Carie and I toured through northern New Mexico on our way home from Albuquerque, meandering through Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Taos.

After a disappointing morning of waiting around for the wind to calm down, and the balloons not launching, we headed east and up to Sandia Crest. There is a nice overlook up top of Albuquerque and the surrounding mountains.

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Downtown can be seen in the upper right,

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Looking east at Placer Mountain,

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One of the challenges of navigating a new place is trying to understand why google maps routes you a certain way… I couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t go north along a road in order to bypass going all the way around Albuquerque to Los Alamos. When the time came to take the road I wanted, we found it to be an unimproved mountain road… not sure how rough it would have gotten, but we opted not to force Helga down something we would regret.

We eventually made our way to the scenic byway towards Los Alamos, which lead us past Valles Caldera, a 13-mile wide circular depression left behind from an ancient volcanic eruption. The area is unique for sprawling meadows in the middle of what is otherwise forest. The caldera is pretty obvious from a satellite view,

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Our glimpse at one of the meadows,

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On the way to Los Alamos,

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The road leads you straight to the guarded entrance of Los Alamos National Laboratory, where they asked for an ID and where we were going, before letting us through to drive 1.5 miles straight past the research going on to our right, out the other guarded side, and on our way to the actual town of Los Alamos. Carie had the camera on her lap when we talked to the guard, who kindly told us photography out the right side of the vehicle was prohibited as we passed the research campus. Strange thing… cell coverage near the laboratory and in the town was awful… maybe intentional?

Next stop was Santa Fe. We only had an hour to visit, in order to conserve driving in the daylight. We walked to the five and dime and visited a few galleries. We saw some really beautiful pottery,

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Outdoor market and the plaza,

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Lots of hanging chiles,

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We got back in the van and headed north towards the border, taking the more scenic route towards Taos. We passed a lot of rugged terrain and witnessed gorgeous, golden trees along the river banks,

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The Rio Grande Gorge near Taos,

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We were driving a while in a canyon along the Rio Grande before reemerging onto the plains below these massive mountains towering over Taos,

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Pastoral scenes as we continued north,

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Ever closer the border and racing the setting sun, we soaked up the last remaining views before dusk,

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We crossed the border into Colorado and stopped in San Luis for a quick shot of the Culebra Range,

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We then proceeded to drive for 3.5 hours to Denver and had a burger at 10pm Sunday night, long day!

Bonus pix: Carie’s chronicling of welcome signs,

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