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Off-trail

Days 11-14: A Whirlwind Tour of New Mexico

Day 11: Santa Fe

This was a work day. After the hotel breakfast, we stayed in the hotel until 4. Mama was dealing with travel agent stuff and I was working on blog stuff and getting my clothes washed.

When we left, we made two stops at Walmart and REI, for resupply and gear replacement. Then, we immediately went to Olive Garden for dinner, then onto a labyrinth of a Courtyard hotel in Santa Fe.

We were the most untouristy all day, but it was nice to get in before dark.

Day 12: Taos Ski Valley

We really picked up the pace on being touristy, and put in a huge day.

After checking out of the hotel, we drove into Old Town Santa Fe to look inside the Loretto Chapel, the Oldest House, and the Oldest Church.

After a couple of hours of walking around there, we drove to 10000 Waves, an expensive spa in the style of a Japanese onsen and looked around inside. We didn’t have reservations for a soak or a massage, but they didn’t seem to mind us just wandering around the gardens without any introduction or warning.

Then we went around to see the Opera House, but it was blocked, so we couldn’t get close. Then, we began our drive to Taos.

Along the way, we turned off onto the High Road to Taos. We had no intention of following it all the way there because it went right through the wildfire zone, but we did Tahir take it as far as Rancho de Chimayo, where we stopped for lunch. It was a very nice, pleasant restaurant with some excellent cocktails. Mama’s quesadilla came with so many pieces she had to carry half of it out.

Further up the highway, we turned to follow the Rio Grande Gorge where all the rafters and kayakers were until we had to climb up onto the West Rim. A few miles later, we pulled into a rest area next to the immense gorge bridge. As nice as the views were of and from the bridge, the highlight of the stop was a bighorn sheep that just casually wandered around the rest area, mostly unbothered by the hordes of tourists milling around it.

Right about then, we decided to spend the night in Taos Ski Valley, as, due to the fires and forest closures, a hotel there was offering rock bottom prices on condos. So we booked it and headed straight up the Hondo River Canyon to the valley and Alpine Lodge or something. We checked into our little condo above the ski shop with a Murphy bed and a ladder to a loft above the bathroom with two more beds, then I went over to the Blake’s restaurant for crudite and cider.

Mama met up with me just as I was finishing, and soon after we returned to the room, I went over to the hotel’s spa area to soak in the hot tub and then spend an hour or so in the sauna. I got back to the room well after 11 and climbed up to the loft to sleep.

Day 13: Ghost Ranch

Another touristy day, though maybe somewhat less so. I ate a couple of leftover quesadilla slices and drank a Coke for breakfast (before and after taking an extra hour nap). Meanwhile, in the hour before checkout time, I packed up all the food I bought in the back of the car.

When we left, we headed down into Taos to check out all the artists in the visitor center. Since the Taos Pueblo is closed, the artists bring their wares down to the visitor center each day. Some were very talented. Some seemed like they just put in a lot of time. But all we bought was some fresh-baked bread and fruit pies.

On the way out of town, we stopped at the San Francisco de Asis Church, a beautiful adobe building some 400 years old. Then, we set out on the highway towards Ghost Ranch. On a whim, we swung by Black Mesa Winery and Cidery because I had sampled one of their offerings with dinner the previous night and wanted to try the full flight. Only one was better than the one I had already had. But it was worth it to sit in their garden with the hummingbirds and play a few rounds of hako.

Next stop on the route to Ghost Ranch was Socorro’s Restaurant in EspaƱola. The enchiladas there were better than the quesadilla I had for breakfast, but the service was kind of slow. Probably because it was one of the more popular family-owned cafes in the area. And that was dinner.

Finally, up through the red rocks we rode to the ranch, arriving and getting checked in before 6. We watched a couple of history movies before moving into our room, which was boiling hot, smelled funny, and had no air conditioner. Later, housekeeping brought us a box fan and we went out to watch the sunset on the mesa and walk the labyrinth in the rock garden.

Once the sun set, we visited the 24h library where I read from a book plucked from the shelf. It was a fully stocked library comparable to any public library, except that you didn’t need a library card–you just signed the card from the back of the book and deposited it at the door.

Once it was too dark to easily see how to get back to the room without a flashlight, we went back and went to sleep without any further ado.

Day 14: Chama

This time we worked hard to be up and out by sunrise. We wanted to see the sunlight paint Chimney Rock. It was cold enough out to require a jacket at that hour. I walked over the near mesa trying to find a good angle for photographing the Chimney Rock mesa, but the best shots would have been from (closed) national forest land. The lighting never got particularly spectacular, so I went back to the room to chill for an hour before breakfast.

Breakfast was served in a camp style dining hall. A good variety of breakfasty options served in the institutional fashion.

I took some time in the room getting ready for the day, and then we were packed up and out by 10, check out time. We didn’t leave though. We spent the next hour touring the on-site museums of anthropology and paleontology, both fields for which Ghost Ranch has active dig sites.

Then, we joined the history tour leaving from the welcome center. A very good storyteller explained the history of the property for the last thousand years. We had heard some of the stories, but learned a lot of new ones.

After the tour, we did leave. We drove straight to Chama, only an hour away. There isn’t much in Chama with the railroad closed, but we did drop by the station to get an idea what we were missing.

Then, we went to the Boxcar Cafe across the street for lunch. We split a Chicken Cobb Salad and then sat around for half an hour just messing with photos because our room wasn’t ready until 3. We stopped in at a fudge shop where I got a quarter pound of chocolate walnut fudge and a root beer for the following morning. We still got to the motel before 3, but had no trouble checking in.

After a few hours in the room, with Mama napping and me working on this post among other things, we went out again to the Local, a bar and pizzeria that made some pretty incredible pizzas. We weren’t even there an hour because they had the fastest service we’ve had in New Mexico. Our pizza was done in maybe fifteen minutes and took only twenty more to eat. And it was very good!

From there, we had two more stops: first, a grocery store, primarily to get a razor for my last shave, but we discovered they had some very nice hiking shirts at a very low price, so we left with a few more things than expected. Second, the gas station for an expensive fill-up.

Then, it was back to the motel to catch up on my seasonals with my friend Sam in Vancouver. And then to sleep to prepare for a big day hiking, hopefully recovered enough to get good mileage after the four-day break.

And this day actually counted as a hiking day, since I probably walked a mile over the mesa looking for a good sunrise photo! Real hiking post tomorrow though.

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