Monday, May 28, 2012

Santa Fe & Puye Cliff Dwellings

After several attempts to get to Santa Fe that we had to change because of weather or repairs, we finally made it to this beautiful little city.  Driving in from the north you immediately notice that this place is different from other cities as there are no tall buildings, thus preserving the look of the oldest capital city in the United States.  The city is famous not only for its Southwest adobe style architecture but also as one of the country's largest art centers.  There are many, many galleries and several museums.  We checked out a few galleries and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, a small museum that features her works and those of other contemporary American artists. Her art work shows the special connection she had with the natural beauty of the Southwestern landscape. (No Pics allowed) Santa Fe was built at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.  We have crossed the trail in several places during our travels and are still in awe that people travelled it in wagons.  We did a day trip to Los Alamos, the home of the WWII Manhattan project that built the atomic bombs that ended the war.  Today it is the home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the world's top scientific institutions dedicated to national security.  
The Plaza in Santa Fe is the site of the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public buildings in the US.  The sidewalk in front of the palace is a market where Native Americans sell their jewelry and crafts.   
 The San Miguel Mission, built between 1600 and 1646, is considered by many to be the oldest church in the country.
The Barrio de Analco house, built in 1612, is the oldest in the city and possibly the oldest structure in the US.
 Loretto Chapel is famous for its "miraculous staircase," a spiral stairway that does two 360 degree turns and was built with wooden pegs and no center support.  The original stairs did not have a railing and was only attached to the floor and the choir loft. 
When we were in Taos, Flower Basket recommended we visit the Puye Cliff Dwellings, the ancestral home of the Santa Clara Pueblo people. These dwellings are different because they were constructed with stones carved from the soft volcanic material of the hillside. Above are the ruins of a reconstruction from the early 1900's. 
The back rooms of the dwelling were carved into the soft stone on the side of the cliff.  The large holes are the doors and the small holes are where the roof rafters would have been inserted.
At the end of our tour we learned that it was our guide Mike Moquino's last tour as he was leaving to spend more time making pottery with his wife Jennifer.  Their work is in great demand and has been displayed in several museums including the Smithsonian. Here is a link to see their work.   
Mike explained that one way to determine the age of pottery shards is by the type of clay used during a certain period of time.  He made the arrowhead. A lizard along the trail.  The circle on the wall was part of a celestial clock that showed when the seasons changed.
Looking into a room of an old home. You can still see the plaster on the walls. The back areas were used for storage. Sometimes these small areas were filled with emergency supplies and plastered over. Recently one was discovered intact, which has lead to vandals drilling into the walls of unexplored dwellings looking for treasures.
On the top of the mesa are the ruins of the pueblo that was reconstructed after it was excavated by an archaeologist in the early 1900's  This area has been used more recently as a movie set.  Mike and Jennifer have had cameo roles in a couple of movies that were shot here.
Nanc climbing out of a kiva.  The kiva was used by the Puebloans for religious ceremonies.  When the Spanish controlled this area and worked to convert them to Catholicism they often built their churches over the kivas so they could not be used.  The Puebloans responded by building new kivas and furnishing them as homes to fool the fools.  
We were in Santa Fe for the annular eclipse and I got this lucky shot with the suns double reflection.  We were just a bit off the center line to get the full ring of fire. 
New Mexico not only has the nation's oldest capitol building, but also the newest which was built in 1966.  To fit into the cities low profile the capitol is only three stories high.  We have visited a few capitol buildings in our travels and find each has unique aspects.  The unique aspect of this building is its extensive collection of works from contemporary artists who live and work in New Mexico. 
While walking around the capitol we went to the governors office and after talking with the receptionist about the building and our travels we got a surprising inside look.  She took us into the the New Mexico government's Cabinet Room to show us the governor's view of the city.  It shows the low profile of the city with St. Francis Cathedral being the highest building.  
The building is built in the shape of the Zia sun symbol that is also on the state flag.  The circle represents the sun and the four lines on four sides represent the points of the compass, the seasons, the periods of each day, the seasons of life and the four sacred obligations of life.  Also shown here are a couple works of art that are displayed at the capitol. 
On our last day in Santa Fe there was a wonderful sunset over the city.  It took us a while to get to Santa Fe.  The area sure lived up to our expectations and is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

OH Ojo & Taos

When we decided to travel to Santa Fe, our friends in Colorado told us we needed to stop at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa.  What a great recommendation!
The round adobe barn and hotel at Ojo are National Historical Landmarks.  There are seven different mineral springs including pools of iron, arsenic, soda and mud.  There are also steam and sauna rooms available.  We took advantage of all of them including a couple of fun dips in the mud.  Sorry there are no pictures as we did not want to ruin the camera, but rest assured it was all wonderful.
Part of the springs property includes several miles of trails that we took advantage of.  The variety and number of flowers that were blooming in the desert was fantastic.  While the desert flowers don't cover the ground like they do in wetter climates the colors are just as beautiful.
 Our first hike took us to the ruins of the Posi-Ouinge Pueblo. This pueblo was the home of the Tewa Indians. While all the adobe buildings have eroded away we were amazed at how many pottery shards were all over the ground.  People have gathered some and displayed them together but others were scattered all along the trail. We did follow the rules and only looked then replaced the shards.  It is amazing how many different designs there was.  We also saw this different lizard in the ruins.     
From Ojo we did a day trip down through the Rio Grande River Gorge to Taos.  It is a neat trip across the high plateau and then down a dirt road to the river below.  Above you can see the gorge the river has carved and the road as it winds down the side of the gorge.  There is a newer high bridge that we used for the return trip.  
San Francisco de Asis Church in Taos was built between 1813 and 1815.  It is a beautiful example of adobe construction. 
The Taos Pueblo has been continuously inhabited for 1000 years.  It has designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has preserved this example of living history.  There are still about fifty people who live there today much as they did 1000 years ago without electricity or running water.  Because it is built with adobe (mud) bricks it has to be continuously repaired.  The stream is the main source of water for the pueblo.
The old San Geronimo Church is an example of what the pueblo would look like if it was not repaired each year.  Except for the bell tower the church has not been repaired since the Taos Revolt in 1847.  The area around the church became a cemetery for the women and children who were killed inside the church during the revolt. 
One thing that has changed in the pueblo is the addition of doors.  Originally the only entrances were up the ladder and through the roof.  This enabled them to keep out animals and enemies.  Left in the picture is a drying rack where meat was dried.  There are two hornos, outdoor adobe ovens, that are still used to bake bread.
Nanc with Jeri Samora - Flower Basket, whom we bought a small pot from.  There are several shops in the pueblo where you can buy directly from the artisans.  These are not imported knockoffs.  Jeri told us her daughter is a past Miss Teen New Mexico, the only Native American to win that honor.
The pueblo is one of the most impressive things we have seen in our travels.  The idea that something in North America has been in use by the same people for over 1000 years gave me a better understanding of the native culture.  I did not ask, but I wonder what they think of all the illegal immigrants in their country.
The town of Taos is famous for its artists and its many galleries and we met Ed Sandoval who was painting outside his gallery.  Ed was honored with a Governor's Award this year for his work.  
It is strange how some of the things we see in our travels become connected.  A couple of weeks ago I did a blog on Bent's Old Fort in Colorado.  After the Mexican American War Charles Bent was appointed governor of New Mexico and moved to Taos.  This was the house where he was killed during the Taos Revolt. 
We did it up big on our last day at Ojo.  In the morning we did a desert hike to an abandoned mica mine where we met these rock hounding students from the University of Houston who were exploring the area and collecting rocks.  They told us that mica is an ingredient used in makeup.  We then climbed to the mine where I tried to smash some rocks and Nanc explored inside the mine.
After the hike we got a private pool for a "private" soaking, followed by massages, more soaking in the public pools and topped the day off with a great meal at the Artesian Restaurant.  It was a great ending to a wonderfully relaxing stay.  We sure do recommend Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs to anyone passing through the area. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chappy's Colorado Through the Eyes of a Native

We had a great stay with Jim And Bobbie at the Park Creek Campground.  We got the up close and personal tour from both of them, but especially Jim whose roots run deep in this part of the state.  Jim lived here his whole life until they went on the road in 2007.
They showed us all the beautiful campgrounds they manage.  This is Big Meadow Lake near one of the campgrounds that is being renovated.  What a fantastic view of the lake and the snow capped mountains.
While Jim and Bobbie were working, we spent a couple of days just kicking back and relaxing by Park Creek.  These two ducks were swimming up stream and jumped on this rock for a break.  I don't think the jay was very happy with us infringing on his territory.  We saw the mountain goats along the road on one tour.  Jim said that was a first for him and he has been in the area for 62 years.
We did a day trip to nearby Creede where Jim's grandfather once lived.  Creede is a neat, little old mining town that today has many shops and restaurants.  We did not get to see the old mining area because they were building the set for the new Lone Ranger movie that stars Johnnie Depp as Tonto.
The mountains above Creede are beautiful.
The Creede Cemetery where Bob Ford, who killed Jessie James, was originally buried.
We had Jim and Bobbie over for dinner.  Nanc experimented on them as she made shrimp gumbo from scratch for the first time.  From the smiles it looks like it was a grand success.
We did another day trip over Wolf Creek pass to Pagosa Springs where Jim's Mother taught school.  The view coming down the west side of the mountain is one of the best we have ever seen.
Here we are at Treasure Falls.  The water was still flowing really good from all the snow melt at this time of year.
Pagosa Springs is an old mineral springs town.  There are several hot springs right along the river with steps into the river so you can cool off.  We did not do these springs but we did move on to a springs in New Mexico that were wonderful.  (Another post to follow)
It was a beautiful enough day that we had lunch on the patio overlooking the river and springs.  We had a great time with Jim and Bobbie including daily happy hours where we swapped travel tales and made plans to get together in the future. Part of our plans are to return to this area in the future.  It was great having the up close and personal tour and we truly appreciate Jim and Bobbie sharing their little piece of paradise.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Colorado, Parks & Friends

After the repairs on the rig were done in Garden City, KS and we decided not to go to Alaska, our several months of planning were out the door and we needed a more detailed Plan B.  When we looked at the map we realized Class of 07 mates Jim and Bobbie Chapman were only 300 miles away in the Southern Colorado Rockies so we headed that way.  When we called them they were in Denver for the night visiting Bill and Leslie whom we met at Q three years ago.  They said they would be returning to Alamosa the next day and we would be welcome to stay with them at Jim's brother's lot for nothing.  After all the repairs, "free" sounded really good.  On the drive across the plains of Eastern Colorado we stopped at Bent's Old Fort National Historical Site to add another park service site to our list.  When we stopped in Walsenburg to fuel up Nanc had the phone in hand to call Bobbie when it rang and she yelled, Don't pull out we just pulled into the station.  After our driveway hugs we followed them to Camp Chappy in Alamosa.  They showed us around there hometown and took us to a couple of wonderful authentic Mexican restaurants.  While they were saying last minute good-byes to friends and family we did a short road trip to add nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to our visited list.  After a couple days in Alamosa we headed 45 miles farther into the mountains to South Fork Campground where the managers are Rick and Terri Deacon who were at Betty's for Mardi Gras in 2011.  Jim and Bobbie stayed one night and then moved to their summer home at Park Creek Campground where they are the managers.  We opted for a second night at South Fork to catch up on laundry and other chores and then opted for a third night when we awoke to s**w.  The next day we drove 12 miles and are now with Jim and Bobbie for a few days of dry camping in Rio Grande National Forest.  The nights have been chilly (cold) but the days have been sunny and beautiful.  
Bent's Old Fork was built by brothers Charles and William Bent and Frenchman Ceran St. Vrain as a trading post on the Santa Fe Trail.  It is on the banks of the Arkansas River which then was the border between Mexico and the United States.  Being the only major structure on the trail between Missouri and Santa Fe, it was often called the Castle on the Plains. 
The trading post exchanged beaver furs and buffalo hides for goods from around the world.  In the center is the hide press where the furs were pressed and bundled for shipping. The present structure is an exact reproduction based on the detailed drawings of Lt. James W. Abert who was there when the military used the fort as a staging area for the invasion of Mexico. 
Just a few of the many items that were available for trade in the store.  They had everything from candles to guns.  The Bents had very good relationships with the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Kiowa and Charles had a Cheyenne wife, Owl Woman,
The post had a staff of 40 to 60 people, but the number would increase greatly when traders arrived.  There were blacksmith and carpenter shops, huge storerooms and a bar with a pool table where Nanc is waiting for a drink. 
The paintings on this hide tell the many stories about the fort and the Indians who lived in the area.
After leaving the fort we headed west across the plains and soon saw the towering snow capped Rockies in the distance.  It is some sight after driving across the flat rolling plains.  You have to wonder how early pioneers felt seeing those towering peaks laying in their path.
When we arrived in Alamosa Bobbie and Jim had us over for happy hour.  After happy hour they  took us to a restaurant which was a whole new experience for us where the meal was smothered in either red or green chili sauce.  We loved it.
The high desert dunes at Great Sand Dunes.  At 750 feet the dunes are the highest in North America.  The contrast from the dry flat San Luis Valley across the Great Dunes with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background is beautiful. 
One of the most unique features of the dunes is that the melting snow creates two streams around the sand and carries it back to the bottom only to have the wind deposit it back on the dunes.  This yearly recycling keeps the ever changing dune at about the same height.  The water is so shallow that it was warm enough that even Nanc wadded through it.  In early spring the water becomes a playground for kids and adults alike.
The color of the sand changes throughout the day as the shadows move across the sand.  The dunes are steep enough that they are used by sledders and sandboarders year round. Bent's Old Fort and Great Sand Dunes are two very worthwhile off the beaten path stops.  
Here are Rick and Terri at a little happy hour(s) we had.  It is early in the season up in the mountains so there were only five couples, but a grand time was had by all. (I think?)
Justin and Vicky (sorry no pic) brought out the HOTTEST sauce any of us have ever tried and Jim amazed us with how much of the hot stuff he used.  Nanc is checking out the sweat coming off his brow. 
It was great getting together with our friends here in the beautiful mountains, but as we found out it can s**w anytime.  We decided to extend our stay with Rick and Terri one more day so we could stay warm with full hook ups.  Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, THIS WAS NOT SOMETHING SPECIAL!!!!