Santa Fe and beyond

It has been a whirlwind few days…weeks maybe? Finding internet service that is reliable enough to upload these photos has been challenging! We had a great time in Santa Fe, during my workshop. Clare spent the days wandering the galleries and museums while I taught my photo workshop. The art vibe is pretty amazing there and it embellishes every restaurant and corner shop, it seems. Walking up and down Canyon road, where art galleries abound, was almost more interesting than the museums – according to Clare, anyway.

We found an amazing restaurant in Santa Fe, Saźon, by way of impatience for a long wait at a more touristy spot. We were blown away by the service, artful decor, and creative and delicious food. The next day, we were reminded that it was our 26th anniversary! So, we decided the dinner was perfectly placed. We visited the old San Miguel mission church, the oldest church in the U.S., being built around 1610. Things like this are good. They make me feel young. We also took a peek at the Miracle Staircase, built by a mysterious craftsman answering the prayers of the nuns who needed a solution for the choir to reach the upper levels. It has no supporting beams and seems to grow and spiral as one continuous piece.

We felt we could spend more time in Santa Fe, but had a plan to meet a friend who lives in Albuquerque, so moved on. I think we’ll end up coming back to here.

We’ve encountered a little leak under the bathroom sink in our Stella, and it is a great learning experience to deal with that while on the road. We stopped at several RV shops, Home Depot, and small hardware stores trying to find the right parts to fix it and turned up empty handed. So, we had to MacGyver it with pipe sealant. Not the cleanest solution, but now it is manageable dribble instead of a squirt.

We explored Bandelier National Park and loved exploring the abandoned cliffside cave dwellings and petroglyphs. The campsite nearby was beautiful and not very crowded at all. Seems we are hitting everything early season, sans crowds. We made an overnight stop at Ojo Caliente hot springs, indulging in the hot mineral soaking pools while gazing at the stars. The on-site RV camp was sparse, but quiet and conveniently walking-distance to the spa area. It was a little expensive for what it was – but, hey, location, location, location!

Now we are in Taos. We rolled in yesterday afternoon and stocked up at the local healthy food store. We then headed up towards Taos ski area, where the winding mountain road skirts a stream and has many pull-offs for dry camping. We found a little hike to indulge in before setting up camp and climbed along a rocky creek towards a peak we would not have time to summit. It was still beautiful, and we passed through an amazing aspen grove that was home to some of the biggest aspen I’ve ever seen.

There was nobody else on the trail, and as returned and neared the trailhead, there were two young men poking around in the wood, just off trail. They saw us and came out to say hi. They both had GoPros mounted on their heads. They said “Howdy” in a deep southern drawl and Clare asked where they were from and they said, “Can’t ya tell?” She guessed Texas, and they laughed, saying, “Oklahoma! We just drove out here to go camping.”

The bearded brother asked us if we saw the cat tracks in the snow, which we somehow missed. They engaged us and didn’t seem to want to let us “just move on”, as most people you pass on the trails usually do. He then asked us how we were making a fire. I thought maybe he wanted us to give him some fire starter or matches, or maybe it was a ploy to get in our camper. Crazy, the things that can run through your head. I said, “We have a lighter and some paper”, thinking I could offer him some if he needed it. His brother said, “We should give ‘em some”. And motioned to the truck, winking knowingly to his brother. That seemed a little weird to me, but I remained calm.

The bearded brother, Dakota, motioned us to his pickup truck, filled with camp gear and a big locked wooden box. I saw a log next to it with a hatchet stuck in it, and casually positioned myself next to it, as he got in the front of the truck and reached for something. He pulled up a splinter of wood and a lighter, and showed us his sap-oil-infused kindling that he brought from home. “This is amazing fire starter”, he said as he lit up a piece. “Here, take a chunk” and he gave us a big block off his log. He was genuinely being nice, and I had been suspicious of him. I felt like the sap. We chatted for a bit more, then said goodbye, and I felt bad that I had assumed these characters were up to something, when they were just exploring like we were – and being very friendly.

We drove down the road a bit and found a great camp spot along the river. It was just off the main road, so it seemed that it was also used as a partying spot for youngsters, but tonight it was empty and we had our little private riverside camp. In the morning, we awoke to find a mildly beat up car parked close by, near the river. I couldn’t see anyone in it, nor a tent anywhere near. It was cold and the windows should have been fogged if someone was sleeping in it. I took Leo for a potty walk and got up a bit closer to the car and still couldn’t see anyone, but the driver seat was reclined and there was a lot of “stuff” in the car – indicating someone might have lived in it. I returned to Stella and we cooked our breakfast of bacon and delicious gluten free pancakes that we procured from the market earlier. Clare said that if I saw anyone stirring out there, offer them some food since we had plenty.

As we finished eating, I saw through our camper window that someone was now sitting up in the car. They did not exit, but turned the car on, obviously for some heat. I could not see who was in there, but I felt the need to take them some of our extra pancakes. I was nervous to do so. What if they were dangerous? What if they thought I was dangerous and would freak if they saw me approaching their car? I really wanted to take some food, but kept wavering. Why do I do this? Who would NOT want a delicious plate of hot blueberry pancakes after sleeping in their car in the freezing cold? After deliberating back and forth, I finally just filled a plate, grabbed the syrup, and headed out towards the car. Just then the driver put it in gear and started backing out. I put up my hand to motion to the food, but the driver must have thought I was waving and waved back. It was a young girl, apparently living out of her car, and she quickly backed out and drove off, leaving me standing there with a hot plate of pancakes in my hand, in the middle of the forest, by the stream. I know she would have loved to have had them and I again felt that I should have acted sooner, out of love and kindness, rather than fear. We would have been able to share the food and probably make her morning. I am going to trust my gut next time, and do what my heart tells me – not my bias.

Where next? Not sure yet. We met a great couple from Berlin in a coffee shop and talked for an hour or more, but who’s keeping track of time 🙂 They suggested some places they’ve been, and we shared ours.

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