Taking a detour this week and this little spot of cyberspace I call home will turn into a travel blog. I’m already a year late anyhow. No, really. We traveled to Santa Fe, NM last winter, exactly a month before we bought the farm. We e-signed the counter offer and hopped on a plane.
I was working on loan applications in the vacation condo at night and scheduling inspections, etc. but it was all in an effort to purchase our piece of paradise. I didn’t mind working on the computer a little bit as we watched snow fall, snuggled next to a fire. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? Time got away from me once we got back home and we dove head first into farm projects. Now that winter is rolling around again, a year later, I figured it would be a good time to share one of our favorite winter travel spots, Santa Fe, NM.
We are fortunate enough to have friends that share their timeshare perks every once in a while when they are too busy to use them up in a year. They blessed us with our honeymoon to Santa Fe, NM and five and a half years later, we returned to the same spot. We fell in love with Santa Fe in 2010 and yearned to return the second we got home to Louisiana. When we were blessed with accommodations last year, we jumped at the chance to enjoy a little bit of southwestern culture all over again.
We stayed in a condo at Fairmont Heritage Place El Corazon de Santa Fe, NM which is located in the heart of Santa Fe, close to shopping, great restaurants, museums, art galleries and a short drive to some of the best hiking trails. The condos are comfortable and covered in southwestern decor from top to bottom. We were in southwest heaven.
Yep, in heaven. That’s a happy husband right there.
On our honeymoon, we visited Bandelier National Monument, enjoying the beautiful Frijoles Canyon country and studied the cave dwellings dating back 11,000 years.
The pueblo people lived in caves built from the volcanic tuff from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. Since they depended on agriculture to sustain them, they planted corn, beans and squash in mesatop fields which were located in the narrow canyons. They also supplemented their diet with native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, squirrel and domesticated turkeys. By 1550, the pueblo people moved on to pueblos along the Rio Grande.
This trip, we knew we wanted to visit Bandelier again but hike the trails in hopes of seeing an elk or some deer rather than visit the cave dwellings. Since the dwellings are pretty incredible, here’s a snap from 2010:
These pictures don’t even do it justice. The caves are so high into the side of the mountain and the views are spectacular the higher you go. Your breath is taken away by its beauty and everything is covered in a blanket of snow.
Our second trip to Bandelier this past year proved to be even more exciting. The weather was beautiful, sun was shining and we enjoyed testing our limits on the Frijoles Canyon and Rim Trail which is a 13 mile loop. Our work out was definitely complete for the day.
There was a flood in 2014 and you can see the devastation in these pictures, trees and debris slung to one side or another. The water must have rushed through the canyon like a fierce and mighty wind, washing away some of the trails.
To our surprise, the wildlife came out to play that day.
There were moments driving to Bandelier and back to Santa Fe where we stopped on the side of the road to capture God’s creation all around.
I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion because of the hard year we had just been through. We struggled in our marriage, rededicated our lives to Christ and were on the edge of purchasing our little piece of paradise in Zachary. And there we were on the edge of a mountain, together, experiencing God’s artistry right before our eyes. There was so much to be thankful for in that moment that tears of joy was the only expression that fit.
Instead of turning around and heading back to Santa Fe, we continued through the Jemez Mountains towards the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 13 mile circular depression known as Valles Caldera created by a spectacular volcanic eruption approximately 1.25 million years ago. The largest grass valley and the only one accessible by paved road is Valle Grande.
The drive through these mountains is incredible. Each curve around the mountain brought another picturesque view.
When you finally reach this landmark, your mouth drops open in amazement. You realize just how small you are in the world.
It was incredibly windy that day and I remember having trouble standing up in the wide open space just to snap these photos on the side of the curvy road.
If you look closely in the picture above, you will see a tiny cross buried in the snow. The mountain roads are narrow and very curvy and clearly, very dangerous.
On our way back to town, we had our very first elk herd sighting. It was as if time stood still for those 5 minutes.
It was really fascinating to see how comfortable the elk were in our presence. They saw us pull over on the side of the road and exit the truck to take pictures. They actually looked over at us. Shortly after that, another couple visiting from farther north pulled over to enjoy the show with us. All four of us stood in silence next to one another, snapping photos and watching in amazement.
Seeing these magnificent animals in their own habitat and undisturbed was one of the highlights of the trip. Andrew and I headed back feeling completely fulfilled that day.
Each visit, we both leave a little piece of our heart in New Mexico, only to find it again each time we return.
I will stop here and pick up later in the week with Part II of this Santa Fe series. There is so much to share with you that I can’t simply fit it all in one post. Be looking for the next adventure we experienced…snow mobiling!