Raven and Chickadee

Navigation Menu

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

Read More

Back To Hiking: Oliver Lee Memorial SP

Back To Hiking: Oliver Lee Memorial SP

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, New Mexico, Travel | 32 comments

The last “real” hiking we did was back in the fall as we were making our way cross-country to Florida for the winter. We spent the winter and spring doing a lot of biking, kayaking, and what passes for hiking in the flatlands of the South. But none of this keeps us in shape for steep mountain hiking. Consequently, I’m always a bit apprehensive when we return to the West, and are suddenly confronted with the big, rugged, beautiful mountains that we love to hike.

At a mere 155 miles from our last stop near Carlsbad Caverns, we arrived at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in southern New Mexico, settled into our spacious site at the base of the Sacramento Mountains, and looked up at the mountain right outside our door. Oh yes, it definitely beckoned to us—even though we could see from our site just how rocky and relentlessly steep the trail was.

Early the next morning, we packed our lunches, filled four water bottles, stashed some dark chocolate in our packs, and set off on the Dog Canyon Trail located immediately behind the Visitor Center. Our warm-up for the trail was walking the few hundred yards from our campsite to the start of the trail, and then it was no-holds-barred, straight up a series of abrupt, rocky switchbacks. Small wonder there was no one else on the trail. (The rest of the campers were undoubtedly relaxing with a cup of coffee, enjoying the view of the mountains from their spacious sites.)

It was challenging, no question about it. But it was worth it. Because the trail heads straight up, there are fabulous panoramic views right away. The scenery is stunning, both within the canyon and looking out across the Tularosa Basin, with White Sands National Monument shimmering in the distance. As we hiked, we crossed a variety of landscapes, from typical Chihuahuan Desert to surprisingly green meadows in the midst of an otherwise earth-toned terrain.

Fortunately, the trail is not all relentlessly uphill. There are two relatively flat plateaus known as “benches,” the first of which appears at just over a half-mile of steady, steep ascent and opens into a landscape of yuccas and blooming cacti. The trail then wends along a series of ledges, followed by another tough uphill stretch to the second bench. This one is a surprise of large boulders, a cholla forest, and rock walls of lush greenery with the songs of Canyon Wrens echoing throughout the canyon.

The entire Dog Canyon trail goes for 5.5 miles one-way, but a good turn-around point is 3 miles in, at the bottom of a shady canyon. That was our destination, and it was there that we had lunch and headed back home. For those interested in the details, we started at an elevation of 4,400 feet and gained almost 1800 feet in three miles—the remaining 2.5 miles requires a more grueling climb of another 2,000 feet. We’ll save that one for next time. Or not.

There are few other things to do at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. It’s a nice place to relax for a couple of days in the middle of nowhere. There’s a sweet half-mile Riparian Nature Trail that makes for a nice stroll—no steep uphill required. And the park is close to White Sands National Monument, a place that is still on our must-see list (but with high winds forecast, we decided to save it for another visit).

About the campground: Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is remote and peaceful, with dark night skies and sweeping views all around. This also means that the campground is highly subject to winds—we endured a night of 45-mile per hour gusts in early May.

Electric and water hookups are $14 per night; non-hookup sites are $10; the park has decent bathrooms and shower facilities. Excellent Verizon. Although there is plenty of space between sites, many of the sites are small and require significant leveling. The sites in the upper loop tend to be larger and more level. A handful are reservable; there are many more that are first-come, first-served.

Next Up: A Week In Colorful Silver City, NM

Back To Hiking: Oliver Lee State Park

On The Riparian Nature Trail

Beautiful Cholla Blooms

Late Afternoon Walk On The Nature Trail

Setting Out On Dog Canyon Trail

Lots Of Elevation Gain Right Away

View Of The Campground From The Trail

Entering Lincoln National Forest

Reaching The First Plateau

Landscape Of Yucca And Cacti

Octotillo In Bloom

Beginning The Next Climb

A Few Helpful Steps Along The Way

A Bit Of Color On The Trail

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus

Such A Beautiful Day On The Trail

The Second Plateau

Surprisingly Green

Our Turnaround Point

The Long Journey Down

Stark Desert Mountain Beauty

Distant View Of White Sands National Monument

The Final Stretch

Looking Down At Our Campsite

Our Site From Ground Level

Yucca About To Bloom

Back To Hiking: Oliver Lee State Park
On The Riparian Nature Trail
Beautiful Cholla Blooms
Late Afternoon Walk On The Nature Trail
Setting Out On Dog Canyon Trail
Lots Of Elevation Gain Right Away
View Of The Campground From The Trail
Entering Lincoln National Forest
Reaching The First Plateau
Landscape Of Yucca And Cacti
Octotillo In Bloom
Beginning The Next Climb
A Few Helpful Steps Along The Way
A Bit Of Color On The Trail
Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus
Such A Beautiful Day On The Trail
The Second Plateau
Surprisingly Green
Our Turnaround Point
The Long Journey Down
Stark Desert Mountain Beauty
Distant View Of White Sands National Monument
The Final Stretch
Looking Down At Our Campsite
Our Site From Ground Level
Yucca About To Bloom
Back To Hiking: Oliver Lee State Park thumbnail
On The Riparian Nature Trail thumbnail
Beautiful Cholla Blooms thumbnail
Late Afternoon Walk On The Nature Trail thumbnail
Setting Out On Dog Canyon Trail thumbnail
Lots Of Elevation Gain Right Away thumbnail
View Of The Campground From The Trail thumbnail
Entering Lincoln National Forest thumbnail
Reaching The First Plateau thumbnail
Landscape Of Yucca And Cacti thumbnail
Octotillo In Bloom thumbnail
Beginning The Next Climb thumbnail
A Few Helpful Steps Along The Way thumbnail
A Bit Of Color On The Trail thumbnail
Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus thumbnail
Such A Beautiful Day On The Trail thumbnail
The Second Plateau thumbnail
Surprisingly Green thumbnail
Our Turnaround Point thumbnail
The Long Journey Down thumbnail
Stark Desert Mountain Beauty thumbnail
Distant View Of White Sands National Monument thumbnail
The Final Stretch thumbnail
Looking Down At Our Campsite thumbnail
Our Site From Ground Level thumbnail
Yucca About To Bloom thumbnail

Read More

It’s A Long Way Down: Carlsbad Caverns

It’s A Long Way Down: Carlsbad Caverns

Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, National Parks, New Mexico, Travel | 32 comments

While perusing the website for Carlsbad Caverns National Park, we decided to make reservations for a guided tour. We knew we wanted to visit the Big Room, the main cavern that’s open for self-guided wandering. But—what the heck! Let’s do it all!

I was in charge of making the reservations, and considered signing up for one of the tours that requires ropes and ladders and belly crawling (what in the world was I thinking??). Fortunately, the only tour available was for the King’s Palace, a 1.5-hour exploration that descends into the deepest part of the caverns, but doesn’t involve anything challenging—other than the ability to stay calm in a pitch-black maze 830 feet below the surface of the earth.

Just to be clear about this adventure—neither Eric nor I is enamored with caves, caverns, mines, or anything subterranean. We much prefer our adventures above ground, in the sunshine and fresh air. But Carlsbad Caverns was on our trajectory north, it’s a National Park, and it seemed like we should go see it. We actually got pretty excited about our expedition.

To add to the adventure, the elevator that normally transports visitors from the surface to the Big Room was undergoing repairs. We had already planned to hike down into the caverns from the Natural Entrance, a 1.25-mile steep winding trail that drops 750 feet down into the caves. No elevator meant that we would also be hiking back out that same trail—which is totally fine, unless you start thinking about how far beneath the surface you are, and how dark it is, and what if the lights go out, and what if you freak out…. and the only way out is up that long, steep trail. There were a few moments when I had to have a reassuring talk with myself.

Our tour of the King’s Palace was great, except for our guide’s penchant for hanging out in the dark. We were told that we would have the “opportunity” to experience total darkness for a few moments during the tour, but she left us in an abyss of darkness for a good 15 minutes while she talked about how wonderful it was. As much as I appreciate dark nights, I also like a teeny bit of light to orient myself—a few stars, crescent moon, something.

We took a break after our tour to eat our picnic lunch in the darkness of the underground café, huddled in a dank corner like a pair of pack rats. “We’re already here,” said Eric. “I think we should go ahead and do the Big Room.” And so we did, walking the mile-and-a-quarter loop, taking in the beauty of the various formations created drip by drip over centuries. Five hours after our descent into the caverns, we hiked out the 1.25 mile trail on which we had entered the caverns. We emerged, blinking, into the glorious sunlight. Are we happy we did it? Absolutely. Would we do it again? No, once was enough. (The Caverns at Sonora in West Texas, however, are still on our list—glittering formations of crystals—we’re definitely up for that.)

As far as above ground adventures, we walked the short trails at Brantley Lake State Park, and spent part of a day exploring the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park near Carlsbad (about 10 miles from our campground). This small and lovely park is focused on the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert. We happened to arrive in the reptile house at feeding time, and the snakes were going berserk. It was fascinating—and unnerving—to be surrounded by a symphony of rattlers rattling in anticipation of their meal.

One day plunged into an abyss, the next in the company of rattlesnakes. Our stay in Carlsbad was kind of like an immersion camp for overcoming phobias.

About the campground:

Brantley Lake State Park isn’t exactly close to Carlsbad Caverns, but from what we surmised, it’s the nicest place to stay. It’s a beautiful park, with spacious sites, many on the lake, and each with a covered picnic table. Water and 30/50 amp electric hookups, peaceful, dark night skies (but not too dark), nice bathrooms and showers, good Verizon. And lots of birdlife, which we love. It’s a bargain at $14 per night. The park is 12 miles north of Carlsbad, and 38 miles from the caverns.

Next Up: Back To Hiking: Oliver Lee State Park, NM

Heading Down Into The Caverns

It's Dark Down Here

The Trail Around The Big Room

Everything You Need To Know About Cave Decor

Some Of The Most Beautiful Formations

Relic From Early Cave Explorations

Mirror Lake

Richly Decorated Passages

Café Dismal

Happy To Be Above Ground

At The Living Desert Zoo And Gardens

Wonderful Displays On Desert Environments

Blooming Ocotillo In The Desert Uplands

Brilliant Prickly Pear Blooms

Snoozing Bobcat

Salad Bar For The Prairie Dog Family

Cool Snake Mural In The Reptile House

With His New Bat Buddy

Pond Habitat In The Desert

Campsite At Brantley Lake State Park

Bullock's Oriole On Ocotillo

Say's Phoebes Learning To Fly

Desert Bird Of Paradise

Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit

Heading Down Into The Caverns
It's Dark Down Here
The Trail Around The Big Room
Everything You Need To Know About Cave Decor
Some Of The Most Beautiful Formations
Relic From Early Cave Explorations
Mirror Lake
Richly Decorated Passages
Café Dismal
Happy To Be Above Ground
At The Living Desert Zoo And Gardens
Wonderful Displays On Desert Environments
Blooming Ocotillo In The Desert Uplands
Brilliant Prickly Pear Blooms
Snoozing Bobcat
Salad Bar For The Prairie Dog Family
Cool Snake Mural In The Reptile House
With His New Bat Buddy
Pond Habitat In The Desert
Campsite At Brantley Lake State Park
Bullock's Oriole On Ocotillo
Say's Phoebes Learning To Fly
Desert Bird Of Paradise
Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit
Heading Down Into The Caverns thumbnail
It's Dark Down Here thumbnail
The Trail Around The Big Room thumbnail
Everything You Need To Know About Cave Decor thumbnail
Some Of The Most Beautiful Formations thumbnail
Relic From Early Cave Explorations thumbnail
Mirror Lake thumbnail
Richly Decorated Passages thumbnail
Café Dismal thumbnail
Happy To Be Above Ground thumbnail
At The Living Desert Zoo And Gardens thumbnail
Wonderful Displays On Desert Environments thumbnail
Blooming Ocotillo In The Desert Uplands thumbnail
Brilliant Prickly Pear Blooms thumbnail
Snoozing Bobcat thumbnail
Salad Bar For The Prairie Dog Family thumbnail
Cool Snake Mural In The Reptile House thumbnail
With His New Bat Buddy thumbnail
Pond Habitat In The Desert thumbnail
Campsite At Brantley Lake State Park thumbnail
Bullock's Oriole On Ocotillo thumbnail
Say's Phoebes Learning To Fly thumbnail
Desert Bird Of Paradise thumbnail
Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit thumbnail

Read More

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat’l Monument

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat’l Monument

Posted by on Jan 10, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, New Mexico, Travel | 28 comments

I must admit that our expectations for Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument weren’t high. We’ve hiked in Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Cedar Mesa, Zion—all locations renowned for spectacular canyon hiking and rock formations. When we’re visiting Santa Fe, our focus is more on art and culture than hiking. But this time, we decided to make the 35-mile drive to the monument, figuring at the least we would get in a nice walk.

We are so glad we made the effort to pry ourselves away from Santa Fe. Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is nothing short of spectacular.

Although small in comparison to the National Parks, the monument contains a fascinating concentration of hoodoos uniquely formed as tent rocks, as well as a beautiful slot canyon. The Canyon Trail, although relatively short at 3-miles round trip, is one of the most interesting we’ve hiked anywhere.

The slot canyon is very narrow—at some points perhaps two feet across, with towering rock walls hundreds of feet high. In many places, the footing isn’t even boot-wide. It’s a fun and somewhat rigorous trail, with just enough challenge to keep it interesting. Be sure to go all the way to the peak—the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape are breathtaking.

Definitely wear good hiking shoes—as far as hiking poles, one is helpful, but two would be a hindrance because of the narrow, rocky path and the necessity of climbing, hoisting oneself, and sliding down boulders along the trail.

Kasha-Ketuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional language of the pueblo tribes of northern New Mexico. The teepee-like formations are unique in the Southwest—a violent volcanic explosion 6 to 7 million years ago left behind layers of pumice, ash, and tuff (rock made from ash). Over the millennia, rains and winds eroded the terrain, leaving behind tent-like formations—some capped by sandstone, which protects the formations. It’s an ever-changing landscape, at least in geologic time.

If you’re not up for hiking the steep and strenuous Canyon Trail, you can see beautiful tent formations along the one-mile Cave Trail, a nice wide path with almost no elevation gain. The Cave Trail also offers a close-up view of a fascinating ancient cave that was hollowed out by humans—the black scorch marks on the ceiling tell the story of fires that kept people warm 4,000 years ago.

Kasha-Ketuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is off the beaten path, even though it lies between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Avoid weekends and holidays if you can, and you’ll likely have solitude on the trail.

Next Up: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument

Entrance To The Monument

Beginning The Canyon Trail

Things Start To Get Interesting

Heading Into The Slot Canyon

A Little Adventure

In The Depths Of The Slot Canyon

The Last Vestiges Of Fall Color

Emerging To A Great View

Yep, This Is The Trail

Tent Rocks Against The New Mexico Sky

Such Cool Formations

The End Of The Canyon Trail

Looking Down On The Tent Rocks

Panoramic View From The Top

Heading Down The Narrow Pathway

Tight Squeeze

It's The Only Way Down

Tent Rocks On The Cave Trail

An Ancient Home

A Unique Landscape

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument
Entrance To The Monument
Beginning The Canyon Trail
Things Start To Get Interesting
Heading Into The Slot Canyon
A Little Adventure
In The Depths Of The Slot Canyon
The Last Vestiges Of Fall Color
Emerging To A Great View
Yep, This Is The Trail
Tent Rocks Against The New Mexico Sky
Such Cool Formations
The End Of The Canyon Trail
Looking Down On The Tent Rocks
Panoramic View From The Top
Heading Down The Narrow Pathway
Tight Squeeze
It's The Only Way Down
Tent Rocks On The Cave Trail
An Ancient Home
A Unique Landscape
Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks Nat'l Monument thumbnail
Entrance To The Monument thumbnail
Beginning The Canyon Trail thumbnail
Things Start To Get Interesting thumbnail
Heading Into The Slot Canyon thumbnail
A Little Adventure thumbnail
In The Depths Of The Slot Canyon thumbnail
The Last Vestiges Of Fall Color thumbnail
Emerging To A Great View thumbnail
Yep, This Is The Trail thumbnail
Tent Rocks Against The New Mexico Sky thumbnail
Such Cool Formations thumbnail
The End Of The Canyon Trail thumbnail
Looking Down On The Tent Rocks thumbnail
Panoramic View From The Top thumbnail
Heading Down The Narrow Pathway thumbnail
Tight Squeeze thumbnail
It's The Only Way Down thumbnail
Tent Rocks On The Cave Trail thumbnail
An Ancient Home thumbnail
A Unique Landscape 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

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Posted by on Dec 22, 2015 in Gallery, New Mexico, Travel | 18 comments

If you’re interested in visiting an ancient Native American ruin that doesn’t require trekking into remote canyons or scrambling up and down arduous trails, you’ll enjoy Aztec Ruins National Monument. Here, you can drive right up to the monument entrance, pass through the Visitor Center, and step back 900 years into an Ancestral Puebloan community. For the ultimate in convenience, the ruins are within walking distance of an RV park and the town of Aztec, New Mexico.

Between 1100 A.D. and late 1200 A.D., this was a thriving cultural regional center—people gathered here for celebrations, religious ceremonies, trade, and social interaction. Located in the far northwestern corner of New Mexico, Aztec Ruins is part of the Ancestral Puebloan migration that included Mesa Verde to the north and Chaco Canyon to the south. (It should be noted here that the ruins received their name when early European settlers attributed the ruins to the Aztecs of Mexico; obviously, the name persisted despite their confusion.)

This must have been a magnificent compound back in the day—the builders went to extraordinary effort to make this place special. Typical building practices at the time relied on adobe mud for walls and local juniper and pinyon pine for roofs. But for Aztec Ruins, the people sought out more exotic materials: ponderosa pine, spruce and Douglas fir from mountains 20 miles to the north, and stone from quarries three miles away. Time and avarice have taken a heavy toll—before being declared a national monument in 1923, the ruins were looted for artifacts, and settlers needing building materials hauled away 12th century hand-hewn stones. Even Earl Halstead Morris, the renowned archeologist who spent years excavating the ruins, used reclaimed timbers from the ruins when building his home on the site (it’s now the interesting and lovely Visitor Center).

The buildings once stood three stories high and contained at least 500 rooms, including a dozen kivas (the Hopi word for ceremonial chamber). In the center of the plaza is the Great Kiva, which today stands as the largest reconstructed kiva anywhere. The nearby Hopi and other pueblo tribes regard this as a sacred place, and return here to honor their ancestors.

In contrast to the remote small ruins we recently visited on Cedar Mesa, the structures here have been reinforced and stabilized—which honestly, makes it feel less compelling. But look closely, and you’ll find original timbers, hand-hewn stone, and even ancient fingerprints left in the mud mortar. There are mysteries here that may never be solved: What is the meaning of the unique green stripes of stone along the western walls? Why are some of the doorways t-shaped? And why did the people depart—and leave their belongings behind?

About the campground: Ruins Road RV Park is conveniently located within walking distance of the monument. The sites are spacious, with full-hook ups and good Verizon coverage. And it’s a bargain at $20.00 per night.

Next Up: Art, Adobe, & Chiles: Santa Fe, NM

Aztec Ruins National Monument

The Central Courtyard

Ancient Timbers

In The Great Kiva

Another Kiva

Windows

Doorways For Short People

A Band Of Green Stone

Beautiful Stone Work

Fall Colors

The Ruins In Late Afternoon Light

Entrance To The Monument

Aztec Ruins NM Visitor Center

Pottery From The Ruins

Path To The Visitor Center

Crossing The Animas River

RV Park Next Door To The Ruins

Nice Site At Ruins RV Park

Aztec Ruins National Monument
The Central Courtyard
Ancient Timbers
In The Great Kiva
Another Kiva
Windows
Doorways For Short People
A Band Of Green Stone
Beautiful Stone Work
Fall Colors
The Ruins In Late Afternoon Light
Entrance To The Monument
Aztec Ruins NM Visitor Center
Pottery From The Ruins
Path To The Visitor Center
Crossing The Animas River
RV Park Next Door To The Ruins
Nice Site At Ruins RV Park
Aztec Ruins National Monument thumbnail
The Central Courtyard thumbnail
Ancient Timbers thumbnail
In The Great Kiva thumbnail
Another Kiva thumbnail
Windows thumbnail
Doorways For Short People thumbnail
A Band Of Green Stone thumbnail
Beautiful Stone Work thumbnail
Fall Colors thumbnail
The Ruins In Late Afternoon Light thumbnail
Entrance To The Monument thumbnail
Aztec Ruins NM Visitor Center thumbnail
Pottery From The Ruins thumbnail
Path To The Visitor Center thumbnail
Crossing The Animas River thumbnail
RV Park Next Door To The Ruins thumbnail
Nice Site At Ruins RV Park thumbnail

Read More