Eagle Nest Lake, NM

We took the scenic route from Santa Fe toward Taos, through Chimayo, Truchas and Penasco, and then turned onto the ‘enchanted circle’ route passing Angle Fire to land at Eagle Nest Lake State Park.

The scenic route is an easy hour or so drive through the NM foothills and into the mountains that lets us see part of the state that isn’t maintained for tourists. It’s like the turquoise trail up through Madrid in that there are lots of folks selling crafts and other art from their homes. Art just seems to be a natural part of country life here, carried on through and by all generations. Poverty in these hills doesn’t look so very poor, it seems more like life done simply.

The valley from Angle Fire to Eagle Nest and extending further west toward Red River has to be one of the most dramatically beautiful places on earth. Wheeler Peak is to the south, and is the center of the enchanted circle that rings back around its west side and runs south to Taos. The valley is so open and clear that from where we are we can see the ski slopes above Angle Fire ten miles away. Probably five miles wide and thirty miles long, it is surrounded by mountains on every side – mountains that look from here as if you could gallop a horse up the grassy slopes to the tree line a mile or so up the slope, and then have a pleasant ride through pine forests all the way to the top. But distances are deceiving. I see a vehicle over across the lake traveling on the road to Cimarron. It takes a minute to realize that what looks kind of like a minivan is actually a semi truck.

Storms blow through every afternoon. Sometimes you can see two or three distinct storm systems at the same time. Looking under the one about to rain on you, you can see blue sky on the other side. At this altitude (about 6500 feet) thunder is palpably close. Sydney takes special note of this, moving under the chair wherever we sit.

Wild flowers abound. Jackrabbits are almost tame. People fish in the lake or just paddle around enjoying the massive silence and the seemingly unlimited sight distance.

Another thing visible for miles is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. You won’t forget a visit there. We went for the interesting architecture but found ourselves totally engrossed and deeply moved by images and artifacts from a time we know things about, but only thought we understood. There’s a story in this place we’d never heard. The memorial is intensely personal. Standing alone, it’s worth the trip to the valley.

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