New Mexico Summer Vacation
In August as the Texas temperature rose to 100 and above, we started looking for excuses to escape the heat. Which meant we needed to get to the New Mexico or Colorado mountains. In the back of my little pea brain I kept hearing "LJT, LJT, LJT" and it suddenly dawned on me that every year for the last 16 years, one of favorite Texas singer songwriters - Larry Joe Taylor - has a music festival in the mountains at Red River. Checked his website, verified the date, and started packing the motor home for a trip to Red River and Angel Fire, New Mexico. And we had a blast for two weeks with 80's during the day, lots of fun activities, and 40's at night!
What makes coming to Red River and Angel Fire fun is the diverse outdoor activities that are available, some of which include:
- flying down a 1600' dual zipline from peak to peak over 200' above the forest floor
- fishing on any of several streams, rivers, or ponds well stocked with trout or hunting for a variety of game
- miles and miles of hiking trails from flat paved trails to grueling switchbacks to the top of 10,000 foot mountain peaks
- jaw dropping Kodak moments in every direction plus photography and wildlife tours
- an 18 hole disc golf course at the top of the Red River and Angel Fire ski lifts
- real rock climbing as well as rock climbing walls in Red River and Angel Fire
- hundreds of miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty for motorcycles, ATVs, and 4 wheel drive vehicles plus off road tours and ATV/Mule rentals or horseback riding up many of the trails
- white water rafting down any of several stretches of New Mexico rivers with something for everyone from calm relaxing very scenic trips to challenging Class 2 to Class 5 rapids
- one of the best mountain bike parks in the United States at Angel Fire Resort Bike Park which has over 50 trails for beginners to experts
- New Mexico's Enchanted Circle Drive which is an 84 mile loop through quaint New Mexico towns like Taos, Eagles Nest, and Questa and spectacular scenery, rugged back country, mountain trails, streams, lakes, pueblos, and more
- hot air ballooning
In addition to all of that there are year round events ranging from grueling biking events to music festivals like Larry Joe Taylor's to chili cook offs plus diverse shopping, good restaurants, museums and art galleries, and fun and lively nightlife.
We don't like long drives and from Dallas to Red River it's 699 miles and over 13 hours, which means we planned to stop in Wichita Falls and Amarillo to eat, drink, rest, and play golf! First stop was Coyote Ranch RV Resort on the outskirts of Wichita Falls. What a great park with full hook-up RV sites, two pools, cabins, volleyball, hot tub, and lots more. We got in late and missed our tee time but enjoyed sitting in the pool and had a pretty good meal in Wichita Falls. Read our review of Coyote Ranch RV Resort.
Early the next day we were off to Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo and our tee time Tascosa Golf Club's La Paloma Golf Course. Both were a pleasant surprise: Oasis RV Resort is a new and very clean RV park that's conveniently located to I-40; and La Paloma is a very interesting layout with some excellent holes, great conditions, and some huge beautiful homes overlooking the course. The links will take you to our review of each.
On our last day in Amarillo we were up much too early for a round of golf at Ross Roger's Golf Complex Mustang Golf Course - another great surprise. Mustang is a links style course with excellent conditions, near perfect greens which I typically 3 putted, and some challenging holes (at least for me!). After golf we had to stop by the RV Museum which is home to several vintage RVs, motorcycles, and camping gear. Really cool and makes us appreciate our new 42' motorhome with 3 slides, 4 burner stove, washer and dryer, microwave, side by side residential refrig, and more - but I sure liked the prices of those vintage RVs when they were new! From there we had to stop by and check out Cadillac Ranch which is home to 10 Cadillacs that some wealthy eccentric buried years ago and now lets everyone spray paint them - weird!
Next morning in sweltering heat, we set off for the cool weather in New Mexico. Wow, it takes a long time to get out of Texas and the drive from Dallas isn't one of National Geographic's "Top Ten US Scenic Drives." But shortly after we got into New Mexico we found the mountains and felt the temperature drop. What a scenic trip from Cimarron, New Mexico to Red River - mountains, valleys, cascading streams, tall trees, rugged cliffs, unusual rock formations, and more.
We fell in love with Red River the minute we saw it coming down the mountain peak and into town - I heard the motorhome huffing and puffing to get up to the top and a "wheeee" as it tried to barrel down the hill toward it's RV site for the night. The small village of Red River is home to less than 500 friendly folks and is surrounded by mountains on all sides and has a small river running through it. Red River has retained it's wild western flair, folksy casualness, and gold tinted mining town past - and it will never loose it's impressive mountain views and sunsets. Main Street invites strolling in the sun, bar hopping, shopping, stopping in for a bite to eat, or finding something to do like riding go carts, going river rafting or fishing, riding a horse or taking a jeep ride, tubing down one of the ski runs, hiking or biking miles of trails, riding the ski lift up the mountain for some food and views and 18 holes of disc golf, or just relaxing on a bench seat watching the tourists stroll by. Click on this link to Red River Vacation to learn more about this fantastic mountain retreat.
Some of the fun things we did in Red River include:
- we rented a mule (not the stubborn kind with 2 ears, 4 legs, and a tail) - this kind of mule was a 4 wheel drive Kawasaki mule that would seat six. Very scenic and fun trip up and down Carson National Forest roads - click on this like to read our Offroading in Red River New Mexico.
- rode the chairlift to the top of the mountain for live music and jaw dropping scenery on the deck of Tip Restaurant - wow, what an outstanding afternoon
- rode bikes everywhere we went, tried every restaurant that was recommended by more that 4 people, checked out some of the lodging, did very little shopping (hurrah!), met lots of friendly folks (most of whom were Texans), ate way too many samples of a variety of good food at the Chili Cook off, had a least one and most likely a few more at every bar in town, and spent too much time at the Lost Love Saloon listening to a great singer songwriter - Mike Addington
- loved sitting in the lawn chairs (only had 10 minutes) at the campground enjoying the cool weather, mountain scenery, peace and quiet, and watching kids play in the Red River and several fly fisherman trying to catch some trout
- took a very scenic drive through the mountains to just south of Taos to raft a section of the Rio Grande River called the "Race Course." Fun, scenic, and somewhat thrilling as we bounced off huge boulders, and rafted through 12 Class 2 and 3 rapids. Here is a link to an article about our Rio Grande Race Course trip.
But the highlight and the main reason we were in Red River was Larry Joe Taylor's three day 17th Annual Cool Mountain Nights and Hot Chili Days Music Festival. Wow, what an outstanding festival - small crowd of music lovers (again mostly Texans and lots of people we knew from previous Larry Joe Taylor Festivals), excellent lineup of over 20 performers, and four fun and very different music venues for the Festival. Read our review of this outstanding music event.
We hated to leave Red River (read more about our visit to Red River)but were excited about exploring Angel Fire for the first time, zipping down their zip line, and playing 18 holes of mountain golf. Angel Fire is only 29 miles from Red River and it's an easy and scenic drive - the motorhome loved flying down the twisting, turning, narrow, and steep mountain roads back toward Angel Fire but I wasn't quite as excited and was a tad nervous! Shortly after checking into our room at Angel Fire Resort, it didn't take us long to find out where to have a frozen Margarita - and it was the deck at Sunset Grill which overlooks the Angel Fire Chile Express Chairlift and the summit at 10,600', some of the ski runs with lots of mountain bikers blasting full speed down the mountain, Wheeler Peak (the tallest mountain in New Mexico at 13,167'), the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and a stunning sunset over Moreno Valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. And the Margaritas were excellent. Read our review of Angel Fire Resort.
The next morning we were off on an ATV tour up a dirt road 2000' in Carson National Forest. It was a fun, fast, scenic, bouncy and bone jarring ride that I felt was going to knock the fillings out of my teeth - but I loved it! Check out the pictures and details on our ATV tour in Angel Fire with Angel Fire Excursions.
After the ATV tour it was time to take my golf game to new heights with a lot of help from the altitude. I figured long drives, perfect high approach shots to the green, and excellent second shots were in order. What I found was that the altitude didn't help the slice which found the trees, water, and natural areas and that I could still dribble the ball down the fairway even though we were at 8700'. Maybe I needed new high altitude golf balls not the ones that I had found in some of the brown muddy golf course lakes in Texas.
But what a fantastic golf course - Angel Springs Resort Country Club has two very different nines, majestic views from every golf hole, excellent conditions, huge beautiful mountain homes, a fantastic clubhouse, and an outstanding fine dining restaurant. Here is a link to the review of Angel Fire Resort Country Club Golf Course. After a jarring ATV tour, a 5 hour round of golf (most of which I spent in bunkers or looking for my golf ball in the thick rough, under the trees, swimming in creeks, or hidden in the natural areas), drinks on the deck overlooking the mountains, and a large delicious 5 course meal ending with 3 scoops of ice cream covered with hot fudge, carmel, strawberries, and whipped cream we were whipped and waddled off to bed at Angel Fire Resort hoping that I would sleep for days.
But we were up bright and early for breakfast after which we walked out the back door of the Resort to ride the Chile Express to the top of the mountain for our zipline tour. The ride up the mountain was scenic and once at the top the view of jaw dropping. We hopped off the chairlift, walked a few yards, got suited up with helmet and harnesses and started our zipline tour. The highlight of which was the zip from peak to peak 270' above the forest floor at 45 mph down a 1600' zipline! Wheeee, now I knew what the motorhome felt like zooming down the mountain roads! Read our article on our Angel Fire Resort Zipline Tour to learn more.
The rest of our last day at Angel Fire Resort was spent
- on the deck of the restaurant at the top of the mountain enjoying the view and cool mountain air, talking to mountain bikers or hikers getting ready to descend the mountain, and watching disc golfers try to par some of the 18 disc golf holes that play up and down the mountain
- a scenic ride back down the mountain in the chairlift
- lunch and a couple Margaritas (again, this could be habit forming) on the deck of Sunset Grill
- time in the hot tub to work out some kinks
- and a few hours trying to decide where to have dinner - there are only 6 restaurants in Angel Fire!
It was sad to have to check out, load the motorhome, hook-up the Jeep and start the long boring trek back to the 100 degree weather! First stop was back at Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo and a round of golf at Tascosa Golf Club's Tascosa Golf Course (here is a link to our review of Tascosa) before heading home to unpack, get a few hours sleep, repack, and head to Austin to try flyboarding on Lake Travis.
Wow, what a fun filled summer vacation in New Mexico. Can't wait to do it again.