The Land of Chiles

Trip Start Mar 20, 2010
Trip End Aug 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
Clancy's Hacienda

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Upon arriving in Santa Fe, we immediately fell in love with the town, its beauty and energy.  There is so much for us to do, hiking, biking, eating, spas, hot springs, museums, galleries  and...relaxing.  There is also skiing to do close by, 20 min outside of Santa Fe, or Taos, but we obviously too late for that.  We stayed with Brian's cousin Chris, who has lived in Santa Fe for almost 4 years.  His home is beautiful, it is hacienda in the historic district of Santa Fe.  He has done extensive work on the home, inside and out, it is brilliant.  There is a constant breeze and the air is clear, dry and cool and the sun is nice and warm.

On our first day we walked around the center of town and plaza.  Our friends Rene and Zinia are in town with their son Thomas until Saturday, so we caught up with them for a bit.  The are staying at the Anasazi Inn - this place rocks.  We later caught up with Chris back in his home and jumped into his restored VW van for a personalized tour of the area, beautiful homes on the hill tops and stunning sunsets.  We picked up his girlfriend Seren (short for Serendipity) and made our way to Maria's for excellent Mexican food..of course..we have to celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

The next morning we attempted to kick off our stay in Santa Fe with an overdue run, but forgetting we are at 7000 feet above sea level, the altitude crushed us! After this defeat we set off to enjoy the splendors of Santa Fe and we met Rene, Zinia and Thomas for lunch and did a bit of shopping.  There are so many beautiful things, the boutiques and museums are endless.  

Knowing we are going go be here for a while we thought it best to log the key highlights of our stay.  Here we go.....

During our first weekend we hung out with Chris.  We took a ride up to the near by ski resort (Ski Santa Fe), only 20 minutes from his home.  You can see the mountain from his patio - the mountain top is still sprinkled with snow.  From his home it is about 12 miles straight up the mountain to reach the ski lodge - as we rode up there were numerous bikers looking to complete the challenge and make it to the top.  The ski resort is less known by non-locals, but it should be known, the mountain is no joke. The resort is part of the Santa Fe National Forest.  We later took a ride down through Tesuque, which is a town just on the edge of Santa Fe that prides itself on providing privacy for its owners.  This is where Gene Hackman and Shirley Maclaine have homes.  Some homes here don't have water rights, this is a known issue that has to be taken into consideration when buying homes in New Mexico..(many homes in New Mexico are considered "off the grid", fending for themselves for water and electricity).  Chris then took us to the Tesuque Flea Market where you can find basically anything you need, and some good quality jewelry at whole sale prices, needless to say, we didn't leave empty handed.  It was this night that we went to the Madrid party (see below).  On Sunday, Mother's Day, we went hiking with Chris up to Pachaco Peak of the Rockies, it was a great tough trail. Once on the top you could see the layers of mountains which surrounded Santa Fe (jemez, rockies, san francisco, etc), you could even see one of the mountains way in the distance which belonged to Colorado.

In Santa Fe there there are numerous galleries, even a road dedicated to them called Canyon Road, we hit a few here and there, its impossible to see everything.  We did see two that were neat - Chuck Jones, the cartoonist, and Georgia O'Keefe.  Georgia O'Keefe is like the grandmother of Northern New Mexico - See Ghost Ranch Below.
Taos and Northern New Mexico
We went to Taos with Rene and Zinia the Friday before they left, taking the High Road up there.  The drive was beautiful, as we made our way through small towns such as Truchas and the Carson's National Forest.  Along the way we up we stopped at Santuario de Chimayo.  Chimayo is a small community known for it's sanctuary which is a lovely little antiquated chapel, on top of a hill, surrounded by a stream and mountain vies.  Inside the sanctuary is the El Posito, what this chapel is known for - El Posito is a hole in the floor found in a side room of a chapel that filled with healing earth (dirt).  Pilgrims come here to take a bit of the earth and pray for healing.  We each took a scoopful and placed it in small containers purchased at the gift store...this is only after we rubbed it allover our bodies when no one was looking.  Once we got to Taos proper we walked around and had lunch.  Our impression of Taos is that the locals are bit more earthy and the town itself is a little more low key then Santa Fe.   After lunch we made our way to Taos Pueblo.   Taos Pueblo, still an active pueblo, meaning people still live here and its an active community.  You need to pay 10 per person and 5 camera fee, and further, you need to ask permission to photograph anyone.  Lastly, they strongly insist that we do not touch any of the animals (crazy dogs running around) -  Brian being an animal lover himself, this effort was difficult for him :). To be honest the pueblo was beautiful, and once you see one, they all begin to look the same, the one thing about these pueblos is that since they are active communities we felt kind of weird walking around the pueblo, knowing this was home to the many, it was some what depressing.  We took the low ride back into Santa Fe, and stopped off at the Rio Grande Gorge.  This is the second largest suspension bridge of the US, one that you can walk over and take photos of the gorge.  Walking over it isn't for the faint hearted.  We decided to walk to the center of the bridge, and just about when we got there this 18 wheeler came zooming across and, with that, the entire bridge shook, as if we were in the middle of an earth quake - a "white knuckled experience".  Christina grabbed onto the railing of the bridge and screamed bloody murder, it was terrifying.  After we survived, we quickly made our way back to the ridge!

On our last day in Santa Fe, we decided to take a ride up again towards Taos and check out what is considered the Enchanted Circle.  The game plan was to see Eagles Nest, then if we had it in us, maybe make our way up to Red River, then end back into Taos for lunch at Orlandos, which came highly recommended by Chris.  Our trip was ill-fated.  Once we arrived in Taos, the sky turned black and we found ourselves in the middle of a Thunder/Hail storm!  It was nerve wrecking, but we persevered in hopes of catching the rays of sun that we saw in the distance.  Unfortunately, that plan didn't work, by the time we got to Eagle's Nest the storm followed us, we did a quick drive by and turned around making our way to Orlando's.  By the time we returned to Santa Fe, the sky's were clear and the sun was shining.  We just enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, then went out with Chris to The Cowgirl for some margaritas and good food, to celebrate our final night in SF and say goodbye to Chris.

Bandelier State Park, Los Alamos
Chris's friend suggested we check out Bandelier State Park, in Los Alamos, NM, about 30 minutes west of Santa Fe.  This place is super amazing it is home to the Frijoles Canyons and offers numerous hiking trails (70 miles of trails) and historic points of interest to uncover (ancestral pueblos and petroglyphs).  When we arrived we did what is called the Main Loop to the Alcove House.  This trail led us to historic pueblo dwellings and cliff dwellings, there were points of time when we had to walk up ladders to see the cliff dwellings.  To see the historic Alcove House cliff dwelling, we had to climb 4 different ladders along a cliff - going up wasn't too bad, but coming down was a bit freaky.  It was super windy that day so you had to hold on tight!.  Later that morning we did one more trail called the Falls Trail, we didn't think much of the trail as we were walking until it looped around and next thing you know we are walking along a cliff, overlooking deep multicolored canyons, it was absolutely breath taking.  While you needed to hug the cliff as you walked along, it was definitely worth it, but, the winds were so strong, rocks were falling from above, and one missed Brian's head by a few inches.  That was it, Christina freaked out.  We saw the falls and high tailed it out of the trail.  It was scary enough, but the winds added an element of fear that just wasn't necessary!.  We definitely would go back and do that trail again, as other trails such as the Tsankawi trail which sits in a separate section of the park and offers additional cave dwellings and petroglyphs.

Ojo Caliente Spa & Hot Springs
Christina's cousin Elke recommended we check out Ojo Caliente, NM and we are so glad she mentioned this to us!.  After our morning in Bandelier State Park, we were ready for a little R&R.  This place was very cool, and something everyone should try.  Since Brian's birthday was on the 12th, it was the perfect excuse to splurge a little bit.  We set our selves up with a cliff side room with private hot tub, and scheduled massages for us.  The resort has about 7 different natural spring/mineral pools/tubs, each very hot, some much hotter than others, that supposedly offer different forms of healing (Iron, Soda, Arsenic and Lithia springs).  The Lithia Spring fountain sits in the center of it all from which you can drink - the waters supposedly increase energy levels and help heal from the inside, skin, digestion, etc.  We drank it, at times forcing down..Brian said it tasted like crap, but drank it anyway. It was so cool to get up in the morning, soak in the different springs, then lay out in the sun to warm up.  Though the air was cool, the sun was warm, and your muscles and body was so warm from spring, it didn't matter that the air was cool.  Once it got too cool, you would just do it all over again.  We loved it.  The restaurant and wine bar at the resort were also very inviting, our meal was really good.  Even if you can't stay over night at the resort, you can go for the day, they have lockers there, maybe stay for for dinner then head back.
Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu
As mentioned, Georgia O'Keefe is the grandmother of NM, and when speaking of her, Ghost Ranch, in Abiquiu, NM, usually is mentioned within the same sentence.  In short, Georgia fell in love with the colors of New Mexico, she started spending summers in NM, and when her husband died she moved here permanently from NYC.  Her claim to fame is that she purchased a guest house located on Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM (about 45 min north of SF).  It was this ranch and the surrounding land and mountains that served as her inspiration for a majority of her work.  We visited Ghost Ranch on our return from Ojo Caliente, and walked the grounds - the landscapes are endless with expansive colors and layers of texture - pictures just don't do it justice.  We did one of the hikes offered, up to Chimney Rock.  Ghost Ranch is now a facility that can house conferences, host team building events or just to go an relax and meditate. -Its quite big.'Keeffe

This is a old small historic mining town about 30 minutes south of Santa Fe.  It is pronounced "Mah Dred", not like Madrid, Spain.  This is home to all the local hippies/artists/crazies that are known by the Santa Fe locals as "Madroids".  The town itself is really cute and the streets are aligned with local artists that have wonderful work ranging from jewelry, paintings, sculptures, etc.  What makes this town very unique are the homes along main street, they are all old Sears Roebuck homes from the early 1900s, that now serve as both homes and galleries for the artists (gallery upfront, and home in the back).  Some serve as restaurants, others are not well preserved at all.  On Mother's Day, Chris took us into town and we had lunch and took in some of the galleries.  If you walk along the main street, it is quite pleasurable, and makes for a great morning or afternoon, however, there is no need to explore any side streets.  The one time we needed to go down a side street we came across a home whose back yard consisted of a caged area  that contained chickens running around and co-mingling with LLamas.   Who keeps llamas with chickens in an area the size of a closet?..Madroids do!  Little trivia - The John Travolta movie, Wild Hogs, was filmed here.  Apparently thousands of dollars were given to locals to move to hotels, or to not complain about the noise.

The night prior to our brunch in Madrid, we went to a local party on a ranch in Madrid, it was a hippie party to the extreme,  The theme of the party was both a music and film fest.  People brought tents and trailers to crash in and the guests, aside from us and Chris's friends, looked like (and smelled like) they hadn't showered in months.  There was a stage where locals would go up and sing, an empty built in pool that served as a super size play pen where the children hung out, and a bunch of dogs running around (known as "hippie dogs").  As dusk came upon us, the owners had to keep a watchful eye on their dogs as coyotes are known to come out and take them during this time of day.  We stayed for a couple of hours, we didn't stay for the film fest, then made our way back into town for dinner a the Santa Fe bar & Grille.  

During the party we met a handful of people, and the funny thing is that the next day when we walked around Madrid, we met up with a few of them..many were artists or gallery owners in Madrid, we started to feel like a local.... - we ended up buying some pieces from one of them.kind of neat.

Crazy Bike Drummer/Rider - After coming back from Dinner with Rene and Zinia, while outside their hotel we here these drums playing and got a glimpse of a man on a bike playing drums.  Unfortunately we weren't fast enough to get a photo of him, but, later, as we approached our car we heard the drums again, and saw the biker making circles around Santa Fe plaza.  We raced to our car in hopes of getting a better look and taking a pix.  We ran through a few stop signs and met up with him at the last one, so he was literally next to the passenger seat.  Christina took two good shots, as the guy literally growled at her!..Brian said to hurry, he was afraid the guy would lunge at us through the window.  The photo was worth effort..take a look.
Places we've eaten worth mentioning.
La Casa Sena - beautiful outside joint, great food, under shade of trees in Santa Fe center.  We had lunch here with Rene, Zinia and Thomas
Marias - little outside of town, excellent Mexican food!, and about 250 margaritas to choose from, we celebrated Cinco De Mayo here with Chris and Seren
Graham Grille  - in Taos,  We had lunch here with Rene and Zinia, ..Rene was the brave one to order their specialty..a mean Frito Pie (Fritos covered with all he makings of a taco)
Milagro - also good, in town, we just went there for a quick Fri Nt drink and apps.  However since on a Friday night we got a good taste of the "local crowd"...many silver foxes out there.
Geranimos - on Canyon Road, more high end and expensive, but worth it.  We treated ourself for a nice dinner with Rene and Zinia.
Pasquales - In the heart of SF, we went here for Brian's Birthday.  An organic restaurant that was excellent, serving basic American cuisine with a SF twist, and some of your basic SF 
The Cow Girl- Good scene, good food, good margaritas, definitely worth stopping in an listening to some music, etc.

Fact:  Chiles are the main ingredient in any New Mexican dish.  The locals put chiles in everything!.  There are red and green chiles, when you go to a restaurant you need to ask which is the hottest, usually it is the green chiles.  However, if you can't make up your mind, then the solution is to ask for them "Christmas Style", and the server will know to mix the red and green chiles together!
We absolutely loved Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico.  We feel like we did a lot, but there is still so much to do that we couldn't get to, but, gives us reason to come back, which we are already planning to do.  We need to drive through the Enchanted Circle and see Red River, and try Eagles Nest again,  ski Taos and Santa Fe, and hike more canyons and soak in more hot springs such as Chaco National Park/Canyons, White Sands Nat'l park, Jemez Springs and Silver Springs.,,and much much more.

May 5 - May 15

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Vanessa Gaby on

My sister and I stayed at Ojo Caliente when we were in New Mexico -- we loved it!

Brian's brother on

Truly Amazing Photos. Awesome! But come on with that suspension bridge. You made it seem like it was similar to the bridge from Indiana Jones. March on...

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