Ron and Hazel's 'Travels with Nuggie' travel blog

We approach the COE campground in New Mexico.

Riana Campground.

The electric sites were taken, we boondocked for $6 a night.

The park was only at half capacity.

Roughing it, just like the pioneers.

At the local general store, I experienced a Mary Sighting.

The view from our campsite.

The famous "Ghost Ranch" is 10 miles from the campground.

A diorama displays a 200 million year old dinosaur.

A fellow tourist checks out the exhibits in the ranch museum.

Spectular views in all directions.

An old ranch building is near the entrance.

A sign on the 13 mile dirt road let us know we...

A short walk from the parking area to the monastery.

The monastery was designed by architect George Nakashima.

This monk was here from Vietnam.

The Southwest adobe blended well with the surrounding rock.

Mass is celebrated here twice a day.

Icons of the church: John the Baptist, The Virgin Mary, and St....

The gift shop helps support the monastery.

Hazel has a new friend.

Leaving with two new books to read.

First stop back in Minnesota: The Barbershop.

A 150 foot bluff above the lake, just 500 feet from our...


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The 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center is a mystical dude ranch like no other, and its history reads like a novel. Riana Campground is located on a 150 foot bluff overlooking Abiquiu Lake in northern New Mexico, one hour northwest of Santa Fe. The lake sits at an elevation of 6,400 feet on the Rio Chama, a tributary of the Rio Grande. The "150 foot bluff" thing would explain the "No diving or jumping" signs we saw as we drove to our campsite.

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We were looking for somewhere in New Mexico that would take us north on the way back to Minnesota, a state still wrapped in winter with new snow daily. The Twin City television websites were optimistic that "next week" the weather would be back in the seasonal 50°F range, so the snow at our lake cabin might actually be gone.

The Corps of Engineers campsites have always been favorites of ours, our National Park senior card gives us half-price rates, which are reasonable to begin with, and looking north towards Colorado on the RVPARKY website map, we found Riana Campground on Abiquiu Lake.

Reservations online had to be made 4 days in advance, but "walk-on" sites were available, so we headed out on our 175 mile trip north and east from Acoma Pueblo with strong winds blowing, fortunately from behind much of the way, but the last 50 miles was, at times, a bit white knuckle on two lane highways.

The camp hostess was on duty in her little entrance shack, happy to see us, but only boondocking sites were available, just 13 of the 52 sites had electric and water, and those were occupied. But, we would be fine with our fresh water tank full, black and grey tanks empty, and solar and generator power at the ready. And, the price was just $6 a night, helping our budget after the $60 nights in Monument Valley last week.

The terrain here is beautiful, the 5,200 acre lake was created by an 1,800 foot earthen dam completed in 1963.

A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way. GHOST RANCH

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A 21,000 acre ranch with a colorful past, home to cattle rustlers and murders, reported to be haunted, and one owner even lost it in a poker game. Eventually, the property was acquired by the Presbyterian Church who operate the ranch as a place for creative retreat. .

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Fans of palaeontology will find this place interesting. 200 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the area, and in recent years many skeletons have been discovered. One is on display in the ranch museum. How can that be? Ken Ham, the Noah's Ark guy, says the earth is only 6,000 years old.

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MONASTERY OF CHRIST IN THE DESERT

At the visitor center for the Dam, the lady on duty gave Hazel a brochure of things to see in the area, and told her about the Benedictine Monastery, about 30 miles away in the mountains. Naturally, she had to go. So, after leaving Ghost Ranch, I drove north a few miles and turned onto a U.S. Forest Service one-lane dirt road. The monastery was down that road 13 miles. Fortunately, the road was in reasonable condition, I had to pull over a few times to let a car or truck coming from the other direction by, and at times the path came pretty close to a sheer drop-off to the river below, sometimes it looked like a couple hundred feet.

The scenery was, like the rest of the area, amazing and wild.

Parking in a visitor lot, we walked the last block to the complex, a magnificent abby church and other buildings to house the 60 or so monks living there. Founded by a monk from New York in 1964, the monastery was designed by architect George Nakashima, and praised by Thomas Merton as the most perfect monastic chapel he had ever visited. Hazel readily agreed, and recognized both of those names, I didn't.

We had the opportunity to visit with two of the monks, one a friendly basketball star sized young man originally from Chicago, who had gift shop duty that day. Hazel left with two books, one about the monastery, and I left several dollars lighter in my wallet. The books totaled $34, Hazel got two 20's from me, handed them over, and told the young priest to "keep the change".

The trip back down to the main highway was even more exciting than the trip up. This time those drop-offs to the river below were on Hazel's side of the car, and I got a lot of helpful driving advice.

With the weather up north hopefully being cooperative, we're heading out on Friday for Minnesota.



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