Santa Fe: A good place for climbing, soaking, eating
Ryan Summerlin November 26, 2011
The rock in northern New Mexico is beautiful. So, too, is the art. Combining them for a weekend away from Summit County is an ideal mix of outdoors and culture. It’s just a six-hour drive to the heart of the Land of Enchantment, where refreshing desert landscapes, magical rock formations, healing waters and a quaint city experience await. And it’s the perfect spot to escape from Summit County’s early season snowfall (or lack thereof) and take in a different place than the usual desert getaway of Moab. Head down there, the Land of Enchantment awaits.
It wasn’t a difficult climb by rating standards, but the crux moves had us leaning against the 100-meter rock monolith, willing our heels to drop, rest and allow us to consider our next move. At rest stops, the trad rock north of the town of El Rito, tucked away in the Carson National Forest, afforded sweeping views of rural New Mexico. We could lean back into our anchor and take in the view – and hear some workers’ truck radio playing far below. We spotted some horses from above that would later enjoy an apple from our food stash. El Rito has collections of climbs in two spots, tucked away in the woods outside the rural town. One is bolted for sport climbing, the other is open for traditional gear placement, with some bolts along a few routes. Plenty of climbs are rating high in the fun-star system, and they’re steep but full of boulders, pockets and features. In the “trad” area, the couple who explored and created the online climbing guide to the area labeled a few routes perfect for beginning trad climbers who want to test their skills. It’s an ideal mix of grade difficulty as well as foot- and hand-hold security. The best part was, we were the only ones traversing the four miles of Forest Service road to access the area, and the rock was all ours all day long.
Northern New Mexico has hot springs that are both developed and not – a refreshing change from Colorado’s beautiful, but concrete-laiden pools. Santa Fe has a plethora of hike-to springs of varying temperatures. It also has the beautiful Ten Thousand Waves Luxury Mountain Resort, catering to whatever type of experience one’s wanting. But Ojo Caliente is the ideal soaking stop north of Espanola. It’s perfectly situated on the way from El Rito to Santa Fe, or at the end of the High Road Art Tour, which is a fun day trip through the New Mexico countryside to visit artists in their home studios. The resort and spa has found itself among the top 10 of several publications, including Spa Magazine, Away.com and SpaFinder Magazine’s Reader Choice Awards. Like many other developed hot springs, Ojo’s mineral springs have history trailing back hundreds and thousands of years to the Native Americans abiding in the area. Now, it’s a rejuvenating experience for visitors of all types with private and public pools of varying sizes and temperatures, lit kivas, massage, a steam room and sauna. But the bottom line is: The low-lying sun casting its rays across rolling desert surrounding the spa and the clean air intertwines with the feel of the quiet waters to melt aggravated muscles into oblivion. That said, keep in mind it’s difficult to move much farther than Ojo’s quaint rooms and delicious Artesian Restaurant.
It’s everywhere. Beautiful silver craftsmanship from a third-generation silversmith, sold along the streets. Woven garments hanging in shop windows. Paintings and sculpture – modern and intricate – stretching the long length of Canyon Road. Strolling along Santa Fe’s art districts is a must in a visit to the city. Sure, there are museums and chapels and churches, a plethora of restaurants and music from all walks to enjoy – but being the gathering spot for artists and art collectors, Santa Fe’s Railyard Arts District and Canyon Road are must-sees. From the beautiful kinetic art from Mark White to the crystal and driftwood sculptures at Wifford Gallery and all the intricate creations of the mind in between, strolling the arts district is a better alternative to strolling a museum all afternoon. We wove in and out of galleries, all with a different character and collection. One was warm, another was distressful. Still another’s owner engaged us with stories of his life, and another was just fun to poke around. Gallery workers always want visitors to buy the art they’re viewing, but it’s common knowledge that visitors take to the district for an a museum-like alternative, so don’t be deterred by a zealous salesman. Of course, buy it if you see something you like. There’s not much better place to find quality art. Janice Kurbjun is a staff writer for the Summit Daily News, covering environment, ski and recreation industry, and municipal government. When not at work, she’s out exploring the West in as many ways as possible, whether it’s high on the rock or wandering the valleys.