Route 66 Side Trip

Route 66 Side Trip

Exploring La Bajada

Route 66 Side Trip

     

La Bajada Hill 1928

La Bajada Hill 18 May 2003

La Bajada Hill in 1928

La Bajada Hill 2003

Between the years of 1926 - 1932 this was Route 66. This road goes back a long way in time though, almost 400 years in fact. Originally it had been part of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or Royal Road to the Lands of the Interior, and ranks as the oldest European highway in the U.S.
            

La Bajada Ruins

La Bajada Rock Retaining Wall

Foundation Ruins at the Top of La Bajada Hill ~ Purpose Unknown.

Rock Retaining Wall on a Switchback at La Bajada Hill

 

A Restful and Relaxing Hike on La Bajada Hill

1926 - 1932 Route 66 into Santa Fe

When the Route 66 Caravan was in Santa Fe for the Oldest House restoration, Michael Romero Taylor of the N.P.S. offered to take Kevin Hansel, President of the Historic Route 66 Association of California, and me on a tour of the infamous La Bajada Hill the following Sunday. It was an offer we couldn't refuse. We hadn't been on this part of old Route 66 and we sure wanted to check it out - of course we said yes. I know I've been intrigued by stories of the terrible La Bajada Hill. I wanted to find out how bad it really was.

1926 - 1932 alignment of Route 66.
A thousand cars a day once drove this road!

 
     
Early Sunday morning we returned to Santa Fe and met up with Michael. He took us to the La Bajada Hill in his four-wheeler where we parked at the top of the hill. It was time to walk! "See that patch of green down there, that's where we are going," Michael said with a smile. I peered over the edge of the escarpment at the tiny village of La Bajada miles below and my heart sank.

1930 - 1932 La Bajada Alignment

Michael Taylor points to the
1930 - 1932 alignment on La Bajada Hill.

   
This was going to be some serious exercise! I thought of all the enchiladas we had been eating on the Caravan and grudgingly admitted it probably would be good to walk some of that off.

This was a great hike down the switchbacks of La Bajada and Michael was a great guide. He pointed out points of interest all along the old road. We found a place where the ancient Native Americans pecked out sacred symbols in the weathered basalt. There were other areas where if one looked closely, the faint remains of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro could be seen meandering up the hill. This original old road was started by following an old Indian trail in 1598, and that trail was probably thousands of years old even back then. All the history that had happened along the La Bajada from the Native Americans, to the Spanish and into the Twentieth Century with Route 66 is staggering. What stories could be told of those that came before us!

Spiral Petroglyph

La Bajada Petroglyph

Ancient Indian Petroglyphs on La Bajada Hill date back thousands of years.

Old wooden Route 66 bridge crosses the Santa Fe River at the bottom of La Bajada Hill

Wooden Route 66 Bridge at La Bajada

    
Water Break at La Bajada Bridge

Well at least I made it down La Bajada! Of course the law of gravity was a big help.

     

Michael and Kevin beckon on! Time to climb back up La Bajada. If my heart sank looking down the hill it really got heavy looking at our trail up!

Return Trip Up La Bajada

      
Santa Fe Camp Sign We plodded on up the hill. On the way back we took the old 1930 - 1932 alignment of Route 66. Near the summit we saw a reminder of the days before the motels. This was an original "billboard" painted on the blackened basalt escarpment proclaiming rest at Santa Fe Camp.
     

Proof positive that we did indeed make it up the La Bajada Hill!

Back at the Truck at Last

    

La Bajada Lizard

 

Take this exit to return to Route 66 in Santa Fe ...

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Photographs taken May 2003


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