An alternative to France
—L.A. Williams, Signpost
Sometimes you just want to get away. But frequently, vacations don’t mesh with young children, work, or the bank account. So we typically look for a quiet and relaxing getaway for a day just to unwind, have a nice meal and recharge.
Welcome to what we call the “Loop.” We start out by heading to the Jemez Valley, this is of course after establishing guardianship of the children with extended family for the next eight hours, which on occasion is no small feat. But, as our car heads into the Valley we already get the sense we’re many time zones away.
Our destination is the Jemez Springs Bath House which was one of the first structures to be built in what is now Jemez Springs. It was built between 1870 and 1878 and was initially operated by the Otero and Perea families then in 1924 by Charlie Clay and then in 1940 Dr. Bruington gave the Bath House to the Catholic priests who in turn sold it to the Village of Jemez Springs in 1961.
We pull into the parking area and with great anticipation begin the unwinding part of our day-vacation. The naturally occurring minerals in the Jemez water have a magical way of altering a person’s perspective and the “healing” massage is exactly what is required to relieve the tension trapped inside two wound-up and bound-up people. Apparently, the Jemez water contains acid carbonate, aluminum, calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, potassium, silicate, sodium and sulphate, and although I have no earthly clue what the combination means, I can tell you that it works and works well.
It’s not always an easy task to continue a journey after a soothing mineral soak and massage, but somebody is expecting us to pick up the kids before bedtime, so we move onward. We proceed along our meandering path through the gorgeous Jemez mountains and soon arrive at our next stop, Kasha-Katuwe, also know as the ‘tent rocks.’
Kasha-Katuwe is a Keresan phrase meaning 'white cliffs', Keres is the traditional language of the pueblo tribes of northern New Mexico. The teepee-like formations cover a small area but are rather unique in the Southwest. There are hundreds of white, pinkish or grey spires, sharply conical in shape, lacking any covering vegetation, that occur in several groups on the east side of Peralta Canyon.
The rocks were formed by erosion of thick layers of pumice and tuff, and since the overlying sandstone is more resistant to erosion, residual pieces form caprocks over the ash, which, being so soft, erodes rapidly downwards, creating the tall spires. If a cap rock is dislodged, the spire quickly (in geological timescales) weathers away, though new ones gradually form further up the hillside. The tuff is a remnant of explosive volcanic eruptions of between 6 and 7 million years ago, as are pieces of obsidian, a translucent, brown/black volcanic glass known as Apache Tears, which can be found scattered over the washes and cliffs of the monument and especially around the river in the main valley.
We spend a couple hours exploring the area by foot before a serious appetite sets in and we head off again to our final destination.
After working our way back to Bernalillo we anxiously head to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya because we have reservations at their fabulous Corn Maiden restaurant for the second of three “Wine Dinner’s” this year. If you’ve never experienced one of these events then you’re missing a gem of a fine dining experience at minimal cost. I do believe that the wine alone would have been very close in value, if not greater, to the $65 cost of the event, and the reverse may be said of the food.
This particular meal featured wines from the South of France, including the Rhone Valley, and the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence wine regions, with an exquisite four course meal, prepared by Bruno Gras, chef de cuisine at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya. Each menu item was designed with flavors that complement the wine with which it was paired. This truly great meal also came with a history lesson as Zachary Saam from Southern Wine and Spirits provided a rather remarkable background for each wine and region. For instance, we learned that in southern France more Rose wine is served than White wine, and that the wine region of Chateauneuf du Pape produced the wine most consumed by the Romans.
Following the ‘Roasted Apricot Tart with Almond Cream’ dessert, we sipped our last bit of coffee down, strode along the bosque and back to the car and headed to pick up the kids. The sun was down, our bellies were full and although our bodies were tired there was a tremendous feeling of being both rejuvenated and ready for the next battle, which incidently arrived about four hours later in the form of a three-year-old’s cough and runny nose.
Note: At the time of print, the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks national monument will be closed until approximately July 31, 2010, to allow for paving of the access road.
Family Travel Minute
Don’t let summer slip away without at least one camping trip
We just returned from a camping trip to Chaco Canyon. It only takes about two and a half hours to drive there from Bernalillo. The temperatures can range from 48 degrees at night to 98 degrees in the heat of the day, so be sure to pack accordingly. The Rangers offer guided tours that will help you and your kids appreciate the amazing historical and cultural significance of the ruins you will explore. The rocky cliffs and Fajada Butte views are stunning. Standing in rooms that were built over 1000 years ago is an experience I can’t describe, but I can tell you that our 4-year-olds and our 8-year-old were impressed and awed by the experience. Their grins and the noticeable lack of sibling arguments were palpable signals that Chaco’s sacredness was affecting the kids.
Water in the desert is always an issue, and we thought we had packed enough, but we were wrong. We recommend that you pack four times the amount of water as you think your family will drink, and that will probably be sufficient.
Other local activities for families:
If you are looking for some activities to do around town, Cinemark Movies is offering some great deals. Check out the Summer Movie Club (9:30 a.m. movies for .50¢ admission) and the Reel Family Time specials (.75¢ admission on Mondays). For more information visit www.cinemark.com.
The Albuquerque Museum has a special Family Gallery with hands on activities for kids as part of the Turner to Cézanne exhibit that will be showing through August 8, 2010. Be sure to check the schedule for the Education Programs which are free with museum admission.
For more family friendly excursion info including a monthly calendar, travel blog and featured destination videos visit www.thefamilytravelminute.com.
The Family Travel Minute is a web-based travel program geared for families. The website provides ideas for day trips and over-night excursions which can be accomplished for approximately one hundred dollars or less. Many of the ideas suggested in the weekly travel blog are free. The Executive Producer and the Host of the Program, Jennifer Chavez, is a working a mom with three children.