Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spring in the Southwest, Part 2

Abiquiu Lake in northern New Mexico

In the last post, Southwest Part 1, we had gone to Chaco Canyon for the day and then stayed overnight in Bloomfield. This post will begin with a rather weak continental breakfast at Motel 8 Bloomfield as we head back to Santa Fe. 

Georgia O’Keeffe House

At Georgia O'Keeffe's House we had time for coffee and a sweet at the Abiquiu Inn.

The trip back to Santa Fe was highlighted by a tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s House in Abiquiu (ab-i-cue), NM. American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. Married to New York photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Ms O’Keeffe (as our guide Frank called her) was good friends with writer D H Lawrence, and photographers Paul Strand, Edward Stiechen, and Ansel Adams. She often stayed in Taos with socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan and hobnobbed with the rich, famous, and eccentric. O’Keeffe holds the record for the highest price paid for a painting by a woman—$44.4 million for her 1932 painting Jimson Weed/White Flower #1.

The house on the left, the studio on the right, and part of the garden in the middle.

One of our tour companions was dressed for the occasion--much like what O'Keeffe herself would have worn..

Ms O’Keeffe bought the 5000 square foot Spanish-Colonial-style Abiquiu house in 1945 and lived there winter and spring until just a couple of years before her death in 1986. She spent summer and fall at her house at Ghost Ranch in the hills above Abiquiu. The Georgia O’Keeffe house is located near the start of the Old Spanish Trail to southern California and the original settlers of Abiquiu were Native Americans from Mesa Verde. The hour tour was a mix of art, history, biography, and architecture tour. The house interior is rich in character and architecture, while the exterior (the only part visitors can photograph) is rather ordinary for the region. Our guide explained very well why the tour doesn’t allow photography in the interior—the house is small and filled with treasures and it would be easy to have an accident while trying for just the right photo. Some parts of the house date back to the 1730s. 
Frank, our tour guide

Iconic New Mexican house detail

After visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe a couple of times, it was a treat to get see where Ms O’Keeffe lived and worked. On our next trip we’ll plan to tour Ghost Ranch and see where she was inspired to paint her landscapes.

The only photo we were allowed to take in the house was this view from her main studio.

The Turquoise Road to Santa Fe

Mail boxes and sign in Madrid.

Because Alaska Air had cancelled our flight and rebooked us later, we didn’t have time the first day to take the Old Road to Santa Fe from Albuquerque, called the Turquoise Trail because of the special Cerrillos turquoise found only in the region. So, after returning from Chaco Canyon we took part of a day to explore a bit of the Old Road, the Turquoise Trail, only this time from Santa Fe towards Albuquerque. Los Cerrillos was the first village we came to and it was a bust. 
Los Cerrillos only restaurant.

A tree sculpture at the church in Cerrillos.

Anne buying turquoise in Cerrillos.

There was just an interesting church, a restaurant with a rude manager (coffee and a sweet wouldn’t get us toilet privileges, those came only with a full meal), and a trading post where Anne did find some nice Cerrillos turquoise jewelry at decent prices. 

Main street Madrid.

Madrid (pronounced mad’-rid) was the next village and it was full of interesting shops (art, jewelry, souvenirs). After browsing the main street we settled into Java Junction for a latte and a brownie. At least the Turquoise Trail was more interesting than the freeway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and we’d take it again.
Typical Madrid shop.

Nice coffee stop in Madrid.

Wildhood Farms

The view along the High Road to Taos.

This church in Chimayo on the High Rad is a major tourist and pilgrim draw.

The Sanctuary has lovely buildings, sculptures, and carvings.

A shrine for offerings. The Sanctuary is noted for its history of miracles.

After eight days in Santa Fe (with a couple of days out for our visit to Chaco Canyon) we were ready to move on to Taos for a couple of special visits. We traveled the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos with a special stop near Truchas to visit the farm of Zach and Jasmine Cecelic and two year old Zea). 

Truchas at 8000 feet has lovely views of the Taos mountain scenery.

The homemade geodesic dome is home to Zach, Jas, and Zea.

The farm, which they are building from scratch, is “beyond organic” bringing back “ancient agricultural methods, developed by indigenous people.” Jas is our adopted niece—I worked at summer debate camp with her parents and we watched her grow into a fine young lady—who we have been pleased to keep in our lives. 

Cooking in the outside kitchen is pleasant in the typically nice weather, but can be a chore with 3' of winter snow.

Zach and Jas show us the foundation of the new house--hopefully to be done by fall.

Their farm lifestyle is rustic with the main building currently a home built geodesic dome, but the foundation of a cob house is already laid. It was a great adventure for us to see the farm and to be able to put a picture to their future plans. Check out the farm’s website at 
Zea warmed up nicely to Auntie Anne and Uncle Bob.

A Private Photo Tour of Taos Area

The first stop on my guided photo tour of the Taos area.

Geraint Smith testing out the lighting at San Francisco de Asia church.

  The highlight of the whole trip for me was our full day in Taos. I had signed up for a full day (eight to five) photo tour of Taos with Geraint Smith, professional photographer,  as  guide. The one-on-one tour with instruction was not cheap, but at the end of the day it was worth every penny. Geraint, born and raised in South Wales and Yorkshire, and I had much in common and were philosophically very compatible. Geraint took me to local photo spots, some new to me, and gave instruction through suggestion and questions (ie., Have you considered changing ISO? or Is there something you can do with that shadow?). 
One of my best shots at the Ranchos de Taos church.

While the church is an iconic image, some of the best photos are of the details like reflections and shadows.

I wouldn't have noticed the shadow of this cross without Geraint's help. We both then noticed the juxtaposition of the shadow cross and the handicapped parking sign. 

I love photographing this church--so many angles and textures.

Our first stop was the San Fransisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos. This much photographed church was a favorite of Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. I’ve been there several times, but Geraint showed me angles and subjects I’d never noticed before. Morning light was lovely and we returned in the afternoon for clouds and different light. 

Next was a stop at Pilar for a cup of coffee and some tourist photos before driving down the Rio Grande Gorge to Lower Taos Canyon for water photos. It was here I almost ruined the day by pulling a thigh muscle by misstepping off a boulder—I limped around for a week afterwards. While we were exploring moving water photo opportunities, we got some great shots of a coyote protecting a den across the river. 

Besides the coyote we photographed three herds of big horn sheep along the walls of the gorge. 

Meadow lark at Overland Farmhouse.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos.

Geraint also took me to a spot to get old car and mountain photos as well as visiting the historic Mable Dodge Luhan House before going back to the Taos de Asis church and ending up at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. I quizzed Geraint incessantly about the processes he uses as a professional and took notes the whole trip. Geraint’s website, has links to his tours and book (Rio Grande del Norte which I highly recommend).
From our afternoon return visit to the Ranchos de Taos church.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos.

Anne stayed in Taos for the day and had lunch with our good friends, Bill and Cat Bennett, parents of Jasmine. It was a grand day for both of us.

     As I've said in previous posts, I feel a "cultural affinity" for the American southwest. And just like we keep returning to Scotland year after year, the Four corners states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico (along with Nevada) are always on our list to visit. In fact, I'm already planning next year's trip to visit Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona.
Flying into Portland after a wonderful ten day trip.

Next: Notes from Scotland (our 32nd trip since 2000)

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring in the Southwest, Part 1

A City Different

Our spring trip to the Southwest had much in common with previous trips and much that was different. This and the next post will highlight some of the sames and differences. 
I’ll start with the City Different, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 
Landing in Albuquerque, NM.

We flew into Albuquerque on a late flight from Portland (our earlier flight had been cancelled), picked up our rental Nissan Sentra, and drove to Santa Fe and our 8-day digs at the Santa Fe Worldmark (timeshare). 
Ou timeshare unit at Worldmark Santa Fe.

Our one bedroom unit near the city center made a sweet base for exploring the Santa Fe area. For three years starting in the early 90s I taught a debate summer camp for students from across the country at the College of Santa Fe (now an art school) and we fell in love with the southwest (other years I taught in Albuquerque, Durango, and Flagstaff). 
Santa Fe

Santa Fe (population 68,000, elevation 7,000’) was founded in 1610 as a province of New Spain and was originally (or oringely) settled by the Tanoan people around the Santa Fe River—at the time it had year-round flow, but now it has water only seasonally. Santa Fe became a part of US when New Mexico was admitted to the Union in 1912, with Santa Fe as the capital. 
The oldest church in the US.

The oldest house in the US (exterior and interior).

The moniker “A City Different” probably comes from its tradition began in 1912 of only allowing Spanish-Pueblo Revival building-style. These building restrictions (reinforced in 1930 and 1957) now including Territorial-style are responsible for the adobe look of the city. 
Madrid (mad-rid) between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on the turquoise trail.

Church in Los Cerritos on the turquoise Trail.

Anne buying turquoise at the Los Cerritos trading Post.

With 300 days of sun a year, Santa Fe has developed a significant art and literature culture. Canyon road has the city’s largest concentration of galleries; while Museum Hill is the focal point for museums with five major museums in one area. But you can find museums throughout the city and surrounding area. 
Canyon Road art in Santa Fe.

Our adopted niece Jas and her daughter Zea visited us in Santa Fe. They live on an organic farm out of Truchas.

Literary arts are foundation to Santa Fe culture, as well. D.H. Lawrence, Tony Hillerman, and Douglas Adams are but a few of the authors to call Santa Fe home, at least for part of the year. There is also a tremendous foody culture in the city, with fine dining restaurants located on almost every corner. 
Love Santa Fe.

Santa Fe has everything we like in a city—food, culture, golf, friendly people, lovely weather. 

The Center of the Ancient World
Loading up the car before dawn to drive to Chaco Canyon.

Santa may be a City Different, but Chaco Canyon is called the Center of the Ancient World. With its ten major Pueblo Great Houses and over 10,000 years of human history, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is one of America’s great treasures. The park has been listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, designated an International Dark Sky Park, and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1987). The park is visited by about 40,000 visitors a year—it would be more but at three hours from either Albuquerque or Santa Fe with the closest decent lodging an hour and a half away in Bloomfield, and being 21 miles off the major highway (US 550) with 16 miles of the road not paved and not passable in all conditions, the site is fairly isolated.

Scenery on the way to Chaco Canyon.

Fajada Butte is famous for its special astronomical petroglyphs.
The park at 6,800’ elevation has no food available, but it does have a seven-mile paved loop road with access to many of the major Pueblos and miles of hiking trail to other Pueblos and sites. The feature attractions at Chaco Canyon are the Ancestral-Puebloan (Anasazi) building sites called Great Houses or Pueblos. These massive multi-story Great Houses are fascinating—oriented to solar, lunar, and cardinal directions, complex architecture using masonry techniques unique to their time—and are the origins of several Navajo clans and ceremonies. These structures, some containing as many as 600 rooms, were built and used between 850 and 1250 AD and are still recognized as an important step in the spiritual migration of the Ancestral-Puebloan people.
Hungo Pavings Great House was the first Pueblo we visited in the canyon.

Pueblo Bonito is the largest of the structures in the canyon and at one time contained over 600 rooms.

We walked a short 1/2 mile trail between Bonito and Chetro Katl great House.

One of the big mysteries of Chaco Canyon is why the site and the Great Houses were abandoned? Nobody knows for sure, but several ideas may be relevant. With the development of other cultural centers (Mesa Vere, at Aztec, and Chuska mountains) people may have shifted away from Chacoan ways. 
Casa Rinconada Great Kiva was the largest of more than 100 kivas in the canyon. The kivas are ceremonial gathering rooms.

Chaco Canyon had always been an ecologically iffy location, but climate change may have made it an impossible location. Natural migration of peoples seeking better conditions may have played a part in Chaco’s demise, as well.
The architecture throughout Chaco Canyon is interesting.

Pueblo del Arroyo.

More view of Pueblo Bonito.

Mesa Verde is visited by almost three-quarters of a million visitors a year whereas Chaco Canyon gets only 40,000. Both are worth our time to explore. Certainly, Chaco Canyon is much more difficult to visit, but the experience is not to be missed. Chaco Canyon, especially in the spring and fall, is magical.
We found some good home-style cooking at The Roadhouse in Bloomfield, NM, an hour and a half from the canyon.

Next: Spring in the Southwest, Part 2 (Duh!)