.


The canyon is pretty any time of year and is a very historic area. The local Jemez pueblo Indians have lived here for centuries after a long migration down from the Mesa Verde area many generations ago. The Spanish showed up in the 1600s and built, or more likely had the Indians build, the massive stone mission church and complex in the middle of Gisewa Pueblo, in 1622. The mission church and supporting buildings are in ruins now, surrounded by the ruins of the old pueblo. The Pueblo revolt of 1680 drove the Spanish out for a while but when they returned in the 1690s the Jemez people were not happy to see them and there was some hard fighting and reprisals. Walatowa, the current pueblo town, sits next to the Jemez River. The visitor center offers a good deal of information and history of the area.


This is all volcanic geology in the Jemez Mountains and much of the bare rock is consolidated volcanic ash (tuff). There are numerous hot springs and the remains of one of the largest super volcanoes in North America, the Valles Caldera. There is still a lot of heat down below.

One wouldn’t know about the history or geology of the place just looking at the beautiful fall colors. On some weekends the road is clogged with folks taking pictures. One really must get out of the car to enjoy and experience the colors. Walking among the trees gives a very special perspective. I was there on Halloween day and some of the forest was a little bit spooky.


This is a “Bosque” forest…growing up on either side of a stream. The soil is deep on the valley floor and the place is well watered.


Rather than me running my mouth, so to speak, I’ll just post some pictures. I encourage you to visit the area any time but especially near the end of October.




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Earth, Wood, Stone and Sky – Discovering Places

robb 11As a member of the New Mexico Architectural Foundation I had the privilege (really) to visit an iconic mid-century modern home located just outside of Albuquerque. This was the location for the foundation’s annual membership meeting. The house was built around 1962 for a local family and designed by noted architect Don Schlegel. At first sight it appears to be totally out of sync with the common New Mexico architectural styles. There is no adobe. Where are the vigas and the latillas? What happened to the corbels?  What’s going on???

DSCN3791On further inspection things start to fall into place. The structure was inspired by the rough stone ruins of New Mexico’s 17th century Spanish missions. If you go to Abo or Quarai or even the Jemez mission you will see massive stone walls with long straight lines and multiple levels of masonry and large voids — places where stonework is missing. The ruins are open to the air and sky with shadows moving across the walls.

Instead of being contrary to the common style the house seems to rise up out of the past….albeit in the 1960s style.  The amount of stone and glass is the one thing that stands out once you enter the house. The floor is mostly brick and the woodwork is finished in a soft and mellow light brown. Sunlight streams through the windows and skylights.

Instead of droning on about the house, I’ll just post a few pictures. I apologize for the quality — all I had was my cell phone and I haven’t mastered the art of cell phone photography. The amount of sunlight pouring into the house was too much of a challenge for the camera. The house is in the process of some renovation and renewal. There are twelve acres that require upkeep. In 1962, this house was way out in the countryside — almost by itself — but the city and later development are catching up to it and it might take some effort to keep it intact for another fifty years.

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The upper floor almost resembles a dormitory — the family had six kids. The lower floor is raised up slightly from ground level and you get the impression that you are several levels. The living room and a large family room  dominate the lower floor along with a dining room and 1960s galley-style kitchen. There are sliding doors opening to the yard and patio in almost every room. There are several massive stone fireplaces.  The living and family rooms have built-in bench seating.  There are a number of built-in furniture and storage features in the bedrooms and kitchen.

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Wednesday Roam — Random Rambles

The year has started off with a flurry of activity. Usually this is a dull and sometimes reflective time following the holidays.  Our winter is beginning to wind down but it still holds some surprises. I’ve enjoyed the company of visitors from distant lands. I got my first iPhone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPecos National Historic Park– I spent some time with visitors up in Santa Fe and we took a side trip to Pecos National Historic Park. It was a crisp and breezy day so we didn’t linger too long out on the trail but it was enjoyable. I need to go back in warmer weather.

This is the site of a large Indian Pueblo community east of present day Santa Fe that flourished from 1450 until the arrival of the Spanish and the Pueblo uprising in 1680. At its height there were 2,000 residents in the pueblo village.  The Spanish conquistadors passed through in 1540 and came back to colonize the area around 1600 with settlers and Franciscan missionaries. The large adobe structure is the remaining portion of the second (18th century) church built on the site. The park service has stabilized the ruin and keeps it from deteriorating.



Winter — Even though the calendar says it is January, our weather should start to get better pretty soon. December is usually our coldest month. We will have 60 degree days in a week or two. That doesn’t mean that winter is finished with us. We had two days of snowy weather in a row — unusual. Normally we get polite little snow storms that deposit an inch of snow that is gone by 2:00 in the afternoon. The streets get wet and a little slick but drivers here don’t know how to drive in snow and they had to close I-40 briefly because the inch of snow was too much for some people.  I went out and tried to get a few pictures but it was melting pretty fast.

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River of Lights — Each year Albuquerque’s Bio-Park has a holiday light display at the botanical garden. I tried to go last year but the crowds were so bad I couldn’t get close to the place. This year we went after Christmas and it wasn’t so crowded. It was a relatively warm evening and well worth the effort. This is just an example of the hundreds of lighted figures