Goodbye West, Part 1: New Mexico

As my time in Colorado draws to a close, I’ve realized that I need to take advantage of my position in the country. Over the next few weeks, I’ll make up for my prolonged blogging drought by sharing some of the trips I’ve taken, starting with my drive down to Albuquerque for the recent annular eclipse.

During annular eclipses, the moon falls within the diameter of the sun but isn’t quite big enough to cover it entirely (as seen with total solar eclipses). This creates the badassly-named RING OF FIRE, which just so happened to be viewable in all its glory from Albuquerque, about seven hours south of Denver. And if you’re going to go down to New Mexico, why not see what else the state has to offer? With that in mind, I recruited my friend Sara and we embarked on a weekend journey of the Land of Enchantment.

First stop was Walsenburg, CO, where we left I-25 to head southwest towards Taos. We didn’t intend to stop here, but a freight train blocked us in so we took a quick walk around. Of note was the mining museum, formerly the Huerfano County Jail. Note the prisoners in the window.

Driving West on Route 160, we turned south at Fort Garland, CO. In the background is Blanca Peak, the 4th highest peak of the Rockies and the 8th highest in the contiguous US.

We made it to Taos a few hours later. Among other things, Taos is famous for its large population of artists and the Taos Pueblo, a thousand-year-old settlement that was unfortunately closed by the time we arrived. Instead we went to the local fair where we took a ride on one of those unsafe-looking upside-down spinny things.

The next morning we left and headed further south. We hugged the Rio Grande, pictured above, to visit the Bandelier National Monument outside of Los Alamos. Bandelier contains cliff dwellings from the 1300-1400s, once occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan peoples. The view from afar:

And a detail of some of the many cliff dwellings:

We couldn’t spend too much time here as we had an eclipse to catch! After a quick stop for lunch in Santa Fe, we finally arrived in Albuquerque, specifically at the University of New Mexico’s observatory. There was a ever-growing line to pick up the special sunglasses used to view an eclipse. And then, at around 6:30 PM local time, the show began. Sitting next to us, a man was using a telescope to project the the shape of the sun on to a piece of paper. Note the moon starting to creep in in the bottom left corner.

Here I am, enjoying the show.

Below, the ring of fire slowly forms:

And finally, a little over an hour after it began, the ring appears.

After that, we began a long and mostly boring 7 hour drive back to Boulder. We made one stop, somewhere in northern New Mexico, to take advantage of the state’s famously dark skies. This picture doesn’t even begin to do justice to how many stars were visible.

That’s New Mexico! Join me next time for more stars and more rocks as I chronicle my recent trip to Utah.

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