Given our hiking fail last night, we had decided that we needed to make up for it today, and the 11 mile trail loop seemed a good idea. So we were up early and having packed up the tent and the car, set off on our hike at 8.35am. The route that we were taking followed a combination of trails that linked in to one another, and the guide map said that the whole route was about 11 miles. After a brief debate about whether we needed our jumpers or not, the sun had yet to rise above the lip of the canyon, we set off (very sensibly leaving the jumpers in the car). This first trail, covering 3.1 miles was over a variety of terrain, which wasn’t ideal for me considering my lack of proper walking boots or shoes. Since it was still quite early, it wasn’t too hot, and we were able to complete this first leg of the trail quite quickly, although we did skip an additional two mile loop that led off it, hoping to be finished by lunchtime.

The Lighthouse rock formation (the tiny blue figure is Lizzie)

We joined the Lighthouse trail at the 3.1 mile point and hiked the remaining 1.2 miles to the Lighthouse rock formation. This has been designated a national natural landmark and is both stunning and unusual. It can be seen from quite far away once you are in the canyon as it is a free standing pillar of rock, jutting out away from the rest of the cliff face, over time, the rock between it and the cliff has eroded away and left the Lighthouse standing by itself. Reaching the bottom of the steep hill leading to the top of the formation, we stopped briefly before tackling the steep incline. I do not jest when I say that it was steep, we had to scramble up on our hands and knees in places! The trail came to a virtual halt with a bench at the base of the formation, where we sat for a proper rest. From here, it was possible to climb all the way up onto the formation, but it was very steep, and I was not happy attempting it in my sneakers. Liz however, sporting sensible walking boots, managed the climb, which involved a narrow ledge next to a 40 foot drop, all in all, I am kind of glad that I didn’t try it. Apparently the view was amazing though, so I am sorry I missed that. As we had kind of expected, the climb back down the steep hill was even more entertaining than the climb up, and when we eventually reached the bottom, we were both covered in red dust. The sun was fully up by this stage and it was getting rather hot, so at a somewhat slower pace, we began the 3 mile hike back to the start of the Lighthouse trail, through the arid landscape. We met a few people heading the other way and were passed by a number of cyclists before we eventually reached the trailhead, by this point we were both exhausted, but we were still a couple of miles from the car. From the Lighthouse trail car park, we had to walk along the road to the start of the Paseo del Rio trail which would take us back to the car… well, almost. We did however get a pleasant surprise when we got there, this trail was only one mile long, not two miles as the map had suggested. Eventually we got back to the car, and collapsed into it. After some much needed water, we got back on the road, retracing our steps back to where we had abandoned Route 66 two days earlier. Although we were a little hungry, we decided to wait and eat at the famous Midpoint Café, situated at, you guessed it, the Midpoint of Route 66, exactly 1,139 from both Chicago and LA. But first, we had to visit the Cadillac Ranch, situated just outside Amarillo. While the Cadillac Ranch has never been situated on Route 66, even before it was moved to its current location just of I-40 in 1997, it was definitely worth a visit. What is the Cadillac Ranch I hear you cry? 10 Cadillacs planted nose down in the ground, in a line, decorated with graffiti in every colour you can imagine, or at least, every colour that they make spray paint in. Following the directions from Route 66 we first passed a sign for the Bates Motel: a shower in every room, knives sharpened. Get it? I certainly didn’t, not being a fan of horror films, so Liz had to explain. According to our guide book it is the work of the same guy responsible for the Cadillac Ranch. It was one of those places that you just can’t miss, cars pulled up by the side of the road and 10 cars, all aligned at exactly the same angle sticking out of a field. There were several people there already, and most of them had brought their own spray paint. One lady said that they were done and we could use their remaining paint, which I did, once I had taken pictures of all the individual cars. I then spray painted my name (in a rather gross slime green) onto one of the cars. I took a photo, I have no doubt that my name has already been painted over.

The Cadillac Ranch

While there we both also collected a couple of fragments that had fallen off the cars, just paint chips really, but showing the many layers of graffiti that the cars have accrued over the years. Leaving the Cadillac Ranch, we drove on until we reached the Midpoint Café. Unfortunately, they were preparing the close, and had shut of the grill and were just waiting for a tour group. After a day of lots of walking and very little to eat, we were starving, and had been looking forward to a slice of the famous “Ugly Crust Pie”, but it was not to be. We were directed to a truck stop just over the New Mexico border which had good food, so getting back on the road, we joined the interstate in order to cross the border into New Mexico. The truck stop at Endee was pretty good, although there was very little choice for Liz we both managed to get something to eat, which by that point was much needed. After buying the all important bread and water to keep us going for the next few days, we got back into the car for the last leg of our journey to the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. The next few miles of our route were on a very bumpy dirt track, but were rewarding all the same. We reached Tucumcari at about 5ish (new timezone!) and were warmly welcomed by the owner of the Blue Swallow. He showed us our room first before taking any payment and was really friendly and chatty. The room was small, but lovely, with patterned (ie – anything but white) sheets, big fluffy towels and lots of original features from when it first operated in the early days of Route 66. Needless to say, we were happy with the room and having paid our money, pulled our car around to outside the small garage, since the garages are original too, they are too small for most modern cars, so are only now used for motorbikes.

NEON!

Once we had unloaded our stuff it was time for a much needed shower, the tan on my legs got significantly lighter as I washed off all the red dust from hiking in the canyon earlier in the day. We then spent the rest of the evening chilling out with a few cold beers, sitting outside our room as the sun set. Once it was dark, the neon was turned on, which was really pretty and although one of the circuits was broken, the owner held it on for us so that we could take photos, which was very kind of him. Not long later, we both fell into bed exhausted, and somewhat disappointed that our plans for a lie in had been destroyed by the 10am checkout time!

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