Hiking in the snow forest
We know that many of you out there are celebrating the imminent arrival of warm weather with a spring break getaway. While we are very much looking forward to springtime here in Santa Fe, far above us in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, some 2000 to 3000 feet higher up, the thick stands of Engelmann spruce are reveling in the snow.
Engelmann spruce and a similar tree, the subalpine fir, make up what Audrey DeLelly Benedict aptly calls, in her recent book, “The Naturalist’s Guide to the Southern Rockies”, the Snow Forest. These trees form nearly pure stands above 9000 feet elevation up to timberline in the Southern Rocky Mountains, and they are happily adapted to their short, cool, rainy summers, and the two to five feet of snow that fall each long winter. I’ve only ever found the Engelmann spruce in the mountains above Santa Fe. Our neighbors in Colorado enjoy a mix of spruce and true fir.
Engelmann spruce poking through winter aspen and darkening the ridge
Dense, dark, and a little mysterious on a summer hike – I always associate the mutter of thunder with a walk through these trees – the spruce forest takes on an entirely different quality in winter. Thick layers of white hide the tangle of downed trees on the forest floor and reflect light up into the somber thicket. Festoons of snow trapped in the branches brighten the entire woods.
Why not break out the snowshoes and make the half-hour drive up to the parking lot at Ski Santa Fe. Here you can have a walk down the Rio En Medio Trail, which meets the parking area on the western side of the lot. The elevation here is 10,300 feet, right in the middle of the subalpine zone, and the spruce trees crowd right up to the asphalt.
A patriarch in the forest, snug in blanketing snow
This is a tree made for snow. I can’t help but offer this long quotation from a delightful book A Natural History of Western Trees. Mr. Peattie captures the enchantment of the snow forest in evocative words:
“The most dramatic tree of your first trip in the Rockies will almost certainly be the Engelmann Spruce. Your memories of it will be linked with the towering Grand Tetons, the long, forested valleys of the Yellowstone, the breath-taking beauty of Lake Louise, the park-like spaciousness, the exciting dry air, of Rocky Mountain National Park. And the meeting with a bear, glimpses of bounding deer, the insolence of crested jays, the racket of nutcrackers, the chill of high mountain lakes, the plop of a diving beaver, the delicious taste of camp food cooked in appetite-sauce, and mountain meadows glorious with larkspur, columbine, and lupine – all these are part of your composite recollections of the realms where this fine Spruce grows. But you would not recall it as distinct from other trees had it not an inherent personality of its own. Fifty and 100 feet and more tall, it is, in dense forests, slender as a church spire, and its numbers are legion. So it comes crowding down to the edge of the meadow where your tent is pitched, to the rocks surrounding the little lake that mirrors its lance-like forms upside down. And when the late mountain light begins to leave the summer sky, there is something spirit-like about the enveloping hosts of the Engelmanns. Always a dark tree, the Spruce’s outlines are now inky, and it’s night silence makes the sounds of an owl, or of an old moose plashing somewhere across the lake, mysterious and magnified in portent.”
And so it is. Come see us and find out for yourself.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing offer intimate outdoor experiences that are practical, inexpensive, and healthy, and these activities do not damage our mountains or valleys. There are no expensive lift tickets, a minimal learning curve, no noise from the great machines driving the ski lifts, no long lines—and no snowboarders speeding past. Cross-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing, is done on flat land or rolling hills and trails. When Nordic skis are equipped with special attachments, a skier can climb up hills, but the conventional approach is to keep elevations to a minimum and glide along mountain hiking trails.
Christina Genuario-Gill, the Inn’s general manager and an avid cross-country skier, is happy to recommend trails and guide referrals. Or you can contact Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing for guided tours. Valle Grande in the Jemez is a great location for beginners, while the Nordic tracks and Aspen Vista trail in the Santa Fe National Forest offer trails of various levels of difficulty, all with easy access from Santa Fe.
Skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best ways to experience New Mexico’s crystal-clear air and sweeping mountain vistas, both of which are enhanced by crisp cold weather and New Mexico’s big sky.
In spring, a young man’s fancy turns to love. Saint Valentine himself was a martyr in ancient Rome, but it is unclear how his name became associated with “Valentine’s Day.” In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius established the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14th as a day of remembrance of the Saint. Some of the earliest specific references to this day occur in the 14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer writes in the Parlement of Foules: “For this was on Valentine’s Day, where every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
Shakespeare referenced Valentine’s Day in Hamlet in the early 17th century. Still, it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries in England and America that the tradition emerged of sending beautifully decorated handmade love notes to the object of one’s affection. Soon, candy, chocolate, and gifts became part of the celebration, and that was when what we now know as Valentine’s Day flourished and indeed became a “national holiday.” Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day card’s commercialization has taken the individuality and creativity out of these cards. But people young and old still love receiving a Valentine. At least I still do.
In an attempt to honor the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we have picked six unique couples from Santa Fe whose love for one another has not gone unnoticed in our beautiful and romantic city of the Holy Faith.
Jesus Rios and Teresa Gabaldon
This couple met in Santa Fe in 1934. Jesus had come up from San Jose de la Boca, Durango, Mexico when he was nine years old, and Teresa was born here on East DeVargas Street. Their love-at-first-sight romance turned into a life-long marriage of 65 years. During these happy years, they started a family of eight children, and a thriving, successful business, the Rios wood yard on Camino del Monte Sol.
There are few aspects of Santa Fe that were not touched by the Rios family who contributed significantly to the betterment of their community and the well-being of their family. Their relationship was a loving, reliable and unshakeable partnership to the end of their lives together. El Museo Cultural proudly displays a memorial to the Rios family.
Sam and Ethel Ballen
Sam and Ethel Ballen bought the La Fonda Hotel in 1968 and saved it from possible demolition for a parking lot. Their contributions to our City Different included vital support of SWAIA, The College of Santa Fe, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, The United Way, Santa Fe Community Foundation, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Temple Beth Shalom, The Food Depot, among many others. Their leadership in so many significant civic and charitable efforts have helped make Santa Fe what it is today.
From daughter Lenore: “Mom and Dad met in their college days. My mother, who died on 2/5/06, went to Hunter College. Dad, who died on 2/6/07, went to City College. These schools were part of the City Colleges system in New York. They got married on 7/29/45 while Dad was on leave from the service in what was a quickly planned wedding. Their marriage lasted 61 years. On one of our family trips to Alaska, in honor of Mom and Dad’s 80th birthdays, one of the people on our eco-cruise asked Dad, “ How do you stay married to someone for so long?” Dad’s reply was, “to have a short memory and a big sense of humor.” I remember Mom saying, “you have to forgive and forget.” After talking to Penina, one of my sisters, we recall our parents doing a lot of fun and adventurous activities together. They also had a huge social life. We believe that combining the principles of “forgive, forget, and humor,” with the three elements of “fun, adventure, and a great support system” help create a successful long marriage. That’s their secret.
Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf
No couple has had a larger or more significant impact on the performing arts in Santa Fe than Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf, both through their leadership, commitment, and love for the Santa Fe Opera, and their vision and creation of The Lensic Performing Arts Center. Bill’s experience and business acumen also assured the survival of both the College of Santa Fe (now known as Santa Fe University of Art & Design) and St. Vincent’s Hospital. Along with their support of countless other civic and philanthropic activities, these activities make them two of Santa Fe’s most valuable citizens.
Says Nancy: The secret of a long-married life was given to me by one of my teachers at Julliard who happened to be the mentor of Martha Graham. “It’s all good until there are two tubes of toothpaste on the sink.”
Taking that to heart, I never intruded on my husband’s space. Luckily, we were blessed with two bathrooms and lots of closets. It worked. The other important thing is to stop expecting that, “he should have done this, she should have done that.” You grow up when you stop expecting things from other people. That might also serve for sons and daughters who carry grudges too long. So Bill and I have just celebrated 50 years!”
Alex Hanna and Yon Hudson
In mid-April of 2000, Alex Hanna & Yon Hudson met at A Bar (soon to become Bar B), where Yon was DJ-ing at the 40th birthday party of a mutual friend. After a brief courtship (Yon is a romantic), they began dating. Following a year that brought many significant life events (death, injury, etc.), they decided to move in together.
After eight years and many trips abroad together, Alex & Yon purchased their 1st home. In 2013, they (along with their legal team of Egolf, Ferlic & Day) became successfully involved with changing New Mexico state law, which now provides same-sex couples the right to marry.
Alex & Yon do not take this right for granted. The opportunity for ALL people to openly share their love and commitment with family & friends was a dream that seemed insurmountable only a few years ago. To be a part of such an enormous social achievement is humbling.
Lew and Susan Wallace
Lew Wallace is, perhaps, best known today as the author of Ben Hur. His most relevant role for us, however, was in his position as Governor of the New Mexico Territory. A former civil war general, renowned author, world traveler, and governor of the NM territory during the Lincoln County War, Wallace himself wrote towards the end of his life of the most vivid and important memories of his life.
A full fifty years prior: “I can blow the time aside lightly as smoke from a cigar and have the return of that evening with Miss Elston, and her blue eyes, wavy hair, fair face, girlish manner, delicate person, and witty flashes to vivify it.” The great love and passion of Lew Wallace’s life was his wife.
Susan Arnold Elston was a remarkable woman. Born to a wealthy and influential East Coast family, Susan was of a literary temperament and published many popular poems. Her family disapproved of the young military suitor who was smitten by the witty and beautiful Susan. Despite this, Susan and Lew married for love.
Following Lew’s service in the Civil War, he was appointed governor of the New Mexico territory in 1878. Hired by the Eastern newspapers to send back brief sketches of life in the territory, but too busy with the administration of the territory and writing of Ben Hur, Lew delegated the job to Susan. Her articles became very popular. They were collected and illustrated by Lew and published as The Land of the Pueblos. This book remains a valuable and fascinating record of Puebloan life in the 19th century and can be read online here.
Lew was given an ambassadorship to the Ottoman Empire, and he and Susan traveled together then throughout the Middle East. She wrote several more books and was influential in exploring the ‘women’s issues’ of the period. She collaborated with Lew extensively throughout their lives, assisting him with writing and dictation. Throughout his long life, he remained in love and wrote, “What of success has come to me, all that I am, in fact, is owing to her.”
Phil and Emilie Schepps
These two spent many, many wonderful times in Santa Fe, visiting both their son, me, and their grandchildren Mike and Julie, as well as the countless friends of ours who they made their own. My Dad recalls visiting Bishop’s Lodge in the 1920s with his parents and 2 sisters and hiding from them when it was time to leave, as he loved it here so much. Between service in Europe and an order to report for Pacific duty in 1945, he drove through Santa Fe en route to the West Coast, stopping at Camel Rock for a striking photo when you could still stand at the very base.
Phil and Emilie met in high school in Dallas in the 1930s and fell in love immediately. But family influences drove them to marry others. Fortunately for me and my son Mike, after the 2nd World War ended, they divorced and married each other. Over the course of their more than 65-year marriage, their affection never waned. Our family business was representing some of the finest wineries and distilleries of the world, so their love of travel was a wonderful excuse to regularly visit friends and business associates in Europe and the United States. The two beautiful homes they built together in Dallas were always filled with memories, friends, and family, and these homes still stand today as exceptional examples of both 1950s and 1970s classic architectural styles. Their friendships in Dallas and around the world included people from all walks of life One important ingredient to their long and happy relationship is they also gave each other their own space. For instance, my Dad never entered a bar he didn’t like, while Mother never entered a museum she didn’t love.
Their fine taste and love of life together led them to live in St. Vincent de Cosse, France in the Dordogne Valley where they remodeled an 18th-century French farmhouse and spent 11 years enjoying the best of Southern France while entertaining countless friends and relatives from home. However, they remained Dallasites for their entire lives and even though Dad passed away in 2004, my Mother, at 99 years of age, still loves and thinks of him daily as she did when she was a high school teenager in love.
From the entire staff at Inn on the Alameda, Mike, and myself, we hope you will be our Valentine!
Sources: Spragg, Joann Montgomery County Historical Society Report on Susan Arnold Elston Wallace