Maybe it’s just the intoxicated feeling caused by the lack of oxygen at 7,500 feet. Or maybe it’s the universal friendliness of the people. Maybe it’s the rich history—both human and geological—of the land. Maybe it’s the mystical undercurrent of spirituality from the region’s many Native American tribes.
Whatever it is, New Mexico has a strange attractive power over me. I’ve now been there twice: two years ago, and last week. Both were short four-day visits. (These photographs are taken from both trips. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.)
Now, returning to Missouri, I feel like a visitor here, longing to get back home to Santa Fe.
Keep in mind, I’ve lived in Missouri for 50 years, and I’ve lived in New Mexico for a total of eight days. Moreover, I’ve always considered myself a water person; I always figured if I ever left Missouri, it would be to live near a coast. And yet now, I find myself compelled to pick up everything and move out there.
In both trips, Jean and I flew into Albuquerque (I’ve finally figured out how to spell it!), rented a vehicle and drove to Santa Fe, where we stayed in a rented house with our friends Anne and Paul. While there, we took one long day trip each visit: the first time we went to Chimayo and Taos, while last week, we drove to Abiquiu, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch and Chama. Both trips took us northward, so in fact I’ve only seen a small portion of the state, a crescent-moon-shaped area that constitutes probably less than 5 percent of the state’s land mass. But the sheer beauty and diversity of that small slice of New Mexico alone is breathtaking, from the piñon-covered mesas in the central part of the state, to the violent rock outcroppings in the north, to the amazing Rio Grande River Gorge.
Not to mention the legendary deep blue Southwestern sky. On this second trip, we were blessed with four days in which we didn’t even see a single cloud.
On our first trip, we stayed on the northwest side of Santa Fe, in a house on a ridge overlooking the city. This time, we were on the east side, in the woods, literally nestled between a tangle of trails that extend into the Santa Fe National Forest. The trails are great for running: providing all kinds of technical challenges, on top of the 7,000-foot-plus base altitude. Not to mention the fabulous views. I ran on those trails the first three days we were there, and still barely touched what was available; the trails wind for more than 30 miles through the forest and up and down the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. I’d love to get back there and run on the rest of those trails, as well as the many other running trails in the city. Running Times magazine had a great article in 2003 on running Santa Fe’s trails.
Santa Fe is a haven for tourists, but the town in no way feels “touristy.” Sure, you can find a cheap t-shirt in a shop around the Plaza. But you can also find some very cool artwork from the local artists, who set up tables and booths in lots around the town. Along the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza, Native Americans spread their blankets to sell their jewelry and art. It sometimes feels like the artists outnumber the tourists.
I’m by no means a well-traveled person, but in the last 10 years or so I’ve gotten around a little more than I did when I was younger. But I’ve never been to a place that tugged at me the way Santa Fe does. New Mexico likes to call itself “The Land of Enchantment.” Count me among the enchanted.