We visited New Mexico as a part of a bigger trip that also comprised Arizona and Southern California (blog post coming eventually). We entered the state in its southwestern quadrant and moved up via I-25, from Las Cruces to Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the north, and exited west on I-40 around Gallup. The account of our journey is mostly kept in that chronological order.
The Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture appears strategically placed on the outskirts of Las Cruces to not only arouse interest to the locale in the passing tourists and road warriors, but also serve as a rest area perfectly suited for appreciation of the scenery that quickly emerges on the horizon.
Some of the early sights we caught in Las Cruces were those of local adobe architecture. This kind of imagery sets a very appropriate tone for someone starting to explore the state of New Mexico.
Hispanic churches being abundant in the South, a similar thing can be said about the Basilica of San Albino, although basilicas are far from the only church format employed in local construction.
Located in fair proximity to the previous destination, albeit in a much sketchier neighborhood, the Art Obscura gallery was, sadly, closed on the day of our arrival.
A curious automotive
junkyard display was spotted close at hand, partially redeeming this particular ride.
Our last stop in urban Las Cruces, the Zuhl Museum boasts an impressive geological collection. Granted, such expositions can be quite dull for science-indifferent people, but pondering over the idea of prehistoric trees and creatures being petrified into most fascinating fossils over the course of tens of thousands of millenia should shake up even the most unscientific mind.
On our way to the state-famous White Sands park near Alamogordo, we made a stop in another lovely place by the name of Dripping Springs Natural Area.
Remarkable country, very peaceful and charming.
I am convinced that the White Sands National Monument fully deserves its title designation (that is, “monument” as opposed to “park”) because the vistas one finds in this land are out of this planet, which I also realize would hardly register in amateur photographs.
It was a fantastic experience to kick off our shoes and feel the soothing cool of the fine powder with our extremities, to scale those big rippled slopes and go back down on our bottoms. Unforgettable.
If not for the long ride ahead of us that evening (we wanted to make it to Santa Fe by nightfall), I am sure we would have eagerly extended the family fun by a few more hours. Places like this should not be crossed off bucket lists the first time around.
The following morning began with an overview of a few unimpressive sights, one being the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (I admit my bias here due to the lack of interest to the subject)
and the other the State Capitol. I am fairly certain this is the worst one we have seen to date.
Many random city corners, in contrast, look rather neat.
Initially we planned to finish off Santa Fe before heading out to Taos and Bandelier National Monument, but logistically it suddenly made more sense to deal with those two first and then return to Santa Fe for the remainder of our itinerary.
Before leaving the city too far behind, we passed by the Camel Rock Monument, whose name I see little need to explain.
It would have been silly not to check out the majestic Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the Taos’s environs. Both the bridge and the overlook of the canyon are breathtaking.
At the western end of the bridge there is a small improvised market showcasing the produce of local craftsmanship, and a lot of inquisitive tourists (of various convictions, as the picture suggests) poking about the site.
The short stretch of the road that took us from the Gorge Bridge to Taos Pueblo packs an extraordinary amount of eye-catching natural and man-made works alike.
As if knowingly attempting to trample our beauty-inspired spirits, some (un)official barred our entry to Taos Pueblo on account of an alleged Indian holiday, celebration of which was nowhere in sight. Angry but somewhat relieved that there was another pueblo settlement nearby, we proceeded towards Ohkay Owingeh, whose survived adobe architecture is, nonetheless, very dissimilar to that of Taos Pueblo.
Architecture aside, the main drawback of Ohkay Owingeh, or San Juan Pueblo as it used to be known, is that it is rather small in size and is pierced through by a few state roads. Still, we were content with the handful of pretty nooks that turned up in that community.
Our next order of business was the Bandelier National Monument, for which we started out expeditiously. The road, once again, abounded with spectacular views.
Bandelier National Monument is a large park with a vast network of trails throughout. We were in the mood for some hiking, so we started our excursion of the park with one-and-a-half-mile-long Falls Trail.
Although the views along the path of the trail are also fair, the true reward for walking its full length awaits at the finish. (Sadly, the photographs do not convey the greatness of the space that consumes one at the brink of the opening gorge.
Despite our little travelers wanting to call it a day, we were not quite done with the park, since we had not examined, perhaps, its main attraction—the ancient adobe dwellings and pueblo sites.
Not sure what kind of domestic demands the original dwellers had, but I would not exactly call these cavities spacious. I also bet that hauling furniture to the top floors by means of flimsy viga sticks was an onerous task :)
We made it to back to Santa Fe by the end of the day and checked into the same hotel because it was still the best price/quality/location combination available.
I started off the next morning with a solo excursion through the Canyon Road Arts District. As far as the outdoors, the place can be described as a bunch of mythology- and Native-American-themed sculptures scattered before the entrances of art shops. Mark White Fine Art, Giford Gallery, and Sculpture Garden are to name a few.
As most galleries had not even opened by that time, I could not get inside any (that is, until later in the day). Yet I was quite impressed with the craftsmanship of the bronze sculptures; the buildings looked rather artsy, too.
Certain installations were pretty outlandish… or, should I say, contemporary.
In the same general area I stumbled upon a building that posted a particularly bold claim.
Right across the street from the oldest house in America stands the country’s oldest known church, the San Miguel Mission.
Roaming about, I uncovered a handful of pleasant city landscapes.
(to be continued)