Rocky Mountain Highs

WALKING DISTANCE. OH, YEAH.

WALKING DISTANCE. OH, YEAH.

Day 9: Drove the Old Santa Fe Trail scenic byway from Santa Fe to Colorado Springs yesterday. It is indeed extremely scenic. You can drive 75 mph most of the way and make the trip in four to five hours. Back in the 1800s it took around a month to travel the same route in a covered wagon. I don’t like to complain but my back really hurt for the last couple of hours (too many days in the car), and I didn’t have to ride on a wooden seat in a dirty wagon and worry about justifiably disgruntled Apaches waiting over the hill. You just know there are still bones out there somewhere. This would be a great trip and history lesson for kids. Not that they’d care.

Less than 200 years later, I’m sitting at a hotel in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, where last night I was able to soak my aching back in a hot tub. Travel is so draining. Next door is the Emerald Fields Recreational Marijuana store. So that’s convenient. To think, Zebulon Pike himself may have sat on this very spot smoking something. Although it probably wasn’t as easy to get.

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Oh, Look! A Target Store

TARGET ADOBE STYLE.

            TARGET ADOBE STYLE.

Day 8: This Target store behind my hotel is the first I’ve seen in New Mexico. For some reason, they don’t have one on every corner here. Weird. I went in to pick up some sundries and guess what? Inside it’s just like every Target store everywhere. Found the aisle with Up & Up sinus medicine with no trouble. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

Other than that, my shopping day was kind of a bust. Got six postcards and sent them off to the grandkids, and I hope they all arrive on the same day or I will hear about it. I read on the Internet this morning that some couple in Illinois just had their 100th grandchild. I’ll bet they don’t bother to send postcards anymore.

Driving to Manitou Springs, Colorado today, about a five-hour trip. I hear there’s shopping there.

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Snake Charming

WALK, CLIMB, WALK, CLIMB.

WALK, CLIMB, WALK, CLIMB.

Day 7: I drove up into the canyons around Santa Fe yesterday, where you see the kind of scenery found on postcards. I wanted to see the Pueblo cliff dwellings in Bandelier National Park. Turns out you can’t drive your car into the park in the middle of the day, but a 25-minute shuttle ride will take you up there. I don’t care for buses, to say nothing of one straining to make it up and down a mountain. Took a Dramamine, got on the bus.

The shuttle drops you off at a visitor’s center, and from there you have to walk up about a mile to the site. The dwellings are caves cut out of the volcanic rock about a thousand years ago. You can climb up wooden ladders and look inside. I hate heights. I climbed the ladders. There weren’t a lot of other people up there, so it was a little lonely, but peaceful and quite moving.

I decided to take the nature trail coming back down, which is a little longer hike and there are numerous signs reminding you to “Stay On The Path.” Like I’d leave the path. Rounded a curve and startled a snake lying in my way. I think it was just a garter snake, as I have seen them in my basement. Normally I might have let out a little scream, but he slithered away pretty quickly. Also, I was under the influence of Dramamine.

Then I ran across this deer, who was chewing something and showed no interest in me at all. At least I think it was a deer. Why does it have such long ears?

DEER MINDING ITS OWN BUSINESS.

ANIMAL MINDING ITS OWN BUSINESS.

I was happy to see the visitors’ center again, although I’m really glad I went to see the cliff dwellings. Drove back down into Santa Fe, got a little lost. I fear I am slowly becoming the weary traveler. Perhaps a day of shopping will help?

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Artfelt

museum-of-international

Day 6: Okay, I know it’s really Day 7, but Day 6 wore me out. It was my favorite day so far though. Spent most of it on Museum Hill, where you will find the International Museum of Folk Art. Really you should just get in the car and go there right now. The Girard Collection is unbelievable; had to go through twice to absorb it all. The Between Two Worlds Collection will make you weep.

Walked across the plaza to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, where the current exhibit in the sculpture garden, “Courage & Compassion,” may be the closest I come to enlightenment on this trip. All of the pieces are made by Native American women artists. When you go into the museum, the first thing you notice is how much the Indians honored the mother and the sacredness of Mother Earth. Gotta love that.

I was going to go to the Botanical Gardens, but it was sprinkling by then, so I went to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art instead. Not many people left by that time. The man who took my money said the docent had left for the day so maybe he should show me around. Mike Gonzalez, retired volunteer, easy to look at (gray hair, neat beard). This seemed like a good idea to me. Of course, he was very knowledgeable about which pieces came from Mexico, Peru, Columbia, etc. – and that’s the important thing, right?

Came back to the hotel, spent a half hour in the hot tub. Thought about blogging, but then I started reading a book instead. (I brought along fifteen books and nine audiobooks on this trip, which made sense to me at the time.)

Went to get something out of the car this morning and saw a black dog playing in the yard adjacent to the hotel. I think this means I am supposed to go into the lands outside of Santa Fe. (Pretty sure Georgia O’Keeffe had a black dog.) So that is where I’m going.

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Santa Fe Holiday

WHO DOESN'T LOVE A GOOD MARIACHI BAND?

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD MARIACHI BAND?

I think I could have timed this better. Who knew Santa Fe was the hot place to be on Memorial Day weekend? The hotels and restaurants are full, the shops and galleries all doing a booming business. People can’t seem to get enough turquoise jewelry, Mexican skeleton art, and things woven by genuine Indians. There’s an art fair featuring local artists down at the Santa Fe Plaza, as well as an antique car rally, so it’s quite the colorful assembly of folks milling around.

Given the chaos, of course, I had to put my personal quest on hold. I walked the streets of historic Santa Fe today, listened to the Mariachi band in the Plaza, went to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and hunted for Western-style boots for the grandkids. You’d think there’d be a lot of kids’ boots for sale in New Mexico, but no. What you do see all over are Minnetonka Moccasins, which I can buy in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where I happen to live, for half the price.

I imagine things will slow down some by tomorrow. I’m going to take one more day of sight-seeing in downtown Santa Fe, then head for the quiet of the New Mexico countryside. There must be a lot of buttes and things out there, places where a body can sit and contemplate her insignificant spot in the universe. Georgia found enlightenment. Why not me?

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Animal Magnetism

WHY ME?

SPEAK! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SPEAK!

Day 5: I drove out to see the Taos Pueblo today, and while I was visiting the public restroom there, a little dog walked under the door and into my stall. I think it was a chihuahua. He just looked at me, turned around, and walked back out, but it was unnerving, you know? If the animal kingdom is trying to tell me something, they will have to find someone who can speak more clearly.

What else? While I was parked at the labyrinth yesterday, a bird shit on the inside of my car door. So there’s another thing that doesn’t happen every day, and it’s pretty hard to see how it could be interpreted as an auspicious sign. I know I’m not enlightened yet, but come on.

In less scintillating news…

Went to the Kit Carson house and museum in Taos, which was more interesting than I expected. Not many people there, mostly just me and the bikers. There’s a motorcycle rally north of Taos this weekend in Red River, but it seems they like to ride the loop through the mountains to Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Taos, so they are just everywhere. They aren’t especially scary bikers. More like Denis Hopper wannabes and about the same age. Plenty of black leather and big noise though.

This afternoon, I drove the seventy miles to Santa Fe without getting lost, oh yes. Pretty drive through the mountains with the river down below, and you could even see some people white-water rafting.

Being Memorial Day weekend, it’s crowded just about everywhere. Can anyone explain why Memorial Day is a week early this year? It is messing up my vacation. At 4:30 in the afternoon, there wasn’t an open stool at the bar in the St. Francis Hotel, where I am now ensconced. I don’t know if it’s even possible to find enlightenment without wine.

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So Close

ENLIGHTENMENT: IT'S IN THERE SOMEWHERE.

ENLIGHTENMENT: IT’S IN THERE SOMEWHERE.

Day 4: This is the labyrinth I walked this morning. If you’re unfamiliar with them, a labyrinth is not a maze but a tool used to enhance meditation. Or some people just walk them because they like to. This is one of six in the Taos area that the public can walk.

There was no one else around at the labyrinth this morning, so it was quiet and peaceful, and I was pretty close to the end, when a big dog jumped up on me from behind, knocking me off my path into the adjoining path. He was a friendly dog, but still. I never saw him coming. This is a metaphor for something, I thought. Right, but what?

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