Between Santa Fe and New Mexico lies a mesa called La Bajada Hill. La Bajada — “the descent” — is home to a steep and treacherous alignment of Route 66 that dates to the road’s earliest days. The La Bajada Hill alignment was bypassed shortly after the road was commissioned, but much of the dirt roadbed remains intact, and while it is no longer passable for most vehicles, the winding trail is ideal for hiking on a summer morning.
We’ve hiked La Bajada Hill in the past, but this trip brought an unexpected treat: A four-legged guide greeted us near the base of the mesa and accompanied us to the top and back.
We got the impression that the dog — who probably belongs to one of the ranchers living nearby — makes a habit of playing trail guide for tourists.
The dog wasn’t the only creature on the trail. This pretty little snake was sunning itself on the path as we came around a curve. A Google search later revealed that our serpentine friend was a gopher snake.
We also encountered numerous lizards.
The cholla cacti were in bloom. A guy down the street has one of these growing next to his driveway, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’d been thinking zoysia for the front yard, but between the cholla and the yucca, I’m starting to give serious thought to some hard-core xeriscaping instead.
I tipped our tour guide when we got back to the car. I’m not sure what the going rate is, but he seemed pleased with three big pieces of beef jerky.
Here I am, bidding our guide farewell. What a great dog.
And on that note, I’m going to go finish clearing out the car so we can pick up our great dogs from the boarding kennel.
P.S.: Despite the triple-digit temperatures, our garden thrived while we were gone: I harvested a grocery bag full of green beans and another of rat-tailed radishes this morning. We have a lot of weeding to catch up, but we got the worst of it knocked down this morning, and I think if we spend a half-hour or so out there every morning this week, we should be able to whip it right into shape.