to hear the cousins play at a tiny church festival in San Luis, prompted a leisurely drive back. We took Highway 159 toward Taos, NM, to County Road P, toward Manassa. Mother Mary’s Garden is tucked away on the left. We parked outside the gate and walked in.
Mother Mary’s Garden
is a non-denominational, spiritual oasis. Susan and Milt Sanderford were inspired to create it after a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia. Because of its location, in the middle of the high desert of the San Luis Valley, it is peaceful and serene.
I enjoyed wandering the gardens. Yet I wondered where they got water. I found it noteworthy that this off-grid shrine has a well, with solar-powered timers for watering.
radiate from the iconic statue of Mary in the middle of the garden, to each of the 7 gardens surrounding it. Plenty of scattered benches provide room to rest. In addition to 2 labyrinths, the gardens include a stone circle, a fire pit circle, a medicine wheel, a healing grotto, and a star child circle.
Walking the labyrinths
and strolling the paths is refreshing. The wide expanse of Alpine Valley surrounding Mother Mary’s Garden is soothing to the spirit. Vast, silent mountains provide the perfect setting for meditation and centering.
Afterward, I breathe deeply of the fresh, mountain air and soak in the warm sun as I enjoy the covered swing. Such a lovely, secret garden in what can sometimes be a harsh, unforgiving land.
located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a fantastic ride through dense spruce and aspen forests up to 14,000 feet. Our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure started nearly 2 hours late. There were high winds on Pikes Peak, with gusts up to 90 mph. Because of this, we could only go up to 12,000 feet that day. We were given the option for a partial refund, or a reschedule. Since our tickets were comped and we had traveled nearly 200 miles, we opted to go ahead.
While waiting, we browsed the gift shop and snack bar. Tiny O2 canisters were available for those with altitude issues. This is the first time I’d seen them. What a clever idea! Downstairs from the covered seating areas we explored a little stream and enjoyed the shade.
Finally, our train pulled in.
Our conductor, Elliot, was full of goofy tour guide jokes. And our engineer Nick did a great job driving the train up and back. I only had to talk to the man and the boy a couple of times about staying off their phones. The upward journey through the forest, with the heavy scent of pine wafting into the cars, was soothing. We passed several waterfalls, each accompanied by one of Elliot’s anecdotes. Pipe waterfall was particularly entertaining. The water falling out of a pipe…
I think we had the best seats in the coach. Windows all around and right next to the engineer for the return trip. The side windows have hand cranks, just like the old automobiles. You can actually roll the windows down. The wooden seats are definitely not made for luxury.
You can see the cogs down the middle of the tracks.
Hikers can ride the train, too. I don’t know about the cost of that.
The train ride was so popular at one time that there were a couple of one-room hotels, which have collapsed and/or burned down since.
For many years there was a hydroelectric plant along the line and a caretaker lived in this cabin.
There is a beautiful view of Lake Moraine near the top of the pass. The lake supplies water to Colorado Springs.
We had to stop at the Windy Point Station,
elevation 12,000 feet, due to gale force winds at the 14,000 ft. peak. The wind was blowing so hard that large sticks and numerous small items were picked up and flung over the train and station. We could feel the strong vibration of the wind when we put our hands on the windows.
The Mountain View stop
at 10,000 ft has some interesting sights. There is an old train car, OUT house, and hiking trails which cross several streamlets. It felt nice to get off the train and stretch our legs. We had time for a bit of hiking and photo ops with some interesting scenery.
At one point you can even see the city of Colorado springs in the distance.
Descending through the trees
gently brought us back to reality. The October weather had been so mild, and the sun so welcome, despite the wind, that we all felt our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure was over too soon.
From our spot in southern Colorado, we cut across US Highway 64 to enjoy a scenic drive past Earthship Biotecture communities. Spectacular is the only way to describe the view from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Our destination for the day, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.
We didn’t stop to photograph the Earthship homes but they are private residences anyway, so that might have been rude. We did stop to take pictures on the bridge, however.
Awarded “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the Long Span category in 1966, it was dubbed the “bridge to nowhere” during construction because there were no funds to finish the road on the other side. The Rio Grande river runs from southern Colorado to Mexico. About 10 miles outside of Taos, it flows through a 50 mile long, 800-foot deep canyon created by earthquakes millions of years ago. From the top, it is hard to imagine that the gorge is home to a rich and diverse ecosystem. Petroglyphs are evidence of early human habitation. There are also supposed to be hidden hot springs and ruins. Consequently, I will need to return in warmer weather to investigate.
The town of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico was originally settled on a Spanish land grant, in 1745. The historic church, La Santisima Trinidad, occupies a prominent place in the town. Arroyo Seco currently caters to tourists and retirees. Only 7 miles from Taos, it is a convenient stop for skiers and hikers. Get home cooked burritos and burgers at tiny convenience stores and food stands along the main drag. Boutique shops feature local artisans and upscale gifts.
carries everything from antiques to handcrafted soaps to toys. Seems like the shelves are bursting with color.
A tiny garden
next to the Mercantile offers a picnic table, benches, and waterfalls, in addition to a reconstructed log cabin dating to the 1860’s. Our visit fell during the Christmas season, and the garden was decked out with a nativity scene and Christmas bells.
carries reasonably priced and southwestern flavored apparel.
We didn’t browse half the shops but there is certainly something for everybody in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Handwoven rugs, pottery, fine art, and jewelry are just a few that we missed. For more info, you can visit the Arroyo Seco website.
We normally reside at about 7500 feet, but even then, at above 10000 feet I notice the effects of the altitude. Cumbres Pass is over 10,000 feet in elevation. When we went on our hike, I noted several symptoms of altitude sickness in myself and immediately took steps to prevent it.
Drink lots of water
As we started out on our hike, I felt a dull headache. Dehydration happens fast at this elevation. I was not even thirsty, but with a simple pinch test (pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it doesn’t immediately return to normal, you’re getting dehydrated.) I could tell I was definitely needing water.
Consume extra protien
I also indulged in the salty snacks and made sure I consumed some extra protein. Thus, I did not suffer any nausea or other symptoms of altitude sickness, as I did the last time we made a jaunt to the high country, in Leadville, CO.
One of the reasons for altitude sickness is the lower levels of oxygen present in the air at high elevations. Slow down and breathe deeply to help your body adjust.
Take a nap
While the guys were fishing, I drowsed in the sun, enjoying its warmth after too many months of winter.
Most people will adjust to a higher altitude within 2-3 days. When we went to Leadville, I didn’t realize I was suffering from altitude sickness until it was well underway. My headache persisted through the weekend, and nausea made me lose my appetite.
Move to a lower altitude
If all else fails, head back down to lower ground. As soon as we were back to the car and driving down the hill from Leadville, My headache began to subside. Once we got home, it was gone.
We left at 8:30am to go to Cumbres Pass, Colorado, just past Las Mangas Pass, at an elevation of 10,230 feet. A few miles up a dirt road is the Red Lake Trail. There is a good size parking area and a hitching rail. Yes, this is a popular horse trail. About 3 miles up is the lake. I did not use my fitbit to track it because it sucks up my battery and I wanted to take lots of pictures, but I did verify, on the Forest Service website, that the loop is 5.2 miles. The trail is fairly well marked, with cairns set up where it might get washed out. The ponds and streams were very low or dried up this trip. The trees seem to be suffering as well.
We only saw 2 other small families all day. One we kind of hiked up with, a mom, dad and teenage girl with their grandpa, and 2 scottie dogs. Grandpa had been up this trail 5 times in the last 2 weeks. At 73 years of age. They only stayed at the lake a couple hours then left, but must have been somewhere in the area, because their car was still at the parking area when we came down. The other family was a grandma, grandpa and grandson backpacking up to spend a couple of nights. We saw them on our way down.
The trail was actually moderate, but I took it very slow due to being out of shape. Just needed to stretch my lungs and my legs and boy, that felt good! Took a nap up at the lake while the guys fished. No catches today. Did not get my bug lotion made, so had to use some poison with DEET. Pretty much kept the mosquitoes away, however I did get a few bites. Because I did not give any thought to sunscreen, I am now paying the price. Face and neck very burned, insides of elbows burned, ouch! Good thing everything else was covered. Now slathering with aloe gel and lotion, after relieving the sting with apple cider vinegar.
On the way down, the man of the place took us through a marshy area with a bunch of sink holes. I did not much like that. Had to make sure the boy watched himself to not fall in. Even though we found the trail, still the man insisted on taking a different route. Got us pretty much lost, so I just headed toward the vicinity of the trail and kept downhill and we finally ended up back on trail. Never trust that guy and his shortcuts. My knees were pretty sore by the time we got back to the trail but I finally figured out to lock them so they would not be bearing my weight while bending. That is what stresses them. Ended up with no pain or swelling. The man was wearing new boots and his feet hurt like crazy by the time we got to the car. The boy was just plain worn out.
From Chama, NM travel about 24 miles north east on Highway 17, entering CO. Turn west on forest road 114, and continue approximately one mile to trailhead parking.