In August 2016 my family and I decided to go on vacation. Years prior, we had gone to North Carolina. To the beaches, to the mountains, it was a great time however, we could not afford to go this time. After thinking about where to go, we settled on the Mountains of New Mexico. It was close and we could only afford to go for a week instead of two.
The drive out was uneventful, although I slept the majority of it since I had worked 12 hours at the hospital, came home, packed the suburban and then we headed out.
After spending a few interesting days in Red River and Taos we headed down to the Sante Fe National Forrest where we stayed close to Jemez Falls. The drive up to the camping spot was interesting. As we drove up the mountain shortly before dusk it started to rain. The were hardly any clouds above yet it was raining fairly hard. The way the sunlight shined against the rain, it was as if you could see each individual rain drop. It was stunningly majestic. It had been hot that day and as the rain hit the rocks and the pavement, they began to cool, and as the rain let up steam began to rise off of the surface of both. This made for a beautiful drive.
Atop the Mountain, we found a place in the trees to camp. We set up camp and built a fire to make dinner. This first night was rather uneventful…..except for Daniel getting into his camping hammock and it falling to the ground. As the thud of Daniel hitting the ground reverberated through the forest, laughter from my wife and I as well as Cornelius echoed in the trees. We all knew what happened and delighted in Daniels slight misfortune.
The next day we hiked the forested mountain and found several rocky outcroppings that offered gorgeous views of the valleys below. As we continued hiking we came upon a stream with a swimming hole that led to a waterfall. It was a wonderful place to stop and enjoy.
We climbed the rocks, stood upon the top of the waterfall and enjoyed the cool refreshing water! The temperature of the water took a little getting used to, but eventually, it felt great. We slowly made our way back, stopping to run across fallen trees, climb rock gardens and generally explore the forest off the well-worn hiking paths. This offered views of interesting rock formations, lessons on climbing trees, more views of the valley, and some of the biggest trees we had ever seen.
That night after cooking dinner over the fire and talking well into the night, we could see some thunderheads and lightning in the distance. The thunder, which we heard well after the flashes of lighting was great music to fall asleep to. The rumbles soothed the soul, while the cool air soothed sore muscles.
The next day we decided to leave the forest and explore farther south. We headed out towards Jemez Springs, stopping in a little town Cafe. We heard some locals talking about natural hot springs and we decided to we wanted to go. We asked directions from the waiter at the cafe, he gave us a map and a direction and we headed off. Reaching the parking area to hike to the hot springs, we changed into our swimsuits grabbed our bag and began the trek up the side of the mountain to the springs.
After 20 minutes of hiking and crossing a bridge with a small stream across it, we made it to our destination. Daniel and Cornelius beat us there and were in the lower hot springs while a larger group had taken the upper hot spring. Isaiah eagerly hopped in and Susie handed me Illiana. Susie had just stepped foot into the spring when the clouds let loose with rain.
This was nothing new as it had rained around this time every day we had been in New Mexico. I had Susie and the kids get under a rocky outcropping to wait out the rain, There wasn’t enough room for Cornelius, Daniel, or I so I stood beside it and Daniel and Cornelius went to take shelter under a fallen tree. This turned out to be different than the other rain showers we had been in. It began to hail. I tried to keep Susie and the kids sheltered, I stood over them and held my shirt over them to keep them out of the hail. A man with a beer came down from the upper hot spring with a towel to help protect Susie and the kids.
We had thought the rain would end like it had days previous but we were wrong. We realized we had to get out of there when a deluge of water came down from higher on the mountain. We wrapped Illiana in a jacket from my bag, Daniel grabbed Isaiah, and Cornelius helped guide Susie, and I grabbed our stuff and we took off down the mountain. The water was cold and up to mid shin as we ran down the mountain barefoot. The rain intensity picked up as did the hail as we went. We came across the bridge from earlier and that small stream was now a rushing red river that had reached the bottom of the bridge and threatened to overtake it. We ran across and continued our barefoot hike, each step more painful than the last from the cold flood water and rocks. We slipped, we fell, we yelled in pain from the hail and the rocks but we had made it to our suburban.
We wrapped Illiana in a jacket from my bag, Daniel grabbed Isaiah, and Cornelius helped guide Susie, and I grabbed our stuff and we took off down the mountain. The water was cold and up to mid shin as we ran down the mountain barefoot. The rain intensity picked up as did the hail as we went. We came across the bridge from earlier and that small stream was now a rushing red river that had reached the bottom of the bridge and threatened to overtake it. We ran across and continued our barefoot hike, each step more painful than the last from the cold flood water and rocks. We slipped, we fell, we yelled in pain from the hail and the rocks but we had made it to our suburban 40 or so minutes after starting our trek back in the storm.
After making it to the Suburban, we realized how lucky we were. The precarious situation we were in and the understanding that not just our children but we all were in danger hit us and after a few tense moments, I started the Suburban. We decided to leave the area while it was still raining. After driving, Cornelius spoke up and we realized an older woman in the upper hot springs might not have made it down. We turned around and headed back. A mile or so away from the parking area, the road had washed out and we were unable to make it back. We do not know if she made it down or not, but there was nothing on the news about it.
After driving farther south, it was as if nothing happened. No rain, no thunder, beautiful views just 5 miles south of the storm. It was one heck of an experience.
After this we continued down to Santa Fe and Sandia Peak, Santa Rosa to visit the Blue hole. Those will come in a later post though.
Looking back now Susie and I were terrified. Not of what could have happened to us but to our children. With this hindsight comes laughter and a realization that even though there was danger, it is one heck of a memory to share not only with our children but with others. Our vacation to New Mexico was by far one of our best and we look forward to making our return.