Starting mileage: 8360 Starting time: 9:30 am
Ending mileage: 8634 Ending time: 4:30 pm
Travel mileage: 274 Travel time: 7:00 hours
It was such a relief to have cooler temperatures again, about 60 this morning.
The sheer cliffs at the edge of the mesa that Los Alamos are just spectacular. Much of the volcanic rock is soft and birds have dug nests into the side. On the way down we could see heavy smoke filling much of the valley north of Santa Fe - prescribed burns are being done to reduce the chance of large out of control fires. 4 years ago there was a huge fire on the mountains above Los Alamos which required the lab and most of the residences to be evacuated. The hills are just starting to come back with new growth.
We decided to take the route north through Taos which is on the plain above the Rio Grande. Although the river isn't large in this area, it has cut a gorge hundreds of feet deep - quite spectacular cut into an absolutely flat plain. We thought we would look around historic Taos but after 20 minutes inching along in traffic, decided to head out towards Colorado without stopping.
As we were turning off I-25 in Trinidad, CO, the sky was absolutely black in front of us with occasional lightening. All of a sudden we had zero visibility in gale force winds, torrential rain and heavy hail about the size of marbles. We quickly pulled onto the shoulder and stopped. The temperature dropped 30 degrees in less than 5 minutes, from 79 to 49. We were concerned that the hail might damage the windows but fortunately, it didn't - our windshield was very clean however. The storm only lasted about 10 minutes and then moved on.
On the road to La Junta, we saw 4 tarantulas crossing the road. We stopped and I tried to take a photo but it didn't turn out that well among the grass on the shoulder. I picked it up with a stick but it didn't wan't to be photographed and it jumped off. They are quite impressive to see. This is the mating season and the males are out looking for a good time.
We also saw a number of herds of antelope but didn't get close enough to take a photo. Ironically, one of the herds was right next to the NRA headquarters.
We are staying at an Econolodge in La Junta, CO - it is pretty basic but the price was right as we can use our "points" for a free stay tonight.