The Randall Davey Audubon Center

The Randall Davey Audubon Center


The Randall Davey Audubon Center

The Randall Davey House at Santa Fe’s Audubon Center

If you are staying in downtown Santa Fe – perhaps with us here at Inn on the Alameda – and you need a quick taste of the natural world, there is no better choice than Santa Fe’s Audubon Center just at the end of Upper Canyon Road, in the spacious entrance to the canyon of the little Santa Fe River. It’s about a two mile drive from the Inn, along some of Old Santa Fe’s most picturesque streets, and while the very last section of the road is unpaved, there’s plenty of parking and a welcoming nature center waiting for you at the end of your short journey.
The Audubon Center’s ground is just beyond the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, where there is even more parking available, as well as trailhead access to the network of paths in Santa Fe’s Dale Ball Trail system. The Dale Ball Trails give you a way to to explore the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above town – and get some great views – without really leaving town at all.

Beaver ponds in the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve

The Audubon Center supports a small network of trails, which are great for morning bird walks, and the Nature Conservancy maintains a trail loop in their preserve, with some strategically-placed interpretive signs along the way.

Sinuous beaver dam on the Santa Fe River

In the early days, a sawmill was built here in the mouth of the canyon – which subsequently became the Randall Davey House – and Santa Fe’s first dam was constructed to hold back a small reservoir. This soon proved insufficient for the growing town, and other small dams were built upstream, higher in the watershed, to impound the spring runoff. Most of the canyon was deforested for firewood.
With this movement of attention up-canyon, the area around the Randall Davey House began a slow recovery, which has been greatly assisted by the efforts of the Audubon and the Nature Conservancy. The most remarkable of these rejuvenations is the growing family of beavers that has moved back into the stream.
Although I enjoy spotting birds as much as the next person (not very reliably, I have to confess), the Canyon Preserve also offers other opportunities to explore natural history. There is a short stony trail along the north side of the canyon, just above the beaver ponds, that skirts a window into Santa Fe’s more distant past – a past in which Santa Fe might have looked a little more like Cabo San Lucas than the high desert resort it is today.
The north part of the trail is built on a scree of fractured gneiss that has slid into place along an old metal retaining wall built to keep debris out of the old reservoir below. These rocks are extremely old. They form part of the crystalline basement – the ancient continental crust – that was pushed up here during the birth of the Rocky Mountains some 70 million years ago or so. The gneiss itself is over 1.5 billion years old.

Fractured pink gneiss with green stains of saussurite

Although it was born in an environment so hot, deep, and pressured that the rock could flow like taffy, subsequent movement upward brought it into a cold, low-pressure environment (our environment) where the rock became brittle and easy to fracture.
A little further along the trail, just beyond a section of seriously brecciated (broken) gneiss, layered and blocky grey beds appear, separated by gentle slopes of a powdery soil littered with fragments of rock. The grey layers are beds of limestone, a rock that practically always points to a shallow marine conditions at its time of deposition, and the slopes in between hide easily-eroded beds of shale, formerly mud, which also must have settled out of a body of water. (Shale is not quite as helpful in distinguishing its environment as limestone –  it plugs up river channels on land, silts up lakes, softens the contours of the sea floor deep or shallow, regardless) And while sedimentary rocks like these are initially laid down in practically horizontal strata, these layers are strongly tilted in places:

Tilted beds of limestone in along the trail

Shattered gneiss juxtaposed against tilted sedimentary strata indicates faulting – a process in which rocks are offset along fractures in the Earth’s crust. These particular layers of limestone and shale aren’t very thick on Santa Fe’s side of the mountain, but if you were to hop over the mountains to the east, you’d find entire ridges worth of the stuff. On this side of the mountain only a few small slivers of the limestones and shales are preserved, and these are inset into the crystalline basement rocks along faults such as the one you’ve just walked across on the trail.
A closer look at the limestone beds gives a much stronger indication of their marine origin:

Marine fossils in Pennsylvanian limestone along trail

The rocks are full of fossils – brachiopods (the shells), crinoids (sea lilies), and byrozoans (looking like sea fans) – which strengthen the interpretation that these limestones were laid down in a shallow sea. Such creatures typically thrive in shallow, warm, sunlit waters. The fact that most of the fossils are abraded or broken up into fragments suspended in limy mud (geologists call this a “fossil hash”) also hints at waves and tidal currents dispersing the remains.

These fossils help in another way: they allow geologist to assign the rocks to a specific period in the distant past – in this case, the Pennsylvanian Period (320 -286 million years ago). Reconstructions of the positions of the drifting continents puts New Mexico practically at the Equator at that time. A foreshadowing of the Rocky Mountains – the Ancestral Rockies – were punching up through shallow seas then, responding to stresses set up by the convergence of the North and South American continents. In my mind’s eye, I can picture a calm ocean glittering under a hot equatorial sky, with arid islands of granite shimmering in the distance – like the Sea of Cortez off La Paz – right here, where Santa Fe sits today, 7000 feet above the ocean.

So next time you’re here in town, take a short drive up Alameda Street and Upper Canyon road, get out and stretch your legs, say hello to the nice people at The Nature Store, and have a walk, with eyes either tuned to the past or the present, in this wonderful natural treasure only minutes from the Plaza.

Amazing Chaco Canyon

Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

read more
Under The Volcano

Under The Volcano


Under the Volcano

Today I’m going to give a little overview of the geology of the Cerrillos Hills. Before I begin, however, I would like to direct the attention of those more serious inquirers and rockhounds to an article by a true expert on this area, Stephen Maynard: “The Geology of the Cerrillos Hills“. My intention is to highlight some of the bold features you might see on a walk in the new State Park on a sunny afternoon, with a few photographs to guide us along. If this piques your interest, don’t hesitate to build some context by having a look at Stephen’s excellent and easy to read summary.

“Grand Central” in the Cerrillos Hills

Everyone has seen pictures of volcanoes, but did you ever wonder what it might look like under the smoking mountain? A walk in the Cerrillos Hills will give you that opportunity, with a little guidance from the geologists. All that pent-up magma, liquid and mobile, seeking a new equilibrium in the Earth’s crust above those places where it has been born, exerts a tremendous amount of pressure as it wedges its way up through the rocks. In places it pauses and pools horizontally, splitting the crust and lifting it up, forming a sort of gigantically hot flat pancake in the crust. If the magma freezes there, the body of rock it leaves is called a sill. (Think flat, like a window sill).

If the pancake of magma continues to grow, eventually its roof will rupture in vertical cracks, and the hot batter will squirt up into the splits with great violence, propping them open. If the magma freezes here, the body of rock it leaves is called a dike. Exposed by erosion at the earth’s surface, these features often stand up like walls or dams, hence the name. Here’s a small dike you might walk by in the park:

A dike exposed by erosion in the Cerrillos Hills

While these splits and ruptures can cease at any time, if they do continue upward and breach the surface, the magma gets out. We call the “getting out” a volcanic eruption.

In our part of the American West, it so happens that a very thick body of shale – mud that has accumulated on the floor of an ocean or a lake, and subsequently compacted into rock – stood in the way of the ascending magma and led to some unusual effects.

Laccoliths are sills with bulging roofs, bowing up the rocks above, like a blister. In the Cerrillos area, these blisters actually stacked themselves one above the other, forming – in the fevered imagination of a geologist – something like a stony Christmas tree. The relative weakness of the thick shale encouraged this phenomenon. To put you out of your suspense, the magma did eventually reach the surface, forming a volcano, but persistent erosion dispersed the volcano and etched its way down into the stack of sills and dikes among which we can walk, today.

An outcropping along the railroad tracks that might help put things into perspective.

The pale grey stuff on the left, with the skirts of loose talus, is the shale. (It has a name, the Mancos Shale, about which more in another piece) The craggy orangy-grey cliffs, forming the little peak on the right, is a partially exposed sill of frozen magma. Keep in mind, from this perspective, the magma didn’t so much push up through the shale as out toward you. And it froze in place far underground. The little layer of orange stuff capping the grey shale on the left is a modern blanket of loose rock eroded from the sills and dikes and spread out as a thick rocky soil.

The magma frozen into the sills and dikes in the Cerrillos Hills has a very distinctive texture. Here’s an example:

Andesite porphyry

You can see a thick speckling of white crystals and clots of black crystals suspended in a greenish-gray mass of stone. An igneous rock with this sort of texture – visible crystals floating in a fine grained groundmass – is called a porphyry. To a geologist’s eye, this texture indicates at least two episodes of cooling. And the stony appearance of the groundmass is a clue that the final episode of cooling was fairly rapid and occurred under low confining pressures, a characteristic of volcanic activity.

By the way, that dark mineral you see is rich in iron, so as these rocks weather at the surface, they acquire a patina of rust. That’s why the rocky outcroppings in the hills are more orange than grey.

As if all this blistering wasn’t enough, in a second episode of igneous activity, a big slug of magma of somewhat different composition forced its way through the pile of laccoliths to feed another generation of volcanism. Some of this magma froze into a large, roughly cylindrical plug – called a stock – right in the middle of our stack of sills, and when erosion hacked its way into this mass, it left the stock standing in relief. It’s big. We call it Grand Central, now, and you can see a picture of it at the beginning of this entry.

This second episode of intrusion was sufficiently forceful to dome up and distort the entire package of shale, sills, and dikes. And this mass of melted crust had an additional cargo of elements humans find either useful or attractive – like gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc. Now we’re talking!

An intrusion of this magnitude takes a long time to crystallize and cool off, and as it does so, all kinds of secondary effects can occur. The heat of the magma sets groundwater into motion. Much of this water is superheated and aggressively corrosive. The crystallizing magma itself rejects volatile elements like hydrogen (i.e. more water) chlorine, and sulfur. It also rejects elements that don’t fit into the atomic framework of the bulk of the minerals that are crystallizing: the heavier metals that we love to use in wedding rings and bullets and car batteries and telephones. This hot brew of chemicals seeks its way toward the surface as best it can, staining everything it touches and leaving behind crusty residues of exotic minerals rich in those valuable metals.

In the Cerrillos Hills a system of fractures oriented in a northeasterly direction guided these potent juices to create bleached and iron stained zones of rock the old miners called veins or lodes. Erosion gradually unearthed some of them (with weathering effects adding lovely new complexities, one of which is called turquoise) and miners both ancient and modern began poking around for the riches:

Prospect pit in the Cerrillos Hills

The ancient ones (and not a few modern rockhounds) sought turquoise, which was used for adornment and was traded far and wide. They also used some of the lead minerals to make pottery glazes. The pragmatic Spanish had no use for turquoise, but lead was always useful for bullets, copper for utensils, and silver for money. The turn-of-the-last-century Anglo miners loved that silver too, but also had industrial markets for lead, zinc, and copper. (There’s not much gold in the Cerrillos Hills, but in the rugged mountains you can see just to the south, the Ortiz Mountains, there was – and is – plenty of gold) Turquoise experienced a new vogue in jewelry and small mines were developed to find it. (You always wondered why the box from Tiffany’s had that particular color, didn’t you?)

As usual, the richer and easier to find deposits were exploited to the point of exhaustion. There’s still a faint halo of copper minerals in the rocks, exploitable by modern mining techniques – but it would require the removal of the Cerrillos Hills themselves to get it (not to mention an ocean of unavailable water) and this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. But for now, we can admire the efforts of the early miners, preserved in the park, and we can enjoy a unique natural museum of subterranean activity – under the volcano – laid out for anyone who takes the time to look.

Amazing Chaco Canyon

Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

read more
The Lensic – Santa Fe’s Grande Dame

The Lensic – Santa Fe’s Grande Dame

The Lensic – Santa Fe’s Grande Dame

On June 24, 1931, alongside the beginning of the Great Depression, The Lensic motion picture “palace” opened in our fair city of just 11,000 souls.

Built by Nathan Salmon and John E. Greer, and named for Mr. Greer’s six grandchildren, the Lensic was an anagram of the first letter of each grandchild’s name. Built in the Spanish Baroque style, the Lensic’s distinct architecture has defined Santa Fe as much as John Gaw Meem’s Pueblo Revival style. She was the social center of town with her own ballroom and a stage for vaudeville acts, with a 6 musician orchestra pit.

Historic Lensic Exterior-EDIT

By the 1990’s, the wear and tear of passing decades made her look worn down. Because of Bill Zeckendorf’s vision that Santa Fe could and would support a downtown performing arts center, his wife Nancy and other civic minded Santa Feans began the arduous task of raising $9,000,000 necessary for its expansion and historic preservation. Without the foresight and shared vision of Alexis Girard and her family, the Lensic Board would have never been able to eventually own the theater, a critical requirement for philanthropic support.

B24
View from Stage

Throughout the years, this “wonder theater of the Southwest” hosted performers as diverse as Chet Grass and his Frontier Knights Orchestra to vaudeville shows with skimpily clad dancing girls like Maria Y Sable. When the Lensic premiered Santa Fe Trail in 1940, Roy Rogers Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan and Olivia de Haviland all were in attendance. In 1934, Claudette Colbert appeared at the premier of Cleopatra, a young Judy Garland performed here, Rudy Valle crooned, and for the 1982 film festival, Lillian Gish, Ray Bolger, Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers smiled, blew kisses and danced across the stage.

_68X0074

With this sort of history, most of our citizens felt the Lensic had to be one of the finest performing arts centers in America. The Lensic Performing Arts Center opened on April 22, 2001 featuring violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, Marc Neikrug, David Grusin and Eddie Daniels among many others, including a hundred National Dance Institute students performing on stage.

Future Voices of New Mexico Awards 2016

The Lensic was off and running, creating in the past 20 years countless diverse community oriented programs including dance, voice, musical, theatrical performances and lecture series.

_MG_5237b

Santa Fe is a city whose citizens pine with love for all the performing arts, and the Lensic is one of the major pillars supporting our City Different’s unique position in our land. The foresight of Nathan Salmon and E. John Greer, along with the drive and determination of the Zeckendorfs and Alexis Greer Girard, plus countless donors, big and small, including the State of NM and the City of Santa Fe, gave us this bountiful gift.  Any trip to Santa Fe should include a visit to the Lensic for a performance or two. Before your visit to the Inn on the Alameda, check out Lensic.org for a list of the coming attractions and get your tickets early. The Lensic is truly a gem in the crown of the Performing Arts in New Mexico, and is fortunately located right here in Santa Fe.

Amazing Chaco Canyon

Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

read more
The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The spirt of Georgia O’Keeffe in Galisteo, New Mexico

One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours.

Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe over the weekend, beginning in late summer, with the first hint of fall in the high country, and ending in mid-November, when winter is starting to show on the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Over the years these events have become remarkably well organized, with flyers and websites, welcoming stations with friendly folks passing out maps (surrounded by the inevitable bake sale), large and colorful signs guiding you along the obscure calles, and groups selling traditional meals and snacks  somewhere in a village gathering spot.

The village of Galisteo hosts one of my favorite tours. This old town, about half an hour’s drive southeast of Santa Fe, always picks a mid-October weekend to host, basking in autumn light and the golden glow of the cottonwoods along Galisteo Creek.

Crossing little Galisteo Creek on the village bridge

As always, the local Catholic Church is a good place to stop and plot your afternoon.

The church in Galisteo

The gnarled old roots of old New Mexico poke up from the earth here, as they do in every village:

A crumbling adobe, returning to the land

If you really want to see how an artist works, and find out what inspires him or her, a visit to the studio will go far to satisfy your curiosity.

Catherine Ferguson’s sign hanging outside her house and studio

A yard full of art

Everyone seems to be happy to talk to you, and to show you the tools of their trade. You’ll probably be offered a snack from the kitchen and the privilege of wandering around the house and yard – and if you see a work you can’t live without, you’ll very likely be able to purchase it on the spot.

Well over half the fun of making a studio tour is peeking into people’s normally private homes and gardens, seeing how they arrange their creative lives, and enjoying the rich intermingling of art, landscape, and livelihood that might well cause a twinge of envy as well as admiration.

An illuminated wall

A questionable invitation

Behind adobe walls. Paintings were hung all along this box of light.

So if you’re planning a visit out our way next year around this time – and what could be more delightful than the Southern Rockies in September and October? – take a moment to look into the local studio tours and make some time for a day trip. I think you’ll discover then, for yourself, why the arts and New Mexico are so firmly joined.

Looking toward Galisteo from the house of the chocolate artist

Amazing Chaco Canyon

Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

read more

The spirt of Georgia O’Keeffe in Galisteo, New Mexico

One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe over the weekend, beginning in late summer, with the first hint of fall in the high country, and ending in mid-November, when winter is starting to show on the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Over the years these events have become remarkably well organized, with flyers and websites, welcoming stations with friendly folks passing out maps (surrounded by the inevitable bake sale), large and colorful signs guiding you along the obscure calles, and groups selling traditional meals and snacks  somewhere in a village gathering spot.

The village of Galisteo hosts one of my favorite tours. This old town, about half an hour’s drive southeast of Santa Fe, always picks a mid-October weekend to host, basking in autumn light and the golden glow of the cottonwoods along Galisteo Creek.

Crossing little Galisteo Creek on the village bridge

As always, the local Catholic Church is a good place to stop and plot your afternoon.

The church in Galisteo

The gnarled old roots of old New Mexico poke up from the earth here, as they do in every village:

A crumbling adobe, returning to the land

If you really want to see how an artist works, and find out what inspires him or her, a visit to the studio will go far to satisfy your curiosity.

Catherine Ferguson’s sign hanging outside her house and studio

Everyone seems to be happy to talk to you, and to show you the tools of their trade. You’ll probably be offered a snack from the kitchen and the privilege of wandering around the house and yard – and if you see a work you can’t live without, you’ll very likely be able to purchase it on the spot.

A yard full of art

Well over half the fun of making a studio tour is peeking into people’s normally private homes and gardens, seeing how they arrange their creative lives, and enjoying the rich intermingling of art, landscape, and livelihood that might well cause a twinge of envy as well as admiration.

An illuminated wall

Behind adobe walls. Paintings were hung all along this box of light.

A questionable invitation

So if you’re planning a visit out our way next year around this time – and what could be more delightful than the Southern Rockies in September and October? – take a moment to look into the local studio tours and make some time for a day trip. I think you’ll discover then, for yourself, why the arts and New Mexico are so firmly joined.

Looking toward Galisteo from the house of the chocolate artist

Joe’s Blog: The History of the Santa Fe Railroad

Joe’s Blog: The History of the Santa Fe Railroad

Joe’s Blog: The History of the Santa Fe Railroad

narrowgaugengdiscussion.net_-300×236

Santa Fe remains synonymous with railroads, thanks to the continued existence of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, even though a merger in 1994 with Burlington Northern all but obliterated Santa Fe’s name from the new company. Now known as BNSF, future generations will certainly not recall the colorful history of the AT&SF Railroad, nor the origins of the name of the BNSF.

Long before this merger, in the beginnings of the western expansion of the railroads, the AT&SF was formed in 1859 to connect Kansas with Santa Fe, the legendary capital of the newly formed New Mexico territory. However, unknown to most, there was another railroad that served Santa Fe. Ironically, the AT&SF never even reached the capital, as the elevation grade made routing through Santa Fe impractical. But the grades were nothing for the tough narrow gauge (3 feet wide) railroad known as the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG), incorporated in 1870 to build tracks from Denver to Santa Fe. Its company emblem was scribed with the words: “Through the Rockies, not around them.”

Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday – Characters of the Old American West – images from wikipedia.org

The history of the conflicts between the AT&SF and D&RG railroads is legendary. Competition for the lucrative routes that would link the silver and gold riches of Utah and Colorado with the rest of the country eventually led to a conflict between the AT&SF and the upstart Denver D&R). The dream of the upstart D&RG owners was to eventually connect Denver with El Paso Texas, an arduous task to say the least. The fierce competition between the two railroads intensified until literally a war broke out over the lucrative Southern Colorado Arkansas River basin, where a narrow gateway named the Royal Gorge gave access to the many mines of western Colorado.

The Royal Gorge War was intense, violent and even involved hired gunslingers such as Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. It looked like the AT&SF would secure the lucrative routes through force of arms until a circuit court ruling in the D&RG’s favor proved decisive. Armed now with the force of the law, the D&RG was free to pursue a direct line connecting Colorado with Santa Fe. Believing a narrow gauge design to be superior in the mountainous terrain between Antonito and Santa Fe, the company began laying a narrow gauge track south from southern Colorado to Santa Fe. The narrow track was layed within the portion of the D&RG from Antonito, Colorado, on through the small New Mexico towns of Tres Piedras, Taos Junction, Embudo, Espanola and eventually on to Santa Fe. This section was nicknamed the “Chili Line” in honor of New Mexico’s premier and distinctive crop, but its official name was the Santa Fe Branch. Though the majority of western commercial traffic would continue to go to the AT&SF, the Chili Line leg of the D&RG began construction in 1880, eventually, providing a valuable link between the small and isolated northern New Mexican and southern Colorado farmers and ranchers and the country’s larger markets.

Due to its remote nature from Antonito, Colorado, down through desolate Northern New Mexico to Santa Fe, the Chili Line would be an informal one. The engineers and fireman “often stopped to shoot jackrabbits and coyotes. Sometimes passengers joined in the sport… In the little town of Tres Piedras, the train would meet ‘a yellow mongrel dog…’ The engineer tossed off a newspaper daily which the dog picked up and carried to the home of its owner.” (The Evening Independent -St. Petersburg, Florida: Associated Press- September 2, 1941).

The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 – image from wikipedia.org

Ironically, the court decision to bring peace between the AT&SF and the D&RG prevented D&RG to go further south than Espanola, so another train company was formed, named the Texas, Santa Fe and Northern Rail Road Company, and in 1886, the Chili Line arrived in the Santa Fe Railyards. The Chili Line continued its operations until 1941 when transportation by truck began the erosion of the small narrow gauge “feeder lines” throughout the country. But it didn’t end there, the final successor inter-city train, known as the Zephyr, continued service until the mid 1980s.

So, at least 3 Railroads have used the Santa Fe Railyards for depots, not just the more famous one, the AT&SF, whom as I said in the beginning, has itself fallen to the fate of time and is now only represented by 2 letters behind the BR of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, whose harsh orange engines laboriously pull double decked railcars from China across the country-side.

A visit to Santa Fe should always include a tour of the Santa Fe Railyards where the original depots of these railroads can be seen. And where else to stay but the Inn on the Alameda, conveniently located near the Plaza and Canyon Road as well. If you don’t feel like walking, our free courtesy car will gladly drop you off and pick you up at your convenience.

Amazing Chaco Canyon

Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

read more

Santa Fe remains synonymous with railroads, thanks to the continued existence of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, even though a merger in 1994 with Burlington Northern all but obliterated Santa Fe’s name from the new company. Now known as BNSF, future generations will certainly not recall the colorful history of the AT&SF Railroad, nor the origins of the name of the BNSF.

The D&RG on the Narrow Gauge. Image from ngdiscussion.net

The D&RG on the Narrow Gauge. Image from ngdiscussion.net

 

Long before this merger, in the beginnings of the western expansion of the railroads, the AT&SF was formed in 1859 to connect Kansas with Santa Fe, the legendary capital of the newly formed New Mexico territory. However, unknown to most, there was another railroad that served Santa Fe. Ironically, the AT&SF never even reached the capital, as the elevation grade made routing through Santa Fe impractical. But the grades were nothing for the tough narrow gauge (3 feet wide) railroad known as the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG), incorporated in 1870 to build tracks from Denver to Santa Fe. Its company emblem was scribed with the words: “Through the Rockies, not around them.”

Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday - Characters of the Old American West - images from wikipedia.org

Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday – Characters of the Old American West – images from wikipedia.org

 

The history of the conflicts between the AT&SF and D&RG railroads is legendary. Competition for the lucrative routes that would link the silver and gold riches of Utah and Colorado with the rest of the country eventually led to a conflict between the AT&SF and the upstart Denver D&R). The dream of the upstart D&RG owners was to eventually connect Denver with El Paso Texas, an arduous task to say the least. The fierce competition between the two railroads intensified until literally a war broke out over the lucrative Southern Colorado Arkansas River basin, where a narrow gateway named the Royal Gorge gave access to the many mines of western Colorado. The Royal Gorge War was intense, violent and even involved hired gunslingers such as Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. It looked like the AT&SF would secure the lucrative routes through force of arms until a circuit court ruling in the D&RG’s favor proved decisive.   Armed now with the force of the law, the D&RG was free to pursue a direct line connecting Colorado with Santa Fe. Believing a narrow gauge design to be superior in the mountainous terrain between Antonito and Santa Fe, the company began laying a narrow gauge track south from southern Colorado to Santa Fe. The narrow track was layed within the portion of the D&RG from Antonito, Colorado, on through the small New Mexico towns of Tres Piedras, Taos Junction, Embudo, Espanola and eventually on to Santa Fe. This section was nicknamed the “Chili Line” in honor of New Mexico’s premier and distinctive crop, but its official name was the Santa Fe Branch. Though the majority of western commercial traffic would continue to go to the AT&SF, the Chili Line leg of the D&RG began construction in 1880, eventually, providing a valuable link between the small and isolated northern New Mexican and southern Colorado farmers and ranchers and the country’s larger markets.

The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 - image from wikipedia.org

The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 – image from wikipedia.org

 

Due to its remote nature from Antonito, Colorado, down through desolate Northern New Mexico to Santa Fe, the Chili Line would be an informal one. The engineers and fireman “often stopped to shoot jackrabbits and coyotes. Sometimes passengers joined in the sport… In the little town of Tres Piedras, the train would meet ‘a yellow mongrel dog…’ The engineer tossed off a newspaper daily which the dog picked up and carried to the home of its owner.” (The Evening Independent -St. Petersburg, Florida: Associated Press- September 2, 1941). Ironically, the court decision to bring peace between the AT&SF and the D&RG prevented D&RG to go further south than Espanola, so another train company was formed, named the Texas, Santa Fe and Northern Rail Road Company, and in 1886, the Chili Line arrived in the Santa Fe Railyards. The Chili Line continued its operations until 1941 when transportation by truck began the erosion of the small narrow gauge “feeder lines” throughout the country. But it didn’t end there, the final successor inter-city train, known as the Zephyr, continued service until the mid 1980s.

So, at least 3 Railroads have used the Santa Fe Railyards for depots, not just the more famous one, the AT&SF, whom as I said in the beginning, has itself fallen to the fate of time and is now only represented by 2 letters behind the BR of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, whose harsh orange engines laboriously pull double decked railcars from China across the country-side.

A visit to Santa Fe should always include a tour of the Santa Fe Railyards where the original depots of these railroads can be seen. And where else to stay but the Inn on the Alameda, conveniently located near the Plaza and Canyon Road as well. If you don’t feel like walking, our free courtesy car will gladly drop you off and pick you up at your convenience. Oh, yes…remember to order a :”Sidecar” when you are dining or cocktailing in the Agoyo Lounge.

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!

Amazing Chaco Canyon

Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

read more
BOOK NOW