High Road to Taos and Beyond

The way to Taos from Santa Fe is the High Road, a scenic route through the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

The High Road to Taos provides a much deeper sense of history of the region. The valley seems like a series of plush oases. Small, traditional Hispanic villages surrounded by orchards and meadows make the drive worthwhile.

El Santuario de Chimayó

The word "chimayó" comes from the Indian word for "hot springs" that were sacred for the Tewa Indians. Built of adobe, El Santuario de Chimayó is a National Historic Landmark and has been referred to as the "Lourdes of America". El Santuario de Chimayó was built between l8l4 and l8l6; the "miraculous" crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas was found around l8l0. A small room called el pocito [the little well] contains a round pit, the source of "holy dirt" that is believed to have healing powers.

Ortega's Weaving Shop, Chimayó

Ortega's Weaving has carried on its handcrafted tradition for nine generations. Gabriel Ortega passed on his knowledge of weaving to his son, thereby starting a tradition of Chimayó weaving that continues to this day. Ortega's Weaving produces a wide range of items, from rugs to blankets to placemats. Be sure to stop there.

Church of San José de la Gracia, Las Trampas

The village of Las Trampas was established as a Spanish-American community in 1751 by 12 families. A model of the Spanish colonial church architecture and a National Landmark, the Church of San José de la Gracia was built from 1760 to 1776.

High Road to Taos

Take advantage of the many overlooks along the High Road to Taos.

Blanket Woven in Ute Style, Millicent Rogers Museum

An example of an earliest style of Navajo blanket made from wool and dyed using native plants. These blankets are called "Ute Style" because the Navajos traded them with their northern Ute neighbors. The Millicent Rogers Museum is worth a visit.

Mimbres Pottery Bowl, circa 1100

This Mimbres pottery bowl features two human figures with a bird flying over their head. This bowl was ceremonially "killed" at the time of burial by having a hole punched to the bottom.

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church, Ranchos de Taos

Completed in 1816, the San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church has four "beehive” shaped buttresses that support the back of the church structure and two support the front. A thick adobe wall surrounds the church, cemetery, and forecourt.

The Church is the subject of several paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe, photographs by Ansel Adams, Ned Scott, and Paul Strand. Georgia O'Keeffe described it as "one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards." The Taos Chamber of Commerce states that the building is "one of the most photographed and painted churches in the world."

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Spanning 1,272 feet, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, at 565 feet above the Rio Grande, is the seventh highest bridge in the United States. Located near Taos, New Mexico, the bridge was completed in 1965 and received the American Institute of Steel Construction’s award for “Most Beautiful Long Span Steel Bridge” of 1966.

Rio Grande Gorge State Park

Looking down at the Rio Grande from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The Rio Grande Gorge State Park runs along the banks of the river and has four camping/picnicking areas. In addition, throughout the deep canyon, the Rio Grande offers whitewater boating.

San Geronimo Cemetery and Church, Taos Pueblo

The cemetery stands on the ground where the San Geronimo Church once stood. The Taos people were forcibly converted to Catholicism in order to become "civilized", which led to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. [Note: Indians who had lived and worshiped independently for centuries were forced to abandon their religions, adopt Christianity, and pay tribute to Spanish rulers.]

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. The multi-storied residential complex of reddish-brown adobe was built from 1000 to 1450. Approximately 150 people make their homes full-time in the pueblo. The Taos Pueblo is a sovereign nation governed by a Tribal Council of elders which appoints a governor and war chief.

Eagle Nest State Park, New Mexico

From Taos, you can take an excursion to the Enchanted Circle Loop, a 84-mile drive centered on Wheeler Peak, which is the highest point in the state of New Mexico. Outdoor recreation is abundant around the Enchanted Circle. You can stop for lunch at Red River or Eagles Nest, or bring your picnic basket and enjoy a spot by a stream or lake.

New Mexico: A Park and Monuments

Not far from Santa Fe, the remains of pueblos, cliff dwellings, and volcanic eruptions stand as meaningful reminders of the passage of time.

New Mexico’s natural beauty captivates me.

The Pecos Valley has been continuously unfolding a story of human culture for over 10,000 years. The Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of this country, as well as evidence of a human presence that dates back to over 11,000 years. Ancestral pueblos were established around the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument during the 14th and 15th centuries.

All of these reminds us of the passage of time with an opportunity to reflect on where we came from and where we might be headed.

Kudos to U.S. National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management for their work in preserving these treasures for now and generations to come.

Kiva and Mission Church, Pecos National Historical Park

The Pecos National Historical Park is located 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe in New Mexico. Before you venture into the park, stop by the Visitors Center for a short film. They have laminated trail guides that is provided for free and must be returned.

The pueblo ruins and the mission church reveal the story of those that called Pecos Pueblo their home. In the foreground is a kiva. Kivas are ceremonial and social spaces for Puebloan people. In the background is a mission church that was completed in 1717. After years of oppression, the people of Pecos rebelled against the Spanish authority and destroyed the mission church, which was a symbol of Spanish power.

Kiva

Although shapes and sizes of kivas may vary, most kivas comprised of a deflector, firepit, ventilator shaft, and a sipapu. A sipapu is a hole in the floor that symbolize a) place of humans' emergence, and b) point of access to the spirits dwelling below.

Pecos Valley

The Pecos Valley lies between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Glorieta Pass. The people of Pecos farmed for generations and the village's strategic location became a critical meeting and trading place for Native Americans and Plains Indians. Another important aspect of its location was access to water from Pecos River, Glorieta Creek, and springs. The pueblo sat atop a narrow ridge that provided clear views to warn of an enemy approach.

Foundations of the Pueblo

An admirable aspect of historical preservation in the USA is to stabilize and repair the existing buildings to reflect the history of the site appropriately. The intention is not to reconstruct. In Pecos, these efforts began in the early 1900s.

Bandelier National Monument

Established in 1916, Bandelier National Monument covers 33,000 acres, with several hikes, a campground, and an opportunity to be a part of the 13th-century Puebloan ruins.

The Ancestral Pueblo people settled in the Frijoles Canyon. The area around the canyon is part of the Pajarito Plateau that was formed by the volcanic eruptions of the Jemez volcano more than a million years ago.

Cliff Dwellings

The pinkish volcanic rock in Bandelier National Monument weathers easily and produces holes. The Ancestral Puebloans would enlarge these holes for storage and living quarters. As you continue on the trail and along the Long House, you will see homes that were built along the base of the cliff. These homes were usually 3-4 stories tall and you can tell by counting the rows of holes on the cliff walls.

Cavates

Cavates, or cave/carved rooms, were common behind the rooms built at the bottom of cliffs. In spite of the tuff being soft and malleable, carving these rooms using stone tools would have been quite the task. The lower walls of the cavates were usually plastered and the ceilings smoked to make it less crumbly. The cliff dwellings were built into a south-facing canyon wall to catch the warming winter sun.

Alcove House

One of the trails in Bandelier National Monument leads to the Alcove House, formerly known as the Ceremonial Cave. You can access the Alcove House by a steep 140-feet climb on a series of ladders, steps, and narrow paths. The cave was enlarged by ancestral dwellers and includes clusters of rooms and a kiva. After long hikes plus a steep climb, the Alcove House was my perfect spot to pause and ponder.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The words "Kasha-Katuwe" means "white cliffs" in the Keresan language spoken by the Chochiti Tribe. the traditional language of the nearby Pueblo de Cochiti

Located on the Pajarito Plateau, the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument includes a trail that ranges from 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level. Start early and you can have the monument to yourself. There are two trails – Slot Canyon Trail and Cave Loop Trail. I recommend the Slot Canyon Trail first and it can be quite narrow at places.

Slot Canyon Trail

Approximately 6-7 million years ago, volcanic eruptions occured in the Jemez Mountains. White and silver-gray pumice and ash fell from the sky and formed an igneous rock called "tuff" while large fragments of igneous rock called "rhyolite" and these range in color from light gray to red. Between eruptions, wind, and water, the volcanic material also picked up soil, sand, and gravel that resulted in the sedimentary rocks layers of various colors – gray, tan, and orange.

Note: Small, rounded pieces of obsidian, also known as "Apache tears," are common. Please do not collect them.

Tapering Hoodoos

Boulder caps can be seen atop the tapering hoodoos and they protect the softer pumice and tuff. The cone-shaped tent rock formations can rise up to 90 feet. These hoodoos, erosional cones, and pedestal rocks form as the result of differential erosion.

The Evolution of Time

Once you reach the end of the trail on the mesa top, you are once again reminded of the remarkable layers of volcanic rock and ash that resulted from a volcanic eruption 6-7 million years ago. If you pause and pay attention, you will see Cochiti Lake in the distance. Take a moment to reflect on where we came from and where we might be headed.

Santa Fe: Through My Eyes

Great cities are masterpieces of art that allow each traveler to capture her/his own experience.

Located in northern New Mexico, Santa Fe is filled with four centuries of rich and often contentious history. A good way to know Santa Fe is through its neighborhoods – Plaza and Downtown, Canyon Road, Midtown Innovation District, Railyard-Guadalupe district, and Southside.

Three distinct styles of architecture can be witnessed in Santa Fe – Pueblo, Territorial, and Northern New Mexico. Native American culture permeates the city.

What follows is Santa Fe through my eyes.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

Under the portal of the Palace of the Governors, Native American artists—representing almost every New Mexico tribe—sell their handmade art and jewelry.

Built in 1610, the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. It is also New Mexico's oldest museum that includes the famed Segesser Hides, which are rare examples of the earliest known depictions of colonial life in the United States. The adjacent New Mexico History Museum provides more detailed information about the Hides.

Note: Purchase the New Mexico Culture Pass that provides you access to 15 museums and historical sites in New Mexico.

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture "through close collaboration with Native Communities, commits to respect Indigenous traditions and to inspire appreciation of the unique cultures of the Southwest." The complex stories of the American Southwest is told by the exhibition titled, "Here, Now and Always" that comprises of over 1,300 objects. A rotating outdoor sculpture garden showcases works by Native American sculptors.

De Vargas Street House

Located in the Barrio de Analco Historic District in Santa Fe is the De Vargas Street House. A plaque on the wall indicates that this is the "oldest" house in the United States. The claim "oldest" pertains to the west section of the house made of pueblo foundations and dates back to the 13th century. The west portion has thick adobe walls, dirt floors, and a corner fireplace. The east portion of the house contains a museum and craft shop.

Note: The Tlascalan Indian word, “Analco,” means “the other side of the river,” which distinguished this barrio from the neighborhood on the plaza side of the Santa Fe river.

San Miguel Mission

Also known as the San Miguel Chapel, this is the key site in Santa Fe's Barrio de Analco Historic District. Oral history holds that the chapel was built around 1610. The chapel is one of the finest examples of adobe architecture in Santa Fe. The chapel has had numerous repairs over the years but has retained its original adobe walls. The altar screen dates back to 1798 and is the oldest wooden altar screen in New Mexico. On either side of the chapel's inside walls, you will see two paintings on buffalo hide and deer skin that were used as teaching aids by Franciscan Friars in their conversion work.

Hewett House

Built in 1870 as part of the Fort Marcy compound, the Hewett House was one of officers' quarters when the U.S. Army maintained two military reservations in Santa Fe [1846-1894]. Fort Marcy was the first U.S. military post in New Mexico territory.

A rare two-story adobe, the house was remodeled several time times over the years and in 1916, the house was modified into the Spanish-Pueblo Indian architectural style. In 1920, Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, then Director of the Museum of New Mexico, purchased the house and lived there until his death in 1946. Hewett was a leader of Santa Fe’s cultural renaissance.

109 E. Palace Avenue

During World War II, 109 E. Palace Avenue was the administrative hub of the Manhattan Project. For personnel assigned to work on the top-secret project at Los Alamos, Santa Fe was their first stop. They arrived not knowing where they were or where they were going. The scientists and families were directed to 109 E. Palace Avenue in Santa Fe, a building constructed as a Spanish hacienda and is located off the plaza in downtown Santa Fe.

New Mexico State Capitol

As the only round capitol building in the United States, the New Mexico State Capitol combines elements of Territorial and Pueblo architecture, including Greek Revival adaptations. The Capitol resembles the Zia sun symbol, which incorporates elements representing the sun's rays, the four directions, the four seasons, and the four phases of life.

Located on the fourth floor is the Governor's Gallery, one of Santa Fe's hidden gems – a free art exhibit that is an outreach facility of the Department of Cultural Affairs and New Mexico Museum of Art. Nearly 600 artworks are exhibited in the interior public spaces of the Capitol, as well as on the grounds.

Train at Night in the Desert, Georgia O'Keeffe

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is home to the largest permanent collection of O'Keeffe's work in the world. Among other things, the collection provides a unique perspective of O'Keeffe's creative process. The collection comprises over 3,000 works that includes paintings and drawings. Georgia O'Keeffe created imagery, which she expressed as, "the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it." Her work, "Train at Night in the Desert" speaks to me the most.

Note: You can download the Museum's free app for an audio and video tour. Although the stops on the tour are numbered, you need not follow a specific order.

Multiple Visions: A Common Bond

A most delightful experience in The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe is a long-term exhibition titled, "Multiple Visions: A Common Bond." The exhibition displays approximately 10,000 pieces of folk art, toys, textiles, etc., from the Alexander and Susan Girard Collection. A guiding principle for Alexander and Susan Girard for collecting folk art is “Tutto il mondo è paese,” an Italian proverb that translates to "The whole world is hometown."

Sacred Realm: Blessings & Good Fortune Across Asia

In the Museum of International Folk Art, an exhibition titled, "Sacred Realm: Blessings & Good Fortune Across Asia" was one of my all-time favorites. Curated exquisitely, the exhibition invites you to explore ways in which people in Asia seek and secure blessings and good fortune. In spite of race, color, language, etc., the essence of blessings and good fortune permeates culture and religion, and speaks to the common essence of being able to attain balance and harmony. The exhibition raises an important question – What is a blessing? For example, "some people pray for wealth; others see money as the root of all evil. Is fertility a blessing for everyone?"

Santa Cruz, Luis Tapia

The New Mexico Museum of Art houses over 20,000 works of American and European art, paintings, sculptures, etc. The Museum is especially known for its collection of the Taos Society of Artists and Los Cinco Pintores, the five painters who moved to Santa Fe and helped establish the community as a famous art colony.

An exhibition during my visit was titled, "Con Cariño: Artists Inspired by Lowriders." In the late 1940s, people living along the U.S.–Mexican border began weighting or lowering cars. The lowriders were born and soon expanded to California, New Mexico, and Texas. In addition to being a personal utopia, the lowriders are also viewed as a form of protest against social conventions.

Meow Wolf

The Meow Wolf art complex built by 135 artists is best described as "an arts production company that creates immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling." Located inside an old bowling alley, "The House of Eternal Return" is Meow Wolf's first permanent exhibit. Examine closely. Touch. Open doors.