Friday, November 11, 2016

Santa Fe's Colorful Skies

As the Wildebeest pulled into Santa Fe Skies RV Park, our home for a week, we know that it was appropriately named. The majestic views seemed to call us to explore the enchanted lands of New Mexico that lie under these colorful skies.

Exploring Colorful Santa Fe

The skies of downtown Santa Fe framed the beauty of the southwestern architecture. Splashes of color was seen on the building faces,

in the surrounding plants and landscape,

and in the many shops hoping to sell us anything southwestern!

We weren't within walking or biking distance of downtown Santa Fe, but we did drive into the central city a couple of times. Our walking tour took us past San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the United States.

Its beginnings can be traced back to around 1610. While much of it has been redone, the colorful influence of early Native and Spanish people is still evident today.

Knowing that Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, we searched the skyline for the customary dome. But it is not to be found. The New Mexico capitol building is nicknamed "The Roundhouse" due to its unique round shape.  Its four story design blends in nicely with the surrounding southwestern architecture.

If viewed from above, the capitol building looks like the Zia Sun symbol, highlighting New Mexico's colorful Pueblo and Hispano roots. 

Loretto Chapel with its mysterious staircase was our next colorful discovery.

Its fascinating history includes the story of the mysterious carpenter who built the circular staircase up to the choir loft with no visible means of support. 

After he finished, he disappeared without requesting payment or thanks. Many believe the expert carpenter was St Joseph.

There we enjoyed the colorful southwestern influence in both the artwork and the worship.

Our colorful Santa Fe tour would not be complete without a visit to a local brewery or two.

Craft beer and the traditional red and/or green chile ... we enjoyed the classical New Mexican cuisine making our trip to Santa Fe complete.

Being in the high desert, we did not expect much rain. But we did get a few brief downpours that seemed to "green up" our surroundings, whitened the distant mountain tops with snow and reinforced our belief in the "colorful" skies of this beautiful area!

Exploring Colorful Bandelier National Monument

During our time in Santa Fe, we took a day trip to Bandelier National Monument. The walls of rock, cut by the Frijoles Creek, bear evidence of the native cliff dwellers who made the area their home many years ago.

A series of ladders lead us up 140 feet to Alcove House for a glimpse of the ancient dwellings as well as a beautiful view of the surrounding canyon.

Ancient stone work intermingled with naturally blooming colors preserve the beauty of this sacred place of the Pueblo people.

Discovering the Colorful Volcanic Beginnings of Bandelier

After touring the cliff dwellings, Doug was curious about the volcanic beginnings of this area. He studied the park map and found a trail that would take us to an overlook of the original eruption area, the Valles Caldera. So we drove up a narrow, winding road that lead to the Cerro Grande Trail.

The 2.3 mile trail would start out easy taking us through beautiful rocky forest land, and get a bit more technical as the trees thinned and the incline increased ... but note ... I am still smiling.

Once we got to the open grasslands, the views became more spectacular, but I became increasingly focused on getting to the top ... this was a lot harder feat than I was first anticipating!

Finally, after a grueling (in my mind) 1200 feet assent, I celebrated with outstretched arms ...

... and enjoyed the colorful skies and spectacular views of the Valles Caldera with my favorite hiking partner!

Exploring a Dark Past and Colorful Future

Afterwards, we continued driving on the road around an area that seemed pretty desolate to us, but in actuality, played an important part in our country's history ... and is still important today. The US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory lies in this mountainous region. This is where the first nuclear bomb was secretly developed during WWII. And apparently, there is still top secret things going on there, as we were stopped at a checkpoint and asked to show ID. We were intrigued to find out more about the area and decided to check out the Bradbury Science Museum located near Bandelier in the town of Los Alamos.

The free museum presented the history of the Manhattan Project that produced the first nuclear bomb. I was amazed by how the city of Los Alamos was secretly built up starting in 1943 to support this important government project.

The controversial bombs, whose replicas are shown here, were successfully tested in the desert nearby on July 16, 1945 and used a few weeks later in Japan to force an end to WWII.

Fortunately, we hope, the nuclear science developments today are being used for the benefit of humankind. Colorful displays showed how nuclear advances in the areas of medicine, energy, and communication (to name a few) work to improve our world in a positive ... and peaceful way.

For it is only by working together in peace, that we can preserve these colorful skies for future generations.

Until next time ... be the peace in the world around you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life! 
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  2. We enjoyed our Habitat build in Santa Fe last May, although we need to return. We missed seeing the Caldera. It's interesting that the New Mexico capital is in the shape of a Zia Sun. How many state capitals have you seen thus far on your travels?

  3. New Mexico makes #8 ... a few to go :-) I don't see Santa Fe on the Care-a-vanner site yet, but I am sure that it would be a great build location. So much beauty around here! Happy Travels!

  4. We drove on that road in Oct during the balloon festival - started the drive in t-shirt like sunny weather. Had to stop and clear our wheel wells of hard packed snow about half way through the drive. It started snowing buckets of snow and I thought we were stuck for sure! Glad you are having nice weather. Check out the National Nuclear Museum in Albuquerque if you get a chance too. Doug and you would like all the gadgets and history of using nuclear in medicine.

  5. Yes, we have been very blessed with wonderful weather in New Mexico this month! Almost "too hot" today while working on the Las Cruces Habitat worksite :D

    Thanks for the museum recommendation. We will definitely be back in this area in the future ... so many interesting sites to take in. The Very Large Array is also on that list.

  6. I second Tim and Cindy that Santa Fe is a fantastic place to build. We hiked in Santa Fe NF but not the Calera monument - it looks beautiful there!

    1. We are enjoying the chance to experience hiking in the beauty of the southwest!