A Few More Santa Fe Pictures

img_8684The church above is the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church structure in the United States. The original adobe walls and altar were built around 1610, and although it was partially destroyed several times during its existence, those walls still stand. There are more beautiful churches in Santa Fe, but none shine under that beautiful blue New Mexican sky like this one.

This is our last morning in Santa Fe; in a couple of hours we’ll be on a plane heading back to the real world. I have a few more pictures (last bunch, I promise), that didn’t really fit in with the other groups I posted. These range from raw nature to deep-fried kitsch, but that’s how things are here. There are lots of tourists and plenty of gimcrack to feed them, but it doesn’t take long to get away from all of that into some awe-inspiring natural beauty.

So, so long Santa Fe, until next time.

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Kasha-Katuwe

img_8598With just three days left in his term, the first President Clinton declared seven new “National Monuments” by executive order, setting aside large areas of environmentally sensitive land and ensuring that they would  receive federal protection from commercial development. (The move wasn’t popular with some western politicians, who didn’t want to see their states’ land being put under federal control. “What the president seems to be doing is creating an environmental legacy for himself,” said Rep. Dennis Rehberg R-Mont.—as if that’s a bad thing.)

One of the monuments was Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in northern New Mexico, about 25 miles west of Santa Fe. Kasha-Katuwe—which means “White Cliffs” in the native Pueblo language—is an area of bizarre conical rock formations, created from massive volcanic eruptions in the Jemez Mountains some 6-7 million years ago. The eruptions left layered pumice, ash and tuff deposits up to 1,000 feet deep, which gradually eroded over time to form the tent rocks and canyons.

The U.S Bureau of Land Management maintains the site, which has recreational trails that wind through the formations and through a narrow “slot canyon”—with emphasis on the narrow. We visited yesterday on a beautiful New Mexico morning (and to be honest, I’ve spent a dozen mornings in New Mexico over three trips here, and every single one of them has been beautiful). The photos below are some of what we saw.

El Santuario de Chimayo

img_8366Near the small town of Chimayo in Northern New Mexico is a chapel called el Santuario de Chimayo. Built in about 1816, the chapel is a National Historic Landmark, and is well-known for the supposedly curative powers of the dirt that visitors can dig from a hole in the chapel floor.

The chapel is a destination for many pilgrimages, particularly during Holy Week, when the faithful walk long distances to Chimayo—some from as far away as Albuquerque—to offer prayers. (Such a walk would be difficult, but beautiful. The scenery along the roads to Chimayo is spectacular, particularly the last 10 miles or so, which are part of the High Road To Taos.)

The Santuario is much more than the chapel, though. In the gardens around the chapel are countless pieces of religious art, including many representations of the Virgin Mary from different cultures. Even for the non-Catholics like me, it’s impressive.

About that dirt: visitors can dig the “holy dirt” and take it with them, and rub it on their bodies in hopes that it will cure their ailments. According to Wikipedia, the church replaces the dirt with dirt from the surrounding hillsides, “for a total of about 25 or 30 tons a year.”

Photos are not allowed inside the chapel, but check out the interactive panorama on this page to get an idea of what it’s like inside. As for what’s outside, though, see below.

Cafe Pasqual’s

img_2412img_2407At 8:30 on a Sunday morning, you go out for breakfast, and there are already people standing outside your chosen restaurant, and there’s a half-hour waiting list? That’s how it is with Cafe Pasqual’s, our favorite restaurant in Santa Fe, N.M. We’re in Santa Fe this week for the third time, and like each of the other times, Pasqual’s was our first breakfast.

It’s a tiny place, with a maximum occupancy of 49—hence the long wait, I guess. But the food is amazing, and the atmosphere is utterly unique.The walls and ceiling are adorned with all kinds of wild creations from local artists, including some crazy pieces that hang from the ceiling. (More artwork is in an upstairs gallery, although we haven’t made it up there yet.) There are tables crammed around the perimeter of the restaurant, and in the middle is a large oblong table—the “community table,” where you ask to be seated if you’re in the mood to converse with strangers. If we go back there on this trip, I want to give the community table a try.

The food, though, that’s the main thing. Pasqual’s is dedicated to using organic, naturally raised foods, and the menu is full of inventive and unusual dishes. Check out the breakfast menu; I’ll bet there are dishes on there that are unlike anything you’ve seen at any other restaurant. Oh, and a recommendation; if you go, try the Mexican hot chocolate. Yesterday when we were there, Jean ordered the cheese omelette with chorizo, and I got the Durango omelette with, of course, green chiles, a dish I’d gotten before. Both were excellent; one bite of mine and I remembered why I loved Pasqual’s, why I love New Mexico.

The Sandia Peak Tram

img_8044On the edge of Albuquerque, N.M., are the Sandia Mountains, the tallest of which, Sandia Peak, towers over the city and dominates the landscape. There is an aerial tram that runs from the base of mountain (elevation 6,559 feet) to the 10,378-foot crest, and I’d wanted to ride it ever since I learned of its existence. Yesterday, I got the chance.

The tram consists of two cars that can hold up to 50 people each, which travel a horizontal distance of 2.7 miles while climbing nearly 4,000 feet. The views from the peak are spectacular—supposedly you can see an 11,000-square-mile area—but the tram ride is equally amazing. It goes up the steep, rocky side of the mountain, over multiple canyons and rock formations that seem inexplicable. At one point, the tram car is more than 1,000 feet off the ground. The 15-minute ride, to me, seemed to last about half that time, but fortunately the ride is a round-trip, so you get a second chance at the scenery.

At the top, there are all kinds of activities, including a restaurant, multiple trails for hiking, and of course, during the winter months, skiing, with lifts on the east side of the mountain. Be warned, though, if you live your life at 600 feet above sea level like I do, it’s quite a change when you get up to 10,000 feet. Still, I’d hike up there every weekend if I could.