A hairpin turn beckons ghost motorists at La Bajada


     The sun was going down, for starters, and by the time I reached the foothills of the mountain where the small settlement of La Bajada and the old pre-interstate interstate by the same name existed, it was completely dark. The barely-visible crosscuts of the old dirt road, now replaced by Interstate 25 a few miles to the east, looked menacing.  To top it off, a spooky-looking dog with a bad leg was eyeing me from the arroyo, like Plutus eyeing the wrongdoers sent to the big H-E-double toothpicks.


  • COUNTY:  Santa Fe
  • LOCATION:  11 miles south of Santa Fe
  • NAME ORIGIN: La Bajada means "The Descent" in Spanish
  • GNIS Info & Map

      And if I did continue and passed that sign ahead (which surely said "ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE"), and hiked up the Ghost Road in the darkness, what level of Hell would be my fate? Probably the one with all the gluttons, given the way I had downed those Girl Scout cookies on the way out here. Was that the Circle where the wicked pushed rocks around? No, this was not a good idea. Better to return some other day, in the light. So I left, thinking that La Bajada was the one that got away.

      As luck would have it, I was in the same area only a few days later. I returned again, this time in the middle of the day and without the Girl Scout cookies. What a difference a little light makes. The viscious Devil Dog turned out to be a mutt with a broken foot. The crosscuts of the old road were clearly visible, and the village itself looked inviting. It was the difference between night and day, literally.

      The same could be said for the difference between this old road, once the passage between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and Interstate 25 to the east. Before I-25 was constructed, travelers had to negotiate 23 hairpin turns on their way up or down this mountain. Needless to say, La Bajada was the site of many side-effects of gravity. I'm sure many other travelers who passed this way before me thought this road was Hell too, but for different reasons.