Randall Davey Audubon Center

The new sign welcoming you to the Sanctuary

Sometimes you just need a quick getaway from town, a breath of fresh air, a place to stretch your legs without too many people around, and maybe a spot just to sit and be quiet for awhile. We have the perfect destination for you: The Randall Davey Audubon Center, just a couple of miles from the Inn on the Alameda, with good parking at either the Center itself, or just off Upper Canyon Road, at the Santa Fe River Canyon Nature Preserve. Both are free.

It’s a lovely place to have a short hike:

A pleasant walk on a winter afternoon. That’s Picacho Peak above.

There are a variety of paths in the Nature Preserve south of the Center, with interpretive signs here and there:

An interpretive sign near the classroom and nature store

The “serious” birders are quick to post their sightings:

Catch of the day

A friend and I love to stop by the River Preserve to see what the beavers have been up to. Lately they’ve been rearranging their dams – here’s the newest one:

The latest engineering project on the Santa Fe River

“Busy as a beaver” doesn’t begin to describe these creatures. It’s amazing what they can accomplish:

An evening’s nosh

And down, ready for stripping and hauling. That’s a big tree!

There are already plenty of birds to see, even ‘tho it’s still February, and more are no doubt on the way. The robins are back – that’s always encouraging – and we also spotted mallards on the beaver ponds, scrub jays, white-breasted nutchatches, pine siskins, juncos, two kinds of towhees, and a pair of red-tailed hawks circling overhead, keeping everyone in line. The usual menagerie of reptiles is absent, since it’s still winter, so for those of you averse to slithery things, this is a great time for a walk.

Getting There:

From the Inn on the Alameda, turn east on Alameda Street (toward the mountains) and follow it along the tree-lined Santa Fe River until it makes a sharp right turn. At the stop sign at the intersection with Upper Canyon Road, turn left and enjoy a slow drive through a very picturesque section of Old Santa Fe until the road makes an abrupt left turn. Here you have a couple of choices: you can turn left here and then immediately right into the parking area for the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe River Preserve, or you can continue straight ahead, along a dirt road, about half a mile to the paved parking area at the Randall Davey Audubon Center itself. There’s a great nature store here, and it’s the meeting place for the Saturday morning bird walks. Check their website for the calendar of events.

The old Randall Davey House seen from inside the Preserve

Santa Fe Travel Leads Home

Santa Fe may be a southwestern paradise, but we locals do leave on occasion, even if the time of year is foreboding…and even when the foreboding is borne out in fact! When the weather delays that froze up 2/3 of the country kept this Santa Fe traveler in the Big Apple with additional time to fill, a business trip bestowed unexpected pleasures that more than made up for the 30-hour return trip (which also yielded renewed appreciation for the stamina and commitment of our guests, who sometimes arrive so tired!).

Snow in the Big Apple

Since I am one of our Santa Fe Opera‘s most ardent fans, extra time meant that a visit to the Metropolitan Opera was inevitable. Waiting through the long months between seasons here in Santa Fe makes having the “opera-tunity” to see a live performance especially delightful. While I have been solaced monthly by the Met simulcasts shown locally at the Lensic Center, nothing really compares to that opening moment when the conductor steps onto the podium and the lights go down. It’s simply thrilling! Thanks to our excellent local Opera company, I had last seen Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra back in the summer of 2004, when Mark Delavan sang the title role and Patricia Racette, a Santa Fe favorite, sang the role of his daughter, Amelia.

Patricia Racette as Amelia and Mark Delavan as Simon; Santa Fe Opera 2004 Production of Simon Boccanegra

Our  rapidly-changing Santa Fe weather always contributes an element of danger (the possibility of wild winds, lightning and thunder) that suits lush historical tales like this one. No fear of weather ensconced safely indoors at the Met, however, where the sense of danger came from the story, full of intrigue and big brassy horns, not to mention Dmitri Hvorostovsky‘s silver mane!  It was a stunning performance, and I came away with the satisfaction of finally seeing James Levine on the podium, a long-held desire. Now that long-held desire has transmuted into patiently waiting for opening night here in Santa Fe, which takes place on Friday, July 1, 2011, with a new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust, led by chief conductor, Frederic Chaslin and director Stephen Lawless. Faust…now that’s a dangerous story!

“Full Court Press” for Simon Boccanegra at the Santa Fe Opera 2004

While waiting for my rescheduled departure, I headed for the other Met, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where a photography exhibition of works by Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand was on display. Nice alliteration on that title and a very serendipitous Santa Fe sense of familiarity for a visiting New Mexican! While I have seen some of Alfred Stieglitz’s beautiful photos of Georgia O’Keeffe at our wonderful O’Keeffe Museum, in an exhibition of this size, there were naturally some exciting discoveries. Beautiful partial nudes and detailed photos of O’Keeffe’s gorgeous (and talented) hands spoke volumes about the deep connection that bound these two artists together.

Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe – Hands, 1919 (printed 1920-1930s) ©Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

It’s no surprise that photographer Paul Strand also spent plenty of time in New Mexico, as have so many artists of all persuasions. Interested parties can peruse the fruits of his labor with a copy of Paul Strand Southwest from our local Photo-Eye Gallery and Bookstore located in Santa Fe on Garcia Street, just a short stroll from the Inn. Even Edward Steichen has a NM connection, with the 1995 book published by the University of New Mexico Press, Picturing an Exhibition: The Family of Man and 1950s America.  In this book, author Eric Sandeen presents a study of Steichen’s historic exhibit and its subsequent global influence, along the way examining the exhibit’s origins, Steichen’s beliefs and background, and the aim of his image selection, all reflected through the lens of the 1950s.  Steichen’s work in the Met exhibit certainly demonstrates his broad array of interests, but there’s always something else to be learned from the back story, especially when the opportunity to learn is found so close to home.

And in a wintery, blustery city with 7-foot high snowbanks, isn’t finding hometown connections one of the comforts of travel? Now if the Big Apple only had our great green chile (an immediate visit to Atrisco ensued upon return), a lonely Santa Fe traveler would never feel far from home!

MMMMM…Green Chile!

Santa Fe Opera Photographs courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera, all rights reserved. Alfred Steiglitz Photograph ©Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

North to Taos from Santa Fe!

This week, we are pleased to welcome as a guest blogger, Taos resident Susan Mihalic, who shares her thoughts on our neighbor to the north. Susan is a writer and editor who has lived in Taos since 1995.

Beautiful Taos Mountain

The Inn on the Alameda has a great central location that enables guests to enjoy a variety of day trips, no matter what time of year or weather. Among the most popular: a day in Taos, only 70 miles north of Santa Fe and a true jewel in New Mexico’s crown. Exploring all that Taos has to offer requires more than a day, but even if your time is short, we can suggest an itinerary that will give you a satisfying taste of this high-desert town. Like Santa Fe, Taos is about 7000 feet above sea level, so be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness. Wear comfortable walking shoes, dress in layers, and don’t forget your camera and your sunscreen.

North of Española, you’ll enter Taos Canyon, where State Road 68 takes you alongside the Rio Grande past the communities of Dixon and Pilar. As you climb in altitude, the river veers west, creating the Rio Grande Gorge, which you will see as you leave the canyon and crest the hill that leads you into Taos.

In Ranchos de Taos, at the south end of Taos proper, you’ll find the historic San Francisco de Asis Church, a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage church. Built between 1772 and 1816, the church is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except for two weeks each spring when the exterior is replastered with mud by parishioners and other volunteers. With its four-foot-thick adobe walls and dramatic buttresses, it is among the most photographed churches in the United States.

The church is located in the Ranchos de Taos Plaza, which is also home to shops and galleries, including Two Graces, an intriguing mix of collectibles and original art. Browsing through items both curated and created by owner Robert Cafazzo is like revisiting childhood. Two Graces is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.

Four miles north of Ranchos and in the heart of the historic district is Taos Plaza. While the Plaza has the requisite T-shirt and souvenir shops, one of our favorite galleries is Acuarelas Studio Gallery (125 North Taos Plaza). It is open every day, although hours vary. Gallery owner and featured artist Leandro Martin Rodriguez works primarily in watercolor (which is what acuarelas means), achieving an infinite palette of subtle colors by hand-mixing the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow. His gallery includes a variety of work by other artists as well, from sculptures to pots to jewelry and more.

The Courtyard of the Blumenschein Museum

From the Plaza, you can walk a short distance to Ledoux Street, which is home to several don’t-miss stops for art lovers:

•  The E. L. Blumenschein Home and Museum, a National Historic Landmark, which offers a collection of work by one of the artists who was fundamental in establishing Taos as an art colony. The Blumenschein Home is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, although winter hours may vary.

•  R. C. Gorman’s Navajo Gallery, which includes the artist’s original drawings, lithographs, and bronzes. Days and hours of operation vary.

•  The Harwood Museum of Art, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday. The Harwood’s impressive collection includes works by Agnes Martin, Andrew Dasburg, Patrociño Barela, and members of the Taos Society of Artists, including Blumenschein, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton, Joseph Sharp, and Victor Higgins.

A Colorful Mural on Ledoux Street

Ready for lunch? Near Ledoux Street is Antonio’s (122 Doña Luz, one block west of the Plaza), which offers both traditional and innovative dishes from Old Mexico; we love the guacamole made tableside, the ceviche (fresh fish in lime juice), and the chile relleno en nogada, a twist on the classic relleno. In the mood for crispy fish and chips or a juicy burger? Head to the Alley Cantina (121 Teresina Lane, behind the north side of the Plaza), located in what is reputed to be the oldest building in Taos. Or have a sandwich and a bowl of green chile at Bent St. Café & Deli, which is at the north end of the John Dunn Shops, less than a block north of Taos Plaza.

After lunch, browse the John Dunn Shops (Moby Dickens Bookshop at 124A Bent Street, right across from the Café & Deli, is a must-visit stop for booklovers) and stroll up and down Bent Street, which offers an eclectic assortment of—you guessed it—galleries and shops. Despite a bend in the road, Bent Street is actually named for one-time New Mexico governor Charles Bent; his former home, at 117 Bent Street, is now a museum. More historic trivia: Bent was the brother-in-law of frontiersman Kit Carson, whose own former home, at 228 Kit Carson Road, is also a museum.

Bent Street in Toas

While both the Governor Bent and Kit Carson museums give visitors a glimpse into the past, we recommend that you save them for next time and instead visit Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. Typically, the Pueblo is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, although from late winter to early spring it is closed for about 10 weeks, and occasional tribal ceremonies may necessitate an unscheduled closing.

The adobe structures in the Pueblo village were constructed between 1000 and 1450 C.E. and are the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in the U.S. These buildings comprise not only homes, but also shops exhibiting traditional and contemporary arts and crafts of Pueblo residents. In addition to art and jewelry, you may purchase oven bread, baked in the traditional beehive ovens called hornos, or another Taos Pueblo specialty, prune pies, from one of the village vendors.

The San Geronimo Church, near the visitor’s entrance, was completed in 1850. Near it are the ruins of the original San Geronimo Church, which was built in 1619 and destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when eight of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos rebelled against Spanish colonization. The revolt was temporarily successful, but in 1692, Spain repossessed the land.

Taos Pueblo welcomes visitors, and with some exceptions, photographs are allowed, although you must pay a fee for each camera you bring into the village, no photography is allowed in the church, and you must ask permission to take pictures of tribal members. Note, too, that the river that divides the north and south “houses” of the village is the source of residents’ drinking water, as the village has no running water or electricity. Do not that Taos Pueblo will be closed for Traditional activities starting February 7, 2011 through approximately March 28, 2011; please contact the Tourism Office at the Pueblo if you have any questions.

A short drive north of Taos Pueblo is the Millicent Rogers Museum (1504 Millicent Rogers Road), which has a priceless collection of assembled by Millicent Rogers, heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. With a legendary sense of style and a sharp mind, she amassed Native American jewelry, pottery, and religious iconography; Spanish Colonial folk art; and textiles from both Native American and Spanish Colonial traditions, all on display along with original jewelry designs by Rogers herself. Among Rogers’ many notable achievements was her commitment to the classification of Native American art as “historic,” which conveyed both status and protection. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it is closed on Mondays from November through the end of March.

As you pass through Taos’s historic district on the way back to Santa Fe, you may want to stop for drinks and pub fare at the Adobe Bar. Located in the Taos Inn (125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), the Adobe Bar is known as the living room of Taos and is popular among both locals and visitors. The margaritas are cold, and the nachos are hot and plentiful. The Taos Inn has a fine dining restaurant, too, Doc Martin’s, which, in the late 1800s, was home to Dr. Thomas Paul (Doc) Martin, who discovered the headless body of ruthless land grabber Arthur Manby—but that story will have to wait for your next visit to Taos! See you then!

Thank you, Susan! We’ll look for you when we head up north!

Susan Mihalic, our Taos Expert