October 5, 2009

New Mexico Sketch Tour 09

Day 3 | 10.3.09 Santa Fe Scenic Byway (Hwy 475)

The Fall foliage beckoned as we noticed that trees we had driven by the day before were now, overnight, transformed by a cold snap, shocked into their Fall colors. Timing couldn't be better.

We fueled up again at the Guadalupe Cafe as it was amazing vegetarian New Mexican cuisine. We were also mere blocks away from the beginning of this dramatic 15-mile drive that starts at the old plaza in the center of town and climbs high into the lush forests of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The spectacular route winds uphill through mountainsides covered in forest that soon turns from pinion and juniper to ponderosa. Further up the drive (8500ft) winding our way through Hyde Memorial State Park the forest changes to Douglas fir, aspen and other high elevation trees, and views of the Rio Grande Valley open up to the west.

We turned around at the mountain's peak (12,000ft) at the Sante Fe Ski Area which is the highest point in New Mexico, and the second highest in the United States.

Descending through moment by moment chameleon shimmering overlooks at every turn, we crowned the drive with a stop at Aspen Vista which provided a view of the vast aspen covered mountainside.

As we discovered, in early October the trees peak and cover the mountain with brilliant gold and every shade of gold-green, and chile red enchantment fulfilling the promise that this drive is one of the premier Autumn spots in New Mexico.

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