Road Trip to Chama and Abiquiu, New Mexico
via Florence, Westcliffe, Walsenburg, Alamosa and Antonito, CO.
(13th to 15th October 2016)

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This particular part of New Mexico is one of my very favorite places to visit, and to perhaps one day live.  The colors of the cliffs near Abiquiu are quite spectacular, and the fall colors we were fortunate to enjoy, were also a treat to behold.  We both said "wow" at least a kazillion times!

We left Colorado Springs Thursday morning and drove for most of the day, stopping here and there (see our route), and at times it seemed as though we were just about the only car on the roads.  It was wonderfully peaceful not to have tons of vehicles rushing by, and taking the back roads meant that the frenetic pace of the interstate didn't apply.  We stopped in Florence for a cup of tea and a delicious piece of apple pastry at the Aspen Leaf Bakery & Cafe on Main Street.   (I forgot to take a photo of our tea and apple pastry!)  We walked a little up and down this street admiring the olde buildings.  (Robert Redford and Jane Fonda were in town the week before shooting a film!   I took a photo of my friend's art gallery they used as the front of a movie house!)

We headed out of Florence towards Wetmore where the spectacular show of autumn leaves truly began.  Even though there had been a fire some time ago, the colors along the ground were beautifully contrasted against the remains of the burnt trees.  This particular stretch through southern Colorado is well known as an escape to the woods.  We passed Westcliffe and made our way to Walsenburg, once again almost traffic-free.

I always enjoy driving La Veta pass along US-160, and although the leaves were also on display, we didn't stop to take any photos.  The trees were once again mindblowing.  The scene changed from fields to forests of pine and evergreen trees dotted with spots of yellow cottonwoods, and back to fields.  We did stop at Blanca just to look at the gigantic Blanca Peak at 14,351 ft (4,374m) in the Sangre de Cristo Range.  And then it was on to Alamosa and south to Antonito.  This stretch along US-285 south is rather pretty with many farms in the valley surrounded by beautiful mountains.  It's a gorgeous road to travel on and we were at CO-17 West in no time.  (Antonito is where the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad trip begins and ends.)

The leaves were quite beautiful the entire trip, but especially evident through this famous corridor between southern Colorado and northern New Mexico along 17.  We drove up through the Conejos Canyon and over the Cumbres Pass, enjoying scenery we drooled over.  The trip between Antonito and Chama should take about an hour, but if you stop and gawk at the trees as we did, it'll take a little longer, but it's worth it.


The town of Chama is adorable and the little main street is delightful to stroll along.  There are little shops and hotels and restaurants and of course, the railway station.  We parked at our B&B, the Encanto Bed and Breakfast just one block up and walked around to stretch our legs.  We came across a little "mall" with lots of little shops all selling souvenirs and artwork.  They also sell the most delicious and decadent fudge at the Fudge Factory!  Apparently this little arcade (The Mountain View Mall) is up for sale!  There is a lot to keep you busy in this area, like hiking, horse-back riding, fishing, camping, the arts festival over the Labor Day weekend, and more.

Before it got dark we went in search of something light for supper, and we found the quaint little Chama Grill.  We opted for a little something rather than a heavy meal as we were going to have breakfast at the B&B.  We both chose a biggish cup of green chili (with pork) which was delicious, and cost just $4.79 each.  Can't beat that for a bargain.  You can also have burgers, pizza, tortillas, and they have loads of ice cream!

After a great night and scrumptuous breakfast at the Encanto B&B, we headed off along US-84 towards Abiquiu.  We passed lovely farms and pretty scenery and drove for about an hour until we came upon the Echo Amphitheater which is just beautiful!  It looked as though a giant ice cream scoop took a chunk out of the pastel-colored cliffs.  I had intended surprising Terry with a trip to the Monestary of Christ in the Desert just a little farther on.  But, when we turned onto SR-151 and saw that it was a 13-mile drive to the monestary (26 miles in total) on a horribly bumpy dirt road, we decided against it and turned around and got back onto US-84.

Our next stop was at the Ghost Ranch, Georgia O'Keeffe's place.  You can drive in and check things out and for $5 you can walk around and visit the museum and gallery.  We were told that the gallery is used for classes and that there wasn't much to see, so we opted to visit the little store inside the building and get a few postcards.  We walked around the grounds and admired the beautiful trees, including a couple of laden apple trees.  There are retreats you can enjoy here but be prepared to shell out the clams.  From what we could see, the beauty the famed artist fell in love with and painted with such enthusiasm, is pretty evident.

A little farther along towards Abiquiu, the beautiful sight of the Rio Chama greeted us as we rounded a bend through the red, red rock cliffs.  Fortunately there was a pull-out and we stopped and took some photos!  The trees were a brilliant yellow and the greens were bright and cheerful.  There are some farms along the river which we explored along CR-162.  This is where I would love to live!

After this beautiful sight we stopped in at the Rising Moon Gallery & Art Center at the CR-164 exit.  It's behind the little post office and easy to find.  They have a collection of about 40 artists' work and it's worth a look around.  Their front garden is worth a look at as well!  Then we went up the little hill and into the old pueblo to have a look around.  There is a lovely old church (St. Tomas) and some houses in ruins and others in tact.  This is where Georgia O'Keeffe's personal home is but we couldn't find it.  What we did see is the very old church and the sculpture of Jesus carrying the cross which was quite moving.

After this we went for a last treat in the form of a walk in the labyrinth at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm, and I just wish we had had more time to explore this fabulous place.  Everything is purple, and I mean everything, right down to the purple t-shirts the staff wore, the purple house, the purple hammock, and all the lavender-related items on sale.  Unfortunately for us the lavender had been trimmed in preparation for next year's growing season, so there were only a few lavender bushes with some lavender on them.  But, the labyrinth was lovely to walk and meditate before we began the home stretch of our little trip.  Terry had a lavender tea but it was about $4 which I thought rather steep.  (no pun intended)  There was no charge to walk the labyrinth and to have a look around.

After this delightful break we started our journey home.  In no real rush, we wound our way along NM-544 through the teeny town of El Rito (I wish we had time to explore a bit) to connect with US-285 north.  We drove back through Antonito and Alamosa to Poncha Springs and Salida where we picked up a couple of Pizza Hut pizzas for our supper, knowing we would more than likely only just make it to Terry's cabin in the mountains by dark.  And we did.  Barely.  Thankfully her son was there to meet us and after our supper we both dropped into our beds, exhausted.  In a good way.

The following morning I was up early and caught a bit of the sunrise and a few of the birds stirring.  Once again we were blessed with a perfect day in which to have breakfast, take some photos and head off home to Colorado Springs.  The end of a quick but wonderful look at Mother Nature at her best.

This one-night and two-day road trip was a rushed one, but as the fall leaves were about to tumble and the weather absolutely perfect, I decided to go and see them as soon as possible.  I took my friend Terry with me and we used her lovely and comfortable SUV, which was a blessing as it's higher than a car so we had wonderful views.  As we only had one night on the road, we spent the second night at her cabin in the mountains en route home, which turned out to be wonderful because it broke the rush home and we could unwind a bit.

TIP:
Local ordinances in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Española, Taos, Las Cruces, and Gallup restrict driving while cell phoning/texting.  I didn't see any signs we where were, but check before you head out if need be.


Accommodation

Encanto Bed and Breakfast


This delightfully cozy bed and breakfast in Chama is so convenient if you're taking the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad as it's just one block away on a quiet neighborhood street.  It was also easy to get back onto US-84 as we were en route to Abiquiu, about an hour away.  Formerly a church, this B&B is now a lovely place to stay, with each room very spacious and comfortable and each with its own bathroom.  There is a huge sitting area with loads of books and a welcoming fire for those chilly evenings.  Host Teresa is welcoming and informative about the area for those wanting to explore.  We chose the Los Indios room as it had two twin beds, just perfect, and they were comfortable.  I loved the linen too!  While the bathroom was spotlessly clean and spacious, the shower head doesn't move so you're going to wash your hair no matter what!  The shower is also a bit of a squeeze.  There isn't any shampoo so be sure to bring along your own or you can request some from Teresa.  Wi-Fi worked well and there is off-street parking.
Teresa's breakfast was absolutely delicious, and included fluffy scrambled eggs, incredible green chili, yummy strawberries, to-die-for French toast, and fresh fruit in the form of watermelon, canteloupe, bananas, and grapes.  We enjoyed coffee and tea and orange juice as well.  There is a selection of delicious teas available as well as bottled water and cookies, 24/7.  I really enjoyed our one night here and wish there was more time for another night.

Here's my TripAdvisor Review.
Contact: Email encantobnb@gmail.com
Web: www.encantobnb.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/encantobnb/
Cell: (520) 576-0867
277 Maple Ave., P.O. Box 536, Chama, NM 87520




Route
Our journey began and ended in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Maps
  • South on CO-115 to Florence
  • North on CO-67 through Wetmore
  • at the CO-67 / CO-96 junction, take CO-96 to Westcliffe
  • at the CO-96 / CO-69 junction, take CO-69 to Walsenburg
  • US-160 West to Alamosa
  • US-285 South to Antonito
  • CO-17 West to Chama (road become NM-17)
  • US-84 from Chama to Abiquiu
  • NM-544 to T-junction and right on NM-110 to the US-285 junction and head NORTH
  • North on US-285 till Alamosa (the signs are not that great as you enter Alamosa) and turn right to find CO-17 North (it meets up with US-285 North) to Poncha Springs
  • East on US-50 to Salida and ultimately, Canon City and to the junction with CO-115, and north to Colorado Springs.

 

 

Contacts

Aspen Leaf Bakery & Cafe - 113 Main Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 784-3834
Delicious pastries and coffees and a huge selection of teas.


The Mountainview Mall (& The Fudge Factory) - Chama, NM 87520
Tel: (575) 756-1000
E-mail: mountainviewmall@valornet.com


Chama Grill - State Hwy 17, Chama, NM 87520
Tel: (505) 756-2256

Monestary of Christ in the Desert - (SR-151) P.O. Box 270, Abiquiu, NM 87510
Tel: (575) 613-4233
Website: www.christdesert.org
Ghost Ranch - 280 Private Drive 1708, Abiquiu, NM 87510
Tel: (505) 685-1000
Website: www.ghostranch.org
Visit their website for up-to-date info.


Rising Moon Gallery & Art Center - P.O. Box 940, Abiquiu, NM 87510
Tel: (505) 685-4271
Website: www.risingmoongalleryandartcenter.com


The Purple Adobe Lavender Farm - P.O. Box 939, Abiquiu, NM 87510
Tel: (505) 685-0082
Website: www.purpleadobelavender.com
E-mail: info@purpleadobelavender.com


Pizza Hut - 1070 E. Rainbox (Hwy-50), Salida, CO 81201
Tel: (505) 983-4609

E-mail:  pettprojects@yahoo.com

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