Summer 2021 Tour Taos, New Mexico Episode 3: Village of Red River, Cimarron Canyon State Park, Village of Cimarron

In this episode, we travel a portion of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and stop at a few spots along the way. New Mexico Routes 38 and 522 join with a portion of US 64 to create the circle and connect the towns of Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa, and Taos Ski Valley. We previously included Angel Fire and Taos in episodes 1 and 2.

Red River

Ski Area Summer Fun

The town of Red River is appropriately named after, you guessed it, the Red River. The short perennial river begins its journey high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the top of Mount Wheeler. As the stream flows down the north slope of the mountain, springs add their water, and the river makes its way through the towns of Red River and Questa before turning south and merging with the Rio Grande.

Combo zip line and obstacle course at ski area
Inner tube sliding looked fun

Red River started its life like other towns in the western regions. After the US government forced the Jicarilla Apache and Utes, who called the place home for centuries, to move to reservations, miners rolled into the valley in the late 19th century with visions of gold and silver in their eyes. Established in 1895, Red River’s mining activities were roaring. But they peaked in 1897 and faced a speedy decline until 1905.

Monsoon is on the move

Fortunately, the town did not suffer the ghost-town fate of other mining towns. Enterprising residents recognized trout fishing as a draw for residents and travelers in lower elevations to escape the summer heat of the valleys. And so Red River’s economy switched from mining to recreation.

A river runs through it
Red River Brewing Company was mighty popular

In December 1959, Red River Ski and Summer Area opened for the first time. Partially within public lands under a long-term special use permit with the Forest Service, the family who owns and operates the resort provides activities in both winter and summer.

For those with a sweet tooth
Cozy spot with patio

Besides fishing and skiing, other events are held throughout the year to attract visitors and keep the town hopping. It’s amazing how a town of only 460 people manages to offer so many celebrations like the Songwriters Festival and Mardi Gras in February and the Memorial Motorcycle Rally over Memorial day. Car shows, art and wine festivals, music festivals, and Oktoberfest are other reasons to make the 36-mile trip from Taos or drive up from West Texas.

Fishing allowed in town

Cimarron Canyon State Park

Hiking trails, trout fishing, picnic areas, and campgrounds await travelers and visitors east on US 64 from Eagle Nest Lake. On our way to the Village of Cimarron through the 8-mile long narrow canyon, we stopped to gawk at the craggy cliffs at Palisades Sill. The cliffs are a scenic, historic site and worth a stop. Be sure to pay the $5.00 entrance fee if enjoying the sites. Every bit helps to protect our parks, and pay stations are nearby.

US 64 highway through Cimarron Canyon
Make a wish
The walls rise 400′
Up periscope

Cimarron

About 10 miles from the state park is the small Village of Cimarron, New Mexico, with a population of approximately 865, down 155 people over the past 10 years. Our main goal for driving to Cimarron was to try the restaurant at the St. James Hotel.

St. James Hotel

Our neighbors at Taos Canyon Stop RV Park told us they enjoyed a quiet lunch at the restaurant. We were not so lucky. The day of our visit was Wednesday, and the hotel and restaurant are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

St. James Hotel lobby

With the door open, at least we could wander around the bottom floor and peek into a few rooms. In the hallway, we found photos and signs with historic information about the town, hotel, and people.

St. James Hotel lobby

How cool would it be to stay in a room named after Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, or Doc Holliday? Or how about room 14, where R.H. Howard, A.K.A. Jesse James, reportedly preferred to lay his head while in Cimarron?

St. James Hotel hallway
Looks comfy to me
The Life and Times of Jesse James
We have it so easy with our laptops and keyboards
St. James Hotel courtyard

Aztec Grist Mill Museum

Down the road from the St. James Hotel, towering trees hid the Aztec Grist Mill Museum, and a locked gate barred my entry. Another pandemic victim. While taking photos of the stone building, a ranch hand happened by. While we talked, he ticked off all sorts of treasures sequestered inside the locked museum, whetting my appetite to take a peek.

Aztec Grist Mill Museum

Unfortunately, he didn’t have keys to let us in the locked door. I did learn the Aztec Grist Mill was built in 1864 to provide ground grains for the Maxwell Ranch and the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation.

Antique farm equipment at the museum

Blu Dragonfly Brewing Company

We searched for somewhere to have lunch, and the only place we could find open was the Blu Dragonfly Brewing Company. Their sign said BBQ, which I read as pulled pork sandwich. Inside it was the Dog House Taproom, and the only thing on the menu was hot dogs.

Outdoor seating at Blu Dragonfly Brewing

The menu included a Plain Jane Pup, similar to the classic Nathan’s Famous; Man’s Best Friend, a classic coney with meat sauce, mustard, cheese and onions; and many other dogs in a bun with various toppings. Jon was happy to sit down with his dogs. Me, not so much. I was promised a pulled pork sandwich, so I wanted a pulled pork sandwich, although I did eat my plain hot dog. My craving for the sandwich, though, lasted for more than a week before we found a place that served what I wanted.

Inside eating at Blu Dragonfly Brewing, or was it the Dog House Taproom?

With most everything closed for the day and only a few people about, the village looked as if it was heading toward ghost town status.

Were the businesses closed for the day or permanently? It was hard to tell
Looks like someone is over there in one of those buildings
A sturdy building looking for an owner

I preferred the more promising future told by Burrito Banquet, Hikers Coffee & Co., and the colorful park and hope other enterprises come along soon to revive Cimarron.

No burritos for you today
No coffee either
Cute little park for kids

We hope to make it back to the area some day so we can see and do more than we could during this trip. We missed out on hiking, riding the ski lift, visiting the Taos Pueblo, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, and many other sites.

Next up: San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and the Earthship Biotecture site.

Safe Travels

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 6: Wrap-Up

In some respects, we were glad to move to Taos after our two weeks in Santa Fe. In other respects, we were sad to leave. We had tired of our cramped spot, the daily traffic on Cerrillos, and the screaming kid a few doors down. Yet, we hadn’t checked everything off our “To Do” list. There was so much more art and history to soak up; fitting it all in proved difficult. What follows is an apology, list of sites we missed, and a few words about memorial conflict.

An Apology

Before we get into all of that, I first need to apologize to what I consider the “main event” at the New Mexico Capitol Building. For some strange reason, I failed to include his photo in Episode 2 of this series.

Buffalo mixed media sculpture by Holly Hughes

My friend Lani Longshore alerted me to my faux pas, which allowed me to update the post and include him in his rightful place. Knowing people don’t often revisit previously read posts, I present him here to ensure everyone has a chance to meet him.

Detail of Buffalo

What We Missed

And now, back to the wrap-up. We never had a chance to visit any of the many galleries, not even the one that captured my imagination several years ago when we stayed in the city: Georgia O’Keeffe. Although we had been there before, I was certain the paintings displayed this time would have been different. Canyon Road contains historic sites, galleries, restaurants, Cristo Rey Church, the First Ward School, and the Randall Davey House and Audubon Center &Sanctuary. Nor did we see House of Eternal Return at Meowwolf, a contemporary “Experience of the Unknown.”

Our day trip to Cochiti Lake, discussed in Episode 5, included Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Unfortunately, the monument was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions at Pueblo de Cochiti, the monument’s gateway. It remains closed as of October 15, 2021, until the Bureau of Land Management and the Pueblo de Cochiti work together on plans to reopen. We noticed many of the pueblos and casinos throughout the state were closed. The American Indians were doing all they could to reduce virus exposure in their communities.

Photo credit: “American Hiking Society Instagram Takeover: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico” by mypubliclands is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Then there was Los Alamos. Our day trip planned for Bandelier initially included the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the Jemez Historic Site. Why I thought we could hit all four places in one day was beyond me.

We got up early so we could eat breakfast in White Rock at the Pig + Fig. Thank goodness we arrived before a long line formed.

To get our bearings, we stopped in at the Visitor Center to pick up flyers and brochures. We left the truck in the parking lot and rode the shuttle bus to Bandelier. I would compare the ride up the mountain to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. At times, I thought the bus would fly off the cliff until the driver careened around a curve. On the way down was more to my liking.

White Rock Visitor Center
Art inside the White Rock Visitor Center
Outside the visitor center: Kinetic Wind Sculptures, Lyman Whitaker

After Bandelier, we nixed Valles Caldera and Jemez from our list and drove to Los Alamos. As we drove through town, we felt like we had entered an episode of the Twilight Zone. Very few people were out and about, and the Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos History Museum, and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park were all closed.

All is quiet at Bradbury Science Museum

The Ashley Pond Park was the only happening place with families enjoying a picnic. We had to settle on the local Subway for a bite to eat—the only restaurant we found open.

Only place in town to eat

I guess Monday, July 5, wasn’t the best time to visit Los Alamos. It seemed like most everyone had gone out of town for vacation. We’ll try to get one of the RV sites next to the visitor center when we’re in the area again. Then we can spend a few days exploring rather than a few hours, assuming we are no longer dealing with restrictions.

Another Memorial Conflict

The Santa Fe Plaza is a popular place with so many people around it’s difficult to get a photo. It was clear enough for us to walk through one day without bumping into ten people every few feet. For some reason, it didn’t look like what I remembered from years past. In the middle of the Plaza stood a stone plinth, missing whatever once sat on top and I couldn’t remember what it was.

A few days later, while taking photos of the Scottish Rites building, we found the missing piece from the Plaza. The entire structure was erected around 1866 as a memorial commemorating soldiers who served during the Civil War and battled with Native Americans. Does anyone see where this story is headed?

Obelisk from the Plaza outside United States Court House

For more than a hundred years, people and groups begged the city to replace the obelisk with something else or amend words inscribed on the base panels. While the words were commonplace in the 1800s, over time, the words became hurtful and offensive. Outright removal was rejected, while efforts to chisel off offensive wording were more successful. Unauthorized alterations were also made.

About 40 primarily white protesters toppled the top three sections of the obelisk on October 12, 2020. So now the stone and marble monument is separated. The Plaza remains the home for the plinth, while the obelisk stands in front of the Federal Court House encased in a crate, at least when we saw it on July 8, 2021.

On June 16, 2021, the Union Protectiva de Santa Fe sued the city’s mayor over the destruction and plans to move the memorial permanently. The Hispanic group claims the monument honors the Hispanic soldiers who fought and died for the Union in battles with Confederate soldiers and indigenous tribes, and its destruction and removal dishonors the Hispanic soldiers.

A temporary fix is in the works through the city’s Arts and Culture Department. Is it possible to arrive at a solution that makes everyone happy? While discussing how every story has more than one side, our friend Jim Koch came up with a great idea. “Why not design a multi-sided monument that tells the story from the different perspectives?”

Why not, indeed? I hope Jim submits his idea to the Santa Fe Arts and Culture Department for consideration. With all the diverse artists living in or near Santa Fe, I trust the community to come up with something that pays tribute to and honors the interests of all groups.

Next up: We move on to Taos, The Soul of the Southwest, for another week of adventure in New Mexico.

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