We launched our kayak at Texas Hole just before the Navajo Dam. The pristine water of the San Juan River makes it one of the best places for fly-fishing trout. This area is catch and release so the trout are plentiful and huge. We were searching for calm water for our next trip with our cat, Lyra. She surely will love looking at all the fish swimming around.
As we launched our Jackson Riviera Tandem kayak near the many houseboats, we were in awe of the many unique boats that live on the lake. We paddled around the houseboats for the most part so we wouldn’t get drenched by wake waves. The Navajo Lake is a beautiful place set in NW New Mexico and it stretches into Colorado. This was our second paddle on the lake and it is quickly becoming our favorite place to go on a weekend afternoon.
After a couple of hours on the water, we loaded up to explore the land around the lake. Leaving the marina, we crossed the dam road and took the first left. This road will eventually lead to HWY 527. Taking several off shute trails we discovered the Frances Canyon Ruins (Navajo pueblito) built in the late 1600's. Pueblitos are built on mesa rims, outcrops, and boulders for defensive purposes. They are usually a small site with a tower. They are only found in New Mexico. The Frances Canyon ruin is one of the best preserved examples of a pueblito. It sits on the mesa rim and has a multi-level tower. We are always so excited to discover such places on our adventures.
With excitement of finding the pueblito, we decided to go to Chaco Cultural National Historical Park in Chaco Canyon near Nageezi New Mexico. Getting to the park is not easy. When we turned off HWY 550 to cut across the desert, the road was pretty rough, however, the park road is paved. Most of ruins are located just off the park road. We took a short, steep hike up to the top of a mesa. Our legs hurt for days after that climb. There are miles of trails that lead to more ruins. If we had time, we would have made the trek to see them. The ones we did see were quite impressive. This was the largest concentrated area of pueblo. The population was in the thousands between 850 and 1250 AD. Unlike other sites, this was built in the middle of the canyon not in the cliffs. This is a Gold-tier level International Dark Sky Park. From May through September the park offers Evening Night Sky programs on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. We hope to make another trip to Chaco for one of these presentations.
Bonita Trail to Kin Klesto Overview
"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."
We do not receive any compensation for any of the places or products in our blog.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” -Anonymous
Being working fulltimers, we never really know where we will end up for important events such as our anniversary. This year we lucked out! We are staying an hour away from the incredible Colorado town of Durango. On Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, for our 27th wedding anniversary we chose to dine at the Mahogany Grille which is part of the historic Strater Hotel. The dinner was a relaxed pace and the atmosphere is of the old west with large rod iron glass ceiling lights. Chef Ward Martin, who worked under Chef Thomas Keller, creates amazing dishes. Mike had the elk and I had the Colorado ruby red trout. When we arrived back at our home on wheels, we sat outside to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. Dinner and a show, What a treat! That was just the beginning of our anniversary weekend adventure.
On Saturday, Aug. 13th, we were determined to reach “The Notch” near Snowstorm Peak in the La Plata Mountains near Durango, CO. This was our 3rd attempt. Lyra was eager to go. As we made our way through the mountains on the La Plata Canyon trail, we stop to take in the wonderful waterfalls the dot the landscape. Lyra loves to explore. Unfortunately, I am not cat size so I often end up in some compromising situations. I let her tell of her mountain adventures. In the Jeep we always carry a survival bag which was created after we survived the 6.0 Napa, CA earthquake. Mike pulls one of our Lifestraws out and drinks the waterfall water. Brave Man! See video. He is so funny.
The trail splits near Fall Gulch to Kennebec pass trail and Colmbus basin trail. This point in the trail we had to go into 4-wheel drive. We decided to go right onto Colmbus Basin trail. At 11,500 feet we see the Colmbus Mine steam boiler (from 1917). Coal was shipped in by rail to Mayday then hauled up the mountain by pack mules. Check out Olga Little and her pack mules. Established circa 1896 the mine produced gold and silver. It reaches 350 feet into the Earth. The mine has a grate over it which if you are brave you can walk to the center and look straight down into the mine. It is an amazing site.
It was mid-afternoon so we decided to try to reach “The Notch” on Kennebec Pass Trail. The trail is moderate at times so 4-low drive is a must, especially, in our stock Jeep Wrangler. The trail is one vehicle wide so on a busy Summer weekend we had to maneuver to make room for opposite traffic. Right before we made the turn to the summit there is a couple of steam drum boilers and a parking area. The famous Colorado Trail head is located there. The final ascension to The Notch is steep and narrow. We MADE it! Woot! Woot! Lyra made of few fans while we were up there but she was not a fan of the wind at 12,000 feet. She tolerated being held by strangers and getting her photo taken. What a trooper! It was a sunny day so we could see the city of Durango and endless view of the La Plata Mountain range.
Every year we open a special bottle of wine. This year was our 2009 Georges De Latour Cabernet Sauvignon. We found a hiking trail to a secluded spot on a ridge that overlooked Kennebec pass. The perfect place to toast our 27 years together. A deer decided to join us to Lyra’s surprise. It was difficult to leave our little slice of heaven but the light on the mountain was fading and the descent was long.
On Sunday, Aug. 14th, we loaded the kayak and Lyra for another adventure on the Navajo Lake in New Mexico. Another beautiful sunny day in the mid 80’s was perfect for kayaking. Lyra relented to putting on her PFD. Safety first! She struggled to escape as we launched onto the lake. She did relax her death grip on my PFD after a while so I could also paddle. We stayed close to shore and away from other boats to minimize noise and wake waves. Neither Lyra liked. From the shore and water, people were shouting in excitement at seeing a cat in a kayak. She didn’t seem to appreciate her fans either. Then the unavoidable happened, a large boat going fast came close by us. Water spilled over the bow and Lyra climbed on my shoulder. Our trip ended at that point. Next time, we will take her on calmer water. She scrambled to the shore and found a spot of beach to call her own.
After our short kayaking trip, we drove to the nearby winery, Wines of San Juan in Turley, NM. It is, also, a Harvest Hosts member. The winery is open during the Summer months and has outdoor seating under large cottonwood trees. The winery is nestled near the San Juan river and the sandstone canyons rim. Plenty of patio seating and on Sundays they offer live music. New Mexican wine can be hit or miss. This wine is a hit! Tastings are free and not rushed. The Arnold family began as farmers but in 1999 they made the risky choice of becoming vintners. It paid off with award winning wine some of which made its way into our wine cabinet.
We hope that our experiences help you create your own experiences. We do not get compensated for any products or places in this blog.
Mike & Kat
Kat left teaching after 18 years to travel throughout the USA with her husband, Mike, who is an engineer for a Power generation company.