The interview trail led me to Los Alamos, New Mexico, earlier this month.  Hidden in the Jemez Mountains, this cradle of the Manhattan Project is not easy to reach — I had to fly in to Albuquerque, rent a car, then drive the 2+ hours to Los Alamos.

Having spent the summers of 2004 and 2005 on internship in Albuquerque, returning to the Land of Enchantment was comfortable — the sun felt familiar, and the fiery orange dirt was warming.  I had an entire afternoon to make my way to Los Alamos, so I decided against the more direct route through Santa Fe, and instead opted for the scenic route:  I-25 north to Bernalillo, US-550 west to San Ysidro, NM-4 north to Los Alamos.  This route takes about 3 hours, but was a beautiful drive.

In San Ysidro, NM-4 goes right past this little Spanish mission church with its brilliant blue wooden door.

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About 10 miles north, near Jemez Springs, the terrain turns mountainous.  Pine trees begin to poke out of the ground, indicative of the gaining elevation.  The sky remained so spectacularly blue the entire drive.

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The Soda Dam is just north of Jemez Springs — mineral buildup from underground hot springs has dammed the Jemez River with these caps of rock that droop like weeping willows.

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Just up the road, I hiked to one of the hot springs.  Spence Hot Springs was only a half-mile off the road on a single-track trail.  It was an easy, quiet walk along this little stream.

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The hot springs were two small pools elevated on a cliff of rocks.  There were several people hanging out in the springs — you can see their shoes and some clothing perched on the edge of the spring here.

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On the way back to Albuquerque after my interview, I stopped at one of the roadside vendors along US-550.  Being mid-September, green chile season had just ended, but it was prime time for piñon.  I bought this satchel of freshly-harvested and roasted pine nuts from a guy selling them out of the back of his pickup.  Plump and buttery, they’ve already made an appearance in several salads.

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