Aldo Leopold, aliens, Billy the Kid, Bosque Redondo Memorial, Elfego Baca, Gila National Forest, New Mexico, Pie Town, Roswell, US Forest Service, Very Large Array, Whitewater Canyon Catwalk
Having visited the White Sands Missile Range Ed wanted to head over to Roswell, New Mexico and the Roswell Museum and Art Center where there’s a permanent exhibit on Robert Goddard.
Goddard was fascinated by science as a youngster and the idea of space flight before age 16 when he read H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Clark University in 1911. Often ridiculed and misunderstood Goddard mostly worked alone because others could not see his genius. Tucked into the deserted deserts outside of Roswell, where he and his wife moved partly to hide from criticism and partly to keep from doing any harm with flaming and exploding rockets, he labored tirelessly on his theories of rocket propulsion, designing, building and launching ever larger rockets. After WWII, when the Americans questioned the German scientists about their V2 Rocket and how they developed it, the interrogators were told to look to the work of Robert Goddard. While the Americans had pooh-poohed his theories and experiments, the German’s had used his work as their basis! Years after his death in 1945 Goddard was finally recognized as the man who had indeed ushered in the Space Age.
The Roswell Museum also houses the most impressive display of western Native American, early settler, cowboy, rancher and soldier artifacts I have ever seen. There are also a handful of European pieces like a suit of armor, Conquistador helmets, and weapons.
Being as we were in ROSWELL……well yeah…. we did sort of have to go to the International UFO Museum and Research Center! I doubt any of you dear readers don’t know about “The Roswell Incident” but just in case….supposedly, back in July 1947 a spaceship crashed on a ranch northwest of Roswell and not only were pieces of the ship recovered but several bodies of non-earthlings also. All of this was of course immediately “debunked” by our government. HOWEVER…….I strongly suggest you put Roswell on your MVL (Must Visit List) and read the extensive collection of reports, reminisces, news articles and sworn witness statements…then make up your own mind 🙂 … but WE think SOMETHING happened and it wasn’t a weather balloon.
We were expected for a brief visit with my sister Ellen and husband Bob in Edgewood (on the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains by Albuquerque) but first I had another stop in mind. Heading north on US 285 we took the mostly deserted Rt. 20 for 47 miles of wide open country towards Fort Sumner and the Bosque Redondo Memorial. I remember my father telling me about the Navajo Long Walk and while he may not have used the words horrific, shameful or disgraceful, he did lead me to understand it was wrong. Now as an adult I, and Ed use those words and feel a shame and heaviness that demands acknowledgment and remembrance of a sad period in our history.
Fort Sumner also holds the distinction of being the “end of the trail” for Billy the Kid. Shot by Pat Garrett July 14, 1881 (my Dad’s birthday plus 27 years) William Bonney, (actually born Henry McCarty), Billy the Kid is buried in a small sad cemetery here.
We continued on to Ellen’s with poor Ed fighting a wind so strong he was steering left to go straight, but we finally made it and had a short but fun visit. Then down through Tijeras Canyon on Interstate 40 to Albuquerque to visit with Ed’s cousin Molly, and her sweet girls Maeve & Caitlin. We had a delightful time with them and even got to see Molly’s sister, Cousin Beth, her husband Richard, and Beth’s daughter Sara and her friend Steve. It’s nice to have family scattered about the country 🙂
Our son Kevin has been telling us for years …” you’ve got to go to Pie Town”, so we headed south on Interstate 25 for US 60 west. The road goes through open country and then some hills and mountains before coming out into the Plains of San Agustin which is an ancient dry lake surrounded by mountains. It is here where the world is quiet and empty that we planned to stop for a tour of the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array! Featured in the Jodie Foster movie Contact, (they got a number of things wrong) the VLA is made up of 27 dish-shaped antennas mounted on railroad tracks. The antennas collect radio waves from deep space. These 27 individual signals are sent down fiber optic cables to a supercomputer where they are mathematically merged, thus creating a single extremely powerful radio telescope!
After the VLA we continued west on 60 climbing through beautiful mountains up to 8100 feet elevation and then down about 1000 feet to Pie Town.
We checked into the Pie Town RV Park (only game in town with 5 spaces but fine) and headed back into town. There are three places to eat in town and only one was open, so we sat down at The Gatherin’ Place for a huge bowl of good green chili stew, cornbread, and PIE 🙂
All in all, there was just something about this little out of the way place that I really liked, so go ahead and take my advice, and son Kevin’s and put Pie Town, New Mexico on your MVL 🙂
Continuing on 60 at Quemado we turned onto Rt 32 south and the Gila National Forest. Rt 32 stops at Apache Creek and we took 12 towards the town of Reserve. Be sure to stop for lunch here at Carmen’s where everyone else will be a local and the food is very plentiful and very good.
Pretty soon Rt 12 also ends and we picked up US Rt 180 south. At Glenwood we saw a sign that said Catwalk Trail Recreation Area 1 mile, so decided to go. This was a lie! It’s more like 5 miles, but Ed kept driving and yes we’re glad he did!
On 180 just as you head out of the Gila NF there’s a sign on the right for Leopold Vista…..GO!!
We turned onto Rt 78 just a bit further down the road where the countryside is at first big soft grassy hills that leads back into the Gila and Apache National Forest. This bit is absolutely twisty, windy but fine if you drive as well as Ed does and pretty quickly no longer New Mexico, but Arizona. We stopped for the night just about 12 miles over the state line at Black Jack Campground, National Forest, free, dry camping, two others camped…..HEAVEN!
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