The Road to Gilman Tunnels

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Due to the recent Las Conchas wildfire, charred forests and subsequent flooding have left many local trails and forest roads inaccessible. Although the options for local outdoor recreation have temporarily diminished, there are many fantastic destinations a few hours away in the Jemez Mountains.  
One route in particular, travels through the mountain passes of the Valles Caldera, through an old western village and continues on to the territory of logging companies and railroads.  
Allowing for better descriptions of important sites along the way, the trip will be broken down into three parts. This article describes the first leg of the journey.


Traveling Along N.M. 4

Rambling west along N.M. 4, the winding road travels through pine forests until it spills out on the southern edge of the Valles Grande. All along the highway, reminders of the recent Las Conchas wildfire lay in arroyos, spilling over with runoff from the blackened hills above.  
Beyond La Cueva, the road winds through Cañon de San Diego, where steep, red mesas look down upon geological beauties such as Battleship Rock and Soda Dam. A few miles past Soda Dam, the canyon leads to Jemez Springs — a quaint, historic town in the heart of Jemez red rock country.

Historic Jemez Springs

Occupation of Jemez Springs dates back to prehistoric times. Upon entering the village, Jemez National Monument rises from the sand as a reminder of the Spanish conquest in the early 1600s. Once the site of Jemez Pueblo, the village was destroyed to make way for the church that remains today.  
Entering the town proper, Jemez Springs unfolds like many old western towns. Most of the buildings were built in the mid- to late-1800s. Old mercantiles, stables and trading posts have transformed into popular restaurants, bed and breakfasts and day spas.    
During the early years of the town, the Abouselman family owned most of the village.  Los Ojos Saloon currently displays many of the family’s heirloom pieces, such as old guns and animal skins, and is located directly across from the two-story, white house, where generations of Abouselmans lived and died.

Historic Battles
and Logging Railroads

A few miles beyond Jemez Springs, N.M. 485 leads west to Gillman Tunnels.  This road follows the spur of an old logging railroad and leads to many interesting stops along the way.
After crossing over the Rio Jemez, take a moment to discover the mesa in the distance to the right. This mesa overlooks a good part of the journey to the tunnels.   
Guadalupita Mesa contains a village once occupied by the ancestors of the Jemez Pueblo after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. This defensive village was the site of a major battle during the reconquest. Don Diego de Vargas led a surprise attack on the pueblo in July 1694. Out-matched in weaponry, the pueblo was defeated and  de Vargas was one step closer to a true reconquest.  
Following the glistening Rio Guadalupe, the road snakes through Gilman Tunnels. The tunnels were blasted with dynamite by logging employees in the 1920s. Lumber was transported by train through these tunnels to a mill in Bernalillo. Miles of track traversed the canyons and mesas beyond the tunnels, offering rail passage for logging operations for nearly 20 years.  
With fall quickly approaching, the next leg of the trip will highlight the viewing of the changing Aspen leaves with a trip to an old, logging village overlooking the Rio Guadalupe. This perfect fall picnic spot also boasts a bed of stunning, rust-colored fossils.

--April M. Brown