Santa Fe was alive and kicking by the time we headed through the streets of town that morning on the first full day of our summer vacation. I marveled at the bright, unobstructed sunlight, so different from our typical summer haze in New England. The people of Santa Fe were humming with activity. The Native American sellers had already set up their blankets on the sidewalks around the Plaza, where they sold jewelry, pottery, and other beautiful wares. The many art galleries had opened their doors to let the fresh summer air waft in and around their colorful paintings. And tourists were everywhere. Since we had visited Santa Fe multiple times after my mother moved there, were we still considered tourists? I did not like to think so, but I found myself behaving as one. Rather than stopping at the Plaza, we drove on first to one of the local assisted living facilities so we could pay a visit to my 90-year-old grandmother. She was delighted to see us, but she suffers from dementia and was not exactly sure who we were. We then went back downtown to meet my aunt (my mother’s sister) for lunch at the old La Fonda hotel. We sat in a quaint patio under a canopy with trees surrounding it and birds flying in and out. It was charming!
We then walked back to the Plaza and I watched as my middle-school aged daughters excitedly shopped among the blankets on the sidewalks. The turquoise and silver jewelry was breathtaking and they found it hard to choose among the many choices. We then stopped at a local candy store and bought dark chocolate truffles to round out our day. When we finally became tired, probably as a combination of the high altitude (7000 feet above sea level), the walking, the shopping, and of course the long traveling the day before, we drove back to my mother’s house for a siesta.
Later that evening, after a cozy dinner on the patio of my mother’s home, we decided to take a walk along the trails that meander through the desert surrounding the neighborhood where she lives. Santa Fe is lush, but in a much different way from the eastern part of the United States. There are living things growing everywhere, but they are all of a much different type of vegetation from where we live. There are cedar trees, pinons, cacti, yuccas, and various types of succulent ground cover. The paved trails that wind in and around much of Santa Fe, especially around the planned neighborhood communities, are a delightful addition. Each trail is wide enough for three people to walk side-by-side comfortably. The sun was sinking low on the western horizon and the sky was turning that pale orange and soon to be pink that makes for devastating sunsets in Santa Fe. As we strolled, we spotted jack rabbits, cotton tail rabbits, tiny but speedy lizards, giant beetles, a road runner, and many, many giant ant hills. We looked for coyote and deer, but they were hidden away someplace else. We also keep a very guarded eye for rattlesnakes, which are very prevalent in that area. Rattlesnakes usually see us before we see them, thus thankfully giving a warning rattle, but we were not going to take any chances. After walking a couple of miles, which once again was tiring for us, due to the altitude difference, we arrived back at the house to find doves and cotton tail rabbits all over the grassy lawn.
Since we were leaving to drive up to Colorado the next day, it was time to repack a bit, get to bed early, and map out the first day of our upcoming road trip. We all showered and then sat in the living room in our pajamas with the map and a piece of paper to write out our itinerary. We would first head due north to Alamosa, Colorado, and then go on from there, sight seeing, hiking, and basically drinking in the amazing scenery. At this point, my daughters commented on how much they loved Santa Fe and how wonderful it was not to have all the summer insects that plagued us back in Maine. They wanted to stay in Santa Fe forever. I assured them that if they loved Santa Fe, they would be crazy about Colorado, with its mountains and greenery.