Santa Fe Swan Song

Our final two days in Santa Fe and its environs were packed with activity, first hiking in the Bandelier National Monument and visiting the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory area, the next day visiting two museums and an immersive multi-media/art installation.

A park ranger climbing one of the ladders that are part of the trail in Frijoles Canyon.

Our Bandelier tour was again arranged through Heritage Inspirations. We met our tour leader, Mickey, at a nearby hotel at 8:00 am for a roughly 45 minute drive to Frijoles Canyon. A drive of that length is short for this region. The day was like every other one in which we hiked, clear and hot with temps rising to the low 90s. (The heat is of course going to break as we leave.)

The hike involved climbing up and down some ladders to ultimately reach the top of the mesa, where there is evidence of several ancestral homes dating to roughly 1200 AD. (The ladders are sturdy and not as daunting as would appear from the photos.) The second half of the visit at Bandelier is more of a stroll. There is a paved route that was created during the Depression by the WPA and is maintained by the Park Service. At Bandelier you can see kivas and other structures similar to what we viewed at Chaco Canyon, though newer. It is believed people migrated from Chaco to the Bandelier region when the spring-fed stream that supported the settlement in Chaco dried up.

Remnants of the settlements in Bandelier

Our tour included a picnic lunch in the park at a shady table, after which we made a visit to the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory area, which of course traces its origins to the Manhattan Project. The LANL still does nuclear weapons research, and since Trump also produces plutonium for weapons production. It’s also home to a particle accelerator and conducts other research. It’s the largest employer in the state, with some 10,000 workers. The lab isn’t on a scheduled tour; we asked for the visit.

There is a visitor center at the lab and a science museum. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday and both were closed, but our guide’s husband is a longtime employee and she was able to give us a little inside baseball about what kind of work was done in different buildings in the sprawling site. There is a residential area near the lab that was started as part of the Manhattan Project that has evolved into something of a “company town” for the lab, though workers commute from as far way as Albuquerque. It was chosen in WWII because Robert Oppenheimer grew up in the area. The photos below are of Oppenheimer’s home when the atomic bomb was being developed. It was on the grounds of what had been a kind of boot-camp school for boys before the war.

Our final day was basically the museum day. We visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art. The latter has an interesting collection of contemporary Southwestern art. It is not all cowboy stuff to be sure. Definitely worth a visit for the art as well as the Pueblo Revival building that kicked off the Santa Fe architectural style. The first museum obviously is dedicated to O’Keeffe.

One example of O’Keefe’s Southwestern paintings.

We wrapped up with a visit to an immersive art installation called Meow Wolf. It’s part funhouse, part art exhibit and a truly unique experience. You wander through a maze of installations. There are Meow Wolfs in Denver and Las Vegas as well, but the Santa Fe site is the original. The images below only begin to capture the experience.

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