The Zen Forest

The Zen Forest

The Winsor Trail is Santa Fe’s gateway into the Pecos Wilderness from the west.
Its most popular trailhead is near the western end of the large parking area of Ski Santa Fe, at an elevation of 10,240 feet. On the map for which I’ve provided a link, the portion of the trail from the parking area to its intersection with the Nambe Lake Trail is shown, a walk of about 2.5 miles one way. There is a relentless elevation gain of 760 feet in about a mile, to reach the crest of Raven’s Ridge and the entrance to the Pecos Wilderness, so be prepared – this is the price everyone must pay to enjoy this beautiful walk.

Dogs on leashes, mountain bikes, and livestock are allowed on the Winsor Trail. You can hike this trail year round, but it is snow covered in the winter and snowshoes or cross-country skis might be necessary. Thunderstorms are very frequent in the summer and you’ll want to bring at least some light rain gear, because the showers are chilling. Lightning and hypothermia are dangers once you get above tree line.

The Winsor Trail, the local hiker’s route into the magnificent Pecos Wilderness east of Santa Fe, is beautiful from end to end, but there is a short section that passes through a grove of trees with such a remarkable quality of light and peace that I call it the “Zen Forest”.  And since you can reach this place after only a two mile walk from the parking area at Ski Santa Fe, it makes an ideal destination for a day hike during your visit with us.

A walk in the “Zen Forest” along the Winsor Trail above Santa Fe

I’m not sure exactly what accounts for the appeal of this stretch of aspen.

The mature trees, tall and widely spaced, let in a generous amount of the radiant northern light. The dark spruces are widely spaced as well, and hang their dark boughs down in a manner admired by the Arts and Crafts printmakers, contrasting beautifully with the bright upright aspen. Huge boulders and outcroppings of white stone emerge from the forest floor in sculptural forms, nestled in a sea of bright green heath and wildflowers. At any moment in this forest, you expect to hear the sound of temple bells, or catch a glimpse of a forest hermit reclining in the shadows.

Light and aspen

And the fragrance here is heavenly. In summer the air is drowsy with the balsamic scent of spruce needles, warming in the sun. In spring the powerful life-force of the tasseling aspen adds its note.

And in fall, with the yellow leaves swirling down against an alpine blue sky and collecting on the stones, there arises the subtle fragrance of oriental lilies, faint but unmistakable, distilled somehow from the aspen leaves as they participate in the Eternal Return.

It’s hard for me to tell you exactly when you’ve reached the Zen Forest. Not too long after you’ve left the dense spruce thickets along the slow descent from the saddle at Raven’s Ridge, the trail begins to turn to the right, and aspen begin to replace the dark evergreens.

Forest Service bridge over the Rio Nambe

These trees grow larger, the light magnifies, and presently you’ll reach a spruce whose branches sweep toward the trail, forcing adults to genuflect ever so slightly. You’ve entered the grove. By the time you reach the rustic little bridge over the Rio Nambe, you’ve left it.

Wildflowers are abundant here. In spite of the high elevation, some of these forest dwellers have an almost tropical luxuriance:

Golden Banner

A spray of Corn Lily near the Rio Nambe

The clean white boulders that crop out in the Zen Forest add to the grove’s luminosity. A closer look at these rocks reveals complex patterns that hint at turbulent past lives.

Without leaving the thread of our story too far, I just want to mention that these are truly remarkable rocks. They are called migmatites, and they represent metamorphic rocks that have been subjected to geologic conditions so extreme that the rocks began to partially fuse, bleeding white granitic melt and contorting into fascinating marble-like patterns.

Ancient metamorphic rock on the forest floor

When you reach the cheerful Rio Nambe and leave the Zen Forest, you will catch views of Santa Fe Baldy shouldering its great massif skyward, to the north.

Santa Fe Baldy, looking north from a clearing near the Rio Nambe

This might even be your destination, if you are in good shape and you’ve left the trailhead early enough, on a cool summer’s morning. You’d be about a third of the way there, with a climb to a rocky summit at 12,622 feet still facing you. But you might be content instead to sit quietly by the stream and take in the peace of the forest, and then make your way back home, blessed by your brief sojourn among the aspen of the Zen Forest.

Heading home

A Rocky Mountain iris in a meadow near the Winsor trailhead

Getting there: The parking area at Ski Santa Fe is approximately 16 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza, at the very end of NM 475. From the Inn on the Alameda, you turn north on Paseo de Peralta, and then turn right at the light at the intersection of Paseo with Hyde Park Road. A second right at the next light, which is Artist Road, or NM 475, puts you on your way. The Winsor Trail trailhead is clearly marked at the northwestern corner of the parking area, and the Forest Service maintains some pit toilets and picnic facilities there. It would not hurt to bring a trail map if this is your first walk on the Winsor Trail. You can download the PDF from the link I provided above, or purchase a map at the Travel Bug right next door to the Inn.

The Zen Forest

The Zen Forest The Winsor Trail is Santa Fe’s gateway into the Pecos Wilderness from the west. Its most popular trailhead is near the western end of the large parking area of Ski Santa Fe, at an elevation of 10,240 feet. On the map for which I’ve provided...

read more

The Acceleration Into Summer

The Acceleration Into Summer Cerrillos Hills State Park has a number of trails, all of which you can see on the maps found on the website cerrilloshills.org. There is little shade in the park and your exposure to the sun is high, so be prepared with hats,...

read more

Joe’s Blog: A Santa Fe 4th of July

Joe’s Blog: A Santa Fe 4th of July

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*Unfortunately due to ongoing concerns over COVID 19 Santa Fe has cancelled all 4th of July Festivities*

Many flags have flown over Santa Fe from long before the first celebration of the 4th of July. New Mexico would not become any legal part of the United States until 1848 following the Mexican-American War. So the first 4th of July celebration was most likely observed when New Mexico entered the Union as a Territory (no elected representation in Washington), which she remained until gaining Statehood in 1912. Prior to this, there was a rich tradition of religious and civic festivals such as the Santa Fe Fiesta and the various Catholic saint days that made up an important part of colonial life.

In the United States, the original 13 colonies created most of the national celebrations, while religious observances handled the others. While the Congress passed a Resolution of Independence from England on July 2, 1776, it was not until 2 days later that the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence – on July 4th. In the following year in Rhode Island, the 4th was saluted with the firing of 13 guns representing the 13 original colonies.

This most certainly was the beginning of a tradition of firework displays in all communities and backyards throughout the nation.

But remember, while the firing of the 13 cannons mark this day, any conscientious citizen owes it to himself and nation to contemplate the meaning of this day of independence and what it represents. We embraced the spirit of the Enlightenment and freed ourselves from the chains of monarchy and foreign rule, embarking upon the most unique voyage of religious, political and civic freedoms the world has seen.

Happy 4th of July!

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The Zen Forest

The Zen Forest The Winsor Trail is Santa Fe’s gateway into the Pecos Wilderness from the west. Its most popular trailhead is near the western end of the large parking area of Ski Santa Fe, at an elevation of 10,240 feet. On the map for which I’ve provided...

read more

The Acceleration Into Summer

The Acceleration Into Summer Cerrillos Hills State Park has a number of trails, all of which you can see on the maps found on the website cerrilloshills.org. There is little shade in the park and your exposure to the sun is high, so be prepared with hats,...

read more

The Acceleration Into Summer

The Acceleration Into Summer

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Cerrillos Hills State Park has a number of trails, all of which you can see on the maps found on the website cerrilloshills.org. There is little shade in the park and your exposure to the sun is high, so be prepared with hats, water, and sunblock. Pets are welcome on leashes. Broken Saddle Riding Company uses many of the park’s trails for escorted horse rides. Since this is a State Park, there is a $5 day use fee, payable at the parking area near the entrance of the park. There are no camping facilities.

Apache Plume in full headdress in the Cerrillos Hills

We are moving rapidly into summer, here in the Southern Rockies, and the natural world is bursting with activity. My favorite change can be seen from here in Santa Fe, looking up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east: the grey expanses of aspen high on the mountains are donning their bright yellow-green coat, with the usual suddenness that never fails to impress me. It’s a look as soft as the fuzz on an elk’s new antler, and as welcome as summer itself.

Red columbines along the Winsor Trail above Santa Fe

The alchemy of change is strong up there among the leafing aspen, and this is that brief moment of transition when the fairies appear in the forest. By which I mean, the fairy flowers; those two species that seem the most fairy-like of all our woodland flowers here – the diminutive Red Columbine, and the elusive Calypso Orchid.

A flower like this, bright red, with nectaries perched well up into tubes, is naturally pollinated by hummingbirds, and you can hear the flying jewels chattering under the forest canopy and whirring about. The complexity of this flower is fascinating:

Hummingbird’s view of a columbine

Even more intriguing are the ephemeral Calypso orchids, or fairy slippers. After finding just one of these, years ago, along the Bear Wallow Trail, I have been searching in vain for another look. Our wet winter must have been the key to my luck this year, because I found an entire cluster of these beauties:

Calypso bulbosa along the Winsor Trail

This orchid has a surprisingly sweet fragrance, although I have to warn you that you’ll have to put your head practically on the forest floor to enjoy it.

Meanwhile, here below, in the more arid hills, a tougher set of flowers is showing off its resiliency. Our newest State Park, the Cerrillos Hills State Park, south of Santa Fe, has been offering a variety of nature walks including a Wildflower Walk.

There were splashes of color everywhere:

Paintbrush growing among the rocks

Verbena

This was a very pleasant way to spend part of a Sunday afternoon.

You can keep track of activities like these by visiting the New Mexico State Parks website. And if you prefer to explore on your own, local bookstores like the Travel Bug, Collected Works, or the Nature Center at the Randall Davey Audubon Center have good selections of guidebooks, from the most basic pamphlets, to tomes only a botanist could love.

Getting There: Cerrillos Hills State Park is about 25 miles south of Santa Fe, just a couple of miles off of Highway 14, the famous “Turquoise Trail” that connects Santa Fe to the eastern outskirts of Albuquerque. Turn into the scenic little village of Cerrillos, and then turn right at the sleeping dog – er, first stop sign, and follow the dirt road past the railroad tracks and Broken Saddle Riding Company to the park. Be sure and bring $5 to pay the day use fee.

The Zen Forest

The Zen Forest The Winsor Trail is Santa Fe’s gateway into the Pecos Wilderness from the west. Its most popular trailhead is near the western end of the large parking area of Ski Santa Fe, at an elevation of 10,240 feet. On the map for which I’ve provided...

read more

The Acceleration Into Summer

The Acceleration Into Summer Cerrillos Hills State Park has a number of trails, all of which you can see on the maps found on the website cerrilloshills.org. There is little shade in the park and your exposure to the sun is high, so be prepared with hats,...

read more

See Santa Fe like a Local

See Santa Fe like a Local

Sudden Spring Snow in the Sangres

If you’ve been traveling through the blogosphere with us over the last month, you’ll note that the quest for free entertainment has been an ongoing process. Travels in the east stimulated a search for some things a traveler can do for free right here in Santa Fe. As with all destinations, ideas for free fun differ, but these are a few suggestions for times when you want to save your cash for Santa Fe’s restaurant experiences, which can easily consume some hard-earned travelers’ checks.

That being said, we’ll forgo a corny Top Ten list and just offer ten ideas, in no particular order of preference, for entertainment that won’t break the travel budget and are accessible most times of the year, even in the event of a unexpected springtime snowstorm!

Walk to the Cross of the Martyrs

This is one of the best spots to see an approaching summer storm or a glorious Santa Fe sunset downtown, particularly if you are here without a car. The vistas are expansive, so much so that one could actually see the devastating flames of the Cerro Gordo fire that swept through Los Alamos some years back. You’ll get some excellent exercise climbing up the short but steep hill, which is also a favored destination for those who want to watch Zozobra burn but want to stay off the overly crowded field.

The Cross of the Martyrs

Enjoy Summerscene on the Plaza

The annual Summerscene on the Plaza series offers a chance to relax on the grass with a picnic lunch or dinner or rock out with your dance partner to some of the best local bands. Unfortunately due to the local social distancing protocols it is still uncertain as to when, or even if they will happen this year. To stay updated visit: https://santafebandstand.org/

Summerscene on the Plaza 2009

The Southwest Reading Room at the Santa Fe Public Library

Go Back to the Book

Sure, you’ve done it, but have you done it recently? Visited the library that is! In the world of the smartphone and the iPad, a bit of peace and quiet in a good, old-fashioned library is a most welcome thought. Visit the Southwest Reading room at the Santa Fe Public Library and wander through the stacks looking at old, out-of-print tomes about the Southwest, which you can peruse in the hushed ambiance of this lovely room. Hard to believe that this building was once the downtown Santa Fe police station!

Hike the Atalaya Trail

If a more phyical experience is what you want, but you’re not inclined to drive too far to get one, head for the very accessible Atalaya Trail, located near St. John’s College. The vertical incline of this trail offers a sufficient challenge while not consuming an entire day of your valuable time in the City Different.

St. John’s College Santa Fe

Attend a Lecture or Concert at St. John’s College

And speaking of St. John’s, this educational gem welcomes all to a series of free lectures and concerts that take place throughout the school year. While the topic can sometimes be challenging, if not downright intimidating, the St. John’s tutors are a multi-talented group who share their intellects and interests freely.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Center

Tour the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

Wonder what the small-scale replica of the Alhambra is? Located on the corner of Washington Street and the Paseo de Peralta, this architectural curiosity is the home of the Santa Fe Order of Masons and now hosts a variety of performances and events in its sweet little auditorium. Docent tours of this lovely building, dedicated in 1912, can be arranged by calling (505) 982-4414.

Shidoni Sculpture Garden

Visit the Shidoni Sculpture Garden

Although not technically free since you have to factor in the gas for the car, this is an opportunity to see an acre plus of over-sized and whimsical art in the outdoors. Located in the beautiful village of Tesuque, just 7 miles north of Santa Fe on Bishop’s Lodge Road, visiting Shidoni Sculpture Garden is a wonderful way to see the inspiring landscape of New Mexico and stroll past works by some of Santa Fe’s sculptural masters. In the warmer months, you are welcome to attend Saturday bronze pourings, typically held at 1pm, 2:45pm and 4pm, at which you can learn about how castings are done.

Attend a Pueblo Dance

One of the most intriguing things about New Mexico is the living Native American culture. The remoteness of the state along with its late entry into the U.S. (in 1912, with our centennial to be celebrated in 2012) allowed the Pueblo culture to continue uninterrupted and uncorrupted for years, and attending a feast day is an opportunity to see the unbroken chain of festivities. Seeing the Pueblos also requires a bit of driving and gas, but close to Santa Fe, a few miles north across the highway from Shidoni is the Pueblo of Tesuque, which holds its annual feast day on November 12, in honor of San Diego. Please be sure to observe Pueblo protocol: no photos, no recordings, no note-taking and no entry into a Pueblo home without an invitation.

Head for the New Mexico Visitors’ Center

While not strictly what you might call an entertainment, a visit to the New Mexico Tourism Visitors’ Center at the corner of the Paseo de Peralta and the Old Santa Fe Trail will yield much in the way of destination planning. The knowledgeable and friendly staff there are always happy to share their own ideas for fun, and the place is chock full of maps and guides and brochures. And if you want to “visit” before visiting, the state’s website offers a live chat option!

In Search of the Way

On the subject of maps, you can find all you need right next door to the Inn at The Travel Bug! Maps, topo maps, travel guides and travel gear, along with a friendly dispensing of information, are all at hand, and you are welcome to sit and dream about your next travel destination over coffee for as long as you like. Free parking in the rear for those not staying at the Inn!

A Plethora of Places to Peruse at the Travel Bug

So visit Santa Fe like the locals do….with open eyes and a slim wallet, you can still go far!

The Zen Forest

The Zen Forest The Winsor Trail is Santa Fe’s gateway into the Pecos Wilderness from the west. Its most popular trailhead is near the western end of the large parking area of Ski Santa Fe, at an elevation of 10,240 feet. On the map for which I’ve provided...

read more

The Acceleration Into Summer

The Acceleration Into Summer Cerrillos Hills State Park has a number of trails, all of which you can see on the maps found on the website cerrilloshills.org. There is little shade in the park and your exposure to the sun is high, so be prepared with hats,...

read more

Our Updated Health and Safety Standards

Our Updated Health and Safety Standards

The Inn on the Alameda will implement the “Safe Stay” guidelines recommended by the American
Hotel & Lodging Association, in conjunction with public health experts and recommendations from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These guidelines were “developed specifically to
ensure enhanced safety for hotel guests and employees”. The Inn will revise these standards as needed
based on the recommendations of public health authorities, in compliance with any federal, state and
local laws.

Highlights of the new guidelines include:

    • Hand sanitizer dispensers placed in key guest and employee entrances, with not less than 60 percent alcohol content.
    • NM now requires the use of face masks by everyone in public spaces.
    • Front- and back-of-the-house signage highlighting CDC recommendations, such as how to wear, handle and dispose of masks
    • Reporting of confirmed Covid-19 cases.
    • Employee hand-cleaning protocols, Covid-19 safety training and personal protective equipment use and disposal.
    • Use of disinfectants approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that meet CDC requirements for effective use against viruses, bacteria and other airborne and blood-borne pathogens.
    • Frequent cleaning of public and communal spaces, including elevator panels.
    • Enhanced guest room cleaning: with stipulations that housekeeping shall not enter a guest room during a stay unless requested or approved by the guest and that rooms will be thoroughly cleaned after check-out.
    • Items not easily sterilized will be removed from rooms and public areas.
    • Linens, towels, and laundry shall be washed in accordance with CDC guidelines.
    • Traditional buffet service shall be modified, to be served by an attendant wearing PPE. Sneeze and cough screens shall be present at all food displays; for certain segments, use of prepackaged food and “grab and go” items will be the preferred method of food delivery.
    • Marking public areas for appropriate social distancing and, where applicable, lobby furniture and public seating areas will be reconfigured to promote social distancing.
    • Meeting and convention spaces will follow CDC recommendations for physical distancing.
    • Encouraging the use of technology to reduce direct contact with guests, the lobby population, and the front-desk queue.
    • Encouraging contactless payments.
    • The courtesy vehicle will be out of service for safety of guests and staff.
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