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 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 3: Museum Hill

New Mexico Indian Art and Culture Museum (MIAC)

A rainy day sent us out to explore the museums on Museum Hill. The New Mexico Indian Art and Culture Museum was our first stop. Sadly, the museum did not allow photos. As I walked inside, I wondered how I would remember my visit if I had no photos as evidence. Photos trigger my memory about the day, the weather, our experiences, and other details. I worried I’d have nothing to say without them.

Glad they couldn’t stop me from taking photos outside.

Craig Dan Goseyun’s Mountain Spirit Dancer

Here is what I remember from the inside:

  • Silver and turquoise rings, necklaces, earrings, and belts nestled in glass display cases with little cards detailing the date, cost, and location purchased. Native Americans created all the items, and a curator purchased them through trading posts.
  • The Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass exhibit featured 33 indigenous artists, and work from Dale Chihuly who, according to the museum’s website, “introduced glass art to Indian Country.”
Costume detail

Individual pieces drew me in and my shutter finger itched to take a photo or two or three or more on the sly. All that’s left in my memory are vague words like beautiful, gorgeous, fantastic, and how-did-they-do-that. Those words lack the specificity needed to evoke emotion, so I lean on photos to reveal the story and elicit meaning. Perhaps a sketch might work the same.

Boot Detail

Although MIAC opened its doors to the public in 1987, its history began 78 years earlier when anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett founded the Museum of New Mexico. In 1947, the museum merged with the Laboratory of Anthropology, founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1927 to study Southwest indigenous cultures. It took thirty more years for the New Mexico state legislature to appropriate $2.7 million for the museum’s design.

Allan Houser’s Singing Heart
George Rivera’s Lightning Boy

The tiny sliver of objects on display during our visit, along with art created by contemporary artists, gave us only a glimpse of the treasures MIAC has collected over the past 112 years. We hope to see more during a visit in the future. Maybe I can learn to sketch before then. The result doesn’t have to be gallery worthy, only enough to trigger my memory.

Museum of International Folk Art (MIFA)

Across the courtyard is the Museum of International Folk Art. Visitors have Florence Dibell Bartlett to thank for this museum. She founded MIFA with her 1953 donation of 2,500 craft items. Her vision and funding of the building was the seedling needed to support a collection that has grown to more than 130,000 pieces of folk and traditional art created throughout the world.

Wall of masks
Sign of the Times
Hunger grows as they wait
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, which one can I take home
Clash of costumes
Guitar face
Scary creatures in this exhibit

With five wings to explore, visitors are sure to find something engaging from among the ceramics, costumes, jewelry, paintings, and wood carvings. My camera made up for the lost opportunity at MIAC, clicking away to capture the colorful objects.

Santa Fe Botanical Garden

We avoided the afternoon monsoon by visiting Santa Fe Botanical Garden in the morning. The garden is a relatively new addition to Museum Hill. First, the City of Santa Fe offered a long-term lease of 11 acres in December 2006.

Raya Friday’s People of the Fire
A place to rest under weathered steel

Over the next five years, landscape architect W. Gary Smith created a master plan, and the city launched an intensive review process with final approval in 2011. An additional three acres were added, and in July 2013, the garden opened to the public.

Lavender abounds
Greg Reiche Sentinel II
Greg Reiche’s Wind Song

Subsequently, additional leases and work over the years expanded the garden to 20.5 acres. The newest project, Pinon-Juniper Woodland, opened in 2021.

Take the picture already
Kearney’s Gap Bridge

It must have been the season for glass displays like we saw at MIAC. The garden’s current art exhibition, Capturing the Light, featured several glass art works strategically positioned among the plants and flowers.

Piñon Juniper Woodland, the newest addition to the garden
A gate is not just a gate at the garden, it’s art
On the trail

We found the botanical garden a delightful place to wander around, exploring the varieties of trees, shrubs, flowers, succulents, and cacti.

Mojave Sage
The Gathering Place

Weldon’s Museum Hill Café serves lunch from 11 to 2 Wednesdays through Sunday. We can’t vouch for the food or service because they were closed before we were ready for lunch.

Next up: Santa Fe Railyard Arts District

Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 2: Beyond the Plaza

In this episode, we venture beyond Santa Fe Plaza a few blocks, gawk at art inside the New Mexico Capitol and dive into history at Fort Marcy, the Cross of the Martyrs, Loretto Chapel, and the oldest house and church.

New Mexico Capitol

On the trolley tour, we heard about the art that graces the walls of the “roundhouse.” I don’t know why it doesn’t appear when searching for art museums and galleries. It should.

Allan Houser’s Morning Prayer in front of the capitol building

W.C. Kruger designed the round building using the Zia Sun symbol as inspiration. Robert E. McKee constructed the territorial-style building with neoclassical influences. The 1966 building was renovated in the 1990s, and since then has amassed upwards of 600 pieces of art created by New Mexican artists through the state’s Capitol Art Foundation. Artists donated many of the paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces, or the foundation purchased them through private donations.

The art display begins outside with sculptures. Self-guided tours inside are available Monday through Friday year round and on Saturday from Memorial Day to the last Saturday in August.

Bob Haozous’s Gate/Negate
Skylight over the rotunda

Enter on the second level, grab a pamphlet, and take a walk along the curved walls. Be sure to check out the skylight in the rotunda. On the north side of the building is the Senate gallery where visitors can watch proceedings, on the south side, the House gallery. The chambers are on the first level, which is underground.

Senate Chambers

The third level contains most of the Capitol Art Collection. This level has a bird’s-eye view of the state seal in the rotunda.

Third-floor view of rotunda and state seal
Depiction of the early days of Santa Fe
Triptychs are always fun
Buffalo mixed media sculpture by Holly Hughes [added 9/21/2021]
Artistic furniture
Douglas Johnson’s Hoshonzeh
Januscz Kozikowski’s Chair with Egyptian Colors

We passed on seeing the fourth level where the governor, lieutenant governor, and Legislative Council Service are housed and where the Governor’s Gallery and governors’ portraits are located.

Go girls, you can do it.

Fort Marcy

The U.S. Army arrived in Santa Fe in August 1846, during the Mexican-American War. Led by General Stephen W. Kearny, 1700 troops seized Santa Fe and staked claim to a flat-top hill with a view of the town.

View of town from Fort Marcy. Capitol in upper right corner.
Another Fort Marcy view

Although the fort remained during the Civil War, the troops never had to defend Santa Fe during the war. In 1868, the Army abandoned the fort. Reports of gold coins found in the ruins attracted treasure hunters who destroyed the remaining walls. Was the report a hoax? Perhaps since it appears no one else found treasure.

Information panels detail the history
Mounds identify where buildings once stood

In 1961, the City of Santa Fe purchased the site for use as a park and scenic overlook.

Cross of the Martyrs

A trail from Fort Marcy Park led us to The Cross of the Martyrs. Visitors can also climb the stairs from Paseo Del Peralta, where plaques detail Santa Fe’s history. The Caballeros de Vargas, a fraternal organization, owns the land and cross.

The Cross of the Martyrs we visited is the second cross to commemorate the deaths of 21 Franciscan friars in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The Original Cross of the Martyrs, erected in 1920 in a different location, is owned by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.

The 1680 Pueblo Revolt successfully exiled the Spanish colonists until General Don Diego de Vargas returned twelve years later with settlers to recapture Santa Fe.

Cross of the Martyrs

On September 16, 1712, the Villa of Santa Fe designated September 14 a day of “celebration with Vespers, Mass, Sermon, and a Procession through the Main Plaza for the purpose of recalling how this Villa had been reconquered on September 14, 1692 by General Don Diego de Vargas…”

Over the centuries, the one-day celebration expanded into multi-day activities, introduced commercialization, and added parades and an Entrada reenactment. Controversy developed over the story told in the reenactment depicting a “bloodless” reoccupation by Vargas and colonists.

Native tribes and historians expressed their opposition to the reenactment’s version of history. They worked for at least fifty years to correct the narrative without success. After angry protests and a large police presence during the 2017 fiesta, the Santa Fe Fiesta Council and the Caballeros de Vargas agreed to discontinue the reenactment. In subsequent years, except 2020, the celebration has continued without the Entrada.

On the last day of celebration, St. Francis Basilica holds mass, followed by a candlelight procession to the Cross of the Martyrs, preserving the original intent of the proclamation of 1712.

Loretto Chapel and the Unsolved Mystery

For five years, the sisters of Loretto Academy watched the Gothic Revival style building take shape until its completion in 1878. With its spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows imported from France, it was the perfect building where the sisters could hold services and sing hymns.

Loretto Chapel

There was just one problem. No one figured out how to build a staircase to reach the choir loft twenty-two feet above the floor. So they prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Following the ninth day of prayers, a man appeared with a donkey and a toolbox, looking for work.

Mysterious spiral staircase
Detail of staircase

The man toiled for months, cutting planks, fitting them together like puzzle pieces, joining them with dowels, no nails. When the carpenter completed his work, he packed up his tools and disappeared, leaving without compensation and depriving the sisters of their expressions of gratitude.

Stained glass windows imported from France

Some people thought the man was St. Joseph, answering the sisters’ prayers. Carpenters and engineers inspected the staircase with its 360-degree turns and no visible means of support. They marveled at the wood and other materials used and at the relative height of the risers to the height of the choir loft.

Scary stories circulated of frightened nuns and students using the staircase built without handrails. They were added in 1887. Nuns and students used the chapel until 1968, when the academy closed.

Today, the chapel is privately owned. Open 364 days a year, the chapel hosts over 100 weddings and events each year, and guests line up to tour the building and photograph the staircase.

San Miguel Chapel

San Miguel Chapel is billed as the oldest Catholic Church in the continental United States. Franciscan friars constructed the church between 1610 and 1626 to serve the small community of soldiers, laborers, and Indians who lived in the Barrio de Analco. It was partially destroyed in 1680 during the Pueblo Revolt.

The church was closed during our visit

Archeologists believe an early pueblo settlement from 800-1300 CE is underneath the church. The current 1710 building has needed structural changes over the centuries and a major preservation project began in 2008. During the project, cement stucco was removed, adobe repaired, and a finishing coat applied. If interested, their website includes videos of the process. The church is open to visitors throughout the week and is available for live performances and video and sound recordings.

Oldest House

Signs for the oldest house led us down a narrow path toward an adobe building. We stepped inside the attached 1800s building to the right, which houses the Oldest House Gift Shop, selling Indian gifts and art. Inside to the left was the entrance to De Vargas House, the oldest house.

Credit: Historic Santa Fe Foundation

The actual build date of the house is unknown. A few of the lower wall sections resemble pre-Spanish pueblo construction. The best guess is 1610 before Spanish colonists arrived.

View from doorway
Exposed adobe bricks
Thick walls to stay cool in the summer and warm in winter

And finally, we’ve reached the end of this long post. How about a bit of whimsy?

Swinging under Don Kennell’s Barn Dog.

Safe Travels

Updated 9/21/2021 to add Buffalo photo