Photos courtesy of Dr. John A. Cottrell, Jr., unless otherwise noted
Pull up a chair, my friend, and fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea. I’ve missed you and want to share not only what I’ve been up to for the last two weeks, but also some lessons I’ve learned while I was gone.
My husband and I just returned from visiting our daughter and her husband in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While there, we took a trip-within-a-trip, traveling south through the high desert from Santa Fe on I-25. For miles, we passed scraggly pinon and juniper scattered across the desert hills and mesas, dry arroyos, and occasional snake-like patterns of green where cottonwood trees lined the banks of the Rio Grande River, or emerald swatches where a farmer was irrigating. South of the town of Truth or Consequences, we exited west onto Route 152, winding our way up and through the pine forests and rugged volcanic rock of the Black Range and into Silver City, a quaint mining town in southern New Mexico.
We stayed two nights at the marvelous Bear Mountain Lodge, just outside of Silver City, where we were coddled and pampered by the hosts and entertained from their porch by more hummingbirds than I’ve ever seen at one time in my life. The lodge had been owned for ten years by the Nature Conservancy before its current owners, so everything about its design and layout and landscaping paid homage to the New Mexican terrain and scenery. Its current owners have brought the delightful addition of color and art into the interior and exterior decor.
After a good night’s sleep and delicious breakfast on the porch watching the birds, we headed north on Route 15, crossed the Continental Divide at about 7,100 feet, and stopped in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. We had eaten a delicious dinner the night before at the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House, the still-thriving center of this mining ghost town. Even in broad daylight, it was like being in an old western movie set. I expected any minute to hear angry shouts and gunshots and see cowboys stumbling out of the weathered old building, ready for a street brawl.
Driving ever higher up into the Gila National Forest, we absorbed the raw beauty of America’s first designated wilderness area and stepped back even further in time as we hiked the steep trail up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, home to several families of ancient Mogollon (pronounced mo-go-YON) natives in the last few decades of the 13th century. The intricacy and detail of the carvings and structures inside these caves was made even more fascinating by the mystery surrounding the lives of these ancient people and why they only lived here for about 30 years before disappearing. There presence was so palpable, I was tempted to reach up to the black soot on the cave ceilings to see if they were still warm from the cooking fires.
After we got back to Santa Fe, we immersed ourselves in the laid-back flavor of that wonderful town, entertaining friends, enjoying our son-in-law’s grilled masterpieces, hanging out to rest and read while they were at work, and just in general, enjoying our time together. One afternoon, My daughter and I made peach jam from fruit off of their backyard tree, stirring forever before it got thick in Santa Fe’s high altitude (about 7200 feet). We happily remembered making applesauce and canning peaches together at home in Virginia when she was younger.
Evenings were surprisingly cool, and often we were reaching for a jacket or sweater. The lack of humidity was a delightful reprieve from the oppressive, damp heat we left behind in Virginia.
A trip to the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market was a highlight of the trip and something I try to do whenever I go. The colors, textures, sights, and smells of that bustling market are just some of the reasons of why visiting Santa Fe is such a treat.
So what did I learn while I was gone? For that, I’ll send you to another post: “10 Ways To Make Your Vacations More Soul-Nourishing.” I hope you’ll be encouraged and inspired by my hard-won wisdom.
To read other Heartspoken posts about our national parks during this 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park System, CLICK HERE.