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Soda Dam — home to many a German brown trout

The following story is approximaitely one fifth of the article that originally appeared in Albuquerque the Magazine, July, 2004. The article contains descriptions of five day trips that may be made from Albuquerque on a single tank of gas in a newer model car, or for the more adventurous, on a motorcycle. These trips are being published in installments one per week over the course of five weeks — this is the second installment. New installments will be posted on Friday mornings in the hopes that some Albuquerqueans may venture outside the city this summer.


The Vortex of Jemez

Text and Photos by
Sharon Niederman

The vortexes of Sedona, Arizona may call to some, but New Mexico is so loaded with power places where extraordinary energies convege that you can hardly take a walk in the countryside without tripping over one or the other. The dark, narrow canyon cut by the Jemez River, headlined with massive red rock cliffs to the east and the hot-spring studded Jemez Mountains to the west, cresting at the the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the vast collapsed volcanic caldera to the north, is without a doubt a power corridor.

Expect friendly service at the Los Ojos bar

Land prices have risen along with the ridgetop glass-walled mansions, but the area’s attempts at chichi don’t yet obliterate the layers of down-home funkiness found in places like the Victorian Jemez Springs Bath House — “a historical healing experience” — or the classic Western bar, Los Ojos, where the sounds of pool cues striking syncopate vintage Grateful Dead tunes from the jukebox, both in Jemez Springs. Still animating the place is the presence of spiritual energy marked by Catholic and Zen monasteries and retreats. Older still is the Towa-speaking Pueblo of Jemez, its green, well-cultivated fields of chile and corn visible from the road. Its ancestral 500 year-old pueblo, Giusewa (“at the hot place,”) at Jemez State Monument, which also includes the 1621 Spanish mission ruin of San Jose de Jemez, is just north of Jemez Springs.

A drive to Jemez is at this point in my life like turning the pages of a treasured scrapbook. Each stop along the way holds memories of my two-decades plus in New Mexico. There at the monumental red rocks, across the road from the Walatowa Visitor Center, I enjoyed fry bread and red chile served by a laughing mother and daughter from the pueblo — on my uncle’s last visit here before he died. That day we visited several pottery studios where families sell there distinctive wares and bought a small, lovely handmade pot. Passing the Bodhi Mandala Center, I recall bathing in the hot springs and waking at 4 am to don black robes and sit Zazen. The noted rock formations at Soda Dam and Battleship Rock are places where I’ve cooled my feet on hot summer days. On summer afternoons, we’d take off to fish the Jemez, and I’ve caught a few of those German browns before we picnicked under the cool Ponderosa pines.

The plaza at Jemez Pueblo, where I have spent so many snowy winter days watching the haunting Matachines dances with friends long gone, and where, still, I go every Christmas for the Buffalo and Deer dances, is inscribed in my heart as are the sounds of the drums and ancient chants, And Los Ojos Bar & Grill with its “Famous Jemez Burger,” came close to saving my life one frigid winter night with good hot green chile, when I entered nearly frostbitten, after skiing cross-country in and out of San Antonio hot springs.

Total round trip from Albuquerque: 122 miles, or, about a quarter of a tank of gas. Take U.S. 550 west to San Ysidro, go north on NM 4.

FYI

My vehicle, a silver automatic 2004 Nissan Altima 2.5S has a gas tank that holds 20 gallons, costing,$50.00 to fill at today’s price of $2.50 per gallon. It gets 23 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. At that rate, a tank of gas takes me 580 miles.

—Sharon


This article was first published in
Albuquerque the Magazine, July, 2004


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