Misty Morning Shimmer

Morning walks around German Village can be a feast for the senses.  On days like today, where lingering traces of pre-dawn fog hug the ground and leave a glowing sheen on the brick roadways, you feel like you might just live in a mystical land.  

Those bricks look great on these kinds of mornings, but be wary — they’re death when sleet or freezing rain come to town.

Around Ghost Ranch

It’s not hard to see why Georgia O’Keeffe felt that the countryside around Ghost Ranch, in northern New Mexico, spoke to her.  With its stark shapes, interesting geological formations, and colors that used just about every pigment In Mother Nature’s pallet, Ghost Ranch on a sunny day is a feast for the senses.

On The Trail To Chimney Rock

Yesterday we drove over to Ghost Ranch — Georgia O’Keeffe’s old stomping grounds — and hiked up to the top of Chimney Rock butte.  It’s about a three-mile hike, round trip, heading up and then scrambling down more than 600 feet.


The trail is classified as easy to moderate, but it was complicated significantly by a lot of mud and some icy patches.  Fortunately, the welcome center offers walking sticks, and we took them up on their offer.  The walking sticks came in handy as we navigated the trail switchbacks and tried to avoid spills on the icy sections.


The last section of the hike was especially steep and icy, but once we reached the top the view made the hard work all worthwhile.  The butte is an outcropping that gives a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.  We felt we could see for miles.  The views on the way back down weren’t bad, either.

At Carlsbad Caverns

Yesterday we visited the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  It’s located in a remote area near the southern border of New Mexico, so it takes an effort to get there.  We made a five-hour drive from Santa Fe to reach it — but it was definitely worth it.


We took the natural entrance to the cave, which requires you to walk down a steep series of switchbacks and drop hundreds of feet into the mouth of the cave.  (It’s easily doable, but if you’re queasy about heights, be sure to stick to the inside of the switchbacks.)  Once you leave the last rays of natural light, in the area shown above, you find yourself in a dimly lit fantasy land of astonishing rock formations ranging from the delicate, like the Doll’s Theater shown at the top of this post, to massive stalactites and stalagmites. 


And when you reach the Big Room, a colossal underground opening where the fabulous creations of nature are found around every corner, be prepared to spend some time just shaking your head in wonderment at it all.  Words can’t begin to describe it, and photos taken with a cell phone can’t really begin to capture the scale and intricacy and vastness of it all.  I’ve posted some photos merely to give an idea of what you’ll see on a visit, but understand that they convey only a tiny fraction of what it is like to be there.


And, after a time, a certain hush seems to fall over it all.  Even rambunctious kids begin to talk in whispers as they walking along the path, and there’s not much need for shushing rangers, either.  Standing in the cool dimness — the Caverns maintain a constant temperature in the 50s– with the vaulted ceiling far above, and towering statuary-like figures everywhere you look, the experience is like being in a gothic cathedral . . . and who is loud in a church?


The Carlsbad Caverns are a world heritage site, drawing visitors from across the globe, and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s got to be one of the most spectacular bits of natural beauty you can find anywhere, as jaw-dropping in its way as the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef.  

Encino

We drove through Encino, New Mexico on our way to the Carlsbad Caverns.  Encino looks like it has fallen on hard times, and this ramshackle house, just about to collapse, seemed to characterize the town as a whole.  The house was so memorable on the way down that I was determined to take its photo on the trip back — and was happy to catch it during the magic hour just before sunset.

Skull Session

What’s the southwest without a few bleached cattle skulls to remind you of the death and starvation that characterized the settlement of the old west?  This place in Santa Fe had a good selection for those who want to have something creepy to hang on the wall of the great room of their ranch.  And here’s something interesting –the price varies based on horn size. This impressive fellow was cheaper than his neighbor because his horn size was sadly lacking.