Jemez, NM

Admittedly, the last post turned into a bit of downer. Here’s the deal: the backroads have great scenery and driving. And, yeah, the scenery is still there because not as many people go on these routes and big businesses haven’t yet destroyed them. We took route 4 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. The road is all two lanes and slow and easily, without exaggeration, the best drive of my life. 

We passed through Jemez, a region dotted with tiny towns and hot springs. We had no idea about any of this when we started; I simply saw that there were two main ways from ABQ to Santa Fe and I sure as hell wasn’t getting on I-25. 

First of all, the landscape on the backroads varies so much in two hours, it’s gobsmacking. Red desert with banded rock formations and green scrub. Then a drive through the canyons with cottonwoods fecund by the river. Then a climb into an alpine climate where there was still snow by the road. Then a drive along the lip of an ancient volcano where the high altitude meadowlands stretch on forever. Then a plunge back down toward Los Alamos and the forests and tan deserts. But I-25 has some good fast food. 

As we passed through a tiny village called Jemez Springs, we pulled over. It was just too amazing to not stop. The public library was open and we asked them for things to do. The librarians told us about the rock tunnels and the hot springs—the free ones you can hike to instead of the rather pricey ones in town that aren’t dog friendly. Oh, and we should grab a drink at the local bar. So we did. The bartender gave us some hiking tips and told us which hot spring was the hottest and which one was worth the hike. We got the green chili stew and it was delectable and obviously made from scratch. But McDonald’s would have been faster. 

We drove the stone tunnels—a backroad if ever there was one. But the views after the second pass where perhaps the most breathtaking we have seen thus far. On our way to the hot springs, we passed a naturally forming dam that smelled of sulphur. Then we hiked a half mile out to a cliffside hot spring where we soaked in the warm waters and hot sun. I hear I-25 has some great billboards though. 

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