Santa Fe and Taos road trip
At the end of October (2017), I took a few days to travel up to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, in my little camper van. A beautiful scenic route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe was a refreshing sunlit start to some of my favorite places in the southwest. Driving through the lands of the various Pueblo reservations was interesting. I hope to visit each pueblo in the coming year as they are open to the public, and such a great historical (and yet current) testimony to our earliest Americans in their struggle to survive and prosper. The country is so rugged and I again recognize how easy my life is as a ‘townie’. The open road and the big blue sky of New Mexico causes me to breathe deeper and totally relax as I travel!
My first stop was in Santa Fe at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. The art exhibition was, of course, most enjoyable to peruse. A particularly beautiful moment was looking at a gauzy curtain in front of a sunny window, where the shadows of the outside garden were made even more lovely – as purposely done by some artistic magician! I really appreciated the history and perspective about the artist, as I had heard stories about her and was rather pleased to get the accurate record. From the museum, I walked around the old plaza area of Santa Fe where there are so many beautiful museums and galleries and open-air vendors. I loved the Loretto Chapel with its mysterious and gorgeous helix-shaped staircase, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Of course, I will need to return to Santa Fe many times to see all the museums and historical places! Oh, too bad I only live about two hours away – LOL! Only one small issue, as a camper, is the restriction in Santa Fe against overnight parking anywhere. I did find a casino outside of town that had an RV area which I could use for sleeping, but nothing in Santa Fe itself unless I wanted to pay – which I try to avoid.
After seeing the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, I wanted to visit Ghost Ranch and her art studio – which was a gorgeous two-hour-plus drive north and west of Santa Fe. I had to keep pulling over to take pictures as the scenery was beyond words. The cottonwood trees were shining golden in the autumn sunlight – breathtaking! A wonderful lavender farm was a great place to stop along the way, too! Cerro (Spanish for hill) Pedernal, which overlooks Ghost Ranch, is almost 10,000 feet tall, and I can see how O’Keefe was inspired by this location for so many years.
My next stop was Taos, New Mexico. Driving across the Rio Grande through the mountain passes was awesome! I didn’t even mind stopping for construction for 20 minutes, because the view was that great. As always, the little stops along the way to read historical markers and enjoy each scenic overlook made for a leisurely morning.
Taos is a very different vibe from Santa Fe. I compare the two cities as (being from New York), the difference between Saratoga Springs and Cooperstown -two towns I have lived in for several years each. Saratoga Springs and Santa Fe have, in my opinion, that kind of ‘snooty’ vibe with upscale everything. Cooperstown and Taos are more blue-collar towns with just ‘regular folks’. I enjoyed walking around Taos and seeing the different architecture from periods of New Mexico history. Again, there are many galleries and shops around an old cobblestone plaza, a great place to lunch and spend a few hours. The skyline drive in Taos to the ski area was a beautiful drive, and since there wasn’t much traffic this time of year, I could take it slow and stop to admire the scenery.
Just south of Taos is an old 1800’s Spanish hacienda (Hacienda de los Martinez) which is open to the public, and I absolutely LOVED this place. I spent several hours going through the collections and different rooms used for all the many tasks and purposes in a large Spanish hacienda. Any person familiar with the American Girls books of Josephina would love this hacienda. There was even a play area with the Josephina books to read, and clothing and toys from that period, which a kid of any age would love. And yes, since no one was there, I donned the clothing and enjoyed myself, imagining this life back in the 1800’s.
When done with the town of Taos, I headed over to the Taos Pueblo for the afternoon. A delicious Indian fry bread taco was a treat, cooked in a small ‘apartment’ of the pueblo. The local artists who live in the pueblo still, without running water or electricity, were so lovely and friendly. I “had to” buy some turquoise jewelry – who could resist?!?!?
The next stop for me was the Rio Grande Gorge and the bridge that crosses it, about 10 miles up the road. Whew! My hands clenched on the railing as I looked down into the gorge, and I did NOT make it across – I enjoyed the view from about ten feet away from the edge! At 565 feet above the river, this is a beautiful steel arch bridge on Route 64. I then turned around to head back south towards Albuquerque.
My final stop was the Puye Cliffdwellings of the Santa Clara Pueblo outside of Espanola. My wonderful guide, Elijah, took me on a 1:1 walking tour of the cliffs with all its ladders and stairways and paths, telling me interesting stories from his family’s history there. There were about 1500 people living on this mesa for centuries, with ‘rooms’ carved out of the soft volcanic rock in the cliffs. On top of the mesa were storage and ceremonial buildings, now just remains – the Pueblo moved down to the river when a drought caused the waters to dry up in the late 1500’s – to imagine and enjoy. We saw several falcons and ravens while on the cliffs, as we kept a watch-out for snakes, and a bear who had trashed the visitor center’s dump container that morning. (Seeing the heavy chain busted and the steel container mangled, I did not want to be anywhere near that bear!) I left the cliffs after several hours on this sacred land, filled with an amazing serenity deep within my spirit. I found I could not go anywhere else that day, as I just wanted to absorb the tranquility and rest from my time on the mesa. This was a beautiful spiritual renewal day!
I hope you enjoyed my little road trip album, and that it inspires you to a road trip of your own! There is just so much to see in our great country. I love the history here, and the wonderful people I meet. Thanks for following the blog, and take care of yourself!
From the bookshelf…
The Dreaming – Walks Through Mist, by Kim Murphy, 2011
“Near the mist-covered river, the waves lapped against the bank. Lee gazed upon the water. No words were necessary. I knew he thought of how the land had once belonged to the Paspahegh. He held his hands out afore him, palms facing up. My eyes filled with tears. At long last, he understood the sacrifice of the woman who had birthed him.”