This was my first vacation with Abby Milligan, who was destined to become my wife.
We got the name for this trip from the Third Eye Blind song Crystal Baller. We had a tape of Third Eye hits and listened to it over and over, singing along the whole time…
“Can we try and take the high road
though we don’t know where it ends
I want to be your Crystal Baller
I want to show you how it ends…”
The Road to Moriarty, New Mexico, and Cuervo Ghost Town
We traveled well together. Abby was so excited that she was giggling.
Our travel was perfectly timed to shoot the sunset and last light at Cuervo, a town in disrepair that we dubbed a “ghost town,” that I had photographed once before.
Sandia Peak and Tent Rocks
After a missed exit and a very interesting drive west on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, we took the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to the top, then hiked through the trail system to the peak, where we had lunch.
It was Abby’s first veggie burger.
We hiked the shorter of the two loops at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, which was far more interesting and more expansive than I imagined it would be.
In Santa Fe, we discovered one of the best Chinese places we have even experienced, next door to our motel, called “Ten Ten.” It was Abby’s first time to have Egg Foo Yung.
White Rock Overlook, Bandelier National Monument, Soda Dam and Jemez State Monument
On our way Bandelier, we saw signs for the White Rock Overlook which afforded us views of the Rio Grande to the northeast.
At Bandelier National Monument, we hiked the short trail to Alcove House, a ceremonial cave with a kiva inside, situated on a cliff side that required ascending four wooden ladders.
Farther along highway 4 we found the Soda Dam, where water from underground hot springs flows, creating the buildup of mineral deposits, forming a natural dam that blocks the Jemez River. It was easily the smelliest site either of us had ever visited, due to high concentrations of sulphur.
Jemez State Monument was being restored, but we still made a few images.
We saw a mission church at San Ysidro and made a few pictures.
Acoma Pueblo, La Ventana Natural Arch, and Petrified Forest
At Acoma Sky City, our guide was named Orlando, and he showed Abby the Acoma sign language sign for “never quit.” We were charged per camera, and no video of any kind was permitted.
At La Ventana (Spanish for The Window) Natural Arch, we hiked up to and under the arch on the trail that was closed when I visited in 2000.
As the day went on, particularly at the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park, we encountered a growing, gusty, hot wind out of the south. In addition to stirring up dust and trying to knock us down as we walked and took pictures, it fanned wildfires to the south, filling the air with a haze of smoke.
Monument Valley, The Mokee Dugway, and Natural Bridges
We made a long drive from Page, Arizona into Utah, through Monument Valley, still experiencing haze from smoke to our south, then drove up the Mokee Dugway, a steep, narrow gravel section of Utah 261 that ascends Cedar Mesa.
At Natural Bridges National Monument, we hiked down to Sipapu Bridge. It is a nice little hike, and we both had a great time.
Once we were done at Natural Bridges, we stopped at Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park. I remembered it from early scenes in the movie Koyaanisqatsi. Although there is no hiking available, it was worth our time to stop.
We drove back down the Mokee Dugway toward Page, Arizona, where we stayed another night. We stopped at Mexican Hat, Utah to photograph the “Mexican Hat.”
South of Kayenta, Arizona at Tsegi Canyon, we drove into the light from a deep red sunset and made a u-turn to get back to it for its last few seconds.
Vermilion Cliffs, Navajo Bridge, and the Grand Canyon
We drove south from Page, Arizona to the Vermilion Cliffs and Navajo Bridge over the Colorado.
As morning wore on, kind of at the spur of the moment, we made our way over to the Grand Canyon. Though crowded, being there together was great. Abby had never seen the Grand Canyon before.
“What some people will do…” As Abby and I prowled closer to the south rim of the Grand Canyon to find a nice photo vantage, we noticed a father with a very young daughter, maybe six or seven years old. The two moved close to the edge, then to a stone prominence with a gap between it and the edge. The dad lifted the girl by her arms and, despite her rather terrified protests, swung her once, twice, and on the third time heaved her, screaming, across the gap onto the stone landing.
Farther south we encountered the Kaibab National Forest. The Aspens were beautiful, and we found and photographed portions of the forest that had burned some years earlier.
Finally, bated by billboards, we stopped at the Giant Jackrabbit in Joseph City, Arizona.
Originally this trip was just intended to explore the area around Tent Rocks and Bandelier in New Mexico, but as we traveled and had so much fun together, we decided to see more and more. We had the times of our lives.