Great Plains Loop

Day 2: Datil to Rio Chama, New Mexico

In the morning I realized I had taken us slightly off track, so we backtracked to Pie Town and took a "shortcut" to route 117 that devolved into a string of iimpressive and progressively slippery mud slides.
Some lovely wildflowers along King Ranch Road.
Finally we glided onto pavement at the junction with route 117 and immediately bumped up against the southernmost tongue of the El Malpais Lava Flow.
There's a nice 1.4-mile hike here through a 3000-year-old lava flow known as "Lava Falls."
Zig-zag fissures 20 feet deep alternate with countless collapsed lava tubes and bizarre rope-like formations.
Another short hike to La Ventana Natural Arch. El Morro, Datil, El Malpais, Cebola National Forest — I love west central New Mexico! We need to figure out how to spend part of the summer here!
From Grants we took our favorite route across the Navajo Reservation through Hospah, Whitehorse, Pueblo Pintado and Torreon.
My favorite business name: Chaco Wash Laundromat, on Chaco Wash of course!
goat on the reservation

Near Whitehorse, a herd of goats and sheep wandered onto the road, even lying down in the road, and were not impressed by our efforts to persuade them to mosey along.

Although there were inky black clouds on the horizon, we tanked up on coffee and pecan pie in Cuba and continued rolling north through that great red rock country near Coyote and Gallena, and on past Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, to a campsite I'd read about along the Rio Chama.
Actually, there are a number of dispersed campsites along the Rio Chama. We pulled into one a few feet from the river just in time for the most spectacular sunset I'd ever seen, a curtain of vibrant liquid magenta behind powder-colored cliffs.
And then the sky opened up, and it rained. And rained. And rained. And our "campsite along the river" began to feel less and less desirable. Yes, we were at least one foort above the water, but we know what mountain-fed streams can do in the desert. We eventually moved to higher ground, without even lowering the roof, on a bench about half a mile upstream.
Rio Chama to Trinidad, Colorado