Category Archives: New Mexico

Taos Named Top Ski Town

USA Today cites Taos as nation’s best.

USATodat-Top10-logoTaos (the town) and Taos Ski Valley (the mountain resort) are connected by a narrow 18-mile canyon road, but that didn’t stop USA Today readers from naming Taos the best ski town in the land. I like Taos as much as anyone, but it really doesn’t feel like a “ski town” — and with the recent developments at the resort, both on the mountain and at the base of the lifts, that vote seems even more far-fetched.

Taos has a fine historic plaza and a great hotel right there, good galleries, terrific places to eat and a nearby pueblo that ranks as one of the country’s longest continuously inhabited communities. But a ski town? Not really. Did someone stuff the ballot box?

Upon contemplation, I think not. The Tahoe area resorts are many miles from #2 Reno and somewhat closer to $5 Truckee. Even the town of Jackson and the resort of Jackson Hole are not contiguous. Maybe USA Today readers don’t like to ski. Just a thought.

10 Best Ski Towns

  1. Taos, N.M.
  2. Reno, Nev.
  3. Whitefish, Mt.
  4. North Conway, N.H.
  5. Truckee, Calif.
  6. Crested Butte, Colo.
  7. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
  8. Stowe, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Breckenridge, Colo.

And for what it’s worth

10 Best Ski Resorts

  1. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows – Olympic Valley, Calif.
  2. Sugarbush Resort – Warren, Vt.
  3. Big Sky Resort – Big Sky, Mont.
  4. Alta – Alta, Utah
  5. Crested Butte Mountain Resort – Crested Butte, Colo.
  6. Deer Valley Resort – Park City, Utah
  7. Revelstoke Mountain Resort – Revelstoke, British Columbia
  8. Killington Resort – Killington, Vt.
  9. Steamboat Resort – Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  10. Whistler Blackcomb – Whistler, British Columbia

 

Colorado Trains Are Nation’s Top Two

Cumbres & Toltec and Durango & Silverton top list.

USATodat-Top10-logoUSA Today sought readers’ votes on several categories of tourist attractions, and two Colorado railroads topped the list. Number one is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad that is owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico and flirts with the state line between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM. Runner-up was the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad following the Animas River between Durango and Silverton in southwestern Colorado. It even operates in winter, part-way along the route as far as the Wye turnaround.

The Two Museums of Ghost Ranch

Anthropology & paleontology on campus.

ghostranch-logoI wrote a recent post about a short visit to Ghost Ranch. There was time on my group’s program to look in on two worthwhile museums that offer classes and workshops but can also be visited on a one-day entry.

Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology

Dr. Martha Yates
Dr. Martha Yates

Named after museum founder Florence Hawley Ellis, one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in anthropology (University of Chicago, in 1934), this museum specializes displays ancient artifacts from Paleo Indian cultures reaching back 10,000 years.  Ellis and her students are best known for discovering an archaeological site north of the ranch. There, they unearthed a remarkable group of ceramic pots hidden in a lava field. – never happens. It was a remarkable site to have stumbled upon.”

Early pueblo pottery includes blackware, a type that continues to be produced today.
Early pueblo pottery includes blackware, a type that continues to be produced today.

The museum is named for the late Dr. Florence Hawley Ellis, long-time professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and original curator of this museum. Dr. Ellis initiated and led Ghost Ranch archaeology seminar from 1971 until 1990, and now, Dr. Martha Yates is in charge of the collection that includes finds from 20nold villages on the mesa between Abiquiu and Española.

The Museum of Anthropology excavation class Can You Dig It continues excavation on Ranch property sites and is part of our summer programming in July, open to all. We also offer a two-week Archaeological Surveying class in October, with the chance to hike through areas not open to the public and discover unknown, unmapped archaeological sites at Ghost Ranch.

Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology

Ghost Ranch boasts a dig-site a laboratory for sorting out and cataloging bones and a museum displaying both the process and the specimens. In 1985 an 8-ton block of plaster-encased dinosaur bones was hoisted onto a flatbed truck and moved from an on-site quarry to the main campus of Ghost Ranch. The Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology was built around it and named for amateur paleontologist Ruth Hall, wife of Jim Hall, the first resident director of Ghost Ranch.

It takes a trained eye to identify fossilized bones from a complicated digsite.
It takes a trained eye to identify fossilized bones from a complicated digsite.

The paleontological dig at Ghost Ranch is known world-wide. Resident paleontologist Alex Down, an ebullient man with a passion for paleontology, is currently at work on a large block taken from the quarry on Ghost Ranch. Visit the museum and watch fossil discovery right before your eyes. Treasures from the Triassic era  from 210 million years ago include two little dinosaurs discovered at Ghost Ranch decades apart are the bones of the Coelophysis,, which roamed the ranch 220 million years ago, were discovered in 1947. More recently, the Tawa Hallae and new, very well preserved, articulated skeleton of of Vancleavea, was discovered at Ghost Ranch. Newly renovated exhibits also highlight the recent discoveries of Tawa, a new species of small carnivorous dinosaur and Effigia, the archosaur species named okeeffeae (O’Keeffe’s Ghost).

Visiting Magical, Mystical Chimayo

Northern New Mexico’s healing place of pilgrimage.

002France has Lourdes. Spain has Santiago de Compostella. Quebec has Ste.-Anne de Beaupré. Guatemala has the Esquipulas. And New Mexico has the Santuario de Chimayo with its jewel of a small adobe church in a rural village in the northern part of the state. It represents a culture that continues across the state line into Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Close-knit villages cling to their traditions and their Catholicism, Franciscan-style, because… Just because.

The Sanctuario de Chimayo is set on tidy grounds.
The Sanctuario de Chimayo is set on tidy grounds.
Primitive hand-made crosses and other articles of faith hang on the chainlink fence along the path from the parking lot. I saw similar offerings along a sidewalk in Oklahoma City near the Murrah Building memorial site.
Primitive hand-made crosses and other articles of faith hang on the chainlink fence along the path from the parking lot. I saw similar offerings along a sidewalk in Oklahoma City near the Murrah Building memorial site.
Stations of the Cross.
Stations of the Cross.
The complex can accommodate an overflow crowd during Holy Week.
The complex can accommodate an overflow crowd during Holy Week.

The tale from the early 19th century involves a member of the mystical Penitente sect. A friar praying in the valley saw a light on a nearby hillside and went to investigate. Digging at the source of the light, he found a crucifix with the image of a black Christ, like that in the pilgrimage place in Guatemala. The Chimayo find was therefore named Our Lord of Esquipulas. Legend has it that local priest took the crucifix south to Santa Cruz, from which it disappeared three times, only to be found back in its hole in Chimayo. The inexplicable and magical return demanded to be recognized, and it has been.

Continue reading Visiting Magical, Mystical Chimayo

A Brief Visit to Ghost Ranch

History, erudition, research, spirituality & scenery.

ghostranch-logoOn a northern New Mexico road trip some years ago, I drove into Ghost Ranch, looked around and left, vowing to return someday for a longer visit. “Someday” just occurred, but it wasn’t much longer — just an overnight after the SATW Western Chapter meeting in Santa Fe.

Prepping for a visit to Ghost Ranch on a docent tour of the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.
Prepping for a visit to Ghost Ranch on a docent tour of the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

Located at the edge of the Colorado Plateau where it rises from the Chama Valley, its first Anglo settlers were the Archuleta brothers, notorious cattle rustlers. It is most famous as the first New Mexico home and studio of Georgia O’Keeffe. If a landscape can be a muse, this region and this land were O’Keeffe’s. The legendary painter was inspired by the luminous light, the big skies and the sharp landscape. We were not so lucky. Rain, mist, fog and snow had their way with the landscape.

Arrival afternoon was sunny and windy.
Arrival afternoon was sunny and windy.
Departure morning was gray and snowy.
Departure morning was gray with the occasional patch of blue sky and snowy with the occasional bit of grass..

We went on the O’Keeffe Landscape Tour, Ghost Ranch’s most popular, to a sizable parcel of the 31,000-acre ranch that is not open except with a guide.

Wendy Davis led the tour of O'Keeffe painting sites, Ghost Ranch's most popular. She stands in front of a scene and holds up a reproduction of an O'Keeffe painting of that place, explaining what O'Keeffe had left out of her work.
Wendy Davis led the tour of O’Keeffe painting sites, Ghost Ranch’s most popular. She stands in front of a scene and holds up a reproduction of an O’Keeffe painting of that place, explaining what O’Keeffe had left out of her work.
Cypress along the way,
Cypress “skeleton” along the way,
Snow-dusted formations.
Snow-dusted formations.

Ghost Ranch is known for human endeavors as well — including small but impressive paleontology and archeology museums. It also offers workshops on various topics and spiritual retreats, outdoor adventure activities and more.

Ghost Ranch accommodates legions of lodging guests for as short as a one-night stand to a week or more. Lodging is simple — and repeat visitors like it that way. Buildings resemble summer camp. No in-room phones, no daily housekeeping, vintage furniture and fixtures, limited WiFi  What Ghost Ranch is not known for is food. It is institutional — easy to make in vast quantities, bland and offered for just an hour per meal in serve-yourself food lines.  Take your tray, scrape your plates and your used items to the dish room — just like the Army, my husband noted. Adult beverages are not served, but BYO is fine — and that was fine with us.

FoMoInfo: 505-685-1000, Ext. 0.

Santa Fe’s Fabulous Hotel on The Plaza

History, tradition and art in one excellent hotel.

LaFonda-logoWhen  registration  opened he Society of American Travel Writers  (SATW) Western Chapter meeting in Santa Fe, my first choice of the three fine downtown  hotels was La Fonda. This historic hotel is awash with Southwestern history, a place of legend, a repository of art and a very fine place to stay — to say nothing of dining and indulging in fabled margaritas. Here are a few images:

A gracious welcome basket of fruit, cheese and a bottle of wine.
A gracious welcome basket of fruit, cheese and a bottle of wine.
Floral painting of wood is a Southwestern tradition.
Floral painting of wood is a Southwestern tradition.
Tilework in the shower, presumably from a recent room renovation.
Tilework in the shower, presumably from a recent room renovation.
A French creperie and patisserie, accessed both from the lobby and the street, is a contrast to the predominant Spanis style.
A French creperie and patisserie, accessed both from the lobby and the street, is a contrast to the predominant Spanish style.
A corner of a corridor on the main floor.
A corner of a corridor on the main floor.
La Plazuela, the lovely restaurant in what was once an open courtyard in the tradition of family compounds.
La Plazuela, the lovely restaurant in what was once an open courtyard in the tradition of family compounds.
Regulation fire extinguisher behind a painted glass door.
Regulation fire extinguisher behind a painted glass door.
Typical tin frames with little scraps of fabric, sketches or other mini-art show the room numbers.
Typical tin frames with little scraps of fabric, sketches or other mini-art show the room numbers.

We didn’t use the pool or the spa, but we were grateful for an attached parking garage, given the middle-of-town location.

La Fonda is at 100 East San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501;
800-523-5002 or 505-982-5511.

Mad, Magnificent MEOW WOLF

New walk-through, interactive Santa art installation in Santa Fe.

P1090242Everything about Meow Wolf is an experience like no other. The permanent  House of Eternal Return  is an immersive experience for visitors of all ages. For me, at any rate, it heightened the senses, stimulated the mind and confused the brain that struggled to bring order to creative chaos.

Featuring the wild creativity of more than 100 local artists, this 20,000-square-foot playground for all ages is science fiction and fantasy come to life.  It combines climbing features, art installations, structural masterworks, digital fabrication and more plus physical and digital interaction possibilities. So imaginative is the concept that Game of Thrones author George RR Martin, who lives in Santa Fe, bought an old bowling alley enabling the concept to become reality  or rather, alternative realities. It also includes maker rooms so that adults and children can unleash their own creativity.

P1090250

P1090253P1090252P1090265I hardly knew what to make of it all — what with the sensory overload, so I present “Inside Meow Wolf, the amusement park for people who want a weirder Disneyland” by Annalee Newitz, a writer far hipper and savvier than I — one who spent more time there I did.

Opened in March, Meow Wolf has been attracting roughly a thousand people a week. My visit was short, and these few modest images can do nothing but hint at the magic and the fantasy.  Meow Wolf is open daily except Tuesday. It is at1352 Rufina Circle, Santa Fe;  505-780-4458.

Highlights of the Eastern Four Corners

Southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico sites worth seeing.

WorldAtlas.com
WorldAtlas.com

My son has lived in Durango since he went there for college in 2001, and I’ve been there often. I’ve driven by the Chimney Rock ancient site (now a National Monument), and my husband and I hiked up on a splendid fall day some years ago and explored the site, I’ve driven past the signs on US Highway 160 pointing to Ignacio but never turned off the highway. I knew about the Aztec Ruins National Monument just outside of Farmington, New Mexico, but hadn’t been there, and I’d driven past Shiprock to the west. My husband and I recently went to the Four Corners area to see my son and also our friend, Mary, who had just moved to Bayfield from Seattle. We did several day trips, both to introduce Mary to her new turf and to revisit it ourselves. Some highlights of what I think of as the eastern half of the Four Corners — that is, southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico but not Arizona or Utah.

Downtown Bayfield

A cute little town that still maintains its rural flavor, though now there’s a brew pub and a couple of cute restaurants.

An appliance store with a sense-of-humor front yard display.
A main street Laundromat with a sense-of-humor front yard display.

Weminuche Wilderness

At 488,210 acres, this is the largest wilderness area in the state of Colorado. It is just 15 miles from Durango. The nearest access is from a campground just north of Vallecito Lake, a lake  surrounded by cottages, resorts, outfitters and other small commercial businesses. This area was devastated during the Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002. It also made headlines a couple of years ago when young Dylan Redwine disappeared while visiting his father a decade later; his remains were eventually found. The area is considerably more tranquil in early spring, when few visitors are around. We started up a trail from a seasonally closed campground and hiked a short distance up Vallecito Creek. Looks like a promising hike later in the year.

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Aspens tall and straight as lodgepoles.
Aspens tall and straight as lodgepoles.
Vallecito Creek.
Vallecito Creek.

Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum

Ignacio, the main town on the Southern Ute Reservation, has an obligatory casino that I’d never bother with and the excellent Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. The dramatic building encompasses includes many symbols of Native life in the Southwest, and the exhibition inside calmly and poignantly documents the history of the Four Corners’ people. No photos inside.

The main entrance recalls a teepee shape within the kiva-inspired circle.
The main entrance recalls a teepee shape within the kiva-inspired circle.
Soaring entrance lobby.
Soaring entrance lobby.

Continue reading Highlights of the Eastern Four Corners

The Ides of December Bring Snow to the Rockies

Big snows foretell great skiing over the holidays.

Nineteen inches of new snow at Winter Park make it the snowfall leader du jour.
Nineteen inches of new snow at Winter Park make it the snowfall leader du jour.

Here in Colorado, seven resorts welcomed more than a foot of new snow within 48 hours, with Winter Park leading the way with 19 inches of fresh powder. Monarch and Steamboat each measured 17 inches of new snow, Telluride reported 15 inches, Snowmass recorded fourteen inches, and Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and Copper Mountain each received about a foot. Elsewhere in Ski Country, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Ski Cooper each accumulated 11 inches of new snowfall, Aspen Highlands and Eldora welcomed 10 inches, Wolf Creek reported 9 inches, and Loveland received 8 inches. Arapahoe Basin and Ski Granby Ranch each reported 6 inches, while Crested Butte, Sunlight and Howelsen each measured 4 inches of new snow. The CSCUSA snow report is updated by the resorts themselves. Vail and Beaver Creek,  not CSCUSA members, also received 11 inches each. The Summit Country resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone were in the single digits, as did Loveland. Their snow reports can be accessed through Vail Resorts’ www.snow.com website.

In Utah, unsurprisingly, the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts of Alta and Snowbird received the most snow out of the most recent storm, 5 inches in 24 hours and 12 inches in 48 hours. And in Montana, the small ski area of Lost Trail Powder Mountain, in the southwestern part of the state near the Idaho line, snagged 15 inches of new snow. Wyoming’s Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee hit the snow jackpot two or three days ago, with just a few additional inches in the last 24 hours.

New Mexico’s reported snowfall totals were literally all over the map. Impressive 14-hour snow totals were logged at northern ski areas (8 inches at Angel Fire, 10 inches at Ski Santa Fe and 14 inches at Taos, plus 15 inches at the Enchanted Forest Cross-Country Center).  That, barring a warm spell, should set it up splendidly for the holidays.

Happy Birthday, Smokey Bear

New Mexico village boasts Smokey’s museum and park.

SmokeyBearOn August 9, 1944, the image of Smokey Bear was born, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council settled on him as a mascot for their fire-prevention efforts. Six years later, firefighters rescued a real orphaned baby bear that was clinging to a charred tree in a devastating blaze in New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest. The bear, which had badly burned paws, nicknamed Hotfoot and taken to Santa Fe for treatment. When his story became known — more slowly than today — he was rechristened Smokey Bear, personifying the character created during World War II. Smokey was then moved to the National Zoo Washington, DC.

After receiving millions of visitors a the zoo, Smokey died in 1976, and though another rescued cub took his place, he never found the fame of the original Smokey. After his death, the bear’s body was returned to its home in the Lincoln National Forest, where he was buried without fanfare. Meanwhile, the Smokey Bear Museum had opened in 1961 in the village of Capitan in south-central New Mexico. The museum, housed in a rustic one-room building, is filled with Smokey memorabilia, photos and posters that chronicle the history of Smokey Bear and his message to prevent forest fires, along with the inevitable gift shop chock full of Smokey souvenirs. By the way, it’s Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear. The definite article was added by songwriters who needed an extra syllable.

Smokey Bear Museum, near the state-run Smokey Bear Historical Park.
Smokey Bear Museum, near the state-run Smokey Bear Historical Park.

Where to find it? At 102 Smokey Bear Boulevard, on the north side of New Mexico Highway 380, just west of the intersection with State Highway 48, and just east of the Smokey Bear Historical Park, where the famous little cub’s grave is found. Operated by the state Forestry Department, it features a visitor center with exhibits about forest health, forest fires, wildland/urban interface issues, fire ecology, the history of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program and a theater showing a 10-minute film discussing today’s fire and forest health issues. An outdoor exhibit features six of the vegetative life zones found in New Mexico, an outdoor amphitheater that is used for educational programs for school groups and the final resting place of the “living symbol” Smokey Bear. Also located at the park is a playground, picnic area with group shelters and the original train depot for the Village of Capitan. Entry is a modest $2 for adults and $1 for children.

Unless you happen to be in Capitan, it’s too late now, but for the record, the grand opening and dedication of the renovated visitors center, guest lecturers and a cake honoring the recent 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and of course, the 70th birthday of Smokey Bear’s campaign. Also, celebrations today at the Smokey Bear Ranger Station in Ruidoso.