So, what do you do, when you are surrounded by beautiful mountains, and there is nothing vying for your attention? You rent a jeep and head into those mountains! We started the morning off early, (in hopes to beat all of the 80-85 degrees of the afternoon “heat”. lol!) and head to the edge of town. We filled out the paperwork and figured out all the necessities, like how to lower the soft top, because... who really wants to jeep in the mountains with the top up?
We hit the road and head approximately 20 minutes away to the small community of Elizabethtown, where our guided tour would start. Now this road trip was no small feat! The jeep had very loose steering to accommodate the rugged terrain we would soon encounter, and well, let’s say…this jeep had been well loved. We noticed pretty early on that the 4 wheel drive had some issues, but we felt we could totally handle them. As we are driving down Bobcat pass on the steepest inclines and curves, Gretchen says “Wow, Jody, these brakes don’t work so great.” Duly noted, Gretchen, duly noted.
So, we arrive at the bottom of the mountain for our E-Town Tour, and met our guide Jackie and her co-pilot Coco, who was a French Bulldog. She greeted us with “Are you ready to go on some kick a%* trails?” Ummm... Yes! Yes, we are. Jackie let us know that as we were climbing the mountain, there would be a section where we would need to go into 4low, and that she would honk to let us know when we needed to transition from 4wd to 4low.
Up first, Elizabeth’s house. This stop had the ruins of a house that the first caucasian child of New Mexico was born and raised in. Elizabeth Moore Lowry lived there her whole life, and raised her family of 7 children there as well. E-Town (Elizabethtown) was the first incorporated town in New Mexico in the year 1866. With our first stop completed, we headed up the mountain.
We were soon in the thick of the forest, and realizing that there were NO safety precautions made on the side of the mountain, i.e. guard rails. If there were one wrong move made, we would be tumbling down the mountain. It wasn’t long before we heard the honk for the change into 4low. Here we go! We lock in the 4low, and I took the job of “holding” it in place, (I told you that we had the 4wd thing handled, lol) and we start our climb.
Holy smokes…it was steep, and the soil was loose, and the road was full of ruts and large rocks, that were continually trying to throw our vehicle off the side of the mountain. Just when we thought we had conquered this section of road, we round a turn and get almost to the top, where it starts to level off, and we hear a screech and the transmission locks up. OMG, what now????!!!
Jackie, not noticing that we had stopped, continued on. Meanwhile, Gretchen couldn’t put the Jeep in park or drive, without hearing screeching and grinding noises. Only the neutral and reverse gears seemed to work. The 4wd wouldn’t move either, without making all of those horrible noises. After a few minutes, Jackie realizes that we were not behind her and we see her little Toyota, slowly making its way in reverse to where we were. Right about that time, the transmission decided to have mercy on us, and we were able to get everything in the needed gears. Whew, that was exciting!!!…NOT!
Onward and upward! Next stop was an open field, overlooking the mountain ranges. I truly believe this stop was not for the sightseeing, but for the opportunity to allow your blood pressure to resume to a safe level!! Oh, but the views! God’s creation is beyond words!! This view overlooked Eagle Nest Lake and the entire valley.
It wasn’t long before we encountered our next hurdle…literally, in the form of a 50ft Aspen tree lying across the road and the tree, still partially attached at the trunk, where it had broken off, and fallen over the night before. Now we have to get creative, because we don’t have a chainsaw.
Plan A was to jump on it, and see if we could break it up….Nope, still too fresh. Plan B was to pull it to the side and drive by it….Nope, too many trees in the way. Plan C was Gretchen will pull the tree back and hold it, while Jackie drives past it. The opening is barely wide enough, and she had to drive near the edge of the mountain, but through Gretch’s determination and strength, Jackie gets through.
At this point, Gretchen looked at me and says, “Go get the Jeep!”…again, Nope! I am NOT going to drive the vehicle, for the first time, on the side of the mountain! So I took over pulling the tree back, while G jumped in the Jeep. Jackie is in her vehicle, watching to see if we get through, and Gretchen is ready. I pull the tree back and then……SNAP!! The tree breaks and promptly sends me flying backwards on my butt. Perfect photo opp, but did anyone get the picture?…Nope! Why? They were both to busy laughing!
Again we prevailed, and we continued our upward journey. As we started navigating easier roads, Gretchen was noticing the contrast of the White Aspens and the dark bark of the Pine Trees, and she shared how the Lord speaks to her about standing out, just like this tree easily stands out amongst the pines. She assures Him that she is perfectly content to be behind the scenes, and then He reminds her of the white stone name that He had given her, when He gave her the name of “Seen”.
I loved how I was also observing the White Aspens, but God was speaking something completely different to me. When I saw the Aspens, I saw diversity. They were so different from all the pines. The Lord was speaking to me about how valuable and beautiful diversity is in the Kingdom, and how important it is for us to embrace the diversity that is among us. I can only imagine all the observations that could be made if one was able to spend some quiet time on that mountain!
Finally, we reached the top of the mountain, and were able to see for miles. Breathtaking! The top of the mountain was covered in all these small pine trees called Ancient Bristlecone Pine, that were very different from the very tall ones that we had been surrounded by all day. We learned that these were a special type of pine tree that only grew at very high altitudes, and they grow slowly. There was one near us as Jackie told us about them, and it was at the most 5 ft tall. Jackie said that that particular tree was probably close to 900 yrs old.
After a few selfies, and a celebratory cheer for Gretchen conquering her fear of heights on this trip, we headed down the mountain. Jackie had one more stop on the way down. It was the remnants of an old hotel that the Gold miners use to stay at. She also took us over to the stream, where they panned for gold, and she showed us the flakes of gold in the water.
While we were looking for flakes, Jackie shared that her daughter, who oddly enough lives in OK, had been admitted to the hospital earlier that morning, due to an infected tooth going septic. Here we were, in the middle of a guided tour, and God was giving us an invitation to share His love again! I said a simple prayer with her, for her daughters health and healing, and for her momma’s heart to be at peace. God is so fun!
As we found our way to the bottom, we said our goodbyes to Jackie and Coco, and head back to Red River. It has been a beautiful day, full of fun and adventure! Top down, heart rates back to normal, a little conversation,... and RAIN! What??? We were probably half way back to Red River, when it started one of those “Mountain Rains”. You know... the real quick ones that don’t last long, so you don’t stop to put the top up on the Jeep... lol! Thank goodness! It really was a quick rain. We were only a little wet.
The same was not true of the “Mountain Rain” that came a few hours later, when I was walking around town taking pictures, while Gretchen was resting at the house. I found a bench under a tree, back by the river, and thought I will just sit here till this passes. 45 minutes later, it was still pouring down rain! Once it let up and was only sprinkling, I quickly walked back to the house, only to realize that G had texted me to see if I needed her to come get me. I didn’t hear the text come through, because I was too busy gabbing on the phone to pass time. lol!
I was wet, cold, and ready for dinner and a blanket. We ended the night with the movie “The Shack”, those wonderfully warm blankets, and fudge. That movie, although very good, always leaves me a little sad. Gretchen, on the other hand, was very inspired. There’s that diversity!!! A perfect thought to end a fantastic day, that I will not soon forget! (Which is saying a lot for my memory.. LOL!)
Written by Jody Brown
If you would like to ride along with us through the rest of our trip you can click here.