Summer 2021 Tour Taos, New Mexico Episode 2: Taos Plaza and Kit Carson House and Museum

In this second episode of our Taos visit during July 2021, we visit the Taos Plaza and Kit Carson Home and Museum.

Taos Plaza

The plaza is the place to be for gatherings, the farmers market (May through October), live music, parades, demonstrations, and art displays. Surrounding the plaza are various shops, studios, and galleries. A day or so before we arrived, there was a big to-do because city staff had mistakenly covered up a public art display in the crosswalks. Oops! Sorry! What else could the city say?

From a distance, the gazebo looked in fine shape. Although, a closer look revealed trip hazards of broken and sunken bricks in the walkway.

Native American music and dance at the gazebo
Watch your step

The veteran’s memorial recognizes all military branches. The black cross is dedicated to New Mexican service members involved in the Bataan Death March during WWII.

Honoring heros

Prominently displayed nearby is a statue of Padre Antonio Jose Martinez (1793-1867). He is recognized as a person of influence in New Mexico’s history through the Spanish, Mexican, and American territorial periods.

Padre Antonio Jose Martinez

Here are a few buildings that surround the plaza. Some of them are holding up pretty well, while others are showing their age.

Pull in to shop

The Hotel La Fonda de Taos is an appealing-looking place to stay. Hotels have occupied the site since 1820 when a mercantile store that also rented rooms opened. According to the website, a recent renovation of the building retained many historical features while including modern amenities for 21st-century travelers.

A historic place to stay

One store had emptied out its stock, and a sign in the window said it had to close because of pending demolition. Further research revealed the building, which once served as the former county courthouse, was slated for demolition and renovation.

The building includes ten murals created by four Taos artists in 1934 under the commission of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). I had to look them up online because we couldn’t see them in person. I hope the contractors can save the paintings from destruction. It would be a shame to lose such a treasure. To see the murals, go to The Living New Deal.

Former County Courthouse

Lunch at The Alley Cantina

After walking around the plaza and visiting Kit Carson’s home, our stomachs growled with hunger. Our map app led us away from the plaza, down an alley, and past Taos Adobe Quilting to The Alley Cantina. We ducked in for a plate of chicken enchiladas and adovada, a red chile pork stew. Both were delicious, as were the margaritas.

We see quilt shops in almost all the small towns we visit
The Alley Cantina has good food
Watch sports under the skylight

Kit Carson Home and Museum

The Kit Carson Home and Museum (owned by Bent Lodge No. 42 of Taos and operated by the Kit Carson Memorial Foundation) seemed like an excellent place to soak up a bit of history, so we sought it out.

Kit Carson Home Courtyard

One might think Kit Carson would have found a fancy mansion for his family. Not so. As I walked through the four rooms, I tried to imagine seven children running around, plus several Indian children Carson took in after he rescued them from their captors and countless other extended family members from time to time.

Enter the door for the Kit Carson visitor center

We started our visit with a movie where several of us gathered along with a docent. When the movie ended, she told other stories of the man and his family and described the home, explaining the use of the various rooms.

Watch a movie about Kit Carson

She led us through the four small rooms, stopping to point out photos, memorabilia, and artifacts. Much of the furniture was not original to the home because Carson’s heirs sold off most of the belongings along with the house when he died. Luckily, collectors have donated some of the objects back to the museum.

Cozy place to snuggle against those cold winter nights

Kit Carson purchased the adobe home in 1843 as a wedding gift for his bride, Josefa Jaramillo. They lived there for twenty-five years, although Carson traveled extensively while on scouting trips with John C. Fremont and serving as an Indian Agent and Army Officer during the Civil War.

Kit Carson’s desk used during his time as Indian Agent

Historical photos show a humble home in this circa 1863 photo

A 1920 photo shows the home when one room housed a licensed Indian Trading Post.

The sign says, Kit Carson’s House 1858 to 1866 Trading Post
Josefa Jaramillo Carson’s sewing kit, including needles and pearl topped pins
Silk dress worn by Josefita Carson, youngest daughter of Kit and Josefa. Six weeks after her birth on April 13, 1868, both of her parents died.
A place to rest
Window, wagon wheel, and stump

Thanks go out to the masonic lodge and foundation for having the forethought to purchase the home in 1910 and turn it into a museum to honor their Freemason brother, Kit Carson.

Murals are a common sight in historic towns, and Taos was no exception. Across the street from the Kit Carson Home and Museum, I spied the mural shown below.

Created by George Chacón 1989

When we returned to our campsite at Taos Canyon Stop, we found a not-so-nice surprise. Before we left for the day, Jon had secured the awning to our picnic table to keep it from flying away during the afternoon wind. What we didn’t count on was a hail storm rolling through the canyon that unleashed rocks of ice the size of marbles. Rain we expected. Hail? No way.

On the bright side, replacing the awning fabric gave Jon a project to work on when we got back home.

Next up: Red River, Cimmaron, and Cimmaron State Park

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 5: Day Trips

Pecos National Historical Park

A 30-mile drive southeast of Santa Fe to Pecos National Historical Park (PNHP) made the park an easy drive for a day trip. PNHP’s mission is to preserve “the natural and cultural resources” by stabilizing and repairing existing buildings.

Convento (church) from afar

We started our tour by watching the introductory film in the kiva-style theater and exploring the displays in the visitor center. Then we picked up the Ancestral Sites Trail Guide and ventured outside.

Bowls and baskets in display cases
What the village might have looked like
What the church may have looked like

Signs along the trail matched the guide, which allowed us to learn more about the people who called this place home for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Four churches, or conventos, were built outside of the pueblo, with the first built in 1617-18. A second larger church built in 1625 was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. A third one-room church replaced the one destroyed. What we see today are ruins of the fourth church, completed around 1717, that sits upon land where the second church stood.

Jon takes the lead
Blooming cholla
One of 20 kivas in the village

Archaeologists believe the village once supported up to 2,000 people. The first encounter with the Spanish occurred in 1540, when a scouting party from Francisco Vazquez de Coronado’s expedition came on the scene. Fifty-eight years later, the Spanish returned with settlers and Franciscan priests.

Inside a reconstructed kiva
Shelter and trail rest stop overlooking the river valley
Silverleaf nightshade
Trail leads to the convento

The technique currently used to preserve the church is encapsulation, whereby park staff make bricks on site—using original methods—then encase the original adobe bricks. Another technique is to apply a coat of mud plaster to prevent further weathering of the original bricks.

Front of convento ruins
Another view of the convento
This kiva, built before the 1680 Revolt, is one of only three found near a mission or convento
Original flagstone patio with a drain that emptied into a cistern at the other end of convento

Bandelier National Monument

A fifty-mile drive took us to Bandelier National Monument, another site populated by ancestral pueblo people. Except at this site, it appears the people abandoned the village during the mid-1500s. Thus Bandelier avoided Spanish influence and populated settlements that could have destroyed the ruins.

Bandelier National Monument Visitor Center

We picked up the Main Loop Trail Guide and followed the numbered spots through Frijoles Canyon on the 1 ¼ mile trail.

The trail guide described the kiva as having a roof supported by six wooden pillars with ladder through the roof used as the entrance. The guide continued, “Imagine climbing down the ladder into a darkened room, flickering torches offering the only light, people sitting on the floor and along the walls.”

Edgar Lee Hewett, an educator and archeologist is responsible for the designation of Frijoles Canyon as national monument. His efforts began in 1899 and continued for 17 years until President Woodrow Wilson designated 22,400-acres for the monument on February 11, 1916.

Another day, another trail guide
Large kiva structure

From above, the scale of the community is brought to life with each square of brick walls representing a home or storage area that may have risen two or three stories in places.

Village ruins

The cliffs are made of volcanic tuff. The inside walls of the dwellings would have been plastered, and the ceilings smoke-blackened to make the tuff less crumbly.

Yeah! I made it up the ladder.
A 1920s reconstruction of what the dwellings might have looked like
Gnarly volcanic rock structures
More dug out cliff dwellings
The smaller holes in the wall are where poles were inserted to create a roof
Pictograph found hidden behind a layer of plaster
End of the line

The people who lived here had a life expectancy of 35 years. The average women stood five feet tall and men averaged five feet six.

Cochiti Lake

Within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Nation on the Rio Grande, sits Cochiti Lake and Dam.

Cochiti Lake Visitor Center
Found in parking lot

Inside the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) visitor center, we found displays detailing the dam and lake’s history along with their role in controlling flood and sediment along the Rio Grande System.

The earthen fill dam is 50 miles north of Albuquerque, the 23rd largest dam in the world, one of ten largest dams in the US and one of four United States Army Corp of Engineers projects for flood and sediment control on the Rio Grande System.

Map depicts the system of flood and debris control along the Rio Grande

Outside is a loop trail with views of the lake and dam.

The control tower is about the height of a 20-story building

Controversy seems to pop up in places we visit, especially in locations involving tribal groups. Without going into too much detail, agreements were required between the government and the Cochiti Keres Pueblo, promises were made, promises were broken, and a sacred place was destroyed. Who’s heard this theme before?

Day use area

Besides the destruction of a sacred place, the Cochiti Keres Pueblo lost significant tracts of agricultural land and had to fend off encroachment by a developer in order to protect their land and way of life. ACOE made a public apology to Cochiti Keres nearly twenty years later in 1994 for destroying a plot of land ACOE promised to protect, and the federal government paid to restore the agricultural land.

Four loops of campsites range from no hookups and community spigots to electric and water hookups

Overall management of the Cochiti Lake area now rests with both the Cochiti Keres Pueblo and ACOE under a 2008 agreement. I wonder how the situation would have turned out had the federal government invited the Nation to join them back in 1950. Sadly, we’ll never know.

Besides the colorful rocks, shrubs and cactus, along the trail, hikers may even find a snake hanging out in a bush.

Slithering Snazzlefrass

Next up: We wrap up our time in Santa Fe before packing up and heading north to Taos.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 4: Santa Fe Railyard Arts District and Guadalupe Historic Area

Santa Fe Railyard Arts District and Guadalupe Historic Area

We set out to replenish our fresh fruits and vegetables on Saturday, June 26, 2021, and found a thriving Farmer’s Market in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District. Still feeling jittery around crowds without masks, we grabbed what we needed and left. The market runs year round on Saturdays and on Tuesdays from May through November.

Farmer’s Market Rush

The main objective for our visit to the Railyard the following Wednesday was to see the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. On our walk toward the sanctuary, we strolled along the nearby streets, admiring the adobe houses and other buildings unencumbered by herds of people.

Mind the Tracks
John Pugh’s 3-D Mural
Even close up, the lady looks real

The Guadalupe District is listed as one of the oldest neighborhoods in Santa Fe. It became a farming market place in 1880 when trains arrived. The prevalence of the automobile and decline in rail travel led to the community’s decline.

Historic adobe home

In the 1960s, vitality emerged, and the district continued to thrive. In response to the return of train service when the Railrunner Express came to town in 2008, the city kicked off the transportation district revitalization project. Preservation of a public space, local history, and culture were among the project’s priorities.

Renovated historic business building
1941 Dodge 1/2-ton Pickup Truck similar to those used to deliver materials from the train to Los Alamos during WWII

I recently read John Grisham’s Camino Island and Camino Winds that featured a book seller who traded in collectible books as the protagonist. So when I saw the Beastly Books sign advertising collectibles and autographed books, I had to duck in and take a look.

Robots and books

Fans of A Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin’s other titles would love this bookstore. Martin’s books and books by other authors who write in science fiction, fantasy and horror genres fill the shelves in Beastly Books.

Flying saucers and masks

From the coffee bar in the corner came the aroma of fresh brewed coffee that followed us throughout the store as we admired the collection of memorabilia.

Coffee bar to the left, costume to the right
Reclining Lady

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary that is still standing. The shrine commemorates Mary’s four apparitions in 1531 to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian from Tepeyac, Mexico. The twelve foot statue, Dona Georgina Farias’s Nuestra Señora (Our Lady) de Guadalupe, was installed in 2008.

Our Lady of Guadalupe statue and sanctuary

The sanctuary, originally built by Franciscan missionaries between 1776-95, was constructed on a Latin cross floor plan like other churches and cathedrals. The adobe building had a flat roof, walls three feet thick, and a dirt floor. At some point, a pitched roof covered the flat one, and a spire replaced the original adobe bell tower.

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

A fire in June 1922 destroyed the church’s roof, collapsed the spire, and damaged painted frescoes inside. The walls and altar survived. Saved from the fire is one of the most valuable treasures in the church, the altar screen. The painting, signed by Jose de Alzibar, a renowned painter from Mexico, depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe in the center. The images in the four corners represent the 1531 encounters with Juan Diego.

Painting behind the altar survived a fire in 1922

The church was rebuilt and used continually until 1961, when the new church opened next door. A restoration project in 1976-78 added a bell tower and a new wooden floor.

Thick adobe walls and paintings

The chapel is now used as an art history museum that contains Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s collection of New Mexican Santos (carved images of the saints) Italian Renaissance paintings, and Mexican baroque paintings. The chapel celebrates mass daily and is a place of prayer.

Visitors not allowed up the stairs

On our way back to the truck, we stopped in at Iconick Coffee Roasters to see if they had decaf coffee beans. Music played in the background, and most of the headphone-wearing patrons sat in front of laptops. When a few of the coffee drinkers looked up, their faces seemed to say, “What are you doing in here?” which gave me an eerie feeling.

Iconick Coffee Roasters

A similar vibe came from the three baristas who stood behind the counter. None of the young men looked busy, nor did they smile or acknowledge our presence until Jon asked if they sold decaf beans. We made our purchase and left out the back door as soon as we could.

Iconik back entrance/exit

We used the beans a few days later and were sorry we hadn’t sampled the coffee before buying. It was a light roast, and we prefer darker varieties. A lesson learned.

A few blocks down the street from Iconik we found Boxcar Bar and Grill where we ate lunch. This was a great people-watching place with soccer fans cheering and groaning as the action played out on the big screens and busy servers dodging patrons who got in their way as they ran from table to table taking orders, delivering drinks and food, and checking to see if all was well. I suspect they kicked off their shoes and passed out on the couch when they got home after their shift.

Boxcar Bar and Grill

What we didn’t have time to explore at the Railyard were the seven contemporary art galleries, nor did we join the historic walk which is offered during the summer months on Tuesdays. These are activities we have added to our list if we ever make it back to Santa Fe.

Need outdoor gear?

Next up: We take a few day trips to see more historical sites.

Safe Travels

Summer 2021 Ruidoso Episode 4: White Oaks, Cedarvale Cemetery, and Hurd Gallery

In this episode we visit a ghost town and cemetery, walk through a lava field, and finally find a surprise.

White Oaks Ghost Town and Cedarvale Cemetery

The first thing we encountered on our way to White Oaks was the Cedarvale Cemetery.

Help! Let me out.

Near the entrance, a New Mexico historic marker honors Susan McSween—Alexander McSween’s widow from the Lincoln County War story. She moved to White Oaks after selling her ranch holdings and is buried in the cemetery.

Susan McSween Barber earned her very own historic marker
Wood planks, marble stones, and iron fences mark the gravesites
Plastic flowers add a touch of color
March 9, 1895, eight men died in Old Abe Mine
Names of the men who died in the Old Abe Mine
Lizard on alert
Joe and Nedra Always Together
Visitors leave coins on Bell’s headstone

Driving up to White Oaks, it’s hard to imagine the town was once the second largest in New Mexico during the 1880s. It teemed with merchants, brothels, saloons, miners, ranchers, and lawyers. People came from the east, bringing their business acumen, architecture, and greed. Cattle rustlers, including Billy the Kid, considered the town a resort.

The museum was open, but no one around
Burros take advantage of the shade
Come on in and look around.
Rear of the house with ADA ramp
Inside is a kitchen
The parlor
One bedroom, the other one had twin beds

The town got its start in 1879 when John Wilson, an alleged escapee from a Texas prison, told two friends of his gold discovery in the Jicarilla Mountains. Wilson sold out to his friends, who established two claims, made a profit, and eventually sold them for $300,000 each.

Expanded adobe home

White Oaks may have prospered even after the gold mines petered out had the Santa Fe and El Paso Northeastern railroads selected White Oaks for their route. When I read the Wikipedia article as to the reason why the railroad bypassed White Oaks, it evoked an image of greedy businessmen twirling their Snidely Whiplash mustaches in anticipation of a bidding war for right-of-ways.

School house and museum
No one around
Facilities come equipped with hand sanitizer
Antiques in the schoolyard

That image vanished when I chanced upon the White Oaks New Mexico Goldrush (WONMG) website. They claim Wikipedia’s account of the railroad, which is not supported by references, is a fictional story repeated over the years by others.

Hoyle’s Folly built by Watt Hoyle in 1893
Possibly the Exchange Bank Building, or former Postoffice Building, or maybe both at different times

Supported by documentation, WONMG asserts the railroad pulled away from White Oaks after the Lincoln County Leader, White Oaks newspaper, published an unflattering article about Jay Gould after his death. Gould, often referred to as an unscrupulous robber baron, controlled the railroad. WONMG infers the family chose Carrizozo because the article angered them. Gould was the subject of plenty derogatory articles and political cartoons. Would they be so indictive?

No Scum Allowed Saloon, “Come out back for music and fun. But only when we’re around.”
Stage and patio in the back of No Scum Allowed Saloon
Not everything is bleak in White Oaks
Little black bugs feast with a butterfly

No matter the reason, Carrizozo was the recipient of the railroad stop and became the state capitol, while White Oaks continued its demise. There’s still sign of residents in town. One lady came out to water her plants, a handful of cars rolled through the street, and a sign said White Oaks Pottery was closed for the day.

Valley of Fires Recreation Area

After White Oaks, we drove to Valley of Fires Recreation Area managed by U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Created 2,000 to 5,000 years ago, the lava field covers 125 square miles of the Tularosa Basin. In the center it measures up to 160 feet thick.

The 1-mile Malpais Nature Trail loops through the lava field
Pahoehoe lava

We found a small visitor center; picnic shelters; 19 campsites (14 with electricity) including sun shelters, water, restroom and shower facilities; and the Malpais Nature Trail.

Yucca and cholla and other desert plants grow in the lava
A big hole reveals a collapsed bubble

The 90-degree temps had us slathering on sun screen, donning hats, and grabbing water, before walking the concrete path. Numbered posts and a pamphlet told us what we were seeing.

Estimated age of this juniper is 400 years
Hiding spot for rodents and lizards and snakes
Yucca in bloom beside the road

Only a 10th the size of Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Valley of Fires is still an impressive site and more accessible.

Surprise Find: Art and Wine in Hondo Valley

Twice I had seen a sign advertising the Hurd Gallery while driving through Hondo Valley and by San Patricio on US 70. Not sure what we’d find, we drove to the gallery on our last day.

Below the highway, the Rio Ruidoso runs through the valley of green fields and trees. It felt like leaving civilization behind when we dropped into the valley and St. Jude Roman Catholic Church came into view. Was the adobe-style building 100 years old or more? The sign out front gave away its true origins, recognizing the dates of 1967-2017 as its 50th anniversary. I still liked the architecture so took photos.

St. Jude Roman Catholic Church Mission

From the outside, I thought we had pulled up at a house. A sign directed us to the left. Inside, we found small rooms and hallways filled with paintings, sketches, albums, and memorabilia from five artists representing three generations.

Hurd La Rinconada Gallery. Enter the gallery on the left, walk through the large space in the middle, and sip wine on the right.

June greeted us and filled us in on each person with works displayed in the gallery. The artists were Michael Hurd, his father Peter and mother Henriette Wyeth-Hurd, NC Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth.

Peter Hurd studied with N.C. Wyeth, where he met and married Henriette. Henriette had studied with her father from the age of eleven. N.C. Wyeth is best known for illustrations of Treasure Island and other popular stories of his time and created nearly 4,000 works of art. The Roswell Museum of Modern Art houses the largest collection of Wyeth’s work. Henrietta’s younger brother Andrew painted, among other works, Christina’s World, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The talent of these artists amazed us as we wandered around the small space and dropped into a gallery large enough to hold a party with singing and dancing to the tune of the piano in the corner.

Then we heard about the wine. Beyond the large gallery, we entered the tasting room. We appreciated having the place to ourselves while Elaine filled our glasses with generous pours and told us more family tales.

Jon enjoys a snack while tasting wine

At one point, Michael came into the room, introduced himself, and hung one of his new paintings. If there had been room in the trailer and space on a wall in my home, I would have purchased one of his paintings. The dilemma would have been selecting which one. We settled on a few bottles of wine.

As we sipped our last tasting, two men arrived. One of them grew up in Dublin, California, the town on the other side of the freeway from us, so we had an interesting conversation. Small world. The other man owned race horses that competed at Ruidoso Downs, one of which won a sweepstake the past weekend, so they were celebrating.

To learn more about Hurd La Rinconada Gallery, the artists, and winery, or to rent one of the four adobe-casita guest homes, go to Hurd Gallery.

Some days, we venture out with no particular expectations. Then wham! We drive through a beautiful green valley, find a renowned art gallery to explore and a tasty selection of wine to drink and buy. And Surprise! We end up with one of our best days in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

That’s a wrap for Ruidoso, New Mexico, a wonderful place to relax and explore. I’ll end with a moving-day sunrise that seemed to say, “Are you sure you want to leave?”

Ruidoso Sunrise

Next Stop: Santa Fe. All aboard.

Safe Travels