I'm the painter of wildflowers but that doesn't mean that I don't love other seasons as well. Next to spring my favorite time of year is fall. I love the colors of fall! With that in mind, David and I took a week off in early October to travel up to northern New Mexico and southern Colorado in search of some fall inspiration. And we found it! We put in nearly 2400 miles, of course some 900 miles of that was in Texas going and coming. The rest was a mix of highways and back roads, both paved and gravel.
Our primary destination was past Wolf Creek Pass, north of Pagosa Springs, where we were booked for a few nights at Wolf Creek Ski Ranch. We were in the eastern San Juan Mountains and crossed over the Continental Divided several times during our day trips in the area.
From our base, we headed in different directions and explored the area. One of the most memorable trips was up to Creede, an old mining town that's transformed into lovely little artsy village that's very walk-able and fun to explore. Many shops and restaurants here and throughout the area were already closed for the season and would be reopening in 2021. But still we found plenty to enjoy, including the Quiller Gallery where I got to meet the artist, Stephen Quiller. What a treat!
As we left Creede, David decided to drive up the road toward the old mining area and we ended up taking the Bachelor Loop, a 17-mile drive through the mountains and past several old mine shafts. The bumpy, gravel road was a bit scary especially at the start where David had to get around some major ditches, washed out areas and random big rocks in the road. At one point we mulled whether we should continue or turn around. We knew what was behind us and decided to take a chance on what was to come. And we were glad we did.
Another awesome drive was up Beaver Creek Reservoir, which started out as a paved road but became gravel as we climbed the mountain. Not far from where we were staying it was a treat and the views and the golden aspens were amazing.
Wanting to explore a little further north, we set out for Gunnison about the third day into our trip. Again, the drive was pretty amazing but when we arrived, we ran into a bit of a problem.
When we drove into Gunnison, we had no phone service. We had ran into this when we were "out in the middle of nowhere" but when we got into towns it had not been a problem. Later I would find out that AT&T had been having problems that day so it wasn't just us. Like just about everyone else these days, we have become dependent on our devices to map our trips, find places to eat and book rooms for the night. In this case, none of that was an option. As we drove around a bit getting a sense of the town, David looked over at me and asked the question "Did you hear that?" He pressed on the brakes and there is was...a grinding noise. Between the challenging mountain roads and the number of miles on the vehicle, we were due, perhaps overdue, for some brake work. With no way of "looking up" a brake repair in the area, we drove toward the main drag in hopes of finding someone to ask. The next block over I saw some sort of shop looking place. As we got closer I read the words "tires" on the sign and then under that "brake repair." What are the odds? A very nice mechanic, likely the owner, did a test drive and yes, they were grinding and it was bad enough that we needed to get them fixed. We were OK to drive around town a bit but no more than that. He had to order the parts and they would not be in until the next morning. He was kind enough to let me use his wifi password so I could find a motel for the night, which ended up being about a quarter of a mile from the shop. Our Guardian Angels were certainly working over time to keep us safe and comfortable!
David delivered the vehicle the next morning and walk back over the motel. AT&T was back so I was able to call Wolf Creek and let them know what happened and that we would need a late check out. Within a few hours the brakes were done and we were back on the road by noon. Praise the Lord!
We were past the mid-point of our trip and it was time to start heading back toward Texas. We stayed the next night in Pagosa Springs. While we didn't get to soak in the hot springs, we did get to drive and walk around and enjoy them. That will be on a future to-do list!
As we headed back into New Mexico, I was was amazed at the color of the Cottonwoods changing for fall. I told David that they needed better PR. Aspens were getting all the publicity but the Cottonwoods are just as spectacular.
On the way to Abiquiu, we drove past the entrance into Ghost Ranch. Another place on my future to-do list. Yes, we were in the heart of Georgia O'Keeffe land! After a few photo stops and brunch, we head for Taos and then Santa Fe for our last night of the vacation (and a little fun at the casinos there) before heading back into Texas and then home again.
As I always do with these posts, I'm sharing a few of the photos, some just for the fun and others that I will be using for inspiration for future paintings. I never know what comes from the memories and experiences of trips like this but I'm looking forward to getting back into the studio to see what develops!
Near Wolf Creek Pass, South Fork and Creede, Colorado...
Creede, Lake City, Slumgullion Pass (on the way to Gunnison)....
Georgia's New Mexico...