Welcome to the Explore! New Mexico blog

Explore! New Mexico searches the state for interesting stories to tell our listeners and readers - and now our blog followers! We are currently producing a series of multi-media podcasts for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau about interesting events and places to visit. You can view them at our YouTube channel. Be sure to visit our website where you can get even more ideas about where to travel in the Land of Enchantment.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Enjoying Northern NM: History, Art, Farmers Market

Today Bud and I visited four places, continuing our trend of filling our days with activity. Since we decided to return to the Folk Art Market on Sunday rather than today to face slightly smaller crowds, today we first stopped by the Santa Fe Farmers Market before heading north on I-25 to see Fort Union, Las Vegas and Pecos National Monument.

The Santa Fe Farmers Market reminds me of markets in California, but with a Southwestern flair. It is located at the Railyard, which is a thriving, upscale repurposed area. It has a large outdoor market supplemented by another indoor space. Shoppers can find a cornocopia of fresh produce, goat cheese, locally raised meats, flowers, freshly baked breads, garden plants, local honey, beeswax candles, and herbs. You can even leave with an official farmers market T-shirt, tote or apron. Musicians were livening the atmosphere and tucked into a corner of the indoor area, the local NPR station was broadcasting live. I bought some fresh goat feta cheese and Bud left with a pastry in hand, then we hit the road.

Bud is fascinated by old frontier forts and as Fort Union was the largest of the forts in New Mexico, we had to drive out to explore it. Once we arrived, I agreed that it was a fascinating place to visit. The skeletal ruins of the once-bustling fort now stand like silent sentinels over the grassy plains. As we walked the grounds, thunder rumbled in the distance, reminescent of the boom of cannon or the sharp cracks of rifle fire. But there is no longer a reason to fight here. The Comanche are gone and the Santa Fe Trail is reduced to ruts in the grass.

But you can stand at the edge of the trail, where thousands of hopeful 49ers once traveled on their way to California in search of gold. You can squint your eyes and imagine the wagons laden with only the most essential household goods and supplies, arriving with great relief at the safety of Fort Union. You can also imagine the soldiers and their families living out on these plains, far from any bustling city life, wondering what might happen next. One highlight may have been a trader's wagon train passing through on its way to Santa Fe, laden with merchandise from the East. The Santa Fe Trail was first a traders route, then used by the 49ers, and finally primarily a military route. All that is left to help your imagination are the remains of adobe walls, brick fireplaces and a few wagons. But it does still remain, providing a glimpse into the past of northern New Mexico.

From there, we made a brief stop in Las Vegas - the original Las Vegas as they like to say there, which this year is celebrating 175 years since its founding. We focused on the plaza, having read that it is the largest and nicest plaza in New Mexico. It is more like a central park, with green grass and tall trees with a gazebo in the center. While we were there, boys were skateboarding in it. The plaza is surrounded by a variety of galleries, shops and the cornerstone, the Plaza Hotel. We wandered about and greatly enjoyed the lovely shop the adjoins the hotel, which was hosting a Second Saturday wine tasting while we were there. Then we went into the lobby, which is certainly characteristic of the Victorian era from which the hotel dates. We even took a peek into some guest rooms, finding them comfortable and somewhat like a guest room at your grandmother's house where she keeps some of her nice antiques. One of the rooms we saw even had a mini-fridge and a microwave.

The town is working hard to revitalize this area. I found it charming and was fascinated by the historic plaques mounted on the walls of many of the buildings that indicated its original purpose and when it was built. One we saw had a link to some dark dealings: two members of the James Gang, Robert Ford and Dick Liddell, opened a saloon here after Liddell was pardoned for shooting Jesse James in the back.

From there, we headed to Pecos National Monument as Bud wanted me to see the ruins of the Pecos Pueblo. I wanted to climb down into the reproduction of a kiva. I had seen many beautiful pictures other photographers had taken from inside the kiva and had to try my hand at it. We wandered the trail, visiting only the areas with excavated ruins as we arrived close to the time that the park would be closing. The ruins of a church is the largest building on the grounds and it was the second and smaller of the churches built in this spot, the first having been destroyed during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The second church was completed in the next century.

All the locations we visited today gave us the opportunity to learn more about the people, places, history and culture of New Mexico, from the early Pueblo Indians and the Spaniards who came to convert them to the American army who was much later charged with keeping peace on the prairie. We saw how people, past and present, strive to build a sense of community, whether it be with art on a historic plaza or with fresh produce near an old railyard.

Posted by Cheryl Fallstead

Explore! New Mexico

1 comment: