Soaring on Raven’s Ridge

A Gray Jay enjoying the view from Raven’s Ridge

The other weekend I just had to get out for some exercise, and since my thoughts lately have been occupied planning some hikes up in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado next summer, I decided to head up to Ski Santa Fe and get a good workout on Raven’s Ridge, the spur of the Santa Fe Range that divides the Tesuque watershed from the headwaters of Nambe Creek, and which makes up the northern boundary of the Aspen Basin, which we enjoy seeing from Santa Fe nearly every day.

The mountains have been getting light snows most weeks lately, but typically the high country trails are firmly packed this early in the season, and snow shoes aren’t necessary. So I put on my layers, made a thermos of my favorite tea – Formosa Oolong No. 8 from Adagio Teas,  grabbed a breakfast burrito from La Montanita Co-op, and headed up the mountain.

On a clear and sunny day the normally sombre spruce forests above 10,000 feet in elevation literally glow with an inner light, fragrant and invigorating, putting one in mind of Christmas and the holidays.

Looking up into towering Englemann Spruce on the Winsor Trail

There simply isn’t anything nicer than walking through these Snow Forests on a calm and sunny late morning, taking in the pure air and radiant light.

Packed snow on the Winsor Trail above Ski Santa Fe

The section of the Winsor Trail from the parking area of Ski Santa Fe up to the saddle on Raven’s Ridge is always a bit of a test – sort of the dues you have to pay to gain entrance to the Nambe Creek watershed and the peaks beyond. You gain over 800 feet in less than a mile, and since the trailhead is already at 10,200 feet elevation, you generally have to make some stops to catch your breath. I was huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, myself.

Soon enough the trail levels out and you reach the saddle on the flank of Aspen Peak which marks the boundary of the vast and beautiful Pecos Wilderness.

The new sign at the entrance to the Pecos Wilderness along the Winsor Trail

It’s at this gateway that you leave the Winsor Trail and turn right to follow the fence line along an informal trail that follows Raven’s Ridge through the trees. The climb is a little gentler than the switchbacks of the Winsor Trail, but there are a few more places where you’ll have to pause for breath. And there are no views to speak of – until you reach 11,200 feet and the tie-off point of the fence:

The headwaters of Nambe Creek from Raven’s Ridge

Perched on ancient gneiss above the glacial canyon that holds Nambe Lake, you’ll feeling like you’re soaring in a glorious Rocky Mountain High. To your right is Lake Peak, a mountain horn that carries Ski Santa Fe on its west flank, and the headwaters of the Santa Fe River on its south:

Lake Peak

By the way, if you are in the mood for some real adventure, my friend Mar’ Himmerich of Celestial Guides ( will be happy to take you skiing up there.

To your left is the bold massif of Santa Fe Baldy, the highest peak near Santa Fe:

Santa Fe Baldy 12,622 feet high

Below you is a vertiginous drop with more diagonals and verticals than a vintage Italian travel poster:

Winter light

It’s a perfect place to stop for a well deserved break. And as often happens up here in the alpine realm, with a soft fluttering, a flash of grey, and maybe a gentle whistle, you might have guests for tea:

Care to share that Clif Bar with me?

This is the Grey Jay, or Whiskey-Jack, the notorious camp robber who will eat out of your hand (or snatch food from it while you’re not looking). A pair of these birds kept an eye on me the entire time I had my snack.

After a blissful time of taking in the view and enjoying the sun on my face, I grabbed my daypack and headed back down the trail. As I approached the parking area, I could see the that the slopes of Ski Santa Fe are nearly ready for opening:

Ski Santa Fe, seen through spruce and aspen along the Winsor Trail

Soon enough I was back in my car and cruising down NM 475 back to Santa Fe for a rendezvous with Starbucks. It was a Good Day. Come out and see us this winter, and have a good day of your own!

Somebody loves you in Santa Fe!

We Say Thanks, Santa Fe!

This is a favorite holiday for so many people…..and no wonder. For us, Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on the blessings we enjoy by living in Santa Fe and the Land of Enchantment. The climate, the mountains, the light, the food, the music and art, the history and culture, the list is long, and we are grateful to be here.

And we add to this list our sincere gratitude for the blessings of a terrific team at our cozy home-away-from-home, the Inn on the Alameda. From our dedicated and compassionate General Manager, Debbie Swanson, right down to Bryan, our newest hire in Housekeeping, the commitment to creating a memorable guest experience involves the melding of individual abilities and unique talents. We thank each and every person who shows up to work daily with a smile, a willing heart and a pair of hard-working hands.

Our thanks also go out to our thoughtful owners, Joe and Angelica Schepps, who over the years, have created the happy and caring environment that flows throughout the Inn. We wish a cheery holiday season to them and their daughter, Rebecca, and son, Michael, with our heartfelt appreciation.

And our expression of gratitude simply could not be complete without acknowledging our wonderful guests…without them, we would not be here! From our home to yours, thank you, and we wish you a joyous season filled with family, friends, food and fun…..and Santa Fe!

Santa Fe Holiday Food Fun!

You’re invited to dinner in Santa Fe! In fact, we’re suspecting that you probably have a favorite Santa Fe Restaurant in mind, and we’d like to know what it is. Perhaps YOU will be the winner of our Facebook holiday contest!

Vegan Polenta from Galisteo Bistro

TripAdvisor recently named Santa Fe as one of its Top Ten US Food Destinations…..of course, we agree! And if you agree, we invite you to tell us so and possibly win a gift certificate to your favorite Santa Fe restaurant! Simply tell us in 30 words or less about a restaurant in the City Different that you especially enjoy, and if you post a photo of your meal, so much the better, since a picture piques the palate!

Our winner will be the person whose entry receives the most “likes” on Facebook, so be sure to make your entry descriptively delicious! The winner will receive a $200 gift certificate to their favorite Santa Fe restaurant. And be sure to vote as well, because we’re sweetening the pot by awarding a $100 gift certificate to one lucky voter, to be chosen at random by our contest administrator.

Breakfast Burrito at Tia Sophia

Please take time to read the contest rules on our Facebook page in order to avoid disqualification of your entry. ONE ENTRY PER PERSON, please, but you can vote as many times as you like. The winner will be determined by the total number of “likes” that the winning entry receives on our Facebook page. Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011, you can find the contest on the left-hand column of our Facebook page. Just click on the icon called “Promos” to enter. Please remember, a tasty 30 words or less! And while restaurant professionals are most definitely welcome to enter, we respectfully request that you refrain from entering your own Santa Fe restaurant.

Sorry, but those who have won a gift certificate of any kind from the Inn in the last twelve months are not eligible to win, although we welcome their votes.

We thank you for entering and posting your entry on our Facebook page, beginning on Thanksgiving morning when our contest goes live! This culinary quest runs through the food-filled holiday season, from Thanksgiving Day, 11/24/11 through New Year’s Day, 1/1/12, but don’t delay…the sooner you post your tempting tidbit, the more time you’ll have for people to like it! Good luck, good eating and good holiday cheer!

A Collard Greens Burrito at Body Cafe

November Snow

The Forest Service sign at Aspen Vista, changed out for winter

Nearly ever year, sometime around the end of October, Santa Fe gets its first little snowfall to let us know that winter is on its way. This year the reminder came a little earlier, the weekend before Halloween, and the more turbulent conditions up in the mountains put a quick end to the colorful aspen leaves. We had a week’s respite of wonderful weather here in town, but by last weekend another storm swept through, and as far as the highlands are concerned, winter is officially here.

Once the sun came back out I had a drive and a short walk along the Aspen Vista Trail, about a 25 minute drive from downtown Santa Fe. The county is good about keeping the road clear:

The road to Ski Santa Fe, at the Aspen Vista Trailhead

I had a short walk, in dazzling light, along with a few other fellow travelers:

This could be you!

The vivid blue of the alpine sky never fails to seduce me:

Aspen stretching toward the light

Ski Santa Fe is only a few more minutes drive from here, and at this rate there should be some skiing by Thanksgiving. Many of their lifts reach up the Tesuque Peak, which was liberally frosted by the storm:

Tesuque Peak above Santa Fe

Ski Taos is even further along. Taos is beautiful in the winter, and it makes a great day trip from Santa Fe when you’re making your stay with us:

Sacred Taos Mountain, wreathed in clouds, shining over Taos

So start sorting though your warm fleeces and limbering up your knees for a glorious winter vacation in the Southern Rockies! We’ll keep your home base snug and warm for you:

Home at the Inn on the Alameda

Show Us Your Santa Fe

We invited lovers of Santa Fe to share their Santa Fe memories in pictures, and the response was swift and gratifying. Our Show Us Your Santa Fe Facebook contest garnered seventy beautiful pictures. It seems that the sights and the light in Santa Fe and New Mexico encourage camera-happy folks to snap away, and we are happy to share the results!

Our Winner, Pamela Patterson Taylor

Our winning entry, from Pamela Taylor, earned her a two-night stay in one of our Fireplace Suites. In addition, a random drawing administered by our web host led to a second two-night stay in a suite for one of our Facebook voters, Lisa Willinger. We look forward to welcoming both of them to the Inn on the Alameda and Santa Fe, a year-round destination regardless of the weather.

We Have Seen – and Photographed – Our First Snowfall!

You can see all of the photographic entries on our website. It’s clear that these photo folks love Santa Fe, and they make our City Different proud to be on the other end of their camera shutters!