Black Canyon, NFS – Santa Fe

Site 23 – quite spacious

This was our flexibility stop. Full stop. Just stop. Stop and take time for self care. Stop and spend down time with the Kindest People on Earth. Stop for communal dinners and quality chatting. And stop trying to rationalize the whole foot thing, hoping it will go away. It was a good stop and a healing stop. But mostly, it was my favorite stop, with the fewest scenery pictures taken, but the most time spent kicking back with good people.

Highway 66 through Albuquerque

Our drive in took a bit longer than expected because I opted to cross Albuquerque using 66, right through the middle of town, rather than navigate the highway interchanges. I do not regret that, and we got to see some kind of major police activity downtown for a little excitement. About all we know about that city comes from “Breaking Bad,” so we assume it was a drug bust. That’s how little we know about the area.

Long windy drive up to the campground

The campground is about seven miles outside of Santa Fe, all up and into the mountains. It’s a pretty drive, but you lose cell service immediately. We originally had reservations for three nights, split between sites 7 and 8. Then 8 opened up, so our first night was on a different reservation number, but for the same site. This ended up being confusing to the campground hosts, but they had other ideas in mind for us anyway. Apparently, they get a lot of complaints from people in sites 7 & 8 because those are right across from them and they need to run their generator a lot. So they talked us into taking site 23, which was much larger and nicer. The only caveat was that it wasn’t guaranteed for three nights. We decided to take our chances and set up there. Then we came back down the hill to have dinner with Altoistes friends, Rhea, David, and Marcy, at the Tune Up Cafe. That was an outstanding welcome and fun introduction to the area. We left sated, with a robust sight seeing tour, and midday internet access for Richard, all meticulously planned for the next day.

Quite the home improvement project!

Then Wednesday night happened and my foot became much more of a concern. What was dull pain and a sort-of-kind-of sense that things were getting better, took a sharp turn into the land of “no really, this is bad,” and a mostly sleepless night. We decided now was the time to find an urgent care and get it looked at. Meanwhile Richard’s bike tire turned out to have been completely shredded somehow, so that ended the bike ride to Marcy’s house for service. Our downtown historic tour of Santa Fe went out the window, in favor of waiting rooms and CVS. Rhea was awesome and drove up to help with logistics while Richard was on his work call and I was waiting to be seen. For the record, Rhea said way early on that it was probably the spider and should be looked at. And she was entirely right. Always listen to Rhea.

The official most likely diagnosis to the foot mystery is Spider Bro. Goddamn Spider Bro. The urgent care doctor was quite confident that the damage was not caused by abrasion or blisters from hiking, and though she’s never seen anything exactly like this, she was pretty sure it was due to an insect encounter gone bad. It is certainly systemic and spreading. She called in a dermatologist too, which made me feel better. They were both genuinely interested in seeing my day-by-day photo album, documenting the progression, so that now feels like less of a crazy thing for me to have done. In fact, when someone asks me to publish this in a well respected medical journal, I will be well prepared. The dermatologist concurred and they prescribed a course of antibiotics, elevating it as much as possible, and a follow up visit to my primary care when I get home. What a random thing to have happen on a trip and who would have ever dreamed a spider could cause so much trouble! I catastrophize a lot of things in my head, but I’ll admit this one was not on my list of things to pre-worry about.

Richard snuck in a ride, just under the rain

I spent the afternoon at Rhea and David’s. They are in the middle of a major home expansion project, so it was extra nice of them to have us over. They provided lunch on their covered patio, ice packs, and tequila on the rocks. Like really, really good tequila, the kind in a bottle that would look at home in a castle a couple hundred years ago. Richard, Rhea, & David managed some impressive logistics with cars so that Richard could ride across the old Santa Fe Trail, end up at their house with his bike, and get a ride back to our car with us inside, all before dinner.

Wonderful dinner, with cold beer and an elevated foot

We topped off the day with an excellent dinner at Marcy’s. She has the most beautiful home, right in the middle of old Santa Fe. She is very well set up for entertaining and provided an absolutely delicious meal. It was a wonderful evening and all that was missing was Marcy’s husband, Steve the Butterfly Guy.

With our first set of Santa Fe touring abandoned, we intended to follow up the next day with an all day trip through the Jemez Mountains, with Rhea and David as our own personal geologist guides. But then Friday morning happened and we found out our campground hosts were confused and befuddled and insisted we did not have any kind of reservations at all for that night. Given there is very little you can do with no service, combined with a call Richard had to be on at 10am, we ended up spending that whole morning getting cell service, sorting things out, and moving to another site. We didn’t get it all taken care of until after 1. Rhea was endlessly patient with us and trimmed our full day tour down to about four hours, starting with the already packed picnic lunch at her place. It was a drive-by Jemez tour, but it was still very beautiful and had the benefit of me keeping my foot up instead of driving. I did get a couple of pictures of the Valles Caldera and the Bandelier National Monument, but the true beauty was in the metamorphosis of the landscape as we drove. The caldera is huge and climbs several thousand feet. So when it was 104º down below, it was 50s and raining up above. It really was a nice tour, though the slow version sounds like it would have been nice too.

Rain over Bandelier

We got to enjoy another dinner out at Arable, where Marcy met us. Then we did some rethinking about the weekend. Originally, we were going to be back at Durango, then switched to Mesa Verde to meet up with other friends. Then the reality of all that driving settled in and we decided it was best to just stay put and continue with our Monday reservations at the not too distant Heron Lake rather than do the whole up and back.

This freed up a lot of downtime on Saturday and Sunday, and much of it for me was spent sitting in my Nemo chair, foot up, zoning out or looking at caterpillars (I need Steve the Butterfly Guy to identify an interesting one!). We also chatted with our neighbors, Dave and Cindy. They are from Borrego Springs (near Anza Borrego) and own two restaurants there. They are super nice and have been hit hard by COVID related closures. If you are anywhere in the area, please check out The Red Ocotillo and the Coyote Steakhouse.

We did need to dump tanks over the weekend, since we weren’t being mindful of waste water at all, thinking we would only be there three nights. We came to find there is no water whatsoever in the Black Canyon Campground. Nor in nearby Hyde State Park. Luckily we had one more dinner planned at Rhea and David’s and they were kind enough to let us fill jerry cans from their hose. Marcy got to bring her sister along too and a wonderful time was had by all. Seriously, what great people.

Sudden hail storm – took shelter under a tree (did not help)

Saturday night, we weathered an overnight lightning storm that lit up the whole sky and shook the trailer with the thunder booms. Sunday, we did some grocery shopping in town, got caught in a major hail storm, and said a fond farewell to Rhea and David. We really cannot thank our Santa Fe friends enough for all their hospitality. They are the best hosts ever. They let us use their laundry facilities, showered us with care, and helped us tremendously when we really needed it. This was a far cry from the “Plan A” sight seeing trip I had imagined. I have very few pictures of lovely Santa Fe but a whole album chock full of spider-based foot grossness. I am confident that if we had not done a full stop here, things would be worse now. This was a good call and we are so incredibly lucky to know such kind and wonderful people.

Total miles: 172.6, 16.4 mpg. Site 23 and 28. Very nice sites actually, with paved level areas for picnic table(s). Sites 7 & 8 are actually quite small, so this was an upgrade. Beautiful wooded campground with sites nicely spaced. NO water at the moment, NO cell. Verizon can get LTE if you go to the ranger station at Hyde State Park, but that’s it. Dump is a narrow bumpy approach with gates you need to open and then close, but otherwise good. This is a good place to stay for a Santa Fe visit as long as you don’t mind the 7 mile drive. There are really no other places that are convenient to downtown.

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