New Mexico: New & Old

Where we can find a place to camp really dictates where we stop and explore. In this case, we were fortunate that our first 2 spots fell through (although, we didn’t feel that way at the time) because we were “forced” to camp at Bandelier National Monument. This was a place neither of us had ever heard of but turned out to be such an interesting and beautiful area to learn about and spend some time. An added bonus was that it was super close to the town Los Alamos where we had wanted to visit to complete another piece of the Manhattan Project tour (Tennessee is the third and final stop).

Bandelier is another area where the Puebloan people once lived featuring rock dwellings, kivas, and pueblos. While superficially similar to Mesa Verde, this monument was unique in that its cliffs/rocks are composed of Tuff which is compacted volcanic ash. It’s a much softer type of rock and erodes quite differently that what we had seen previously. Also, the construction of the rock dwellings took advantage of naturally occurring pockets in the rock and then built out additional rooms off the front.

On Halloween, we spent the first part of the day in Los Alamos. The actual Los Alamos Laboratory (LAL) is still a very active and thriving place, so we weren’t able to do anything there – EXCEPT be searched! One of the roads into Bandelier passes through LAL and Merlin was subject to a search. Sounds serious – but to be honest, it was a bit of a joke and a waste of time. The guard had us open a few cabinets, vouch for each other, and asked us a few questions. I hope they have other security features in place as neither of us saw this as an effective means to secure such a high-risk level government facility. Unfortunately, the National Park museum was in the process of moving and was closed the few days that we were in town – I know, bummer! The town of Los Alamos does have a another related science museum and a walking tour that highlight the town’s history and affiliation with the super-secret Manhattan Project of the 1940s. We spent time doing both of these and enjoyed strolling through the town on a beautiful fall day. We also thoroughly enjoyed our dessert at lunch: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with a cinnamon-whisky caramel sauce and scoop of vanilla ice cream. YUM – Happy Halloween to us!

We spent the remainder of the day at Bandelier doing the main loop and Alcove trail hike. Thankfully the place was practically empty – so we had these areas mostly to ourselves. We were able to climb up ladders to look into a bunch of the dwellings. The final one was a huge rock opening (Alcove House) that required going up 4 different tall and steep ladders. The space and views from up there were awesome! Archeologists suspect this particular dwelling would have been used for special ceremonial purposes. Standing way up there looking out at the canyon and valley, it’s not surprising at all.

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The Puebloans fired the ceilings of their caves to keep them from crumbling.

We were leaving the next day, but wanted to fit in one more hike. We headed back into the park in the morning to do the Falls Hike. Although, the park was a lot busier than the day before – we only passed one other group on the 3.5 mile hike. This hike was SO beautiful – the trail went alongside the canyon partway and then streamside for a bit. At the end we were back on the canyon side and standing over the upper waterfalls with the meandering green Rio Grande in the distance.

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At the back of the canyon is the Rio Grande.

Our next New Mexico stop was at another Harvest Host destination: Blue Mesa Alpaca farm just a short distance outside of old town Santa Fe. We got settled into our space quickly and headed into Santa Fe at early evening. The town was a bit sleepy with most of the main tourist spots already closed. We still made the most of our time by walking throughout the area. I loved the architecture! Whether new or old, everything looked like an old-time adobe house or building. The church and mission from the 1800s and 1600s respectively – were beautiful.

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The night sky over Santa Fe.

We dedicated the following day to Santa Fe as well. We started off eating some local fare: Green Chile Navajo Taco and Sopapillas. While we likely consumed our weekly allowance of carbohydrates in just one sitting – it was DELICIOUS and a great way to taste New Mexico! This area is FULL and I mean full of art galleries, museums, etc. I read that over 60% of Santa Fe business is related to the arts. We had so many options – it was a bit overwhelming. I’m not very sophisticated when it comes to art – so my primary association to Santa Fe and art is Georgia O’Keefe. As luck would have it, that museum was mostly closed that week because of a new installation going in. BUT it ended up TOTALLY working out it in our favor because as a courtesy they were offering complimentary docent-led tours to the Georgia O’Keefe Research Center down the street. Evidently, this is not an area regularly open to the public as it’s primarily reserved for art scholars and special/private tours. Here we got to see her personal library and effects, brushes, paint supplies, sketches, paint chips, etc. It was really AWESOME!!!! Sadly though, NO pictures were allowed in this area. A small part of the museum was open, so we were able to also watch a short documentary on her life and see a small selection of her work. I really loved learning more about this amazing woman and artist. We will definitely come back to this museum in the future and also go visit her compound at Ghost Ranch and home in Abiquiu. Such a fascinating person indeed.

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Santa Fe offers free shuttles through the historic center, art gallery row, and up to Museum Hill. We hopped on and took in the sites from the road. Museum Hill offers spectacular views and a varied selection of museums. Unfortunately they were all closing just as we got off the bus – but it was still fun to walk around, appreciate the views, and look at a number of sculptures out in the open.

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On our way back to our home at the Alpaca farm we were delighted to learn that there was a Santa Fe Brewing taproom just 2 miles away – so we stopped by for a few pints to wrap up a fantastic day.

I think Gemma and Schnabbies enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Alpaca farm. We had cows and horses as neighbors – not to mention the herd of Alpacas out front, the 2 ranch dogs, 2 barn cats, and plethora of bunnies. Our host Bob was really friendly and a wealth of information. He gave us a tour one morning and it was so interesting to learn about the Alpaca business. They also have a store on the property full of Alpaca products. We are now the proud owners of Alpaca winter hats. We had hoped to end up with products from Bob’s Alpacas – it turns out that he primarily sells his fiber to co-ops in return for product. This means our hats could be from any Alpaca that is part of that co-op – another fascinating piece of the Alpaca business.

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Looking good in our new Alpaca hats!
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Little Schnabbies keeping an eye on things. 
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