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The journey continues

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By April M. Brown

The autumn
winds have blown in the inevitably changing season, casting leaves from green to deep hues of gold and red. Locals and visitors scurry into the mountains in hopes of catching the last glimpses of this colorful transformation.
The journey, thus far, followed N.M. 4 through Jemez Springs and on to N.M. 485, traveling west to Gilman Tunnels. From Gilman, the road turns into Forest Service 376 where the journey stops at Porter Landing before entering Lake Fork Canyon.  

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Into Lake Fork Canyon
    
 Continuing along F.S. 376 beyond Porter, the road twists and turns past many popular camp spots before crossing the Rio Cebolla into Lake Fork Canyon. The scenery here is stunning during any season, but seeing the changing colors in this canyon is a treasure. In addition to beautiful scenery, this canyon is also filled with relics and images from days gone by.  

Messages in the Stones

    On a straight stretch of road, a corral appears in a large open field on the right.  On the left, walls of stone surround another open field. A road cuts through the middle leading to the forest beyond.  
    The stones nearest the road are covered in etchings, some dating to the turn of the century. Hidden around a corner, one rock proudly displays two large, stylized crosses.  One is dated 1937, while Conrad C. de Baca carved the other on June 20, 1888.  The latter was very well executed and elaborately carved with curling letters and scrolls.  
Other drawings match the logging era and may have been carved by logging employees, who logged this field many years ago. One deeply chiseled carving reads, “JDC 1932.”  Old rusted springs and cans are scattered among the grass. This may have even been a logging camp during the time that “JDC” etched his enduring carving in the rock, so long ago.  

Frolicking among the Aspens

The last part of the journey takes travelers through fields of Aspen groves where splashes of red and yellow highlight the white bark of the majestic trees. This is the perfect area to frolic among the fall Aspens before the leaves line the forest floor with their golden blanket.  
Strolling groves in this area during autumn is both visually stunning and entertaining. Many campers and visitors over the years have left their marks on the surrounding Aspens, ranging from the typical professions of love, to religious statements, to names of logging employees and herders.  

A Gateway to mountain recreation

Rambling along the forest road will eventually lead to the paved portion of N.M. 126, just north of La Cueva. This intersection is a gateway to some of the most glorious recreation areas the Jemez has to offer.  
Crossing N.M. 126 and continuing north on F.S. 376 leads to the red cliffs of the pristine San Antonio Hot Springs. Taking a left leads to Fenton Lake, a popular fishing spot, and continues north to Cuba. If you turn right, the road returns to La Cueva where it reconnects with N.M. 4.  
    Traveling this circle through the wilderness is a wonderful way to enjoy the local culture, varied landscapes and historical places of the Jemez Mountains. The reminders of western towns, logging villages and prehistoric pueblos still echo in the distant red canyons and peaceful rivers of this stunning and unique land.