Embrace peace without regret,
Share the joy of a child’s heart,
The universe smiles.
Monday, August 23, 2010
A Camping Trip to Northeast New Mexico and the Sad Story of Murder Along Old Route 66
Last Friday, we headed east on I-40 for a weekend camping trip to Conchas Lake State Park. My husband and I had a new tent to try out and we'd never been to Conchas Lake which is east of Santa Rosa and about 34 miles northwest of Tucumcari. Getting away for little weekend exporations around New Mexico is a favorite activity for us. We relax, see new places, and learn a little history with each trip. Northeastern New Mexico seems pretty barren, but there are a lot of lakes and rivers, historic Route 66 towns, and dirt roads through small historic villages and ranches amid beautiful mesas and gorges. The skies are big and filled with monsoon clouds during the day and with little ambient light from development, the stars are bright at night.
Each site has a shelter, a BBQ grill, and a tree or two for shade. The views are lovely. The sunsets to the west of the very blue lake were amazing. The weather was hot in the 90's during the day, upper 60's at night.
On Sunday, we packed up early and headed for the town of Santa Rosa on old Route 66 for a green chile and cheese omlette and a breakfast burrito at Joseph's. We decided to explore the area which has experienced quite a bit of civic and commercial development in recent years. The local park with it's city lake is a nice paradise with water slides, swimming beach, and paddleboats with shady picnicking areas and sports facilities. Next to the park is the nearly finished new dive facility adjacent to the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is a natural limestone sink hole (about 81 ft. deep) full of constantly refreshing artesian spring water that remains clear and blue for scuba divers, snorklers and swimmers to enjoy.
Wanting to check out another lake and State Park, we headed north about 5 miles to Santa Rosa Lake State Park. This is a beautiful remote State Park with fairly new campgrounds, lots of green grass and trees and lake views. Again, this is primarily a boating and fishing destination like Conchas, but it also has equesterian trails, hiking trails, and nature walks, and an access road to the Pecos River below the dam. We were impressed with the high quality of this State Park and resolved to return here in the fall or spring for another camping trip.
Santa Rosa Lake
We decided to explore Guadalupe County's Mesalands and headed to the historic village of Colonias within the Anton Chico Spanish Land Grant northwest of Santa Rosa . We pulled off I-40 at exit 267 where a Stuckey's restaurant and gas station sit remotely alone along the Interstate. The road north to Colonias had a sign posted: "Dead End". As we took the narrow, roughly paved road north, we noticed the desolation of the place. We never saw another car on this narrow road, only a few cows, an occasional windmill or water trough. No houses for miles, only an abandoned building, a corral or ranch gate here or there. Then it ocurred to us that this was the Killing Place. About 3 weeks earlier, a horrible double murder took place nearby. A couple on vacation were brutally murdered and their burned-out trailer was found by ranch hands here about 5 miles north of the Interstate and the remains of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Oklahoma were inside. Two of their three dogs were found alive nearby and a dog tag helped to ID the couple.
We traveled on to Colonias. The Spanish village built in 1821 on the Pecos River had few residents left. The church was badly disintergrated. The small playground and basketball court in the village center was overgrown and unused. Only the gravesites looked tended. We saw no one walking or sitting around anywhere.
The Church in Colonias
Finally, we came across some residents hard at work rebuilding a beautiful old stone and adobe home. We asked them how we might get to Anton Chico from Colonias rather than returning to I-40. They directed us to a ranch road that would take us to NM-84 (Old Las Vegas Hwy). Although a grisly murder had taken place nearby, people in this area are still generally friendly and trusting even of strangers who happen by randomly. This friendliness is both the strength of New Mexico's people and also the downfall of those hapless victims of criminals who offer a helping hand. The randomness of crime..."There but for fortune go you or I..."