Thursday, July 26, 2012

Santa Fe Morning

The Loretto Chapel and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum were on our agenda for this morning; the rest of the day we would allow to evolve with carefree happenstance.  (It's my favorite way to travel and explore; a loose plan with lots of room for surprises).

While it's the Staircase that people come to see at the Chapel, it was the ancient oak out front that first caught my fancy.  The Chapel was built in 1870;  the tree was no doubt well established at that time or else they would have cut it down.  So let's just say it's at least 200 years old; probably older!

The Chapel is privately owned; operating as a museum and wedding chapel.  A wonderful docent greets visitors with the story of the creation of the staircase: an unknown carpenter, construction that defies the laws of physics, and mysterious wood.  The Staircase really is lovely and must have been striking before the handrails were added by the height challenged Nuns.

A poster in the lobby offers a photoshopped idea of how the original might have looked without the handrails.

Later in the day the courtyard would fill with vendors similar to those who set up shop under the veranda of the Palace of the Governors.  No pics of these hard working folks, but Raney did purchase a beautiful bracelet!

More opportunities for shopping along the street (my cow skulls come from the back forty!).

The door to the library is intriguing; I bet there are treasures behind this unassuming entrance.

And no, the lion didn't guard the entrance to the library, she rested further long down the street!

"She ain't heavy, she's my sister" (in the courtyard of the Museum of Fine Art; as seen by peaking through the  fence; don't know real name of sculpture or artist, sorry).

While Raney was happily explored the Christmas Shop I found this bench down the street with what turned out to be a Christmas Tree motif when I looked at the shot on my computer.  Funny.

Santa Fe is spilling over with art; much of it with native themes.  

What's not to love about a city that uses turquoise as an accent color and corn as a landscape planting?

Not our final stop, but definitely a highlight of a my visit to Santa Fe, was the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  She was a phenomenal woman and artist.  

The more I read about Santa Fe the more I want to go back for an extended stay.  Any ideas for RV parking near downtown?  Walking distance would be perfect!  And then there's so much to see in the surrounding area too.  Umm, wonder what the best month to visit would be.....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Santa Fe Evening

It's so fun to relive our visit to Santa Fe going through my pics.  We had a late afternoon and evening there; along with  half the next day before heading due south to Texas.  It's a great town for walking.  We parked on the edge of old downtown to walk between the many attractions, just enjoying the town along the way.  An added bonus was seeing everything in both morning and evening light.  All together, it was a lovely visit to Santa Fe.

The San Miguel Mission, from early 1600s, is billed as the oldest 'active' church in the U.S.  It's been destroyed and rebuilt three times; each time a little bigger!  A current restoration, without expansion, was in progress.

The amazing artwork behind the alter was restored in 1955 (not sure of date of original creation!).

Across the alley from San Miguel is the 'Oldest House'.  (You decide....)

A nearby shop had beautiful (big) glass.  Not sure how one would get that tall piece behind the bench home.

This horse on a balcony reminded me of Gambler, keeping a curious eye on all the action on the street.

What a sweet face!

It was refreshing to see Prayer Flags in an area so steeped in Catholic tradition.

Late in the afternoon a storm was brewing north of downtown and St Francis Cathedral.

We checked out the trendy shops (read $500 cowgirl boots) while rain fell on the Plaza.

Then it was the best meal of the trip, Chicken Pesto Pizza, at the Upper Crust.

Happy serendipity lead us back to the Plaza to see a Flamenco Dance Troop perform.

The single male singer was fantastic in Spanish, but we didn't need to know the words to understand the stories the women told in their dances.

Back to our cozy cabin and good night.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spruce House

A self guided tour of the Spruce House cliff dwelling begins at the Museum.  It was quite warm on the mesa; nice and cool at the bottom of the shady canyon.

Spruce House is the third largest cliff dwelling in the Park.  It has 114 rooms, 8 kivas, and it is believed, was home to about 100 people.  It's the Park Service's policy to stabilize and reinforce rather than rebuild existing structures.  What we saw here is 95% original.  The keyhole doors are typical of cliff dwelling, but one knows for sure why they were designed this way.

One of the kivas was restored with roof and ladder allowing visitors to experience a descent down into the structure.  All the kids were loving this opportunity so we skipped it this time.  I did my best to get some representative shots of the dwelling that did not feature our fellow visitors.

The natural cave that holds the Spruce House is 216 feet long.

Some of the original timbers are still in place due to the dry climate.  Others have deteriorated leaving the round holes in the walls.

Late in the afternoon as we headed back up the trail, many of us tourists were kinda dragging, and we laughed about the buzzards circling overhead.  A ranger explained that they were actually waiting for us to leave so they could return to their nightly roosts in the Doug Fir trees!

After a long day of riding the wind currents in the canyons some landed to wait for sundown.

On up the trail, a view of the Park Superintendent's office reminded us how beautifully the modern buildings have been designed to complement the cliff dwellings.


It was fun to see the rain cells across the valley as we drove back down the mountain.  Little did we know that within five minutes we would be in a downpour that forced us and everyone else off the road to wait it out! 

Finally, attending a local Indian family dance at the Cultural Center in Cortex that evening was the perfect ending to our most excellent visit to Mesa Verde.

(Note to RV friends:  the Wetherill Mesa road has a load limit of 8,000 pounds and 25 feet in length.  For my next visit I'm thinking renting a car in Cortez would be a good idea!).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mesa Verde

Next stop on our summer adventure was Cortez to visit Mesa Verde National Park.  This Park was created in 1906 (the same year as the San Francisco Earthquake!) to protect the more than 5000 archaeological sites on the mesas and cliffs.  Six hundred of these sites are cliff dwellings.  Amazing!  Of these most are protected and preserved for future study; read: no public access.  The brochure suggests  planning at least half a day to visit those that are open!  We had one whole day planned and visited maybe 1/4 of all there is to see there.  A couple sites are open to self guided tours, several are ranger led, and there are many trails to more remote sites.  So much to see and not enough time!

The first surprise was the drive out from Cortez.  It's about 10 miles on the highway and then another 15 from the Park entrance up to the top of the Mesa.  To complicate things we were there in the middle of a chip sealing job on the road.  Point Lockout is the striking first hint at the awesomeness to come!

There are two separate areas to visit in the Park, Wetherill Mesa and Chapin Mesa.   We chose Chapin making our first stop at the Far View Visitors Center.  This is where visitors purchase tickets for the Ranger led tours. (Please excuse the Restroom sign and trash bins!  No Photoshop!)  The front side of the structure is a balcony overlooking mesas and canyons.

Not to far out is Cliff Palace, with a four story tower, and many kivas.  Rangers lead tours down to the site of the cliff dwelling but there's also a great vista point from the top of the trail.  (The tours were all quite large as we visited during the summer peak).

The kivas (underground circular structures ) were used for ceremonies by the Ancestral Puebloans (the term Anasazi that we learned in school is no longer in common use).  I also read that it's likely kivas were also used for sleeping during those cold, cold winters.  

There are several deep canyons separating the mesas in the Park.  There's no access from mesa to mesa without driving all the way back out and entering again on another finger of mesa.  They are kinda like peninsulas along the coast line of Maine.  Strange, but true, comparison!

Overlooks along the loop road allow vista of cliff dwelling on the far canyon walls.

Sunset House

House of Many Windows

The mesa above Hemenway House was a site of one of the devastating fires in the Park in the last 10-12 years.

The Park Administrative offices are located on the Chapin Mesa loop along with a Museum, gift shop and restaurants.  All the structures were designed to blend with the environment. 

An exhibit in the museum of pre-historic corn caught my fancy.  

Then it was time to explore the Spruce House!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I don't have words to describe Arches.  Hopefully my pics will give you a good idea of our awesome visit here.

Wall Street

Balance Rock

North Window

South Window

And together.

Turret Arch

Wolfe Ranch

Delicate Arch


Entrance to Sand Dune 

Sand Dune Arch

Red Rock as sun sets