This is overdue, but we escaped to New Mexico last weekend. It was a serendipitous combination of a really cheap nonstop flight ($208 RT!), our companion pass (Ryan flies with me for free), and our long weekend (we both have the same Flex Fridays now) that landed us there. Originally we had planned on flying into Albequerque on Thursday night and then spending Friday wandering up toward Santa Fe and Taos so we could ski on Saturday. However, by noon on Thursday the weather forecast showed rain on Saturday so we drove up to Santa Fe after our flight got in. I Pricelined a hotel in Santa Fe (which, appropriately, turned out to be all done in southwestern decor) and we passed out by midnight so we could be up relatively early to drive to Taos and get on the slopes. We didn’t quite rise and shine as early as we would have liked, but we were out of the door before 9 am. The drive up to Taos was beautiful, although I don’t love the desert as much as Ryan does, I can still appreciate it’s somewhat serene presence.
We made it to Taos and got our lift tickets. Fortunately they have a little trolley that fetches you from the parking lot because I was already starting to feel the altitude (give me a break, I’m barely above sea level these days). Taos Ski Valley is actually the highest elevation municipality in the United States, at 9,207 feet. The highest terrain tops out at 12,481 feet. That’s pretty thin air.
Anyways, we got our skiing legs under us (I hadn’t been in over 3 years!) and made a few very long laps. I discovered that I couldn’t stop quickly thanks to the Great IKEA Incident, so it kept me from skiing anything steep. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful, warm day and we pretty much had the resort to ourselves (and a hundred or so other people, which isn’t much on a mountain that massive).
The altitude definitely took it’s toll on us so around 2 pm we were starting slow down. Ryan wanted to drop in to a couple of chutes off of the ridge, and I thought that was a fabulous idea, as the hike and skiing would wear him out to my level. A lot of our outdoor activities involve finding a way to deal with his never-ending energy without destroying myself trying to keep up.
So he headed off into the woods and I spent a leisurely hour skiing back down to the main lodge. Really, that’s how long it took. I may have stopped a few times to look at rocks and houses, but the traverse run is actually quite lengthy.
We met up back at the lodge and headed for the car. My foot was in bad shape and I was a little nervous to take the ski boot off and look at it. Sure enough, it was swollen and I now have a strange lump that I didn’t have before on the top of my foot that isn’t going away. Fantastic. Maybe skiing wasn’t a great idea. Anyways…..
We slowly headed back to Taos to check in to the hotel I had gotten as a last minute deal on Expedia (I had to stop and speak with some horses and a coyote… or two).
Ryan was sold when he saw the fresh chocolate chip cookies and we were both blown away by the size of the room and the fireplace. I couldn’t believe I got it for less that $60 a night!
Ryan napped before dinner while I did some researching on where to eat. After a lot of internet perusing and review-reading I settled on a spot called The Love Apple. The menu and setting looked right up my alley. Reservation made.
The entrance to The Love Apple was a little odd, but considering the restaurant is crammed into the old Placitas Chapel of El Prado, excusable. The host/welcome area is in a long corridor which also contains the expo/waitstation and the entrance to the kitchen. As soon as you walk in you see pretty much everything that goes on behind the scenes. We stood there awkwardly for a good five minutes before anyone acknowledged our presence (even though every single person working in the restaurant was within view and 30 feet of us). Having spent my fare share of time in the restaurant industry this is a huge strike against them in my opinion. If we didn’t have a reservation we probably would have left. However, because we had already made the effort to make a reservation as well as find an ATM (cash only, of course), we waited. When we were finally greeted (and not particularly warmly), we were escorted to our table in the main room. Whatever irritation I was experiencing in the foyer completely drained from me when we walked into the dining room. The atmosphere was perfect. The building was obviously very old, with crooked windows and cracked walls. This shabby appearance was romanticized by the addition of candles and harvest decorations as well as what appeared to be their entire stock of wine. Bottles lined the walls and shelves with white light strands behind them, so that the refracted rays made the labels glow.
This was the place.
I’m a firm believer that if the atmosphere is perfect the food doesn’t have to be. I tend to be a little more lenient if I feel comfortable in a restaurant. However, when I saw the menu (it’s seasonal so a little different than what was on the website), I knew that wasn’t going to be an issue either.
Ryan ordered the braised beef tacos and I opted for the quail. The menu stated that the quail was served with feta-pomegranate quinoa, so I knew immediately what I wanted. No question.
And it was perfect! I love quail and it was some of the best I’ve had. It was masterfully roasted and then stuffed with the quinoa, and then drizzled with an amazing mushroom (and maybe leek) cream sauce. It was rich and earthy and everything I wanted when I sat down. Ryan said his tacos were great, but spicy, and given our long day we drank multiple carafes of water.
I was 100% content. The food, the wine, the setting, it was wonderful. It should be said this doesn’t happen often for me, so it was a great end to the day.
We passed on dessert and headed back to the hotel, I was already scheming for what Saturday might bring us.
Recently I’ve discovered that I don’t sleep in well when we are on vacation. I guess I’m just too excited? Or maybe the long days wear me out and I go to bed early and sleep hard. I don’t know, either way, I found myself up before 8. We wandered over to main house for breakfast and then walked into town in search of coffee. We found ourselves at tiny one room coffee shop plastered with political rants and statements on stickers and signs. Most were of the usual variety, knocking big business, oil, and the military while preaching local sourcing, peace, art, etc. Ryan of course enjoyed pointing out that all of the clientele were wealthy out-of-towners that flew or drove in (thus consuming a lot of oil and most likely supporting the very things their stickers bashed, profiting off of it is just as bad as doing it) and that the beans they were using were from another country and not local. He always has to be the voice of reason……
Anyways, we took our coffee back to the room and I suggested we go in search of some hot springs by the Rio Grande. The first ones involved a snow-covered gravel road, so we snapped some photos of the Rio Grande from the highway, before heading for another spot.
We got to the mouth of a side canyon and the road descended steeply. It was also covered in ice. We parked, grabbed our stuff and went for a walk.
Walking down into the canyon was actually really nice, everything was covered in snow so it was a quiet stroll. I’m not used to being in such a silent place anymore. Occasionally a truck or a Subaru would come rolling down the road, but otherwise we walked alone. When we made it down to the river we found hardly any snow and a group of vehicles comprised of fly fishermen and hot spring visitors. It was threatening rain and we were in our down jackets so we kicked around for a bit looking at the basalt outcrops before we stomped back up the road out of the canyon.
At this point it was approaching lunch time so we headed to a much-recommended burger place. Ryan actually had a burger, whereas I opted for the portobello burger (which was still massive and was adorned with fried peppers).
On our way back to the hotel we spotted a gem and mineral shop. As geologists we always feel like it’s our duty to stop in and, if nothing else, judge their inventory. This was one of the best I’ve seen. The display arrangement was amazing. Three of the main walls were predominantly windows, fitted with large glass cases and glass shelves, so all of the specimens were naturally lit. They had drawers and drawers of other samples and they were cheap! Since we like to rockhound we don’t ever buy rocks but it is always fun to look, plus to see what the local spots have to offer. We ended up learning that the University of New Mexico owns a pegmatite mine between Taos and Santa Fe, so we decided it would be a stopover on our drive back to Albequerque the next morning.
We purchased some jewelry and a guide to mineral hunting in New Mexico. Back at the hotel, I discovered that there is an active molybdenite mine about 25 miles north of Taos where you can find pyrite, flourite, and a few other attractive sparkly things. Much to Ryan’s dismay, I dragged him out of the hotel so I could dig through tailings piles in the rain. The guidebook said we couldn’t miss the tailings piles but I had no idea that practically the entire mountianside would be one giant tailings pile. Apparently this mine was bought by Chevron and is their only mining operation. It is also a superfund site. Superfund sites make for great mineral hunting.
So, while Ryan sat in the car reading about mine history I crawled around on tailings piles by the road dodging pipes, used needles, and large mammal droppings. I found a few good pieces of flourite, molybdenite, and pyrite, but nothing spectacular. I was cold, wet, and ready to call it a day. We drove back to the hotel through the intermittent rain and decided we would stay close for dinner (after a dip in the hot tub, of course).
We ended up going to Doc Martens for dinner, more out of convenience than anything else; however, it turned out to be quite delicious with a lively atmosphere.
When we returned to the hotel I started a fire and ended up falling asleep all warm and toasty.
The next morning we packed the car and headed out in search of the Harding Pegmatite Mine.
The directions were a little vague so we had some trouble finding the mine. The book said that we had to walk up the gravel road for .6 miles and then turn up a gated road. There is no gate, FYI. So we walked considerably further, all the while being teased by the pink muscovite and lepidolite gravel scattered across the road. Finally, when we were just on the verge of giving up (we had to make our flight of course), I stepped out on a ridge and spotted it across the gully. A bright pink, sparkly, caved-in outcrop. We scrambled down the hill and back up the other side. Even Ryan was in awe at some of the muscovite books. The hardest part was deciding which samples were best, they were all great! I would have loved to have more time, so I could delicately select choice specimens and wrap them properly but we were in a huge hurry, so we ended up just tossing them in a sack, save one, which was gently wrapped with tissues and transported in a box.
It was a sunny day and the drive back was beautiful and uneventful. We made our flight with plenty of time to spare. For a weekend getaway and such a cheap price, it was a huge win. The only downside was the rain. I ended up with a terrible cold that I’m still fighting, because I certainly couldn’t make it through one month this winter without getting sick. When I get my voice back I will return to audiobook recording in the new (smaller and relocated) recording studio. However, in the meantime I have gotten a lot of work done around the house that I will be posting photos of later (it involves our back patio and urban gardening!)
Until next time…. ciao!