So it is time to begin my “New Mexico Mega Post.” As I mentioned here the plan was to make one big Santa Fe/New Mexico post upon my return to Boston. Well, after looking at the sheer volume of “material” that I would need to cover, I’ve decided to break my New Mexico trip down into three big components. Part 1 will be Arrival and Pre-SB, Part 2 will be SB’s visit, and Part 3 will be Post-SB, Departure, and a Summary.
Since I’ve decided to bust up the posts like this, I’m actually going to go ahead and start writing this series while I’m still in Santa Fe. As mentioned, this part will take us from me leaving Boston up until SB’s arrival. The reason I am busting things up like that is not only because it makes sense, but also because SB brought out our nice new camera (Christmas gift from FIL) and therefore most of the pictures from that portion of the trip are in SB’s possession. Then, the last portion, Post-SB and Departure, is currently happening and doesn’t end until around Midnight on Saturday the 23rd. So I can’t really write about what hasn’t happened yet.
Anyways, without further ado, let’s jump back a couple of weeks (to Monday the 4th) and then work our way up to last Friday evening (the 15th) when SB arrived.
As a warning, this series is going to contain A LOT of photos – more than any other post thus far. [Though still not as many words as Salem]
[Side note: Given the difficulties I’ve had lately with upload size limits on pictures, as well as them being sideways – gathering, organizing, and uploading all these photos essentially became a part time job, so enjoy them.]
If you are wondering why I’m going to New Mexico – or where I’m going in New Mexico. Start here.
My “J-Term” adventure began early(ish) on a Monday morning. I was, of course, joined by my trusty travel companion Pig – who was doing research of his own in New Mexico with soil.
Before we even got off the ground in Boston we had already discovered a cool statute in an area of the airport we had never been in before.
The airport gods were smiling on us and we got through security and to our gate without any issues.
While waiting to board we noticed a little luggage shoot next to the to plane. To say that these bags were handled roughly would be sugar-coating it.
Even though I had gotten stuck in a middle seat, I was placed right in front of a TV. So I had a good view of “The Martian” when it was on. It was ok, but I don’t think it was nearly as exceptional as a lot of people said it was.
The guy in the window seat was.. uh.. large and he slept almost the entire flight, which meant he kept leaning on me. The girl in the isle seat was a bitch who wouldn’t move when said large man had to go to the bathroom. The kid in front of me probably only whined/cried 15% of the flight, which is like a godsend anymore. So all in all, not too bad of a flight, we really only had one batch of turbulence too.
I had a connecting flight in Dallas/Fort Worth. I didn’t think I had been to that airport before, but I had, back when SB and I were returning from Seattle. What made me remember it was the Skylink shuttle train.
Last time it was about 104 degrees in the little gap between the terminal and the train, not so much this time. My connection was going to be really tight, so I had this all mapped out in advance. However, the airport gods continued to smile on me and my flight was almost 40 minutes early (I think the most ever for me) so I had plenty of time to see some things and get noms.
The hop over to Santa Fe was via a smaller regional jet. This wasn’t really an issue for me since I had one piece of checked luggage and then a little day pack that fit under the seat in front of me. So while many were bitching about their normal-sized carry-on luggage not fitting, I was chilling and perusing the same magazine I just finished reading cover-to-cover 45 minutes ago.
Soon enough we were up and away a second time.
The weather was cloudy and cool as we got deeper into New Mexico, but this offered up some amazing scenery.
Believe it or not, Santa Fe is in this photo.
The landing was smooth and before too long it became clear just how MASSIVE Santa Fe’s airport is.
The plane literally pulls up to the terminal and drops you off – and by terminal I mean the only building that isn’t a hanger or storage unit.
Interestingly enough Santa Fe’s airport is almost 900 feet lower than Santa Fe itself (6344′ vs 7199′).
Outside the bustling leviathan that is the Santa Fe Regional Airport is a sculpture by local artist Dan Pearson.
The bad news is that Santa Fe’s airport is about 11 miles from my apartment (or “casita”). The good news is that I have a local friend from last summer in Denver. In fact, said local friend played a decently large part in my building rapport with the local legal community, so that was doubly cool. Anyways, they picked me up at the airport, took me to my casita, and then later took me grocery shopping. So that was nice. Sadly they had to head back up to Denver the very next day, but it was still a warm welcome to New Mexico.
Speaking of my casita, it has turned out fairly well so far. Since the Attorney General Clinic is a bit slow, and my specific hiring process was also slow (and frankly a bit ridiculous), I kind of had a mad dash to find housing less than a month out. Additionally, in order for Harvard to pay for my airfare and lodging (which they cover up to a certain point, but nothing else) I had to meet a set of requirements. So that further complicated a last minute search for a 3 week home. Fortunately, I found someplace, and thus far it’s been pretty good. I say pretty because there’s been a couple of issues, but i’ll cover those in a bit.
After our long day of travel, we were pretty tired. So after getting our groceries and unpacking, we walked around our little complex for a couple of minutes to see the Farolitos.
Then we had our first local beer, Happy Camper IPA – Santa Fe Brewing Company.
What I didn’t realize is that a fairly decent snow storm was coming in. In fact, just as I was arriving in Santa Fe it was starting to snow. So while I snuggled up into bed for my first day of work in the morning, the outside world was changing.
Had you asked me what I thought my first walk to work would be like in New Mexico, I would not have guessed it to be like this.
The good news is that it really wasn’t anything compared to Boston, and also that my work is only a 15 minute walk from my casita.
Once I arrived to work, complete with snow all over my legs, I got checked in with security and waited to get my badge.
After getting all that sorted out I got to meet my supervisor and then see my office.
It’s the nicest office I’ve ever had to myself. It’s also the only office I’ve ever had to myself.
After that I got a tour of the building, including tons of meet-and-greets with people I’ve mostly since forgotten.
Of course the one person I didn’t forget was Hector Balderas, the Attorney General of New Mexico. I was really surprised I got to me him on my first day (which worked out since I had a tie on). He was extremely approachable and nice. I was pretty nervous prior to meeting him since it was a 1 on 1 session, but it turned out to be a cool meeting. Now I’ll never see him again, but still, it was a cool first day. After that I mostly did some HR-stuff, reaffirmed my confidentiality stuff, etc. Then I pretty much settled in and started working.
That night Pig and I did a couple of things around the casita, namely because we hadn’t had much time to settle the night before. The first was to go stock up on some more beer to last us through the coming weeks.
The second thing was to test out our fireplace (there are actually two in the casita). It took me an embarrassingly long about of time to figure out how to start the fire without proper kindling, but eventually I became Tom Hanks and made fire.
Pig eventually decided on a cubby-hole up above the fireplace itself.
Eventually though I think it got a bit too toasty for him and he decided to watch things from afar. Coincidently, this was also the night that I re-learned the heating properties of adobe and raised the temperature of the casita to a pleasant 150 degrees.
Speaking of the casita, now that we had a full evening to check it out, we figured things out a bit more.
The main room is pretty nice, it has a decently stocked mini-kitchen, complete with plates and utensils, all the way to coffee filters and plastic bags. Oddly there are no scissors or pens.
The lighting is pretty decent, though it involves turning on about 300 different lights to achieve proper brightness.
The bathroom is also nice, complete with a poo-device and a tile shower that has TWO shower heads, one on each side.
The bedroom has a super comfy bed and a TV, though the TV requires mystical words of power to get it to shut off.
There is a decent patio that I haven’t been able to use due to the weather.
The two gates lead to the side parking area and then the street in front of the casita.
There is a grill, which again I haven’t used.
The main door is controlled via electronic code, which has actually been really nice. There is also a side door that is locked and doesn’t get used.
Then there is my heartily-sized wood pile for the burnanating.
There is also a communal hot-tub (which doesn’t seem to be turned on, nor does it appear to be capable of being turned on right now) and a fire pit area. The complex is made up of at least 4, if not 6+ (it’s hard to tell) casitas.
This sort of brings me to the downsides. My casita is an adobe house divided into two units. In the main room is a cheap wooden door that separates the two units. This means that when people are in the other unit, its like having a piece of tissue paper between you and them. This is actually a really, REALLY stupid design because the walls are adobe, so other than that one crappy door, they muffle the sound really well. But nope, someone had to put that door in, and not only that, they essentially went to Home Depot and said “Yo, give me the biggest piece of shit door you have and make sure it blocks no sound.”
The silver lining is that thus far people have only been around in the Thursday-Monday range, meaning that I have 3 nights a week of pure silence (it’s a very quiet neighborhood).
The other issue was that my internet died the first weekend. To their credit they fixed it on a Saturday, but they were NOT easy to get a hold of, and when the guy came he tracked mud all over the place and tried to blame me for the problem (my guess is that he was trained by Comcast).
[Edit: I also lost internet again on Thursday, so we’ll see how that turns out. I just have no luck when it comes to internships and the internet I supposed.]
The third thing, which was fairly minor but still annoying, was that at one point they came and got firewood for another unit (I’m assuming). Well, they unlocked my gate – then left it unlocked, then they flipped over the wooden table on the patio and left it that way, then they knocked over a garbage can and left it that way too.
Still, things could have turned out FAR worse and overall I’ve been pleased with my casita, especially since I’m not paying for it. Well, I’m going to get reimbursed for it.. eventually.
Anyways, back to the New Mexico tale. Pig and I pretty much just chilled with our fire the second night.
I eventually figured out a good balance between fire size and not spontaneously combusting.
Before too long it was beer time.
Which is a fancy way of saying sleepy time.
The next day the snow had receded a good bit already and I could actually see the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
There were still some low clouds as I made my way to work, but that added to the cool factor.
Most of the snow had already been cleared the day before near my work.
Speaking of my work, the attorney general’s office actually takes up two combined buildings. The older portion, the Villagra Building was built in 1934 as the Public Welfare Building. The Villagra Building is in the photo above, and that is where I work.
Attached to the Villagra Building is the Paul Bardacke building, which was constructed in 2006. It houses the AG himself (nestled securely up in the center of the third floor) as well as several other AG divisions. Together these two buildings form a sort of “V.”
The second day of work was much more worky and less handshakey, which honestly I was fine with.
However, as we were working, yet another round of snow started to pour in.
Fortunately my supervisor was kind enough to take me home, where Pig quickly reclaimed his couch spot with Pigsten.
And again, the night was mostly hibernation with a dash of beer.
The next morning I came out to more snow, which had largely undone the clearing operations from the day before.
It still wasn’t too awful bad though.
The area near my work was already cleared pretty well even by 8:30am.
Of course the cacti-bros at work were happy to be inside regardless.
The night we ventured out to stock up on some food we had missed the first night of shopping. I found magical new flavors of puffins.
And Pig found new sleepy spots.
There was a little bit of snow overnight, but nothing major.
The sidewalks had managed to turn into sheets of ice though, so that was fun.
However, that afternoon it got really windy and it started looking like yet another snow storm was coming in.
And soon enough it arrived.
In fact it got bad enough that the AG offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque decided to close at 4pm (on Friday, noice). My boss was kind enough to drive me home, but I think walking would have been faster given the snow storm and the traffic.
All in all it was a good evening to stay inside and be warm.
Fortunately we had added even more beer to our collection, this time Rio Grande IPA – Sierra Blanca Brewing Company.
In addition to the beer, Pig and I celebrated the end of our first week by making a turkey-swiss green chile melt.
It was quite tasty when paired with the beer.
Now at this point I supposed I should briefly mention chiles in New Mexico. To put it simply, New Mexicans are obsessed with chile, so much so that there is even a specific kind of pepper called the New Mexican Chile. It comes in two broad varieties, red and green (though both are the same chili pepper, just picked at different stages of growth), and from there there are even more sub-varieties. There is, in my newbie opinion, no consistent heat hierarchy between red and green. Sometimes red is hotter, other times green is, it just depends on the establishment/brand. However, a common way for these chiles to be served is “Christmas” which appropriately combines both red and green chiles. Overall though, I will say that by any large “spicy” actually means spicy in New Mexico. My first introduction to the chile sauce was at a work lunch and I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying.
Another big thing out here is the famous Green Chile Cheeseburger, but more on that beautiful culinary creation in a bit.
So anyways, Pig and I were now facing our first weekend. We really hadn’t had the time to be tourists, so that is exactly what we decided to do.
The snow storm had given way to nice blue skies.
It was a great day for some exploring.
We finally made our way to the Plaza, which is kind of like the “Hub” of Old Santa Fe (remembering that Santa Fe dates to 1610).
Given the cold and snow it was surprisingly quiet, though I did find a cool snow memento stuck to one of the plaza trees.
Though I didn’t notice it at the time, the holiday lights were still up in the Plaza – or maybe they are year round, I actually don’t know.
I walked around and checked out the general area.
I also passed by the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
A sign said that it was closed on weekends, which I thought was really weird. However, I now have reason to believe that that sign was wrong, but that’s for next post.
Although the streets were still pretty nasty, things were fairly walkable on the whole.
Eventually I made my way to the gate for Fort Marcy Park, I didn’t even get lost.
Although it’s not an overly steep climb, the snow didn’t help matters.
As I zig-zagged up the hill I found some snow angels.
The views towards the top became increasingly impressive.
The very top, near the cross itself was quite windy, but offered up the best views (to my knowledge) within Santa Fe itself.
Adorned on the cross are the names of the Franciscan Monks who were killed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
The cross actually sits just below of the top of the hill where Fort Marcy was (though the cross and the monks aren’t related to Fort Marcy). The actual fort site is of course now mostly covered by houses.
The path continues beyond the cross and you can get to some of the ruins of the fort, which were entirely covered by snow when I was there.
Pig used this an opportunity to scout for grubs.
But then decided that he just wanted to chill for a bit.
While walking around the top of the hill we discovered the “main” entrance to the park, and realized we’d sort of came in the “back” way.
Near here we spotted what looked to be a series of footprints leading towards some nearby houses, so I almost didn’t follow it. However Pig inspected it a bit more.
Turns out it was actually part of a short trail attached to the park.
It led into some not-so-back-country that felt a lot like back-country.
Pig quickly sprung into grub-hunt mode.
And I do mean sprung.
After his snack we hit the trail with little more than footprints to guide us.
The trail led down into a little valley sort of thing.
And then went right back up the other side.
Somewhere around this time Pig and I took tinkles, only to discover that we had done so not that far from someone’s house.
The trail actually got decently steep in a couple of spots.
But that just made for some good views.
At one point the trail sort of plopped you right out into a neighborhood.
There was a dog that wasn’t too pleased with my presence, so I continued on.
Eventually making my way to a more clear area.
Which then offered up another view of ridge I’d been on earlier.
After that we headed back down into the center of town, complete with the red muddy streets that required tactical maneuvers to avoid getting splashed by cars (some parts of Santa Fe have sidewalks not more than 6 inches wide, I kid you not).
We did pass some cool metal wind “things” though.
As well as crossed over the Santa Fe River, which runs straight through town and looks really pretty this time of year.
To be honest I am unsure as to why it is a “River” as it is an intermittent stream and a tributary of the Rio Grande, but who knows.
While walking I actually stumbled across Canyon Road, which is a street lined with independent art galleries, most of which are ran by the artist themselves.
I meant to go there later in the day, but I figured I’d explore a bit since I was here already.
Both sides of the street were lined with gallery after gallery, with one or two cafes thrown in for good measure.
The buildings were of course adobe, but they were all a bit more eclectic than most of the adobe structures elsewhere in the town.
There was so much to see that I can understand why art-oriented people can spend an entire day (or more) on this one street.
While I didn’t go into any galleries, there was still plenty to see in the form of outdoor galleries and pieces.
Animals were a popular choice, which I didn’t mind one bit.
Bears were a big theme, which made me think of Valentino.
But even some smaller creatures found their way into the road’s offerings, like a bee butt.
As well as a big ole’ pig, much to Pig’s joy.
I spent a decent amount of time just checking out the outdoor offerings.
But I also liked the aesthetics of the area in general.
After making my way through Canyon Road, I kind of got into a series of back-alleys that brought me up to the San Miguel Mission and the “Oldest House” from behind.
Now, I didn’t actually go into the “Oldest House” despite it being free.
Even though the foundation dates to around 1200 CE (Pueblo) from the exterior it looks mostly the same as all the other old adobe structures in the central area and along the Old Santa Fe Trail. And since I only had so many hours in the day, I decided to skip it and head into the adjacent church.
The San Miguel Church (Mission), originally dates to 1610 and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest church structure in North America.
It definitely has that classic southwestern vibe.
Inside the altar was quite impressive, considering the modest nature of the church and its age.
They also had artifacts dating from the period around the church’s construction, which I thought was really cool.
It was a fairly small church, but I liked how much non-flashy history it had.
While I do like the extravagant cathedrals, there is something special about this more antiquated churches, kind of like St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle.
The coolest thing about the San Miguel Mission was the San Miguel Bell.
This sucker weighs 780lbs and was made of all sorts of goodies.
The best part is that you can ring it with the rubber mallet they have, free of charge. I mean, I donated upon entry, but technically if you want to go walk all over a church and hit things with a hammer and not give them any money, that’s your prerogative.
It felt really weird to hit something so old with a hammer, but the docent assured me it was quite ok. I’m glad I did, it was really neat learning the different sounds it would make depending on where you hit it.
In addition to the bell, the church housed some incredible wood work, though it was almost assuredly done by forced Native American labor.
After hanging with J.C. for awhile I decided to go over a hang out with the devil politicians at the state capitol.
The capitol building, or “Roundhouse” as it is most commonly called, houses the state house, state senate, legions of lawyers and lobbyists, random staff, and also the governor (when she isn’t throwing drunken pizza parties anyways).
Being Saturday I didn’t figure it would be busy, turns out that it isn’t even open on weekends. Which I guess makes sense in retrospect, so I just walked around the outside and decided to return another day (which I did, and is covered later in this post).
After traversing the roundhouse grounds and encountering Santa Fe’s official crazy homeless dude who endlessly screams I started making my way back to the Plaza. On the way I passed some contraption (in front of the NM Land Office) that was talking about solar and oil energy in New Mexico, I actually laughed out loud at the thought of the oil industry working with the solar industry.
Then I walked back over the Santa Fe River, which was now melting a bit quicker than before.
I also passed the nice “Loretto Hotel” which wasn’t looking so nice with all the mud.
However, I then put two and two together and realized that I was right next to the famous Loretto Chapel.
Now, getting past the fact that Loretto Chapel charges 3$ to enter – and that I think a church charging to enter it is kind of dumb (but they do this in Denmark too) – it was still a cool place to visit.
However, you really pay the 3$ because you want to see the staircase.
So, story time about that staircase.
In 1872 Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the Bishop of the Santa Fe Archdiocese, commissioned the building of a convent chapel to be named Our Lady of Light Chapel, which would be in the care of the Sisters of Loretto. The chapel was designed by French architect Antoine Mouly in the Gothic Revival style, complete with spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows imported from France. Although it was built on a much smaller scale, the chapel bears an obvious resemblance to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. The architect died suddenly and it was only after much of the chapel was constructed that the builders realized it was lacking any type of stairway to the choir loft. Due to the chapel’s small size, a standard staircase would have been too large. Historians have also noted that earlier churches of the period had ladders rather than stairs to the choir loft, but the Sisters did not feel comfortable with that prospect because of the long habits that they wore. The Sisters of Loretto relate the story as follows: Needing a way to get up to the choir loft the nuns prayed for St. Joseph’s intercession for nine straight days. On the day after their novena ended a shabby-looking stranger appeared at their door. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase but that he needed total privacy and locked himself in the chapel for three months. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase entirely of non-native wood. The identity of the carpenter is not known for as soon as the staircase was finally finished he was gone. Many witnesses, upon seeing the staircase, feel it was constructed by St. Joseph himself, as a miraculous occurrence.
It’s worth noting that the staircase did not originally have handrails and it definitely was not attached to the column via a metal brace as it is today.
You can thank OSHA.
Still really cool though.
After that Pig and I were off again, going with Dios.
Most of the snow and ice in the streets had melted, though this didn’t help the red mud issue.
While trekking through the muddy streets we came across part of Route 66, which I thought was cool.
Things were picking up a bit more from the morning, probably because it was no longer below freezing and the streets were getting better.
The Plaza was still fairly snowy though, which I liked. Also, some Native American singers had came and started performing with their drums while I was off walking around Santa Fe. I stayed and listened to them for a bit – they didn’t seem to be doing it for money, though maybe the town pays them, or maybe they just do it because they like it, who knows.
Next up was the Palace of the Governors, a 1610 adobe structure which has been the seat of more than one government and withstood many sieges. Its kind of the iconic Plaza building.
Native Americans line up on the patio and sells various handmade wares. The southwest is ripe with various gemstones, so you find a lot of gem-based works, all of which are far outside of my price range. The cool thing is that you actually have to have a real tribal affiliation to set up shop here, so this keeps joe-blow from selling fake Rolexes on the patio as well.
The interior of the building has been converted into part of the New Mexico History Museum, which I decided was worth the (student) price of entry for the Palace of the Governors alone.
The portions of the museum that are with in the 1610 structure have left the building mostly unchanged.
Although some rooms have obviously been recreated, there was a lot of effort to show you what was new, and what was not.
The museum had a wide variety of artifacts which ranged from indigenous, to Spanish, to U.S. based.
Some of the Conquistador stuff was especially cool.
But really I found myself enjoying the building as much as anything, including the 4 FEET THICK walls.
They definitely built this place to last, and so it has.
As mentioned, the Palace of the Governors only makes up part of the museum, the rest is housed in a newer building which has been pseudo-attached to the Palace. Effectively nestled between the two is one of two gift shops, which had some chocolate I was familiar with.
Interestingly enough my fellow tourists (though their tourist level is a few notches lower than mine) seemed to be convinced that it was locally made. Nope, it’s actually made in Somverille, MA, but in fairness it is based on traditional Mexican production methods.
In order to get to the new building you pass through the original interior courtyard of the Palace.
Once inside the new building there is a map showing you where things are, I only mention this because there was literally a Meem room.
The collection in the new building was a bit more modern, but it still started off with older stuff.
They had a few really cool artifacts, such as Billy the Kid’s spurs.
A few mildly macabre items such as Pancho Villa‘s death mask, complete with the bullet hole in the forehead.
As well as some other related “violent” pieces such as this clock that stopped when shot during a raid preceding the Battle of Columbus.
Close up of the card.
Then there were some plain weird items, such as an exhibit on pinhole cameras which I still don’t understand.
But these were contrasted against things I did understand and learned quite a bit about, for instance the Harvey Girls.
They even had one piece of the original machinery (oscillograph) that registered the first atomic blast in history.
After finishing up at the New Mexico History Museum, I headed over to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum.
Now, in fairness, while I was vaguely familiar with O’Keeffe’s work, I couldn’t have told you she spent a fair amount of her life in Santa Fe. I really just wanted to go because she is featured in Breaking Bad. Her work is mentioned in Breaking Bad on the premise that some of it looks like vaginas.
Yep, those flowers are definitely vaginas.
But it wasn’t all vaginas, there many other pieces as well.
I especially liked the one on the right.
After leaving the O’Keeffe museum behind I began meandering towards the federal courthouse since it looked like it had a green area on my little map. Along the way I came across some cool artsy outdoor areas.
As well as a sculpture of my Saint Francis of Assisi with a groundhog or something, I dunno, but I liked it.
Eventually I came to the federal courthouse and it was kind of meh, namely because what is probably a pretty area in the summer was just snowy and muddy now.
After that I decided to start heading home. In doing so I crossed back through the Plaza where I picked up a couple of post cards and strongly debated getting a beer huggie with the Zia on it to match my CSU huggie from Colorado, but talked myself out of it (though I later ended up getting it with SB). I did see a nifty La Catrina bag though.
First off, the symbol, called the “Zia” is so called because its a symbol from the indigenous Zia People. Its full name is the “Zia Sun Symbol,” which is the red symbol on the yellow background. However, the red and yellow colors come from the Old Spanish Kingdom (a combination of the Hapsburg Spain and the Crown of Aragon).
The Zia symbol itself has a pretty intricate meaning, which stems from the fact that the Zia consider the sun to be sacred. The symbol is a circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions. Four is the sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle. The number four is embodied in each of the four rays, each group having the following meanings: the four points of the compass (north, south, east and west); the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter); the four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening and night); the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years and old age); and the four sacred obligations one must develop (a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others), according to the Zia’s belief.
So there you go, you know now the history of the Zia symbol, and at least a partial history of the New Mexican flag.
Continuing on, after stopping in and picking up some post cards I continued home. I passed by Burro Alley, which doesn’t require much of an imagination to figure out why they called it such.
I also passed the swanky El Dorado hotel, of drunken governor fame.
By the time Pig and I arrived home we were pretty hungry. Since we had spent all day walking around and had just eaten snacks from home, we decided to treat ourselves a little bit with some takeout food.
We decided on Blake’s Lotaburger, which is pretty much a New Mexico staple. While they serve many things, they are best known for being cheap and for serving a good green chile cheeseburger. Interestingly enough, there is a Lotaburger about a 4-5 minute walk from my home, which made the decision to go even easier. Now, if you know me you’ll that I really don’t eat fast food. In fact the number of times I’ve had fast food in the past couple of years is probably in the 3-4 range. However, in special circumstances I’ll get it. This was one such circumstance, namely because Lotaburger is a regional chain and people kept talking up the green chile cheeseburger (and I hadn’t had one yet). So Pig and I went.
We saved some money by using our own pepper-jack cheese from home, and passed on the fries in favor of some crackers I had. Even with the substituted cheese, this was a pretty good fast-food burger, and, more importantly, it was a good induction into green chile cheeseburgers. Would I go often? No. But that’s more because I don’t eat fast food much, as mentioned. Would I recommend stopping through one if you find yourself in New Mexico? Certainly (though as I later found much better green chile cheeseburgers exist elsewhere – but not for this cheap).
Sometime after dinner I noticed that I had worn a whole in my jeans at some point.
Considering that these are my only pair of jeans out here, that was a bit of problem. And while SB could fix them, she was still a week away (SB’s fix ending up busting in less than a day, these jeans are probably on their way out). Still, it was on the inside of the thigh and I was normally wearing long-johns when I was out and about due to the cold, so it could be worse.
Any concerns I had about my jeans were washed away with some Peach Sleepytime Tea (and also beer, but the beer came first) which was the first time I’d had it, though I had seen it last summer in production.
After tea and beer time, Pig and I were off to dreamland after a long and eventful day. Tomorrow we were really considering a hike near town, but given our lack of car we decided to sleep on it.
Of course we decided to do it, but I do have to give credit to my friend and supervisor who gave me a list of things I should do, otherwise I probably would have never found this trail.
Santa Fe is pretty much right up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One of the closest mountains to town is Atalaya. Atalaya’s summit is is 9,121 feet high, so, remembering that Santa Fe is 7,199 feet, the elevation gain to the summit is 1922 feet. So, realistically you are climbing 2000 feet to get to the summit of Atalaya if you start in Santa Fe. The thing is, from where I live to the start of the Atalaya trail is about 4.6 miles. So, had I not heard about it, I’d never even known to look for it. But fortunately my supervisor mentioned it to me in an email.
The thing is, public transportation in Santa Fe is kind of limited (it’s a Rocky West thing so far as I can tell). Although there is a free Santa Fe shuttle that would have knocked my walking down to about 1 mile, its weekend hours were weird and there was no way to know how far away it was. It was supposed to come every 30 minutes, but because there is no “schedule” per se, you could end up waiting 1 second, or 29 Minutes and 59 seconds, assuming the shuttle was on time. Then there are car services, like Uber or the god-awful expensive Taxis. Me being me, and Pig being Pig, we decided to just walk it – meaning that it was 4.6 miles just to get started on the actual hike.
I should probably note here that I had no real hiking gear, so I went off on this snowy hike in the same shoes I’ve been wearing to the office. However, the weather was quite nice, albeit cold.
See that mountain peak in the center of the image above? The one way off in the distance? That was my destination.
We started off by following the Santa Fe River further east than I had before.
This took us away from the city-center and into a more “burb-like” area.
From there we got into the “outskirts” of the core of Santa Fe, which was also when we started to gain a little elevation.
We even passed an elementary school, I could think of worse views to have.
This next photo is looking back towards where we had came from, the core of Santa Fe is getting further away.
We then passed some sort of fancy gated community.
After that we were fairly close to St. John’s College, which is where the trail head is.
I had to take a wee-wee break, so I went into some trees on the of campus and wee’d.
Interestingly enough there was already one set of footprints, so I have a feeling I was not the only person who may have went in there and wee’d.
The trail head was just beyond one of the parking lots for the college.
The trail actually starts in a “low” area and follows an arroyo.
It was actually pretty thick in parts.
The mountains were slowly ebbing closer.
At a few points where the trail followed the arroyo I had to bend over to progress.
Once you pass through this “low” area, you quickly start gaining elevation.
We were now officially at the “base” of Mt. Atalaya.
The trail wasn’t too steep at this point, and the views were already getting pretty awesome.
Fortunately for me the trail was pretty well trodden, otherwise I would have undoubtedly gotten lost and eaten by an Abert’s Squirrel (or more likely the ravens and crows, those things are everywhere out here, and they are big).
This “base” path continues on for awhile. There are a few steepish spots (made worse by the snow and my lack of good hiking shoes) but nothing too major. However, eventually the trail comes to a fork, where you can literally choose to take a shorter and steeper route, or a longer and easier route.
Of course I decided on the steeper route, because that is what I do. The trail wastes no time becoming steep.
It’s hard to capture in photos, but that was an incredibly steep incline. I was sliding back a little bit every step I took. Of course the good part about going up as that the views continue to improve.
The steeper path was still fairly well trodden, but it was definitely less-so than the easier route appeared to be.
Pig and I continued our climb though, even with all the sliding.
Pig took the opportunity to climb/eat some local plants.
It’s hard to see, but part of Santa Fe lies off in the distance here.
Eventually we came to what appeared to be a plateau of sorts, which was a welcome relief after a (literally) non-stop ascent.
After just about 5 more minutes of climbing Pig and I reached the summit!
Pig was pretty pleased with our 2000ft climb.
And admittedly I was too. This was one of the few hikes I’ve ever had where I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it to the top. It was a combination of improper gear and not being fully acclimated to the high-altitude. Going from Boston to Santa Fe and then hiking puts strain on the ole’ body, to say the least. But the views were worth it.
We walked around the summit a bit, and even met a fellow hiker who was kind enough to take a picture of Pig and I (after we offered to take his photo). It was interesting, from the trail-head to the summit I’d maybe seen 20 people in total, and most of those were prior to the “steep” split.
Here are some views of various places from the summit:
This one shows Santa Fe way off in the distance.
Here is another of Santa Fe, believe it or not there is actually a city down there.
And then this one is probably my personal favorite from the summit.
About this time I noticed that my hands were getting really really cold. Since I had my phone as a camera, I was having to remove my gloves each time to take a photo. At the summit it was not only much colder than down below, but it was also very windy. So Pig and I decided to call it good and start heading back down the mountain. This is where the steep slopes really started causing us problems, it was basically 4 miles of controlled sliding in my not-hiking shoes. By the time it was over my knees were killing me (as where my shins, but that is nothing new).
The good news was that it got quite a bit warmer as we descended.
By the time we returned to the “low” portion near the arroyo some of the snow had melted away entirely.
After getting back to the parking lot (and wee’ing in our wee spot again – we also wee’d three times on the mountain, I have a bladder the size of an atom) we decided to take a different route home, which would take us through the Santa Fe Railyard. This path took us through a fairly nice “burb” area.
We even passed a fancy private Santa Fe Preparatory school (its down that path, just trust me).
Lots of the homes in this area were gated.
Ok pretty much all the homes were gated.
One of the homes even had a fancy art nouveau piece.
My hands were getting better, but it was still pretty freaking cold.
After about 4 miles of walking, we came to the Santa Fe Railyard Park.
As the name implies, its a park built on the site of a former railyard. While it’s bustling with activity during the warmer months it was kind of desolate when I walked through it. Pig kept himself entertained regardless.
We followed the old train tracks up the road for a bit to the edge of the park.
That’s when we spotted the Rail Yard District itself.
The Rail Yard District is an “up and coming” area of the Santa Fe, which is a fancy way of saying its a tourist area (kind of like Denver’s Cherry Creek). There are loads of various markets, shops, restaurants, and the largest Farmer’s Market in town is also in this district. However, given the cold and the fact it was Sunday, there was pretty much nothing happening, as you can see in the photo above. We did get to see some trains though.
The train on the right is the New Mexico Rail Runner, a commuter rail that runs between Belen (just south of ABQ) and Santa Fe. It’s apparently a pretty nice train and the prices are NOT bad at all. Sadly it’s a true commuter rail, so the weekend schedules are so limited that I won’t be able to use it. It was still cool to the see it and the old station though.
About this time Pig decided his hooves were killing him (ok it was really my feet) so we started heading for home, passing some cool old churches along the way.
When we were about 1/3 a mile from home we passed “The Good Stuff” which we had been by several times, but never actually stopped at. It is a HARDCORE hipster spot, with old books, vinyl records, coffee, and eccentric clothing (it’s also located right next to an rare/antique map and book store – SB heaven).
After walking 18.5 miles, I felt like a coffee was well deserved.
We had a organic pour-over coffee and then some totally not organic generic brand peanut butter paste crackers from the store. After chilling for a bit we made the last little jaunt to home, just as the sun was beginning to set in the sky.
As soon as we got home Pig demanded his shower.
Which we of course followed with some beer.
[Oh and if you were wondering, yes, the hike made the hole in my jeans much worse.]
After all that hiking you’d think I would have slept like a rock, but no, I actually didn’t. I think I was so tired that I couldn’t sleep, if that makes any sense. At least I got to see some cool shadows (from my gate) on my bedroom door as the sun came up.
Plus, the next morning I had to get up early to go to a Police Academy Hearing where an officer who beat a homeless person was facing having their law enforcement certification revoked. The officer had a private lawyer and was backed by the police union, while the Attorney General (my “side”) was trying to make it so they couldn’t be a cop anymore. The officer in question had already been fired (over this and other non-related issues) but they still have their law enforcement license. I found it quite interesting that you can be fired in one precinct for.. let’s say brutality, and then go over to another precinct and get hired as a cop again. Just wat. But that’s the way it works. Anyways, I’m not sure how much I can talk about this hearing as of right now (since it’s still being decided), but I am very glad that I got to go witness it. It took all day, and with not sleeping well the night before I was absolutely drained by the time it was over. But again, it was a very cool (and sometimes enraging) experience.
The majority of the week brought us nice blue skies, a welcome change from all the snow-walking I had done my first week.
Pig and I (and Pigsten) stayed nice and busy.
Though Pig definitely enjoyed his nap breaks.
And taking time out to talk to his momma (SB).
All in all it was a very busy week at work, but Pig and I started sleeping much better. I think it just took us a bit to acclimate to the schedule, environment (altitude), and work.
Speaking of work I got to do a lot of other fun stuff last week too, which not only included some paid-for work lunches and (not-paid for) coffee-chats with coworkers, but also some more “official” business.
I got to go see a State Supreme Court argument, STATE OF NEW MEXICO v. ROBERT GEORGE TUFTS, which was pretty cool and OH SO MUCH DIFFERENT than the U.S. Supreme Court (NM’s court was far more informal) – in fact the defending council kept trying to talk over the justices and got savagely pwned at one point, I also got to partake in a strategy meeting over a pending AG case that deals with water pollution, as well as sit in on call between some western states that I can’t discuss other than to say they are planning some major collective action against the federal government, and then I even got to get a behind the scenes tour of the NM Supreme Court building, courtesy of the Clerk of the Court (not to be confusing with law clerks).
During this tour I got to see all sorts of non-public places, such as justices chambers, the robing room, the bomb shelter in the basement, the clerk of the court’s office, law clerk offices, and lots of little nooks and crannies with cool history (the building was built in 1937). At the tour’s closing he strongly urged me to send my materials to the court to be considered for a clerkship. That sounds great in theory aside from the fact I have no letters of recommendation as of yet.
All of the work and excitement kept Pig on his toes, and so he spent most of his home time relaxing (sleeping) or doing Yoga, or both at the same time.
On Friday my supervisor actually left for a vacation in New York, so I took a long lunch (which I was allowed to do, by the way 😛 ) and did some walking.
It was a great day for a stroll.
While walking I decided that I’d return to the Roundhouse since it was now a weekday.
The legislative session didn’t start until the following Tuesday, so I knew this would be a good relatively not-busy time to visit.
I’m really glad I decided to make the return trip, it was a really cool building.
What surprised me was how light security was, you pretty much had free reign to wander around.
While the NM Supreme Court had had pretty lax security, you were still fairly restricted as to where you could wander off too. However at the Roundhouse almost everything was open – including the house and senate chambers.
While they weren’t in session, there was a gallery for you to sit in, so you can still go in there during a live session.
Another cool thing about the Roundhouse is that in addition to be the state capitol building, it also houses a 6$ million art collection.
The art is pretty much dispersed throughout the entire Roundhouse.
My favorite piece was a bison head made ENTIRELY from recycled materials, it was amazing.
Here is a close up of it, so you can see some of the materials used.
It was probably one of the coolest art pieces I’ve seen in awhile.
The capitol had some good views of the surrounding area, even with some clouds rolling in (more snow was coming – but thankfully not much this time as SB was also coming).
All kinds of art were present, from paintings, to sculptures, to photographs.
Some of the traditional artwork was interesting to see and read about, such as this awesome mural of Zozobra.
From what I could tell, there were only a few places in the building that weren’t open to the public.
I think the only place I found that wasn’t open was the actual Governor’s office, to which I couldn’t even find the main door. But still, it was a neat visit and I liked the building.
After our Roundhouse tour Pig and I ended our outing with some coffee from Ohori’s, which is a local coffee staple. It was yummy.
After just a little bit more work, Pig and I headed home. It was getting pretty cold, but the snow wasn’t really amounting to much.
Once home we had a snack and took care of a few chores while we were waiting on SB to arrive. Fortunately SB rolled in without many problems (her shuttle driver didn’t know where the drop-off was – but fortunately another passenger did) and then we began our fun New Mexico adventure together! But, as mentioned, that is for next post.
I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my New Mexico mega post. As you are now well aware, it’s more of a photo-voyage than a traditional blog post. That said, it was ingrained in me about 10 years ago (during a trip to Alaska with my grandfather) that I have to take a lot of photos. So now I do. Sometimes I think I take way too many (for instance these photos only represent a portion of how many I actually took), but really it doesn’t hurt anyone, so I’ll probably keep taking a lot of photos. :p
Part 2 will come out once I’ve had a chance to combine photo libraries (from my phone and our nice camera), which means that it will probably we at least a week and a half or more. Part 3 will probably come out not too long after that.
Until next time,