A Travelogue with Rick Rose
My friends often chide me about the places I have not been versus enjoying stories about the places I have been. So, Italy and the Grand Canyon are the base of many challenges, as they are two settings I want badly to visit yet haven’t. This past week, I came close to the Grand Canyon by journeying to another spot unvisited by me…New Mexico. NM should have been on that bucket list. If you have been there, wow, I know you are going back! If you haven’t gone, go…now…no excuses!
My sweet cousin, Wendy, and her smart husband, Mike, sent me on a two day journey starting at and returning to their Albuquerque adobe home (or homes…it’s actually two historic adobe homes joined with a courtyard The best “B&B” I’ve ever experienced (thanks Dr. and Mrs. Martinez – and happy 2nd anniversary!) Highlights of that journey follow. Print this blog; follow in my tracks someday, and you will thank my cousins, too!
Head up Hwy 14, the National Historic Byway “Turquoise Trail,” and through 15,000 sq miles of stunning central NM enroute to Santa Fe. Stop at any of the mining towns of Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos, which today burst with arts, music, restaurants and theatres. The natural and human-made architectural landscape is photo-worthy! I snapped an incredible shot of a true New Mexican on horseback in cowboy hat from the window of Mike’s 4Runner as I drove through the inspirational terrain.
Santa Fe, NM will pull you in and send you out recharged by its native charm and energy. Check out Café Pasqual’s with its communal seating, the annual Indian Market held in late August, the mysterious Loretto Chapel with its nail-free spiral staircase built by an angel, Monroe Gallery with its awesome collection of black and white photography (some disturbing, much entertaining) and the history of the Santa Fe Railroad.
Take 84/285 to Taos via the city of Nambe, namesake of the wonderful alloy service ware that comes from NM, and the village of Chimayo, a must stop! There you will find Santurio de Chimayo (www.holychimayo.us), the Shrine of Our Lord of Esquipulas, a US National Historic Landmark since 1970. No pictures of the beautiful shrine’s interior allowed, but you can touch and use the holy dirt which is said to have healed people since Fr. Casimiro Roca was the Sanctuary first pastor. Surrounding the dirt hole are walls of crutches that are no longer needed.
Continue to drive along the rural mountaintop road of 76N thru Truchas, NM where many artists have galleries and live wonderfully among local farming folk. It is a step back in time with an eye to the future. All the while you follow the smell of pine to beautiful Taos. Your first stop must be St. Francis of Assisi Missionary at Ranchos de Taos which Georgia O’Keefe painted in 1929 while there. The church was her inspiration as she continued to paint landscapes just north of the area. You should also view a prized piece of art the congregation has in which Christ’s cross miraculously appears when the painting is in the dark.
Explore Ski Valley, even when there isn’t snow! You will see firsthand why downhill enthusiasts light up at the name Taos. Be enchanted by the working Pueblo there, as I did, and you will find serenity staring into the Red Willow Creek which runs by St. Jerome Church built in 1850, a National Historic Landmark named after the Pueblo’s patron saint and still a source of the community’s drinking water. The people here speak the unrecorded, unwritten Tiwa language. Visit September 30th, the tribe’s biggest feast day that celebrates the end of the harvest. Then explore the Rio Grande as you walk across the Gorge just outside of Taos. It is breathtaking, literally, and picture perfect.
After a decent night sleep at the Historic Taos Inn (www.taosinn.com), one of America’s 54 Great Inns according to National Geographic and whose Doc Martin’s Restaurant with rabbit rattlesnake sausage and lively Adobe Bar which Zagat appropriately describes as “Old West atmosphere meeting the perfect location and terrific food,” walk around old town Taos. To me it felt real, not touristy which I later discovered about old town Albuquerque with one too many souvenir and ice cream shops.
Take in as much of this great city as you can…with all it has to offer. The weekend after I visited was Taste of Taos, Taos Film Festival and Pride Fest all at once. As you wind your way back to Albuquerque along Highway 68 toward 84/285 in the other direction, you will be right along side the Rio Grande and discover rafting, wineries and a new brewery as you head to Los Alamos. My picks? Vivac Winery which is named for a mountaineering term appropriately meaning “high altitude” as this winery is one of the highest in the world at 6000ft above sea level and uses 100% NM grapes. Their Merlot, a wine I am not often a fan of, is perfect: minty, smoke with the acids of the wonderful NM soil below your feet! Blue Heron Brewing Co. is on the other side of the road – free tastings of their new beers and music, cheese and views makes it the perfect resting point.
As you work your way into Los Alamos, you will find hope and beauty despite the recent Las Conches Fire that keeps much of Bandelier National Monument (Park) closed. Three points of major interest found around the 50 square miles of the Pajarito Plateau there.
First, White Rock with its incredible high views. Next, Tsankawi, a hidden gem in Bandelier. It’s a primitive place, 12 miles north of the main entrance to the park. There are so few tourists (although I was one and you would be too, so no judgment intended) as you hike along the footprints of the Pueblo who discovered and inhabited this region years ago. Cliff ladders, cave dwellings, hieroglyphics and the ability to explore all alone with no guard rails makes for a splendid afternoon of history and wonder. Finally, Valles Caldera, the second largest crater in the US, 12 miles long, provides the perfect backdrop to spot local elk. As you journey from here along the slopes of the Jemez Volcanic field through the Jemez Mountains, you will find nothing but wilderness and beautiful natural red rock.
Following 4 and eventually 550 and 20 South back to Albuquerque, there are two final stops that will round out your fantastic two day journey: Jemez Springs and its Los Ojos Restaurant and Saloon with green chile burgers and lots of local flavor including the animal mounts and Jemez Pueblo, another active Indian reservation. You will return to your adobe in the wonderful city of Albuquerque in love with this state of natural beauty.
During my other days there, I explored Santa Fe during Indian Market (swaia.org) with family including my dear, dear Mom taking the train to and from Albuquerque which I highly recommend. I also checked out Old Town Albuquerque, but remembering my comments above, the only place you will want to visit, within this area is Studio 13 whose owner, artist Daniel Ramirez, is creating the world’s largest painting. His partner and co-owner, the affable Jerome Dupont, will tell you all about how it will include one woman from each of the Indian nations in our states. It’s an incredible undertaking that will feature my friend, White Earth Nation’s Jenelle Klumb. Complete your NM experience with a blue corn crust pizza with fresh basil grown right within the restaurant at Golden Crown Panaderia, near Old Town. It is amazing!