SANTA FE, N.M. — Last year, one shopper from Rio Rancho was thrilled to buy a tree stump for $5. Someone else scored an RV. And dozens of other treasure hunters left with furniture, toys and other trinkets.
The Jemez Mountain Trail Sale is a garage sale addict’s dream come true with 26-plus miles of yard sales set up roughly along N.M. 4, starting in San Ysidro. This year’s 12th annual sale, scheduled for Oct. 17 and 18, promises another year of bargains.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Heidi Downs, owner of the La Cueva Lodge. “It’s the best time for spring cleaning. It’s a great community venture, I think, and it gets people out here.”
Like many in the valley, Downs plans to sell and to shop.
“I get some great bargains, which is super fun,” she said, adding that she has her eye out for unique décor for the hotel guest rooms. “Last year we got some great furniture.”
The two ladies who first started the sale, originally called the 26 Mile Trail Sale, had lived in Tennessee and were inspired by the 127 Corridor Sale, also known as the World’s Longest Yard Sale.
That sale began in Jamestown, Tenn., as a way to draw folks off the interstate and onto rural back roads. The sale now runs from five miles north of Addison, Mich., south to Chattanooga, Tenn., on U.S. Highway 127, then switches to the Lookout Mountain Parkway and continues to Gadsden, Ala. – a total of 690 miles through six states.
The Jemez Mountain Trail Sale offers the same informal shopping and community experience. Several people offer space at their homes or businesses for sellers from outside the valley or for people whose homes are off the beaten path.
The WEEKENDS store in Jemez Springs is one of those cluster locations, along with Aspen Ridge Alpacas in Thompson Ridge, La Cueva Auto, Fitzgerald Park in Jemez Springs, the Walatowa Visitor Center in Jemez Pueblo, Trail House Grocery, Liquor & Grill in Canon and others.
“The trail sale is a terrific event and just gets better every year,” said WEEKENDS owner Colleen Collins, who has been involved in the sale for years and sells Jemez Springs T-shirts (“Jemez Springs New Mexico — Just a little Southwest of Normal”) to help offset sale promotion costs.
“This year, in addition to a wide variety of yard sale type items, I expect to have a woman wood carver with beautiful hand-carved items, a gem and mineral guy, a food vendor with fry bread and chile, a woman selling her personal collection of fabric pieces, a friend selling a beautiful motorcycle and who knows what else,” she said.
Talty Robinson, the coordinator of this year’s sale, has been working hard to bring in more sellers and expects there could be 100 people setting up shop on the roadside. There’s still time to contact a cluster location organizer and join the selling; information is available on the sale Facebook page, she said.
Robinson and Collins advised hard-core yard sale shoppers from the city that there’s no need to head out at the crack of dawn.
“Don’t do that – you’ll be alone. It’s really dark and cold,” Collins said. “It’s much more relaxed than it is in the city. There are people that are setting up and adding more stuff all the time. Even on Sunday there are still people who are putting up stuff.”
Robinson said 9 or 10 a.m. would be a good time to start shopping. She warned people not to expect a continuous line of sales along the entire route, but rather pockets here and there. And she suggested dressing in layers and bringing along water and snacks. Of course, there will be folks selling baked items and other food along the trail.
Flo Yepa, owner of Sun & Fire Pottery House in Jemez Pueblo, will have people setting up to sell in front of her home along N.M. 4.
“We welcome everyone,” she said. “They can bring their art, crafts or whatever they want to get rid of.”
Yepa said she’ll be selling food and “what I call my junk, your treasures.”
“I’m looking forward to it again this year,” she said. “It’s going to be very interesting.”
The sale offers more than an opportunity to bargain hunt and make a little extra money. It’s a perfect time to see the cottonwoods glimmering along the river and also a community event that brings together neighbors and others.
“That’s the most beautiful weekend of the entire year in the Jemez Valley,” Robinson said. “The leaves are at the peak of their color usually.”
Downs compared the atmosphere to a block party. Collins agreed.
“Everybody is very friendly and neighborly,” she said. “It’s a really big sale with a small-town feel.”