We visited the Old West today, by way of the small towns along the Turquoise Trail – approximately 65 miles of Highway 14 from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. We were still moving south and ever deeper into New Mexico. The increase in temperature was striking: from the mid 60’s Fahrenheit in Santa Fe to the early 80’s further south.
The Turquoise Trail is so-called due to the blue-green turquoise first mined by the early Pueblo people who lived along the Rio Grande as early as 900 AD. The route is punctuated by the old mining towns we visited today: Cerrillos, Madrid and Golden to name a few and each had its own particular character and points of interest.
Cerrillos was once considered to be a candidate for the state capitol of New Mexico way back in the 1880’s. You wouldn’t believe it today as it’s basically a small, sleepy town with dirt roads and a single shopping street comprising of quaint, timber buildings and its shabbiness is certainly its charm.
We couldn’t help but stop for a drink in what can only be described as the local saloon. It was like stepping into a Wild West film.
Apart from the electric lights, the illuminated ‘exit’ sign over the door and the owner’s Apple Mac behind the bar we could have been back in the 1800’s. Here’s some of the photos we took:
We popped into Mary’s Bar ,just to have a look. Unfortunately, the owner (Mary we assume) was so scary that I could not bring myself to take photos, which is a shame as it had to be seen to be believed.
It was like walking into someone’s garage or shed: completely cluttered up with what can only be described as junk, pilled high against the walls. There was a very large pile of logs at one end of the room, as if a truck had arrived and dumped them there. There was a pool table, utterly useless as it was covered with more junk. The place was dark, with very little usable floor space. Scary Mary’s cat was on the prowl too and when we turned to leave and opened the door, Mary shouted “SHUT the DOOR please”. Maybe a customer service course is in order but I wasn’t about to suggest it.
Madrid, only a few miles further down the trail, was a completely different prospect. Highway 14 runs through the middle of it, with colourful timber houses, shops, restaurants and art galleries on either side.
We had lunch here and Rachel treated herself to a pair of turquoise earrings. She was even given the name of the Puebloan who made them – a nice touch, whether it’s true or not.
I don’t want to be mean about Golden, the next town along the trail, but it consisted of a church and a shop and we drove straight past it; something I imagine most people do if they are travelling south and have already sampled the delights of Madrid.
Our final stop along the trail was Sandia Crest, which is the highest point on the Turquoise Trail. We drove to the top of Sandia Mountain and walked the trails that run along the rim and through forest, affording magnificent views from 10,678 feet above Albuquerque.
We had spent far too much time in Cerrillos and Madrid and it was already 6pm in the evening and we still had a three and a half hour drive to our intended destination for the day. Since we have not been booking ahead for our accommodation, we were able to change plans and take a different route south and found ourselves in a town called Socorro for the night. We would decide where to go next in the morning.