My first visit to New Mexico was brief, less than 24 hours. I came down from Colorado on the dark side of the mountains one night and was glad to arrive (safely) at the hotel in Santa Fe. Not until morning did I try to find Fenn’s place. I had the address. I had GPS. I had an invitation. But. The car was leading me out of town, back into the mountains. The streets were one way this way and that. And narrow. No view. Claustrophobic.
I’d allowed plenty of time but it was fading fast. Aha, I thought. I’ll go to the bookstore. They must know where Forrest lives. When I asked the nice guy behind the counter in Collected Works, he said, “Why don’t you just call him? He’s in the phonebook.” I said just point me in the right direction. I made it on time and there he was, just like he says in the book. to show you care.
I had to head home then, and didn’t explore the mountains north of Santa Fe, or even Santa Fe, for that matter. And between you and me, I was relieved to be out in the open sky again. I’m not a desert person. I don’t get it. Give me green; changing seasons; trees.
Still, when the approval/opportunity came up to return for one of Forrest’s book signings, I jumped at it. Leaving in the midst of harvest? Well, I’d pay the piper later. Short notice, but what did I need to pack, really? Camera, phone, the book to be signed. Good to go.
About halfway to Santa Fe, the climate changes, the trees disappear, the dirt turns red. Very red, and it was flying where the farmers worked it. And of course, it was hot when I left and got hotter the further west I went.
First tourist stop? The Blue Hole I’d read about. It would make living in the desert bearable. Almost. If I scuba dived.
Another thing that makes it bearable, is altitude. (It turns out my car’s GPS does have an altimeter, after all. Wish I’d noticed it on my last trip to the Rocky Mountains, where I was gauging altitude by how short of breath I was.) By the time I hit 6,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe, in other words, it was a bit cooler and a lot livelier. So. I had two or three days, depending on an incomplete arrangement, to explore the land of enchantment.
First up, the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway loop around the mountains above Taos. It was by (fortunate) chance that I chose to drive the loop clockwise that Sunday, since there was some sort of mountain bike event and dozens of bikers were taking it counter-clockwise. Nine or ten thousand feet above sea level – I don’t know how they do it. (A couple of them looked like they were wondering if they could do it.) My car didn’t care for the altitude, either. The capless fuel flap didn’t want to give. Thank you, kind station attendant!
And then I thought I’d stop at the Rio Grande Visitor Center on my way back to Santa Fe, but I made a wrong turn and ended up here.
Seriously. Bears, again?
Actually, it wasn’t bears that scared me away.
I stuck to Santa Fe proper on Monday and saw the most amazing “painting” made of found things (think Forrest’s Holiday Ornament Contest) in the New Mexico Museum of Art. Pansy Stockton (1895 – 1972) used things like bark, moss, twigs, and so forth and created beautiful images that from a distance looked finely painted. The one on display was of a waterfall, and the milkweed silk gleamed perfectly as falling water.
As I played tourist, I scouted for parking for the evening event at La Fonda, remembering the difficulty I’d had on my first visit to Santa Fe.
Monday evening was the book signing and the chance to meet some fellow treasure seekers, one of whom brought a box of fabulous French pastries to share!
Arrangements fell into place for Tuesday evening, so I had the day to explore more of the mountains north of Santa Fe.
In particular, the Ski Basin and the Audubon park.
And then, when it was time to head home, I saw the blaze.