The Return Trip Eastward…

As we drove on the Interstates, we marveled at how the pioneers ever made it west in covered wagons.  In our comfortable, air conditioned car listening to Sirius radio, we couldn’t complain about the trip.  Even though we traveled through these states just a few weeks back, the terrain looked different.
Our return trip through Oklahoma included a memorable stop (for the wrong reasons) at place that we will rate on Traveler’s Advisory, awarding a score of zero on a scale of one to five, if that’s possible!  While everyone we met was very friendly, we found that the friendliness didn’t just stop there.  A few cockroaches in our room decided to hang around after the lights went on early in the morning, as if to say “Hi, how’re y’all doin’?”.  We’d have preferred the kind that just scurried away.

A stop in Little Rock, Arkansas to see the Clinton Presidential Library yielded quite a surprise.  From the lovely location along the Arkansas River to all three floors in the modern glass building and the wealth of information inside, the visit was worth the stop.  One of the guides said that the ex-President visits about once a month and stays in his suite on the top level of the building. We jokingly asked where Hillary’s library would be if she becomes President. The guide smiled but politely didn’t answer.Epilog

The Mississippi River at Memphis

Crossing the Mississippi brought us to Memphis and a quick walk around Beale Street in the short time we had, hearing the electric blues while we were still blocks away.  Great ribs for dinner!  Memphis has lots of history and interesting architecture, and we definitely need to return to explore more someday (our bucket list gets longer instead of shorter).

A quick detour through Birmingham, Alabama presented a lovely afternoon visit with Connie, a best friend from third grade! Good visit there with more great ribs for lunch (the sauce was better than on Beale Street).Epilog-2

The Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Virginia

On to Tennessee and a visit with Dave’s brother Jim and his wife Dixie.  It was a short but nice time.  We’d have stayed longer but were anxious to get back after our month of travels.  Our cats are waiting for us!  Epilog-3

Fall colors in southern Pennsylvania

We spent a pleasant afternoon driving up our favorite of all the interstates: I-81.  The route takes us through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, with the Blue Ridge mountains to our right just changing color, and the day was crystal clear.  The final night away was a lovely visit to see the grandchildren Ben and Julia and daughter Amy. What darling children!  What an amazing trip.  We can’t wait to get back.



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It’s amazing how fast nearly three weeks flew by!  On our last full day in Santa Fe, we wanted to do a few of our favorite things here in Santa Fe…without having to drive 50+ miles.  There’s so much about the area that we have grown to love.

Of course, the day had to start with a half-mile walk to the Farmer’s Market at the Railyard.  This is where all our vegetables came from, and fresh-roasted chilis.

While not a “favorite”, certainly a stop of necessity…the local Laundromat.  No pictures, but it was a great spot for crosswords and people-watching.  Lots of ink on the younger population.  Not just a stray tattoo here and there, but full-sleeve art.  Lots of characters.

We hiked the first one we did after getting here: Sun Mountain.  A great short hike with wonderful views of Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains.  The first time was warm and calm, this time it was chilly and very windy.   Compared to some of the hiking we’ve done over the past weeks it was short and easy, but still a great hike.  If one lived close to that trail, it is a walk to be done weekly.

Reprise Reprise-2

And, of course, our favorite restaurant:  Casa Chimayo.  Sort of Mexican fare with a twist.  Very fresh.  Very nice.   A nice addition:  live music with a gentleman playing classical guitar pieces.

Time to wander back east now but our stay, as always was wonderful. We have already begun mental lists of what to do when we come out here again.  There is a small railroad up in the  northern mountains that goes up to Colorado, more pueblos to visit, trails to hike, and of course, with hopefully no government shutdown next time, we will get to White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns. No one could get bored in New Mexico.

Now we are off to Little Rock, Memphis, Birmingham, Pink Hatcher Lane and grandchildren!


20 miles outside of Santa Fe with SNOW on the ground!


…on the road again.


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Pecos Postponed

Another sunny day here in Santa Fe and great weather for a hike.  We’re attempting a 7 mile trail to a nice alpine lake that leaves from the Santa Fe ski area, 15 miles from here. As we drove along the twisty road, the car’s thermometer went from 53 to 38 and as it dropped more snow appeared beside the road from the storm four days ago.  At the mid elevations (about 10,000’) the aspen were in full color, and were beautiful against the patches of snow.

As we got out of the car at the ski area parking lot, we both felt the cold air and the wind and said, “Why are we hiking on such a cold day?”  But we simply put on more layers of clothing.  NambeTrail-4Dave put on a white wind breaker which was an excellent color.  An article in yesterday’s newspaper about hikers and deer hunters on the Aspen Vista trail, which we had hiked a week ago, had us concerned. NambeTrail Apparently here in New Mexico it’s legal to hunt in the National Forests where there are hikers, and one hunter was seen carting a small deer down the hiking trail we’d taken just 5 days ago.  Knowing that, we wore bright colors.  But back to our trail today…

We did not run into any hunters, only ice and snow. The trail climbed steeply to the ridge line, and the fence where we entered the Pecos Wilderness with no problem. However, shortly after passing through NambeTrail-2the gate we come across a little snowman, then the trail descended and snow and ice covered the trail (others on the trail said it would be quite icy). We have crampons safely stored back in New England (like our windshield scrapers), so we prudently decided to leave Nambe Lake, our intended destination, for another day.  NambeTrail-5 NambeTrail-3All the same, our short 2 mile hike to the high ridge was pleasant and offered great views (and one heck of a workout!).

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Porsches Aplenty

Friday afternoon, we spotted a couple vintage Porsches driving near the center plaza in Santa Fe.  On Saturday, we found out why they’re here.  It seems there’s a Porsche Holiday this Columbus Day weekend.  As terrific as these cars look, most of them sound like PorscheRallythey can barely make it down the PorscheRally-4street, but then many of them (most?) are from the mid-50’s and have hard to maintain carburetors.  Nevertheless, it was great fun to see.

PorscheRally-2 PorscheRally-3

A postscript.  The showing of Porsche cars was an event for Dave.  I preferred our morning walk to the weekly Farmers Market, trip to REI and another trip to the local store with hundreds of cowboy boots and hats!  Dave left with a black cowboy hat on his head (bemoaning that he now has to learn a Garth Brooks song or two). I left with another hat, my second hat bought in Santa Fe.  I need to get another head now.  Even though we did not take an official hike with hiking boots and backpacks, we did walk nearly 6 miles.  Shopping is actually a very healthy activity around here!

PorscheRally-Train PorscheRally-Hats

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Why didn’t someone tell us it could snow in New Mexico in October?!  We woke up this morning with frost on the windshield, and a few inches of snow on the top of the mountain to our east.  Being from New England we have a comprehensive collection of frost scrapers, none of which made the trip west with us, of course, because we expected nice warm weather.  The local newspaper carried the headline “A Blast of Winter” with a picture of blizzard conditions near where we hiked just five days ago.   When you don’t have an ice scraper, just use a plastic pancake turner, and the pancakes will never be quite the same!

We were off early to take the morning tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu house, where she lived from her late 50’s until she was 96. For those years, she resided alone in a marvelous adobe home in the small village of Abiquiu (though she had many friends, relatives and her gardener).  The home has been preserved just as she left it, from her paint brushes to the

The Pedernast

The Pedernast – a subject of many paintings

small rocks she collected to her Maytag clothes washer (which looks just like the ancient one we have in Henniker).   Photos of every corner of her home couldn’t convey the feeling you when entering her home (though we weren’t allowed to take any anyway).  The large windows, painted walls and numerous sunroof ports make the sun brighten every corner.  We

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

admitted to each other that we could easily live there.  Wonder if we could paint like she did if we lived there?  Both inside and outside the house, we recognized the scenes that she painted. However, she had that magic to make a simple adobe wall with a black door look much more than a door and a wall.  Our walls in Henniker will be graced with two more Georgia O’Keeffe prints on them.

After Abiquiu, we headed out to what O’K referred to as “the white place” (O’K is how the G O’Keeffe Museum refers to her on posters, signs and mugs).  Walking around the white monoliths and cliffs we spotted many of her masterpieces.  Then we continued north to Ghost Ranch which is where Georgia first stayed when she came out in the summer from New York, and continued to use it as a summer home after she moved to Abiquiu.   Many trails crisscross the ranch and we hiked with cameras, not paints, up to Chimney Rock.  It was easy to spot scenes which are seen in her paintings. The light seems to be special in this part of New Mexico.  The clouds move so quickly that the scenery kept changing.  No wonder Georgia painted so many pictures!


Plaza Blanca aka The White Place


A lone cottonwood against a white cliff


A subject of at least one O’K painting

Our final stop for the day was at the Echo Amphitheater which is run by the National Park Service and thus had a locked gate because of the

Echo Amphitheater

Echo Amphitheater

government shutdown.  Like the other half-dozen people who were there at that time, weren’t stopped by a note pasted on the crossbar.  Only one woman drove up, saw the sign on the locked gate, shook her head and drove away.

What shutdown?

What shutdown?

We shared a good laugh with another couple about the government’s ineptness, and set off to enjoy the sights all the same. The amphitheater is a naturally made gigantic formation in the side of a large red rock cliff.  Once getting to the end of the paved path, we were looking up at a massive overhang of multicolored sandstone.  The rock cliffs truly return one’s voice.  We could picture Carter, Mollie, Ben and Julia all yelling and waiting for their voices to be returned!

Echo Amphitheater

Echo Amphitheater

Driving back to Santa Fe, we took a wrong turn and headed west toward mesas and the Jimez mountains. It was a delightful mistake as the road went out near the Puye Cliff ruins and past a couple Pueblos.  M0re places to return to.  Our list is getting longer!

Once back, we couldn’t stay put as it was a Friday night, which means free museums in the city.  We walked to the New Mexico Museum of History expecting a modest presentation but found an incredible museum.  We’re afraid that New Hampshire doesn’t quite compare to this amazing place. There is no way to take in all the information within even a few hours.  Another place to return to, someday…soon.   It was well after sundown by the time we left the museum, but we’re getting used walking home in the dark.

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High Altitude

CliffhangerNo, not the budget impasse, but a very striking part of the geology of Northern New Mexico: the Brazos cliffs.  They are a very large, massive structure, jutting up about 2,000’ above the valley floor, extending over a mile up the Brazos river.  For comparison, El Capitan, in Yosemite is 3,000’ high from the valley floor, but from a distance Brazos is every bit as impressive as El Cap.  The cliffs are about 90 miles north of Santa Fe, NE of the intersection of US-85 and US-64, but well worth the drive.  US-64 runs from the transitional desert at 7,000’ to 10,500’ and back before it heads east to Taos (tomorrow’s trip).  Given that it’s early October we figured the high country would have lots of color.  What we found was that at 7,000’ the aspens had only started to change, but the cottonwoods were in full color, a bright golden yellow.  At the crest, the aspen had lost their leaves.  This area of high country has one of the largest stands of aspen in NM.  The scenery is breathtaking, but because both the cliffs and the high country are private, no hiking is allowed BrazosCliffs(though people do it).BrazosCliffs-2

Taos Sidetrip.  We met an old friend and her husband for lunch in Taos, where they reside.  Afterward we headed up to the Taos Ski Resort to hike the Williams Lake trail.  This part of the Sangre de Christo mountains is very rugged, and the aspen were in full color.  Because of the late hour (we spent too long at lunch) we only did a third of the trail, but it was still beautiful. TaosMtns-2


Coming back, we stopped at my favorite photo-stop, the San Franscisco de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos, the most photographed / SFdeAsis

painted building in the world (supposedly).  Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe both have wonderful pictures of it.  Photographing it is a real challenge, especially now that a parking lot surrounds it.  I still try, though.

And I’m sorry to report that our favorite nick-knack store, next door to the church in Ranchos de Taos, is closing: Mr. Orr, who ran Orr’s Trading Post for 35 years has decided to close the shop and move to Denver where his son runs a similar store.  We chatted a while with Bill Orr, who is still busy and still jovial.  We’ll miss him.

Balloons Revisited.  Once again, we were up well before dawn and in the car before 5:00 AM, this time to attend the Balloon Fiesta. The stars were again beautiful in the darkened sky.  We headed south to Albuquerque to see the Mass Ascension, when some 500 hot air balloons lift into the sky at dawn to catch the early morning winds.  We were among the 1000’s of warmly dressed people.

Leader of the Dawn PatrolIf anyone was cold, no one noticed as we were too busy watching the hundreds of pilot, crew & passengers getting their balloons ready for sunrise take off.  The “Dawn Patrol”, consisting of a half-dozen balloons, go up into the twilight a half hour before dawn to test the winds for those who follow, their burners illuminating the balloons above them.

Two balloon of the Dawn Patrol taking off with their burners fired.

Two balloon of the Dawn Patrol taking off with their burners fired.


How the grandchildren would have loved to see the variety of hot air balloons going up. There was Smokey the Bear, Elvis, a cow, three bumble bees (who lifted off together), Angry Bird, a lovely hummingbird to mention just a few.  The colors and variety of balloons going up was dizzying.  We tried to count the number of balloons aloft but there were too many and the numbers kept rising.  Of the 550 balloons registered at the event most of them ascended in the one hour immediately following sunrise this morning, over 60 per minute!  The photos we BalloonMassAscension-10show here will give a hint of the incredible sight.  But photos alone can’t convey the feeling of sights and sounds of hundreds of balloons rising all around us.  The throngs of spectators like us could mingle on the field and go right up to any of the balloons.  As a BalloonMassAscension-7balloon was being filled with hot air, people would step way and the gigantic structure would rise up and wait for the “zebra”, one of many flight controllers on the field,  to give the signal by a long blast of their whistle and a hand signal to the pilot.  At that the balloon would quickly ascend into the sky and BalloonMassAscension-8move gracefully downwind.


We were glad to have taken our balloon ride a week ago for it gave us a sense of what it takes to pilot one of these balloons.  The morning was an amazing experience.


BalloonMassAscension-6 BalloonMassAscension-5

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A Walk In The Woods

We were anxious to get up and see the “fall colors” which around here amount the beautiful wispy aspen, which turn shades of yellow and gold.  Last night, temperatures in Santa Fe dipped below freezing (supposedly) and in the mountains for sure, helping to accelerate the colors.  We chose a trail near Santa Fe, in fact only a short 20 minute ride, which our guide book said was “popular”.  They got that right.  We arrived before 10 AM and cars overflowed the small parking areaAlpineVistaTrail2 beside the road.    AlpineVista_2ofUs   The trail that we chose, Aspen Vista (how could we resist that name?), started at 9,000’, which is 2,200’ higher than Santa Fe, and climbed to nearly 12,000’, a 2,800’ elevation gain.  It was good that we had brought along the sandwiches.  One of us thought it would be a two miles hike up and food could be left in the car!  The other of us prevailed, had the larger back pack and took the food.  We needed it.  Ten miles up and back!  [In my defense the guide book wasn’t clear whether that was an out-and-back distance or a round trip distance, nor that it was for just the first part of the hike in the aspens.]                                AlpineVistaTrail3                                                        AlpineVistaTrail

True to its name we were rewarded with spectacular views of the aspens, some just changing, and some well past “peak color”.  At the “top” we got wonderful views of Santa Fe and the Pecos Mtns to the north and south.  The trail reached just above the “tree line” of the aspen, which don’t grow above 11,000’, but the conifers above that provided equally rewarding views.  All in all, a great way to spend the day, and add 10 miles to our hiking shoes.  The panorama below is taken from “Santa Fe Stonehenge”, at roughly 11,500′, and was as far as we went.          AlpineVista_RockGardenPanorama

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