Friday, February 27, 2009

Santa Fe to Durango

Wayne and Helen relaxing at the Grand Canyon Association's "New Mexico Headquarters"

After a wonderful stay in Santa Fe, we turned the Subaru north on U.S. Highway 284. We didn’t get too far before we arrived at the “eastern branch” of the Grand Canyon Association in Tesuque. Yep – Ron Short, who designed the “Ancient Landscapes” book (the reason for this book tour), moved here in November and has a wonderful set-up here. He designs Grand Canyon materials remotely from these adobe-lands in New Mexico. Another great wonder in this modern, wired-world we live in.

Exposure of the Santa Fe Group

Leaving Tesuque we drove past the eroded remains of the Santa Fe Group, the “dirt” washed down from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, filling the Rio Grande Rift. This gravel, sand, and mud deposit is perfect for making great adobe and the homes just seem to rise up naturally right out of the earth here. One unusual rock formation we saw is called Camel Head and I include a painting of it below. We found this painting in a small restaurant in EspaƱola.

Camel Head Rock, painting by Zeye Johnson

Ron Short had told us about this restaurant but mentioned that in the three attempts he had made to eat there, it was always closed. Hmmm? That didn’t sound right since it came to him so highly recommended. We drove towards the center of town and soon saw the hand-painted sign just to the right off the highway: Matilda’s. That’s it.

We turned in the drive and it sure didn’t look open to us. A rumpled children’s swing set was swaying in the breeze. “Looks like its been closed for awhile Wayne”, Helen said disappointingly. I kept driving farther into the compound past dilapidated cars and tired adobe homes. “There it is,” she said. “What do you think?” I took one look and said,”Let’s try it.”

Boy, are we glad we did! It was excellent and the best part about it was that Matilda was there. She is the originator (1956), owner, operator, hostess, and waitress. Her 80+ years haven’t slowed her down a bit. If you ever get to EspaƱola, just hope that it is not a Monday, the only day of the week they are closed. She was so gracious and friendly. I ordered the red beef enchiladas, and Helen had the green with cheese. Check 'em out on the table there!

We still had ¾’s of the drive to do and ½ the day had already passed. I’ll let the pictures do the talking from her on out – it was a great sunny day and the Rockies and Plateau were at their best. Check it out.

The eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau near Abiquiu, New Mexico. These are beds of the Chinle Formation. The Rio Grande Rift has lowered these same rocks tens of thousands of feet just east of here.

Where the Plateau meets the Rockies near Chama, New Mexico. The area has received 132 inches of snow already this winter and the people we spoke to here are glad for the respite of sunshine this week is bringing to the southwest.

Chimney Rock, east of Durango - where deposits of the Mancos Sea (92 million years ago) are arched up in the growth of the Rocky Mountains (70 to 40 million years ago).


  1. That food looks great Wayne! This post makes me think back to last October when I was headed from Texas to The Canyon...I was thinking how cool it would be to have you along to explain all the geology as it unfolded over the hood of my truck...Maybe you should write a guidebook of The Geology along America's Highways on the Colorado Plateau...that would be cool! Thanks for the posting and info. Cheers!

  2. My favorite part of the world. Thanks for letting us see it through your eyes! I'll have to check out Matilda's next time we are going through that area.

    I'm glad I found your blog. Just wanted you to know I enjoy reading and 'traveling' with you. I'll look for your book next time we are in the States.


If your comment will not post, email me with the problem.