An adventurers spirit, restless within my soul, endlessly yearns for distant horizons and places unknown. I’ve followed that longing to many places and though I’ve loved them all, there are few that I could not love for the moment then move on. But, some will not be sated and longing brings me back again…and again. One such place is New Mexico.
You wouldn’t think that it would suit me, being one who loves mountains, a lush green earth and towering trees. But, I buried a piece of my heart in its terracotta sand. Maybe it’s the era I grew up in. I grew up in the days of Laramie, Bonanza, Daniel Boone, High Chaparral and The Lone Ranger. We played cops & robbers and cowboys & Indians with pearl handled cap gun six shooters.
The first time I traveled that highway, I sat in awe as the world I’d known, vanished in it’s alien landscape. Leaving the plains of Oklahoma in the rearview mirror, we traveled west into the land of my childhood dreams.
Lincoln NM, a tiny town much preserved as it was during the Lincoln County wars. The courthouse where William Bonney aka Billy the Kid, was jail and he infamously killed deputy Bell on the stairwell and sheriff Ollinger from the window, stands as if it were frozen in time. I have climbed those stairs and viewed the bullet hole, still in the wall at the foot of them and peered from the window where he took Ollinger down. Markers are set upon the ground outside where their bodies fell.
I see “Young Guns” in my head and hear the words, “I’ll make you famous”. Lincoln is one of my favorite all time places. You can read about it and see the pictures in my post “Chasing Billy“.
When chasing Billy, don’t forget Fort Sumner where Billy was buried….or was he?
Nearby, at Capitan NM, you can visit Smokey The Bear park and where the real Smokey is buried. You can read about Smokey and see photos, in my post, Smokey The Bear.
Santa Fe New Mexico
San Miguel Mission, also known as San Miguel Chapel, is an Adobe structure in Santa Fe NM. It was built between approximately 1610 and 1626 and is the oldest known church in the continental United States.
The Loretto Chapel opened in 1878 along the old Santa Fe trail. Loretto Chapel is best known for its “miraculous” spiral staircase, which rises 20 feet to the choir loft while making two full turns, all without the support of a newel or central pole. The staircase is built mostly out of wood and is held together by wooden pegs and glue rather than nails or other hardware.
According to the version of events passed down by the Sisters of Loretto, multiple builders were consulted but were not able to find a workable solution due to the confined quarters. In response the nuns prayed for nine straight days to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the last day of the novena, a mysterious stranger appeared and offered to build the staircase. He worked in seclusion using only a few simple hand tools and disappeared afterwards without the Sisters learning his identity.
While in Santa Fe, have lunch on an adobe rooftop overlooking the city and bustling streets below, visit Estella Del Norte Vineyard or Black Mesa winery and sample the local wines. Stop along your way at a roadside vendor for fresh, hot, Indian Frybread, made before your eyes and let it melt in your mouth. Make sure not to miss Camel Rock and a beautiful Santa Fe sunset over the desert.
Funny story: we purchased a bottle of wine from both Estella Del Norte and Black mesa. Having done so, we traveled everywhere with them, snapping photos with the wine bottles! We have one sitting on a corner in Winslow Arizona, at the Grand Canyon, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, at the Texas State border sign, Colorado, at Four Corners, all the way back to Oklahoma. You can see a couple of these photos in this post.
A natural structure that resembles a camel laying in the desert.
Santa Fe Sunset
We raced to a deserted space and sat upon a hill with a bottle of wine to watch the sunset.
Albuquerque New Mexico
If ever a place had a flavor, the flavor of New Mexico is Hatch Green Chili and I fell in love with Green Chili Stew. I ate it at every stop I could find it! Each location has a slightly different spin on it from beef to pork, from stew with vegetables to chili consistency with beans and served with tortillas, fry bread (my favorite) or sopapillias. Two of my favorite places where I stop everytime I travel through is Monica’s El Portal and Abulita’s New Mexican Kitchen.
Petroglyph National Monument stretches 17 miles along Albuquerque, New Mexico’s West Mesa, a volcanic basalt escarpment that dominates the city’s western horizon. We entered through Boca Negra Canyon. We walked and climbed for silent miles, examining the carvings of the past, etched within the volcanic stones. An odd sense of awe settled over us, touching the places where ancient hands had recorded their message. Many, seemed to see a distant future, celestial and otherworldly.
Archaeologists can date some carvings, found primarily in the Boca Negra Canyon area, as far back as 3000 years ago. The monument protects a variety of cultural and natural resources including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites and an estimated 24,000 images carved by ancestors of the Pueblo indians and early Spanish settlers.
Santuario de Chimayo mission healing dirt
built in 1816 – Chimayo, NM
El Santuario de Chimayó is a Roman Catholic church in Chimayó, New Mexico. (Santuario is Spanish for “sanctuary”.) This shrine, a National Historic Landmark, is famous for the story of its founding and as a contemporary pilgrimage site.
There are many legends surrounding the mission style church including that it’s dirt can heal many infirmities. In one room, there’s a pit in the dirt floor with shovels where patrons may take the dirt with them. The walls are lined with walkers, casts, braces and canes, left there by those who were healed.
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
For thousands of years, groups of nomadic people used the caves of the Gila River as temporary shelter. In the late 1200’s, people of the Mogollon Culture decided it would be a good place to call home. They built rooms, crafted pottery and raised children in the cliff dwellings for about twenty years. Then the Mogollon moved on, leaving the walls for us as a glimpse into the past.
WEAR YOUR SENSIBLE SHOES!!! This is a journey back in time so be prepared for narrow wooden bridges, climbing narrow, steep passages and plenty of hiking. It’s honestly not an overly difficult journey but we were hiking to a village that was carved out and built into the center of a high cliff wall.
People lived an died here, in this fortified village. Talk about home security! Ropes and ladders that could be pulled in, along with copious amounts of climbing, were the only means of coming or going, thwarting any siege. Along the canyons upper ridge are outlooks. If enemies were spotted, they could signal one another down the line, until reaching the village where they could quickly pull up the ladders, rendering the village virtually unreachable. A difficult life, I would assume and yet brilliant in its strategic security, ingenuity and construction. As hot as the days and cold as the nights may be, the buildings themselves were naturally insulated for comfort. We climbed a ladder down into one of the rooms and took comfort from the heat of the day within its walls.
One of the areas primary food sources, we plucked from the trees once we reached the upper ridge again…..pine nuts.
Carlsbad National park is a specticle of beauty and wonder from it’s flowering cactus, high ancient sea ledges, rocky canyons, Mesa’s and wild mustang’s. Below the surface, are more than 119 caves that were formed by sulphuric aric dissolving limestone to create caverns.
Roswell New Mexico
Honestly, who could resist? Home to the site of an alleged 1947 UFO crash and the International UFO Museum and Research Center, the city of Roswell makes great adventure and full on alien fun. Bring your tin foil hats to explore Roswell.
Although is may seem as though I’ve left no stone unturned, I’m certain I have….as certain as I am that my heart shall long to return again and again, explore it’s many treasures and revisit that piece of me I’ve left there.
Four corners. Standing at the intersection of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
The oft quoted phrase by John Babsone Lane Soule in an 1851 editorial in the Terre Haute Express, “Go West young man”, rings in my ears and from my lips. For all the adventurers, nomads and wondering souls, I shout, Go West!
O fair new mexico
“Days that are full of heart-dreams, nights when the moon hangs low;Beaming its benediction, o’er Nuevo México. Land with its bright mañana, coming through weal and woe; State of our esperanza, is Nuevo México.”