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.



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.


The Yellow Cap

Note: When written, this was one of a series of posts describing the pictures that appear in the blog header. However, I’ve since changed the design of the blog, and hence, the pictures are different. Nothin’ stoppin’ you from reading the posts, though; previous posts are here and here and here;.

Admit it. You really, really want to push that cap out of the way and run your fingers through that thick, luxurious hair that you just know is hiding underneath.

But, your fantasies aside, what I really want to talk about today is the cap itself. You probably can’t read it—white type on yellow fabric in a small picture may not be the ideal for legibility—but if you could, you’d see that it came from Cafe Pasqual’s, and, in smaller type, Santa Fe, N.M.

Pasqual’s is a restaurant like no other. It’s a tiny place, just a block or so from The Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. There are a few pictures here (the good interior shot was stolen from their Web site), but pictures, and even the menu, can only go so far to describing the place. I find it hard enough to describe Santa Fe, let alone Pasqual’s.

Maybe the easiest way to think of it is as a 21st century hippie hangout. It has that free-wheeling, easy going feel to it; a great place  to go and be organic for a while.

In the middle of the restaurant is a “community table,” where you can sit if you feel like taking a chance on a dining partner. There, you’ll be placed next to whoever else happens to be sitting at the table that day. An interesting idea, but we haven’t tried it yet.

The one drawback to Pasqual’s is that it’s a bit pricey. But the food is innovative and amazing. We’ve been there twice now, both times for breakfast. The first time, I ordered the Durango Omelet, and it ranks up there with the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. Ham, Jack cheese, scallions, guacamole and more under that delicious red sauce. Incredible.

The second time there I was feeling adventurous, so got the craziest thing I could find on the menu; the

Oh … hey, let’s maybe keep that cap on after all, OK?

Huevos Motuleños. It turned out to be a little too adventurous for me, with those peas and sauteed bananas … but still, it was interesting. And with the Mexican hot chocolate on the side, it was still a great meal. It’s hard not to enjoy a breakfast in that fun and festive restaurant.

It’s the kind of place that moves you to purchase a yellow cap on your way out the door. Which brings me back to the picture at the top. I had Jean snap it while we were at a rest stop on the High Road to Taos, just hours after that first meal at Pasqual’s. That setting, with the evergreen behind me and the hills in the distance; it’s just about my favorite picture of myself. Now, the High Road to Taos; that’s another story…

New Mexico Steam

During our trip to Santa Fe last week, we took a day trip to Abiquiu, where we had some excellent green chile cheeseburgers at Body’s, and then drove on up to the Ghost Ranch, and then further north, to Chama. The latter is a nice little town that seems to specialize in tourism, but it has one excellent attraction; it is a terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. A very helpful woman at the visitor information center told us that the train was scheduled to return to Chama at 4 p.m., and suggested we drive a few miles north of town to see it coming through the woods. Since it worked pretty well for our schedule, we decided to take her advice.

The C&T travels between Chama and Antonio, Colo., a distance of 64 miles, through some …Keep reading