Archive for the ‘ New Mexico ’ Category

 

Santa Fe Farmers Market

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Santa Fe, New Mexico is well known for its rich history, diverse culture, world-class art, chili-inspired culinary dishes, and, distinct Southwestern style. One stop worth making on your next trip to Santa Fe has to be the Farmer’s Market, located in the relatively new, Railyard Park.

The market began with just a handful of farmers in the late 60s and is now New Mexico’s largest farmers’ market with over 150 active vendors, featuring hundreds of different agricultural products. The Santa Fe Farmers Market is truly a local market…they take great effort to assure that all the products sold by vendors are always locally grown by the people selling them.

When I was at the market on a Saturday in late spring, the entire Railyard Park was bustling with people, street performers and vendors selling an array of colorful produce and handmade goods (see video). There are also many nearby galleries, shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy. Located right across the street is the Santa Fe Sage Inn, the place I stayed. This modest hotel is very affordable, walking distance to just about all the Santa Fe attractions, and, offers a number of free amenities.

If you’ve ever been to the Santa Fe Farmers Market, please leave a comment below and share your experience.

Santa Fe Farmers Market Information:

Hours:

  • Saturdays open year-round 8am-1pm
  • Tuesday Market May through November
  • Railyard Artisan Market at the Market Pavilion; Sundays: 10am-4pm
  • Farmers’ Market Shops; Saturdays: 8am-3pm – Sundays: 10am-4pm

Website:
SantaFeFarmersMarket.com

Address:
Opens in Google Maps
740 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505

El Morro National Monument

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

As a road tripper, I try to stay off the interstates and main highways…discovering El Morro is a perfect example of why I do this. Located in west central New, Mexico, along an ancient trail off highway 53, is this historic site that was once home to 1500 Zuni Indians from about 1275 to 1350 A.D.

El Morro National Monument is a wonderful example of why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. The area is surrounded by soaring sandstone bluffs that rise more than 200 feet from the valley floor. After a leisurely hike, you’ll reach the summit of a mesa where you’ll discover a fascinating mixture of both human and natural history, which includes the remnants of a pueblo that housed Native Americans who once inhabited the area.

I had driven by El Morro once before, but just didn’t have the time to stop. I’m so glad I did this go-round.  It’s a vortex that draws the curious. Around each bend, or elevation, I found myself being lured into the heart of of this majestic landscape…interested in seeing what was just beyond. The views are simply stunning, as are the varying rock formations. There are so many vantage points, each offering another unique perspective of El Morro.

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll run across a number of petroglyphs (images carved into the sandstone). The softness of the sandstone made it easy for the early people to carve pictures and symbols into the rocks. Today, the park protects over 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs, as well as the Ancestral Puebloan ruins.

If you’ve ever been to El Morro National Monument, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.

El Morro National Monument Information:

Map: Google map to El Morro National Monument
Location: El Morro is located about about 42 miles southeast of Grants, N.M.
NPS Website: El Morro National Monument

Cumbres/Toltec: Ridin’ the rails through the scenic San Juan’s

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

I have a good friend who is an avid train enthusiast…when he learned of my plans to visit Pagosa Springs, he highly recommend that I stop in Chama, New Mexico beforehand to take a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. I decided to make plans to spend a few days in the area before heading to Pagosa Springs.

I arrived in Chama late afternoon and stopped by the train station to pick up my tickets for the next days’ 10am departure en route to Antonito, CO.  When I arrived at the Cumbres/Toltec station, I could immediately see why my buddy was so enthralled by this railroad. For starters, there is a lot of moving (and non-moving) stock on various lines for visitors and train enthusiasts to enjoy. Secondly, this authentic, narrow gauge, steam-operated railroad is one of the last remaining remnants that showcases just how the west was won. Built in 1880, the Cumbres/Toltec was part of the San Juan extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Today, it offers visitors a spectacular scenic journey through the San Juan Mountains and Toltec Gorge.  The entire 64-mile journey from Chama to Antonito will take you through a remarkably diverse landscape that consists of majestic canyons, dense forest, rolling hills, plateaus, pastures, expansive plains and arid vistas.

After getting my train ticket, I made my way directly across the street to check in at the Parlor Car Bed and Breakfast. This B&B is owned/run by Bonsall and Wendy, a lovely couple who enjoy the train as much as they do the various visitors who stay with them. As a matter of fact, Bonsall is a volunteer docent and rides the train one or two times per week providing passengers with an interpretive background on the railroad’s history.

Not only is the location convenient, the accommodations are as cozy as the breakfast is delicious.  The morning I was there, I enjoyed a fresh fruit cup with a scoop of sorbet. This was followed by an amazing egg/potato entrée…with the final course of a freshly baked blueberry scone with some heavenly goodness drizzled on top.

At precisely 10am each day from mid-May to mid-October, trains from Chama, NM and Antonito, CO leave their respective stations—two and a half hours later the trains meet in the middle at the Osier Depot for lunch. Lunch is served cafeteria style with several meal configurations to choose from. This is how the schedule normally works; however, my trip was hindered slightly due to a mechanical issue with the train coming from Antonito. With century old trains, you might think mechanical issues would be a fairly frequent occurrence, however as I chatted up our conductor during the delay, he informed me that it was actually quite rare. The trains, as well as the track, are constantly being monitored and maintained. The delay in Osier gave us an opportunity to peruse this once old town and toll station, while snapping up some extra pictures. I even saw a couple of folks hike down to the river, and at over 9600 feet, I did not envy their potential rapid assent to the train should the blasting of four long whistles take place [explained in next paragraph]. We even witnessed ranchers moving their herd of cattle through the area, which for most city slickers, is a rare sight.

At the beginning of your journey, soon after the train leaves the station, the conductor comes down the aisle to punch your ticket—shortly thereafter some basic information follows…such as what the train whistle blasts mean. The first signal we learned were that four long blasts means that the train will depart in 5 minutes. Apparently the guy seated a few rows in front of me after lunch did not pay attention during the morning orientation…as soon as the train began to depart the station, he realized his mom was not next to him. By the time the conductor was alerted and radioed the other train, it was too late—Mom, apparently got on the wrong train and would have to take the bus back to the other end…to meet her oblivious son.

As we left the Osier Depot, we soon entered a tunnel bore out of the rock-face cliffs…one of two tunnels the train would go through during its journey.  The second tunnel was long enough, with just enough bend to create a few moments of complete darkness—I even tested it by putting my hand in front of my face. Sure enough, no light reflected in order for me to see my five fingers waving back at myself.

The second half of the journey to Antonito offered some dramatic curves in the track that allowed us all to take pictures of the engine and steam car.  It’s quite a sight, and, an engineering marvel of the day to have steam powered by coal pull the heavy loads up and over this dramatic set of passes. As a matter of fact, one section of the track has a 4% grade, which for an automobile is no problem, but for a train…it’s quite a big deal.

After we crossed the New Mexico and Colorado borders eleven times, and passed by Whiplash Curve and Lava Loop, we were on the home stretch to the station in Antonito. From a peak elevation of just over 10,000 feet at Cumbres pass, to 7,888 feet at the Antonito station, the terrain changes dramatically. Instead of tall Pine and Aspen trees, the flat vista in front of us was arid, or high plains desert. As I learned the next day from the drive back to Chama, just a few miles away the terrain turns back to forest.

In Antonito I had reservations at the River’s Inn Bed and Breakfast. The owner/innkeeper (Ursula,) told me to give her a call when the train got in and she’d come pick me up.  At first I thought it was because I was a VIP, but come to find out, it’s a service she offers all train riders. The B&B is certainly within walking distance (about half a mile or so), however if you have luggage and your car is at the other end, it’s nice to know that someone is willing to pick you up.

Ursula was kind enough to give me a quick tour around the small town of Antonito. To be honest, there isn’t much to see or do right in town, but there are a few interesting sights. For starters…if you go, you have to check out “Cano’s Castle.” This extremely odd, yet creatively unique home, was built by a Native American Vietnam Veteran. One might assume that Cano did not come back from the war in the same state in which he left—anyone who would build such an odd structure, has to be, well, a bit odd himself. Nonetheless, Cano has created a structure that continues to inspire a community, while captivating onlookers. Some might call “Cano’s Castle” Antonito’s, “Ball of String, “ or “Cadillac henge,” two other odd creations that attract visitors by the thousands.

Cano began building his castle in 1980 and has not slowed down to this day…he just continues to add on. Cano’s never-ending construction is enabled and fueled by what most would describe as, “junk” donated by his fellow neighbors.  Nothing goes to waste, Cano makes use of even the strangest items in the most intriguing ways…his imagination seems boundless.

The most refined place in Antonito’s has to be Ursula’s “River’s Inn.” This 1907 home was restored to its glory back in 1999, showcasing beautiful hardwood floors, wonderful craftsmanship and a porch beckoning its use. There are four rooms to choose from, each with a distinct look and feel.  Ursula hails from Switzerland, and in an attempt to share some of her heritage with guests breakfast is prepared more European style.

The next day I had a decision to make…should I take the train back, or the motor coach. I decided to take the motor coach, that way I could get back to Chama before the train departed and I could get some photo and video footage. Come to find out, “chasing the train” is a big lure for folks. Once the train leaves the Chama station, enthusiasts hop in their cars and find a plethora of vantage points in which to take pictures as the train chugs up Cumbres pass.

The Cumbres Toltec Scenic Railroad operates daily from mid-May to mid-October, however they are looking at the possibility of adding some future winter rides with a massive rotary snow removal engine clearing the tracks to make way.  Watch the video below and you’ll see what an amazing experience this would be.

If you’ve ever ridden the Cumbres & Toltec train, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.

Santa Fe “City Different” Walking Tour

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

I recently visited Santa Fe, New Mexico and stayed at the Santa Fe Sage Inn. During my stay I discovered they offer a “City Different” walking tour, which takes visitors to some of the landmark sights around downtown, as well as providing answers to many of those burning Santa Fe questions, for example:

  • Why are all the buildings brown?
  • Why the New Mexico State Capitol is called the “Roundhouse”?
  • Or what’s missing from the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica?
  • And, how/why Santa Fe became one of the top art destinations in the U.S.?

The Santa Fe “City Different” walking tour provides a historical and cultural orientation to the wonders of Santa Fe. The hour and half walking tour begins in the lobby of the Santa Fe Sage Inn each Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9:45am and runs from early May through October 19th, 2013.



From the Santa Fe Sage Inn it’s just a short ride on the Sage Coach to the New Mexico State Capitol where the tour begins. The tour continues down old Santa Fe Trail, traveling through the historic Barrio de Analco, while viewing the San Miguel Mission and the Loretto Chapel, before arriving at the Santa Fe Plaza. There you will explore historic sites including, the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica and the 109 E. Palace. On the plaza you will learn about the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico Museum of Art and the distinctive architecture that makes Santa Fe so unique. You’ll also learn about the role of Santa Fe’s three cultures… Native American, Hispanic and Anglo in the development of what is now the “City Different.”. This tour is a great opportunity to learn about the history of the nation’s oldest capital.

For more information on the Santa Fe “City Different” walking tour, contact:

Santa Fe Sage Inn
Phone: 505-982-5952
Email: SageInn@SantaFeSageInn.com
Fee: $12 per person

Santa Fe: A community so distinctive, it has its own style

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

I’ve been to Santa Fe, New Mexico on several occasions, each time I visit I find something new to explore.  Santa Fe is a small community rich in history and culture, dating back some 400 years—its so distinctive that it has its own well-known style named for it…”Santa Fe Style.”  The colors, textures, tastes and smells of Santa Fe are bright, vibrant and inviting.

Santa Fe is a mecca for the creative, 100s of galleries, world-class museums, fantastic culinary scene—when you’re there, you can’t help but feel its overwhelming energy…it’s a feeling that envelop the soul.


Top Things to do while in Santa Fe:

  • Santa Fe Plaza – Located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, the Plaza remains the focal point of the city, hosting various markets, festivals, gatherings, concerts and many annual events.
  • San Miguel Mission – This Spanish Colonial church is considered to be the country’s oldest, believed to have been built in 1628.
  • Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis – This crowning achievement  was completed in 1886 and designed in Romanesque Revival style. While its design contrasts the surrounding adobe buildings, the cathedral remains one of Santa Fe’s most notable landmarks.
  • Art Galleries – There are well over 250 art galleries in Santa Fe, with a huge cluster in an area called “Canyon Road.”
  • The Railyard – Located just outside of downtown is the newly developed “Railyard,” which is a mix of new and old construction and still home to a rail depot transporting commuter passengers to/from Albuquerque.  Some good restaurants in the area too.  Last time I was there I enjoyed Tomasita’s, a Santa Fe institution.  I also ate at the Flying Star Cafe, which is in the newer part of the development and was pretty good.
  • While visiting Santa Fe, I would recommend taking an open air tram ride…this will give you a good overview of the downtown area and will allow you to get a lay-of-the-land so that you don’t end up walking in circles.  You’ll also be able to take notes of the spots you want to go back and further explore.

    There are a variety of cool destinations and things to see within a short drive from Santa Fe, so you could use the area as a hub while visiting places like Bandelier National Monument, Indian ruins and Pueblos, or perhaps Taos, which is at a higher elevation and offers skiing,  fishing and river rafting.  Taos is actually one of my favorite places of all time.

    There are many outstanding lodging accommodations in Santa Fe, I can recommend the El Farolito B&B, Don Gaspar Inn, Four Kachinas B&B and the Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe.  Whether it’s art galleries, museums, history, culture or the culinary delights, there’s something for everyone in Santa Fe.  Santa Fe has become one of those “Must See” cities in the country and made my Mike’s Road Trip “Best of 2011” list for “Best Small City.”

    Click the following link to see more of my pictures of Santa Fe.  If you’ve been to Santa Fe before, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best?  If you enjoyed this post and video, please click the “like” button and share it with friends and family.

Chaco Canyon, where the Spirits tell a story

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

A few years ago I saw a documentary on the Chaco Culture National Historical Park…I was completely surprised that I’d never heard of this wondrous place before—after watching the documentary, I knew it was somewhere I had to go one day.  “One day” came this past May…here’s my adventure.

Coming from Santa Fe, I was working my way through New Mexico. Chaco Canyon is located in the northwester part of the state, near the “Four Corners” area. The elevation is around 6500′ and so the weather this time of year was absolutely perfect, maybe 80 for a high and 50s for a low.  As I neared the area of Chaco, taking several remote county roads, I began the arduous drive down a rough dirt road.  I knew I was in the right area, going in the right direction, but kept questioning how there could be a national park in an area this seemingly inaccessible.  After arriving at the visitors center, I learned that the road is not paved for a reason…they intentionally want to minimize the amount of people in the park to help preserve it.  It was a fairly rough journey, even in my four wheel drive truck, but let me tell you…so worth it.

Chaco Canyon is a special place for many reasons.  For one, it’s not that popular, so it’s a joy to explore without being inundated by crowds or traffic.   One of the reasons for the lack of tourists, as I mentioned, is the dirt road as you approach the park, however once inside Chaco, all the roads (except for the camp grounds) are paved. Chaco is remarkable for its multi-storied “Great Houses,” ceremonial structures and distinctive architecture.  The buildings of Chaco required considerable planning, designing, organizing of labor, and industrious engineering to construct. It’s a marvel like nothing I’ve seen before.  It’s also feels like a very spiritual place…very peaceful.



Chaco Canyon dates back from around 800 to 1150 AD, during that time the construction methods changed…quite significantly in fact.  I asked one of the park rangers about this and he told me they believe it was due to several factors…from technique evolution, to most likely…a change in available resources.  Because the surrounding land is so barren, one of the first questions I asked myself when I entered the park was, “where’s the water?” There was no water to be found anywhere…only seasonally. How did these people survive?  Initially archeologist thought that perhaps 1000 years ago there was water, but later concluded through research that this was not the case.  It’s still a mystery today how the Chacoans survived for more than three hundred years with so little water available.   The most obvious answer is that they created damns and other storage methods when it did rain, but on average this area only receives about 8″ per year.  As you look around, it’s really an inhospitable land…very little vegetation or wildlife to speak of.

Chaco Canyon was a major hub for trade and administration—unlike anything before or since. Something else I found fascinating was the fact that these people combined sophisticated architectural elements in their structures, from astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and, complex engineering to create an ancient urban oasis.  The sheer size of Chaco is incredibly impressive.

As my first day of exploring was coming to an end, I made my way back to the camp area were I cooked up some grub and enjoyed some relaxing time in my hammock.  Because there are few trees to speak of, I had to get creative in how I hung the hammock.  After a good deal of contemplation, I was able to use two large boulders to affix my hammock straps (see video). As evening approached, bringing darkness with it, I headed over to the visitors center for an interpretive program put on by the park rangers. This was really really special…the rangers not only talk about the history of Chaco and many of the hypothesis’s, but  they also make available the observatory and telescopes for visitors to view one of the darkest skies in the country.  Because Chaco is so remote, there is little light pollution.  Just don’t go when there is a full moon like I did.  Even with the full moon, we were able to see many of the planets, the most impressive of which was Saturn.

The next morning I cooked up some breakfast, packed up camp and enjoyed one more siesta in my hammock before heading off to do some back-country exploring.  I climbed to the top of the northern wall of Chaco Canyon and enjoyed some amazing birds-eye views of the valley and structures below. I also found an area full of pottery shards…these pieces of history date back some 1000 years.

By mid-afternoon I was off to my next destination…Mesa Verde National Park.

Click the following link if you’d like to see more of my pictures of Chaco Canyon.

Chaco Canyon Information:

  • Be sure to fuel up before getting close to the park.
  • I recommend camping out for a night, it’s tough to fully appreciate the park in one day.  Plus, Chaco Canyon is one of the  least light-polluted places in the country and offers some spectacular star gazing opportunities.  And, several days per week the Park Rangers offer an astronomy and historical lecture.
  • If you’re camping out, you may want to consider bringing firewood.
  • Hours: 7:00 a.m. to sunset
  • Entrance Fee: only $8 per vehicle
  • Google Map: Click here

If you’ve been to Chaco Canyon before, please leave a comment below and tell my readers and me what you enjoy most. If you enjoyed this post and video, please click the “like” button and share it with your friends and family.

Bobbin’ around Bandelier

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Bandelier National Monument is located just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico and makes for a great day trip when visiting nearby Santa Fe.  The indigenous people that lived in the area dating back some 10,000 years, enjoyed the rugged arid landscape due in part to the the flowing streams and beautiful canyons.

Many of the ruins in Frijoles Canyon have been excavated, studied and preserved. The main loop trail from the visitor center passes by several types of restored dwellings, many of which welcome visitors to explore.  There are miles of trails, some are even paved to make a few of the sites more accessible.

The highlight of the park for me was the trek to the “Alcove House,” which was about a 4-5 miles round trip, then required a 140 foot climb up a four tier series of ladders.  This climb is not for the faint-of-heart. I however find these things extremely exciting.  Unfortunately there was some sort of filed trip of kids at the park and I got caught in some pretty good congestion climbing both up and down.  Once reaching the top tier you enter a massive cliff dwelling with sweeping views of the canyon below.  There was also a kiva (an underground ceremonial structure) at the top, which visitors are allowed to enter and explore.

After retreating from the “Alcove House” and cluster of youngsters, I made my way to an area that provided some solace…the banks of the Frijoles Creek, which runs through the canyon with the same name.  There are 33,000 acres within the Bandelier park, plenty of space to enjoy and explore.

Bandelier National Monument is open year-round with late spring and summer being the busiest times, however at the time of writing this post, the park continues to be closed until further notice.  Just weeks after I visited Bandelier, there was a massive forest fire (The Las Conchas Fire) that unfortunately burned over 60% of the park, much of which is right in Frijoles Canyon where the visitors center resides.  One of the concerns is that the fire destroyed so much vegetation that the area is prone to flash flooding and is too dangerous to allow visitors.  This is very sad as Bandelier is certainly one of our national treasures.  Hopefully the park won’t be closed too long, but at this point it could be quite some time before visitors are allowed back.  Click here to check the status.

WikiTravel has created a wonderful outline of all the various information one could hope for to plan a trip to Bandelier. Click the following link if you’d like to see more of my pictures of Bandelier. If you’ve been to the Bandelier National Monument, please let my readers and me know what you like best.

If you found this post and video helpful and/or enjoyable, please click the “Like” button to share with friends and family.