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The City Of Totems: Duncan, BC

The City Of Totems: Duncan, BC

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Art, British Columbia, Canada, Gallery | 26 comments

We sailed away from Vancouver Island on Friday, after five weeks of adventures, British Columbia style. You would think five weeks would be enough time to cover every inch of an island 290 miles long and 62 miles wide. Not quite. But we did our best.

We explored the length and breadth of the island, discovering treasures around every bend. We found whales on the north coast and bears fishing for salmon in the interior. We kayaked in pristine waters, took a mail boat cruise to a remote village, hiked trails through moss-covered ancient forests, visited beautiful gardens, and walked stunning beaches on both coasts. We immersed ourselves in the First Nations culture and the vibrant local art scene. We indulged in a bounty of local foods from farmers markets, vineyards, breweries, cheese makers, fishmongers, tea houses, and bakeries.

The entire experience was pure magic. Except for the lack of internet connection, which was pull-your-hair-out frustrating. If you can’t live without internet, you don’t want to go to Vancouver Island. Your phone might work (sometimes), but your internet connection, never. I’ll share more about this in an island wrap-up post, but for now,  let’s talk about the little town of Duncan, a mere 40 miles north of Sidney.

Leaving Sidney, we envisioned small towns and wilderness ahead. Instead, we found ourselves driving through stop-and-go traffic on a highway lined with strip malls. And then it started to rain. It wasn’t exactly an auspicious beginning to our explorations of Vancouver Island.

But then we pulled off the highway in Duncan, also known as The City of Totems.

There were two things that drew us to Duncan: the large collection of First Nations totem poles, and the farmers market. Both were outstanding, even in the rain.

Totems created by First Nations artists by the railway station in downtown Duncan, BC

The Duncan Farmers Market takes place year round, rain or shine. Every Saturday, 150 vendors gather in the heart of downtown Duncan, laying out a cornucopia of island bounty. The Cowichan Valley is blessed with as close to a Mediterranean climate as you get in Canada, and has become a slow-food mecca for organic farmers, artisanal cheese makers, foragers, fishermen, vintners, brewmasters, chocolatiers, coffee roasters, and chefs. For food lovers (like us!) it’s heaven.

We knew nothing about the Cowichan Valley before stopping in Duncan, but immediately put it on our list for an extended visit later in our trip. As for the farmers market, we came away with feta and Brie from grass fed happy cows, beautiful organic berries and greens, fresh roasted coffee, and local smoked salmon. If our fridge hadn’t been stuffed full of Lopez Island goodies, we would have bought a lot more.

A little rain (or a lot) won’t stop us from visiting a good farmers market!

A local jazz band provides entertainment on a rainy market day

The surrounding Cowichan Valley is known for its Mediterranean-like climate (yes, really)

Along with hosting the largest farmers market in the Cowichan Valley, Duncan has a superb collection of totems in the downtown area. Totem poles are unique to the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast. It’s not unusual to find totems in British Columbia—many communities raise totem poles as a sign of respect to the First Nations peoples.

It is unusual to find such a rich concentration of totem poles, though. In 1985, the mayor of Duncan initiated the totem pole project to celebrate the close ties between the City and the Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) people. He also hoped the totems would attract visitors, but that’s not the primary message that comes through (there’s nothing amusement park-esque about the totem poles, fortunately).

Today, 39 totems, all created by aboriginal carvers, are placed throughout the town. The signs accompanying each tell the story of the totem pole from the carver’s perspective. Totem tours are offered during the summer, or you can follow the yellow footprints of the totem trail on your own.

Downtown Duncan has an outstanding collection of First Nations totems

Carved from cedar, totem poles tell stories of individual clans, and communicate history and legends. Each animal symbolizes human traits, personality and values. For example, Bear represents strength, family, and courage. Mischievous and curious Raven embodies creation, knowledge, and the unknown, while Owl signifies wisdom and intuition. Otter is one of my favorites, symbolizing friendship and family, as well as happiness and never ending curiosity.

The Eagle Totem, the first totem created for the Totem Project in 1986

Each totem has unique symbolism and tells a story

The Transformation in Life Totem

Eagle represents wisdom, great vision, and healing, and this totem tells a story of transformation. An eagle carries away a man on a vision quest. He returns as a young person wrapped safely in the eagle’s wings, representing his Guardian Spirit. Now, his life begins again, with a second chance to change his ways.

Totems against a background mural in downtown Duncan

The mythical Thunderbird, bringer of great storms, thunder, and lightning

A bronze water fountain totem, including a frog fountain for pets

If you get hungry wandering in Duncan, the Duncan Garage is a gathering place for locals and visitors offering homemade soups, salads, and lots more, all focused on local foods and with a definite retro hippie vibe. While you’re at it, you can browse the excellent little bookstore and shop the little natural foods store. It’s a cute, colorful place, right along the totem trail.

The Duncan Garage offers everything but gas, oil changes and tires

Hippie comfort food is on the menu at the Duncan Garage Cafe

Ten Old Books Bookstore

We spent several hours in Duncan and then resumed our journey northward. It was a great stop, and well worth the short detour off the highway.

Next Up: Nanaimo, BC: The Harbour City

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Coming Full Circle: Joseph, Oregon

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, Oregon

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 in Art, Biking, Gallery, Hiking, Oregon, Travel | 22 comments

When people find out that we’ve been traveling fulltime for three years, they often remark that we must have been everywhere and seen everything by now. We naively assumed the same when we embarked on this journey. But what we didn’t anticipate is that our travel bucket list is getting longer instead of shorter (this seems to be the lament of most full timers we’ve met). It doesn’t help that we’re not really crossing much off our list—many of the places we visit go right back onto our “must return to” list.

Thus, in early June, we once again found ourselves in Joseph, Oregon—the first destination on our list when we began our journey three years ago.

Joseph is an easy town to fall in love with. Cozy and welcoming—with only 1,000 residents—the town is postcard-perfect, but refreshingly lacking in pretense. Nestled against the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains, there’s a pretty main street brimming with flowers and interesting shops; the street corners are anchored by magnificent bronze sculptures, all created by local artists.

The most striking bronze—and the most prominent—is that of Chief Joseph, the esteemed Nez Perce leader who fought, first diplomatically, and then in battle, for the right of his people to remain in their ancestral lands.

The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. ~Chief Joseph

Long before white settlers arrived, this rugged place of high mountains, deep canyons, and cascading rivers was the homeland of the Nez Perce. A peaceful nation, the Nez Perce cultivated good relations with white settlers—until gold was discovered nearby, and they were forced out of the valley they called “The Land of Winding Waters.”

The legacy of the Nez Perce is woven deeply into the fabric of Joseph. The town, once called Silver Lake, renamed itself Joseph in 1880 (in honor of Old Chief Joseph, the father of young Chief Joseph). Just outside of town, Chief Joseph the elder is buried, forever overlooking his beloved Wallowa Lake.

Adjacent to his gravesite is the Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site. It was here the Nez Perce began the sorrowful journey that took them from their homeland. It is a beautiful place; rolling green hills dotted with wildflowers and a small pond lie beneath the grand presence of the Wallowa Mountains. This is sacred land to the Nez Perce, and it is a gift to be able to walk the trails.

We spent our week in Joseph hiking, biking, and exploring the town. The  Eagle Cap wilderness is nearby—this is truly wild country, best seen on backpacking trips. But a few trails allow access into the wilderness for reasonably easy hiking adventures. We hiked both the Chief Joseph trail just outside of Wallowa State Park, and the Hurricane Creek trail, just a few miles from town. For a different type of adventure, we “rode the rails” on a unique bicycle-built-for-two contraption with the Joseph Branch Rail Riders, pedaling 12-miles of repurposed train tracks through undulating farmland, from Joseph to Enterprise and back.

We planned our visit to Joseph to coincide with the peak wildflower bloom along the Hells Canyon Byway. It’s a long, slow, dusty 40-mile drive (three-quarters on a rough gravel road) to the Buckhorn Lookout, but absolutely worth it. The road passes through the Zumwalt Prairie, Oregon’s largest native wild grassland. The wildflower bloom in the grasslands and at the canyon overlook was just as spectacular as we remembered.

I wish I could say that we could now cross Joseph off our list. But we can’t. There’s more we want to explore in the area—rafting the scenic Grande Ronde River is at the top of the list. I think we need another lifetime to fit everything in.

About the RV Park:

We spent six nights in Joseph, and just like last time, stayed in town at tiny Five Peaks RV Park. It’s the perfect location for walking and biking into the pretty little town and just a few miles from trails heading into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Full hookups, excellent WiFi, friendly owners, and a cozy, peaceful vibe (no showers, bathrooms, or laundry).

Next Up: Family Fun In Pullman, WA

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR

Cowboy Bronze In Downtown Joseph

Honoring Chief Joseph

A Nez Perce Warrior

Chief Joseph Trail In Wallowa State Park

A Rocky But Beautiful Trail

Nope, Not Crossing That Bridge

Riding The Rails In Joseph

Miles Of Repurposed Train Tracks

Bucolic Scenery Along The Railway

Watching The Rail Riders

A Bobolink

Hiking The Hurricane Creek Trail

Practicing Balance Beam Skills

Up Close With The Wildflowers

Lovely Little Calypso Orchid

Hiking Along The Ridge

Hurricane Creek

Trails At Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site

Nez Perce Historical Site

Chief Joseph's Gravesite

Downtown Joseph

Historic Buildings In Downtown Joseph

Bronze Warrior In Front Of The Post Office

Waiting For His Coffee

Delicious Mochas At Arrowhead Coffee

Folk Art Chickens Waiting To Cross The Road

Terminal Gravity Brew Pub

IPA, Please

Buckhorn Lookout Station

Vivid Blue Penstemon

Hells Canyon In The Distance

Looking Toward Hells Canyon

On The Road Back To Joseph

Field Of Lupine

Cozy Site At Five Peaks RV Park

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR
Cowboy Bronze In Downtown Joseph
Honoring Chief Joseph
A Nez Perce Warrior
Chief Joseph Trail In Wallowa State Park
A Rocky But Beautiful Trail
Nope, Not Crossing That Bridge
Riding The Rails In Joseph
Miles Of Repurposed Train Tracks
Bucolic Scenery Along The Railway
Watching The Rail Riders
A Bobolink
Hiking The Hurricane Creek Trail
Practicing Balance Beam Skills
Up Close With The Wildflowers
Lovely Little Calypso Orchid
Hiking Along The Ridge
Hurricane Creek
Trails At Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site
Nez Perce Historical Site
Chief Joseph's Gravesite
Downtown Joseph
Historic Buildings In Downtown Joseph
Bronze Warrior In Front Of The Post Office
Waiting For His Coffee
Delicious Mochas At Arrowhead Coffee
Folk Art Chickens Waiting To Cross The Road
Terminal Gravity Brew Pub
IPA, Please
Buckhorn Lookout Station
Vivid Blue Penstemon
Hells Canyon In The Distance
Looking Toward Hells Canyon
On The Road Back To Joseph
Field Of Lupine
Cozy Site At Five Peaks RV Park
Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR thumbnail
Cowboy Bronze In Downtown Joseph thumbnail
Honoring Chief Joseph thumbnail
A Nez Perce Warrior thumbnail
Chief Joseph Trail In Wallowa State Park thumbnail
A Rocky But Beautiful Trail thumbnail
Nope, Not Crossing That Bridge thumbnail
Riding The Rails In Joseph thumbnail
Miles Of Repurposed Train Tracks thumbnail
Bucolic Scenery Along The Railway thumbnail
Watching The Rail Riders thumbnail
A Bobolink thumbnail
Hiking The Hurricane Creek Trail thumbnail
Practicing Balance Beam Skills thumbnail
Up Close With The Wildflowers thumbnail
Lovely Little Calypso Orchid thumbnail
Hiking Along The Ridge thumbnail
Hurricane Creek thumbnail
Trails At Iwetemlaykin Heritage Site thumbnail
Nez Perce Historical Site thumbnail
Chief Joseph's Gravesite thumbnail
Downtown Joseph thumbnail
Historic Buildings In Downtown Joseph thumbnail
Bronze Warrior In Front Of The Post Office thumbnail
Waiting For His Coffee thumbnail
Delicious Mochas At Arrowhead Coffee thumbnail
Folk Art Chickens Waiting To Cross The Road thumbnail
Terminal Gravity Brew Pub thumbnail
IPA, Please thumbnail
Buckhorn Lookout Station thumbnail
Vivid Blue Penstemon thumbnail
Hells Canyon In The Distance thumbnail
Looking Toward Hells Canyon thumbnail
On The Road Back To Joseph thumbnail
Field Of Lupine thumbnail
Cozy Site At Five Peaks RV Park thumbnail

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Having A Blast In Boise, ID

Having A Blast In Boise, ID

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Art, Biking, Food, Gallery, Idaho, Travel | 30 comments

In late May, we spent a few days in Boise, Idaho. It turned out to be one of the most delightful cities we’ve yet visited, a near perfect combination of culture and nature (and great food).

We biked along the lovely riverfront trail every day, discovered wonderful restaurants and cafes, explored the attractive downtown, and enjoyed the relaxed, sunny ambiance of Boise. Several times I remarked to Eric, “This is how a city should be.”

Somehow, Boise has maintained a small town feel, even with a population of more than 200,000. Honestly, the city was very different from what we expected—given that it’s the capital of one of the “reddest” states in the country, we assumed it would be much more conservative. But that’s not the vibe we got. There’s a strong commitment to the environment, to human rights, to building healthy and vital communities, and to organic and sustainable practices. When we toured the capitol building, I was most impressed by the simple note on a legislator’s desk—in large print, it read, “Do No Harm.”

Our RV Park backed up to the Boise Greenbelt, making it convenient to hop on our bikes and head into town. Any city that makes it easy and enjoyable for people to get around via walking and biking scores big points with us—and the Boise trail system is one of the best we’ve come across in our travels. Twenty-five miles of paved trails hug the banks of the Boise River, offering a scenic ride through wildlife habitat and riverside parks, and providing easy access to the city center. I even felt comfortable biking the streets of downtown Boise—not something I generally enjoy.

We biked for several hours each day, exploring whatever caught our attention along the way, including the lovely city parks, the Boise Art Museum sculpture garden, the inspiring Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, and the attractive capitol building (which looks like a miniature White House).

One of the highlights of our time in Boise was a visit to the Basque Block in the heart of the city. Basques originally made their way to Idaho as miners and sheepherders. I imagine that they felt comfortable in the golden hills of Idaho, which must have reminded them of the Pyrenees, their homeland that straddles the border between Spain and France. Boise has one of the largest Basque populations in the United States, and the Basque Block is a lively community, with a museum, cultural center, and restaurants featuring delicious Basque specialties (paella!). Our dinner at the Basque Market was excellent.

Boise surprised us with other fine food offerings—we had a memorable casual lunch at Bleubird, a friendly downtown café where the owners turn out creative and delicious sandwiches and salads and make their own fresh fruit and herbal sodas (the fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, rosemary infused simple syrup, and club soda was the best non-alcoholic drink I’ve ever had). We liked it so much we biked twice to the café for lunch.

With more than 50 craft breweries, we narrowed our choice down to Cloud 9 Brewery in the charming North End neighborhood. Salted Caramel Stout? Yes, please!! All of the beer was excellent at this sweet little pub—what makes them stand out from the crowd is their commitment to sustainable, local, and organic beers. Their small restaurant shares the same commitment and is equally excellent—on a delightful evening, we enjoyed a perfectly prepared risotto with local salmon, asparagus, and spring peas.

About the RV Park:

Boise Riverside RV Park is basically an enormous gravel parking lot with large sites, most with concrete pads, and some with shade trees. We were there in late spring, and had a very nice site that backed up to a grassy area with trees. It’s all about location here—the park is on the Greenbelt multiuse trail, which offers miles of peaceful walking and biking along the river; a 15-minute bike ride takes you to the downtown parks.

Along the Route Bonus Tips:

Three Island Crossing State Park: Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho

En route from Angel Creek, Nevada to Boise, we spent one night at Three Island Crossing State Park near Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho. This pretty, peaceful park is set along the Snake River, with spacious sites surrounded by shade trades. There’s a small museum devoted to the Oregon Trail and a view across the river of the deep wagon ruts carved into the hillside by intrepid pioneers who chose to cross the river here. We were wishing we had more time at this lovely park.

Shoshone Falls: Twin Falls, Idaho

Known as the Niagara of the West, Shoshone Falls (located at the edge of Twin Falls, Idaho) was on our route to Boise. Created by seasonal runoffs from the mighty Snake River, Shoshone is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States. We stopped for a picnic and a walk—it’s well worth a visit.

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR

Boise Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Double Rainbow Over Shoshone Falls

A Lovely Place For A Picnic

Three Island Crossing State Park

On The Oregon Trail

Biking In Boise

Beautiful Views Along The Bike Path

In The Rose Garden

Downtown Boise

Biking Downtown Boise

Boise Capitol Building

The Rotunda Dome

Inside The Legislative Chambers

A Good Motto For Decision Making

At The Bleubird Cafe Downtown

Homemade Fruit & Herbal Sodas

Turkey, Brie & Fig Jam With Arugula Salad

The Basque Center

The Basque Block

At The Basque Market

Dinner At The Basque Market

Cloud Nine Brewery

Flight Of Beers At Cloud Nine

At The Boise Farmers' Market

Nice Site At Boise Riverside RV Park

Boise Outdoor Sculpture Garden
Double Rainbow Over Shoshone Falls
A Lovely Place For A Picnic
Three Island Crossing State Park
On The Oregon Trail
Biking In Boise
Beautiful Views Along The Bike Path
In The Rose Garden
Downtown Boise
Biking Downtown Boise
Boise Capitol Building
The Rotunda Dome
Inside The Legislative Chambers
A Good Motto For Decision Making
At The Bleubird Cafe Downtown
Homemade Fruit & Herbal Sodas
Turkey, Brie & Fig Jam With Arugula Salad
The Basque Center
The Basque Block
At The Basque Market
Dinner At The Basque Market
Cloud Nine Brewery
Flight Of Beers At Cloud Nine
At The Boise Farmers' Market
Nice Site At Boise Riverside RV Park
Boise Outdoor Sculpture Garden thumbnail
Double Rainbow Over Shoshone Falls thumbnail
A Lovely Place For A Picnic thumbnail
Three Island Crossing State Park thumbnail
On The Oregon Trail thumbnail
Biking In Boise thumbnail
Beautiful Views Along The Bike Path thumbnail
In The Rose Garden thumbnail
Downtown Boise thumbnail
Biking Downtown Boise thumbnail
Boise Capitol Building thumbnail
The Rotunda Dome thumbnail
Inside The Legislative Chambers thumbnail
A Good Motto For Decision Making thumbnail
At The Bleubird Cafe Downtown thumbnail
Homemade Fruit & Herbal Sodas thumbnail
Turkey, Brie & Fig Jam With Arugula Salad thumbnail
The Basque Center thumbnail
The Basque Block thumbnail
At The Basque Market thumbnail
Dinner At The Basque Market thumbnail
Cloud Nine Brewery thumbnail
Flight Of Beers At Cloud Nine thumbnail
At The Boise Farmers' Market thumbnail
Nice Site At Boise Riverside RV Park thumbnail

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Colorful People & Places: Silver City, NM

Colorful People & Places: Silver City, NM

Posted by on Jun 11, 2016 in Art, Food, Gallery, Hiking, Hot Springs, New Mexico, Travel | 33 comments

As we started our hike up the trail overlooking Silver City, a man appeared on the path, seemingly out of nowhere. He wore a pair of slides reinforced with silver duct tape (incongruous footwear for the rocky trail), a white-and-black straw cowboy hat, and carried a guitar slung around his neck.

“First time here?” he inquired affably. We told him it was our third visit to Silver City, but our first time on the trails above town. “This is one of my favorite places,” he said. “I come here a few times a week to play my guitar in the hills and hunt for amethysts. I’ll show you, if you like.” As we studied the map, he started up the trail, strumming a lovely Spanish tune on his guitar. We followed behind, intrigued by the music and his tale of amethysts.

Sure enough, about a mile up the trail he veered off into the scrub, reached beneath a large sagebrush, and dragged out a heavy maul hidden there. With a few swift blows, he laid open several large rocks, exposing lavender amethyst crystals within. “Take whatever you like,” he offered. Obviously, traveling with a rock collection isn’t practical for our lifestyle, but we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of amethyst chunks.

Silver City is awash with colorful landscapes, art, buildings, and people. The sky is cobalt, the perfect backdrop for the sagebrush and mesquite-covered hills. Vividly painted doors and windows adorn adobe buildings (many in various stages of decrepitude). Home to a disproportionate number of artists and galleries, the town has also somehow become a mecca for foodies—which makes no sense at all, given that it’s a long way from any major or even minor metropolis.

Colorful locals (in addition to our amethyst benefactor) include Jake, the owner and chef at Café 1zero6, who sports full sleeve tattoos, decorates with Buddhist/Hindu/Bollywood flair, and cooks delicious creative fusion cuisine three times a week. We plan our visits to Silver City so that we can be sure to have a meal there (the small restaurant is open only on weekends).

Another evening, we had a most unique dinner at The Curious Kumquat, crafted of local wild foods from the nearby Gila Wilderness. Our six-course tasting menu included artfully presented and delicious offerings made with spring cattails, acorns, watercress, wild mushrooms, amaranth, nettles, and more, along with locally raised meats and vegetables.

In an attempt to balance our eating adventures, we hiked the lovely nearby 3-mile Dragonfly Loop Trail, the trails on Boston Hill above the town, and made a day trip through the Mimbres Valley to the Gila Wilderness to hike to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and to Lightfeather Hot Springs (a three-mile round trip easy hike on the Gila River that involves two river crossings).

It was a relaxing and fun week in Silver City, filled with all kinds of colorful adventures. We’ll be back—there’s always more to explore, and there’s no telling what kinds of unexpected treasures await us on the trail (and in the restaurants).

About the RV Park:

This visit, we stayed at Manzano’s RV Park, just a few miles outside of town. It’s a small, family run park, with large sites and attractive desert landscaping. Full-hookups, excellent free Internet, good Verizon; $30 per night. It’s very “homey,” with a house on the property that serves as the clubhouse/laundry/bathhouse.

Next Up: A Delightful Visit To Lyman Lake State Park 

Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM

A Colorful Silver City Local

Following The Music

Finding Treasures On The Trail

Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts

Our Trail Friend Moves On

View From The Trails Above Silver City

Visitor Center In Silver City

On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District

Murals On The Street

Downtown Silver City

El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934

One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants

Cafe One Zero Six

Dinner At The Curious Kumquat

Pickled Cattail Appetizer

Our Favorite Coffee Shop

Tour Of The Gila Bike Race

Speeding By

Cheering On The Cyclists

Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here

On The Dragonfly Trail

I Think I See A Cairn

The Dragonfly Petroglyph

On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits

First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings

Artistic Warning

Painted Redstart With A Bug

Climbing Up Into The Dwellings

Exploring The Cliff Dwellings

Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River

Another River Crossing

Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila

Natural Hot Pools Along The River

But Only Knee Deep

Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park

Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM
A Colorful Silver City Local
Following The Music
Finding Treasures On The Trail
Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts
Our Trail Friend Moves On
View From The Trails Above Silver City
Visitor Center In Silver City
On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District
Murals On The Street
Downtown Silver City
El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934
One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants
Cafe One Zero Six
Dinner At The Curious Kumquat
Pickled Cattail Appetizer
Our Favorite Coffee Shop
Tour Of The Gila Bike Race
Speeding By
Cheering On The Cyclists
Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here
On The Dragonfly Trail
I Think I See A Cairn
The Dragonfly Petroglyph
On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits
First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings
Artistic Warning
Painted Redstart With A Bug
Climbing Up Into The Dwellings
Exploring The Cliff Dwellings
Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River
Another River Crossing
Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila
Natural Hot Pools Along The River
But Only Knee Deep
Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park
Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM thumbnail
A Colorful Silver City Local thumbnail
Following The Music thumbnail
Finding Treasures On The Trail thumbnail
Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts thumbnail
Our Trail Friend Moves On thumbnail
View From The Trails Above Silver City thumbnail
Visitor Center In Silver City thumbnail
On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District thumbnail
Murals On The Street thumbnail
Downtown Silver City thumbnail
El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934 thumbnail
One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants thumbnail
Cafe One Zero Six thumbnail
Dinner At The Curious Kumquat thumbnail
Pickled Cattail Appetizer thumbnail
Our Favorite Coffee Shop thumbnail
Tour Of The Gila Bike Race thumbnail
Speeding By thumbnail
Cheering On The Cyclists thumbnail
Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here thumbnail
On The Dragonfly Trail thumbnail
I Think I See A Cairn thumbnail
The Dragonfly Petroglyph thumbnail
On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits thumbnail
First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings thumbnail
Artistic Warning thumbnail
Painted Redstart With A Bug thumbnail
Climbing Up Into The Dwellings thumbnail
Exploring The Cliff Dwellings thumbnail
Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River thumbnail
Another River Crossing thumbnail
Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila thumbnail
Natural Hot Pools Along The River thumbnail
But Only Knee Deep thumbnail
Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park thumbnail

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Wending Our Way Across West Texas

Wending Our Way Across West Texas

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Art, Gallery, Texas, Travel | 28 comments

One of the best things about road trips is discovering out-of-the-way gems that we would never otherwise visit. When we’re traveling across the vast expanse of Texas, there are always plenty of opportunities for new adventures, often in the most unlikely of places.

Leaving Austin, we headed to Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico. In between is almost 500 miles of West Texas—a drive that can seem interminable. But our journey took us through the beautiful Hill Country at the peak of wildflower season, to interesting and art-centric San Angelo (in the middle of nowhere) and to sledding in the sand dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park (in the middle of another nowhere). Should you find yourself traveling through this area of Texas, we highly recommend both.

San Angelo State Park: San Angelo, TX

This was our second visit to San Angelo State Park, so we knew we had something to look forward to at the end of our 200-mile drive from Austin. We settled into our lovely, spacious site beneath the shade trees, and spent a couple of days enjoying the peace and quiet. Our only expedition was a drive into San Angelo, 15 miles away—in part for a laundry extravaganza and truck washing, but mostly to enjoy a walk along the Concho River and to see if anything was blooming in the water lily garden.

The River Walk in San Angelo is one of the prettiest we’ve seen anywhere. It meanders for four miles downtown along the Concho River, named for the freshwater mussels that contain beautifully colored freshwater pearls (concho means “shell” in Spanish). Along the banks of the river many other treasures can be found—interesting mosaics, sculptures, fountains, and a few slightly bizarre sheep statues, each one decorated by a local artist to honor San Angelo’s heritage as a wool marketing center. (Lots more sheep as well as a plethora of murals can be found in the historic downtown.)

Close by is the International Water Lily Garden, certainly not something one expects to find in West Texas. When we were there a couple of years ago in the fall, there were hundreds of various water lilies in bloom. This time, in late April, just a few were blooming. But even one water lily in bloom is a beautiful thing to behold.

About the campground:

There are two camping sections at San Angelo State Park. Although it’s further from town, we prefer the north (Bald Eagle) section, which has large shade trees—a good thing in West Texas. Water and electric hookups, good Verizon, $20/night plus $4 per person daily fee if you don’t have the Texas State Parks Pass. (We always buy the annual pass—it’s $70 per year, and worth it if you stay more than seven nights in Texas parks because of all of the assorted discounts.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park: Monahans, TX

Another reasonable drive of 170 miles brought us to Monahans Sandhills State Park, in the midst of a truly barren part of Texas. This place has a stark beauty and makes a fun stopover for a couple of days (as long as no high winds are forecast).

The rangers at the Visitor Center loaned us a couple of neon orange discs for sledding and we took to the dunes the afternoon we arrived and again early in the morning. Each night, the slate is wiped clean and the sand dunes are again pristine. We discovered that early morning is the best time for sledding—when the sand is cool, there’s no friction to slow you down. We had a blast—and it’s a good workout sledding down and climbing back up the dunes.

It’s a windy place, and I was curious as to why the dunes haven’t completely blown away. Displays at the interesting little Visitor Center explained why: The wind changes directions from season to season, and although the dune tops change continually, they end up in just about the same position over the course of a year. It’s described as “a constantly shifting yet balanced state of dynamic equilibrium.” Sounds almost spiritual, doesn’t it?

About the campground:

The park has 26 campsites at the edge of the dunes with water, electric, and a covered picnic table. Quiet, dark night skies, and magical when the moon rises over the dunes. Good Verizon. $15 per night (plus $4 per person daily fee if you don’t have the Texas State Parks Pass).

Next Up: It’s A Long Way Down: Carlsbad Caverns

Wending Our Way Across West Texas

In The Former Town Of Bugscuffle

Wildflower Season In Texas

Stopping For Photos Along The Way

In A Field Of Firewheels

Firewheels And Bluebonnets

Huge Peaceful Site At San Angelo State Park

San Angelo Water Lily Gardens

First Water Lilies Of The Season

A Lovely Yellow Water Lily

Riverwalk Along The Concho River

Mosaic Sculptures On The Riverwalk

Mosaic Covered VW Bug

One Of Many Art Sheep In San Angelo

Fancy Entrance To Monahans Sandhills State Park

Fair Warning

Visitor Center Monahans Sandhills circa 1957

Simple But Sweet Visitor Center

Campsite At Monahans Sandhills State Park

Afternoon Sledding In The Dunes

More Dune Sledding In The Early Morning

Finding The Steepest Dunes

Patterns In The Sand

Javelina Tracks Across The Dunes

Whiptail Lizard Tracks

Wending Our Way Across West Texas
In The Former Town Of Bugscuffle
Wildflower Season In Texas
Stopping For Photos Along The Way
In A Field Of Firewheels
Firewheels And Bluebonnets
Huge Peaceful Site At San Angelo State Park
San Angelo Water Lily Gardens
First Water Lilies Of The Season
A Lovely Yellow Water Lily
Riverwalk Along The Concho River
Mosaic Sculptures On The Riverwalk
Mosaic Covered VW Bug
One Of Many Art Sheep In San Angelo
Fancy Entrance To Monahans Sandhills State Park
Fair Warning
Visitor Center Monahans Sandhills circa 1957
Simple But Sweet Visitor Center
Campsite At Monahans Sandhills State Park
Afternoon Sledding In The Dunes
More Dune Sledding In The Early Morning
Finding The Steepest Dunes
Patterns In The Sand
Javelina Tracks Across The Dunes
Whiptail Lizard Tracks
Wending Our Way Across West Texas thumbnail
In The Former Town Of Bugscuffle thumbnail
Wildflower Season In Texas thumbnail
Stopping For Photos Along The Way thumbnail
In A Field Of Firewheels thumbnail
Firewheels And Bluebonnets thumbnail
Huge Peaceful Site At San Angelo State Park thumbnail
San Angelo Water Lily Gardens thumbnail
First Water Lilies Of The Season thumbnail
A Lovely Yellow Water Lily thumbnail
Riverwalk Along The Concho River thumbnail
Mosaic Sculptures On The Riverwalk thumbnail
Mosaic Covered VW Bug thumbnail
One Of Many Art Sheep In San Angelo thumbnail
Fancy Entrance To Monahans Sandhills State Park thumbnail
Fair Warning thumbnail
Visitor Center Monahans Sandhills circa 1957 thumbnail
Simple But Sweet Visitor Center thumbnail
Campsite At Monahans Sandhills State Park thumbnail
Afternoon Sledding In The Dunes thumbnail
More Dune Sledding In The Early Morning thumbnail
Finding The Steepest Dunes thumbnail
Patterns In The Sand thumbnail
Javelina Tracks Across The Dunes thumbnail
Whiptail Lizard Tracks thumbnail

Read More

Art, Adobe & Chiles: Santa Fe, NM

Art, Adobe & Chiles: Santa Fe, NM

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in Art, Food, Gallery, Hiking, New Mexico, Travel | 35 comments

Let’s see…where were we? Oh yes, Santa Fe! Allow me to rhapsodize for a moment here as I relive our mid-November visit…

The curve of adobe against cobalt skies; the spicy scent of pinyon smoke curling from kiva fireplaces; the exuberance of colorful art and sculpture adorning every corner of the city; the quiet calm of centuries old cathedrals and missions; the delicious chile-laced cuisine—Santa Fe is an intoxicating feast for the senses. It truly is, as the New Mexico license plate proclaims: “The Land of Enchantment.” I love this city.

Situated at 7,000 feet at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe is the highest and oldest capital city in the U.S.—but what makes it really distinctive is the melding of Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cowboy heritage. All three bring their traditions and celebrations to the cultural milieu, giving rise to the art, architecture, and cuisine that is uniquely Santa Fe.

We’ve visited Santa Fe many times, and I route our cross-country trips so that we pass through at least every year or two. Eric always enjoys our visits, but this is one of those situations where he would stay a few days, and I would stay a month. Or three. On our most recent visit, we planned for five days, added two more (the seventh day at the RV park is free!), and then added two more when inclement weather on our route forced us to stay put (much to my delight).

I love wandering the historic Plaza and the narrow adobe-lined side streets, exploring the colorful galleries on Canyon Road and discovering new favorite sculptures and paintings, devoting a day to one of the fascinating museums, lingering over a meal in a cozy café, browsing the bookstores and small shops downtown, hiking in the nearby hills, and simply being immersed in the vibrancy of this unique crossroads of cultures.

On each trip to Santa Fe, we revisit favorite places and explore a few new ones. Here, the highlights of our most recent Santa Fe sojourn:

The Sights:

• The Plaza. The heart of downtown Santa Fe for nearly 400 years, the Plaza is a good place to begin exploring the city. Here, you’ll find the Palace of the Governors (the oldest public building in the U.S.), where local Native American artisans gather daily beneath the portico to sell their handcrafted wares. A short stroll takes you to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a lovely place for a moment of meditative repose.

• Canyon Road. The light, landscape, and culture of New Mexico have lured artists since the 1920’s. At that time, Santa Fe was an inexpensive place to live and artists settled into old adobes along Canyon Road, opening their studios to the public and displaying their art on the street. Today, Santa Fe is one of the top art markets in the world, and the tradition of Canyon Road continues (although I doubt the artists are trading for groceries, as they did in the early days). Wander the narrow, winding street and enjoy the sculptures, galleries, courtyard gardens, and beautiful adobe dwellings—it’s an art experience unlike any other.

• Nedra Matteucci Gallery. Of all the galleries in Santa Fe, this remains our favorite. Housed in a rambling classic adobe in walking distance of Canyon Road, the Nedra Matteucci Gallery displays an extensive, museum-quality collection in a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere. We especially enjoy browsing works by early Santa Fe and Taos artists and the charming sculpture garden. (Be sure to cross the street afterwards for a cup of drinking chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House.)

• Museum Hill. I’m always dubious about Santa Fe itineraries that advise spending “an hour or two” exploring Museum Hill. Seriously? There are four fabulous, world-class museums on Museum Hill (as well as several very good museums on the Plaza downtown). We choose one (or two) each time we visit Santa Fe, and spend the entire day in the museum, taking a break only to have lunch at the Museum Hill Café (the salmon tostadas are excellent).

This time, we visited the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, where we were fortunate to catch a temporary exhibit of sculptures by Native American women. A highlight of the museum is a permanent exhibit that traces the lives of Native Americans, designed with the help of tribal elders and artisans.

• The Capitol Building. The artistic flair of Santa Fe extends to their attractive state capitol building. Designed to resemble the Zia sun symbol when viewed from above (the same symbol used on the New Mexico state flag), it’s the only round capitol building in the U.S. The building houses not only the legislative offices, but also a wonderful collection of art representative of New Mexico culture and history.

The Food:

• Breakfast at Café Pasqual’s. Named for the patron saint of Mexican and New Mexican cooks, Cafe Pasqual’s is one of our favorite restaurants. Located just a block from the plaza in a historic adobe, breakfast here makes a great start to a long day of wandering. The atmosphere is cozy and colorful with hand painted murals and tiles, and the food is locally sourced and perfectly prepared. Poached eggs with smoked trout and tomatillo salsa…I could eat this every day. This place is popular, small, and they don’t take breakfast reservations—go early to avoid a wait.

• The Farmers’ Market. Open year-round on Saturday mornings, this is one of our favorite markets anywhere, especially in the fall when the smell of roasting peppers wafts through the air. The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is festive and fun—good music and people watching in addition to an array of local, mostly organic foods. We came away with fresh roasted poblano peppers, red chile raspberry jam, local eggs, feta made by the local Waldorf school, pastured pork, and heaps of beautiful locally grown produce.

• Tapas at La Boca. We really like tapas restaurants, and this is one of the best. La Boca serves fantastic Spanish cuisine in a cozy, romantic adobe just a block from the Plaza. We shared two tapas platters—one vegetarian, one seafood and meat—and every bite was divine (Oh my God, can you believe this shrimp? The grilled artichoke is the best…No, wait till you taste this Spinach Catalan…). This lovely restaurant is on our can’t-wait-to-return list.

• Tune-Up Café. Fun, colorful, and loaded with chiles—this down-home neighborhood restaurant far from the plaza is a favorite with locals. The Tune-Up serves up tasty and generous portions of New Mexican favorites with a Salvadoran twist (banana leaf wrapped tamales, yum).

• Santa Fe Spirits. A small distillery with a downtown tasting room, Santa Fe Spirits offers creative, handcrafted cocktails in a cozy, candlelit adobe—it’s a nice vibe, like being in a friend’s living room.

• Kakawa Chocolate House. A stop at Kakawa Chocolate House provides respite in a day of gallery browsing (and it’s conveniently located right across the street from the Matteucci Gallery). They serve up tiny cups of drinking chocolate based on authentic Mesoamerican recipes—lightly sweetened with coconut sugar and infused with herbs and spices (including chiles, of course)—so tasty, and nicely energizing.

Hiking:

• Hiking Trails. We spend hours walking in Santa Fe, but when we want a real hike (mostly when Eric needs a break from galleries and wandering in town) we head to one of the nearby trailheads, just a couple of miles from downtown. There are many choices: We always visit the pretty Randall Davey Audubon Sanctuary (at the top of Canyon Road) and walk the trails above the center, as well as hiking the nearby Canyon Preserve Nature Conservancy trails and the Dale Ball network of trails.

Near Santa Fe:

• Shidoni Bronze Foundry. Even if you think you’ve seen enough sculptures on Canyon Road and in downtown Santa Fe, you still need to make the trek out to Shidoni Bronze Foundry, in nearby Tesuque. Located in an old apple orchard, the picturesque compound houses a foundry, gallery, and fabulous sculpture garden free for the wandering. On Saturdays, you can witness a bronze pouring–something we’ve yet to see, but is on our list.

• Santuaria de Chimayo. More than 300,000 people journey here each year to petition for healing, to give thanks for answered prayers, and to scoop up a bit of the red dirt that is believed to have miraculous curative powers. Through a long and somewhat complicated history of legend and avowed miracles, Santuaria de Chimayo (now a National Historic Site) has become known as the “Lourdes of America.” The sanctuary, built in 1816, is lovely; in an annex is the “holy dirt room,” where you can help yourself to a scoop or two (the church replaces the dirt from nearby hillsides, for a total of about 25 tons per year). Adjacent to the holy dirt annex is a room filled with a poignant display of thousands of photos of those asking for blessings, along with canes, crutches, eyeglasses, and other reminders of the human condition.

About the campground: The last three times we’ve been in Santa Fe we’ve stayed at the Trailer Ranch RV Resort; we enjoy the in-town convenience, the amenities (good internet, laundry, full-hookups, propane on site), and the friendly and helpful staff. Nestled behind adobe walls, the park is cozy and attractive. There’s some traffic noise and lights, but with blackout shades and our sound machine, we sleep well (and I’m a finicky sleeper). We always request a site away from the main road and have been very happy. The cost is $42-47 per night, with the 7th night free.

Next Up: Day Trip To Tent Rocks National Monument

Art, Adobe, & Chiles: Santa Fe, NM

Pasqual's On A Chilly Morning

Breakfast At Pasqual's

More Coffee, Please

Palace Of The Governors

Cathedral Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi

Inside The Cathedral

Adobe And Cobalt Skies

Burro Alley

The Lensic Theatre, Circa 1931

Santa Fe Cowboys

Beautiful Sculpture Downtown Santa Fe

Colorful Santa Fe Bead Shop

At The Corner Of Canyon Road

Glass Sculptures On Canyon Road

Bronzes On Canyon Road

Gallery On Canyon Road

Colorful Art Everywhere

Old Adobe In Downtown Santa Fe

Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room

Tapas At La Boca

One Of Many Jewelry Galleries

Turquoise And Silver

Nedra Matteucci Gallery

Nedra Matteucci Sculpture Garden

Kakawa Chocolate House

Afternoon Hot Chocolate

New Mexico State Capitol Building

Inside The Rotunda

At The Farmers' Market

Chile Roasting At The Market

A Neighborhood Cafe

Dinner At The Tune-Up Cafe

Snowy Morning On Museum Hill

Sculpture Garden, Museum Of Indian Arts & Culture

Sculpture Exhibit By Native American Women

On The Canyon Preserve Trails

He's Somewhere Down There On The Trail

Big Love At Shidoni Sculpture Garden

Moo At Shidoni Sculpture Garden

Clothesline Sculpture At Shidoni

Santuario de Chimayo

In The Sanctuary

St. Francis At Chimayo

At Trailer Ranch RV Resort

Art, Adobe, & Chiles: Santa Fe, NM
Pasqual's On A Chilly Morning
Breakfast At Pasqual's
More Coffee, Please
Palace Of The Governors
Cathedral Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi
Inside The Cathedral
Adobe And Cobalt Skies
Burro Alley
The Lensic Theatre, Circa 1931
Santa Fe Cowboys
Beautiful Sculpture Downtown Santa Fe
Colorful Santa Fe Bead Shop
At The Corner Of Canyon Road
Glass Sculptures On Canyon Road
Bronzes On Canyon Road
Gallery On Canyon Road
Colorful Art Everywhere
Old Adobe In Downtown Santa Fe
Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room
Tapas At La Boca
One Of Many Jewelry Galleries
Turquoise And Silver
Nedra Matteucci Gallery
Nedra Matteucci Sculpture Garden
Kakawa Chocolate House
Afternoon Hot Chocolate
New Mexico State Capitol Building
Inside The Rotunda
At The Farmers' Market
Chile Roasting At The Market
A Neighborhood Cafe
Dinner At The Tune-Up Cafe
Snowy Morning On Museum Hill
Sculpture Garden, Museum Of Indian Arts & Culture
Sculpture Exhibit By Native American Women
On The Canyon Preserve Trails
He's Somewhere Down There On The Trail
Big Love At Shidoni Sculpture Garden
Moo At Shidoni Sculpture Garden
Clothesline Sculpture At Shidoni
Santuario de Chimayo
In The Sanctuary
St. Francis At Chimayo
At Trailer Ranch RV Resort
Art, Adobe, & Chiles: Santa Fe, NM thumbnail
Pasqual's On A Chilly Morning thumbnail
Breakfast At Pasqual's thumbnail
More Coffee, Please thumbnail
Palace Of The Governors thumbnail
Cathedral Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi thumbnail
Inside The Cathedral thumbnail
Adobe And Cobalt Skies thumbnail
Burro Alley thumbnail
The Lensic Theatre, Circa 1931 thumbnail
Santa Fe Cowboys thumbnail
Beautiful Sculpture Downtown Santa Fe thumbnail
Colorful Santa Fe Bead Shop thumbnail
At The Corner Of Canyon Road thumbnail
Glass Sculptures On Canyon Road thumbnail
Bronzes On Canyon Road thumbnail
Gallery On Canyon Road thumbnail
Colorful Art Everywhere thumbnail
Old Adobe In Downtown Santa Fe thumbnail
Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room thumbnail
Tapas At La Boca thumbnail
One Of Many Jewelry Galleries thumbnail
Turquoise And Silver thumbnail
Nedra Matteucci Gallery thumbnail
Nedra Matteucci Sculpture Garden thumbnail
Kakawa Chocolate House thumbnail
Afternoon Hot Chocolate thumbnail
New Mexico State Capitol Building thumbnail
Inside The Rotunda thumbnail
At The Farmers' Market thumbnail
Chile Roasting At The Market thumbnail
A Neighborhood Cafe thumbnail
Dinner At The Tune-Up Cafe thumbnail
Snowy Morning On Museum Hill thumbnail
Sculpture Garden, Museum Of Indian Arts & Culture thumbnail
Sculpture Exhibit By Native American Women thumbnail
On The Canyon Preserve Trails thumbnail
He's Somewhere Down There On The Trail thumbnail
Big Love At Shidoni Sculpture Garden thumbnail
Moo At Shidoni Sculpture Garden thumbnail
Clothesline Sculpture At Shidoni thumbnail
Santuario de Chimayo thumbnail
In The Sanctuary thumbnail
St. Francis At Chimayo thumbnail
At Trailer Ranch RV Resort thumbnail

Read More