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About the Author
Lesley S. King grew up on a ranch in northern New Mexico. She’s a freelance writer and photographer, and a columnist for New Mexico magazine. Formerly managing editor for the Santa Fean, she has written for the New York Times, United Airline’s Hemispheres magazine, and Audubon, among other publications. She is the author of Frommer’s Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque; Frommer’s Great Outdoor Guide to Arizona & New Mexico; and New Mexico For Dummies. She’s also the co-author of Frommer’s American Southwest. Due for release in 2007 are her two newest books: King of the Road and The Santa Fe Farmers Market Cookbook. Kathleen Raphael helped research this book.
Read an Excerpt
Frommer's New Mexico
By Lesley King
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-7307-1
Chapter OneThe Best of New Mexico
I will never forget when I was in second grade, standing on the dusty playground at Alvarado Elementary School in Albuquerque, pointing west toward the volcanoes. "We went beyond those volcanoes," I bragged to my friend about what my family had done over the weekend. "No way," my friend replied. Actually, a number of times I'd been much farther than the 10 miles between us and the volcanoes, and I now know that the strong impact of the journey's distance had to do with culture rather than miles. In a half-day drive we had traveled to the Intertribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, where I had eaten blue, crepe-paper-thin piki bread and gazed up at people dressed in dreamy rich velvet, their limbs draped in turquoise. I had seen painted warriors twirl in the dust and felt drum rhythm pulse in my heart. In short, we had traveled to another world, and that otherworldliness is characteristic of New Mexico.
Never have I taken my strangely exotic home state for granted, nor has more traditional culture let me. When I was a kid, we used to travel to Illinois to visit my grandfather, and when people there heard we were from New Mexico, they would often cock their heads and say things like, "Do you have sidewalks there?" and, "This bubble gum must be a real treat for you," as though such inventions hadn't yet arrived in my home state.
Our state magazine evendedicates a full page each month to the variety of ways in which New Mexico is forgotten. The most notable was when a New Mexico resident called the Atlanta Olympic committee to reserve tickets and the salesperson insisted that the person contact their international sales office. So, it seems people either don't know the state exists at all, or they believe it's a foreign country south of the border.
Ironically, those naive impressions hold some truth. New Mexico is definitely lost in some kind of time warp. Its history dates back far before Columbus set foot on the continent. The whole attitude here is often slower than that of the rest of the world. Like our neighbors down in Mexico, we use the word manana-which doesn't so much mean "tomorrow" as it does "not today."
When you set foot here, you may find yourself a bit lost within the otherworldliness. You may be shocked at the way people so readily stop and converse with you, or you may find yourself in a landscape where there isn't a single landmark from which to negotiate.
In the chapters that follow, I give you some signposts to help you discover for yourself the many mysteries of this otherworldly state. But first, here are my most cherished New Mexico experiences.
1 The Best of Natural New Mexico
Rio Grande Gorge: A hike into this dramatic gorge is unforgettable. You'll first see it as you come over a rise heading toward Taos. It's a colossal slice in the earth, formed during the late Cretaceous period, 130 million years ago, and the early Tertiary period, about 70 million years ago. Drive about 35 miles north of Taos, near the village of Cerro, to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. From the lip of the canyon, you descend through millions of years of geologic history and land inhabited by Native Americans since 16,000 B.C. If you're visiting during spring and early summer and like an adrenaline rush, be sure to hook up with a professional guide and raft the Taos Box, a 17-mile stretch of class IV white water. See chapter 7.
Blue Hole (Santa Rosa): You'll find this odd natural wonder in Santa Rosa, "city of natural lakes." An 81-foot-deep artesian well, its waters are cool and completely clear. Often it appears like a fishbowl, full of scuba divers. See "The I-40 Corridor" in chapter 8.
Capulin Volcano National Monument: Last active 60,000 years ago, the volcano is located about 27 miles east of Raton. A hike around its rim offers views into neighboring Oklahoma and Colorado, and another walk down into its lush mouth allows you to see the point from which the lava spewed. See "Capulin Volcano National Monument" in chapter 8.
El Malpais National Monument (Grants): Near Grants, the incredible volcanic landscape known as El Malpais (The Badlands) features vast lava flows, lava tubes, ice caves, sandstone cliffs, and natural bridges. You'll also find Anasazi ruins and ancient Native American trails. See "El Malpais & El Morro National Monuments" in chapter 9.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park: One of the world's largest and most complex cave systems is located in the southeastern region of the state. The 80 known caves have spectacular stalagmite and stalactite formations. Explore the Big Room in a 1-mile, self-guided tour and then catch the massive bat flight from the cave entrance at sunset. See "Carlsbad Caverns National Park" in chapter 11.
White Sands National Monument: Located 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo, White Sands National Monument preserves the best part of the world's largest gypsum dune field. For a truly unforgettable experience, camp overnight so that you can watch the sun rise on the smooth, endless dunes. See "White Sands National Monument" in chapter 11.
2 The Best Native American Sights
Coronado State Monument (Bernalillo): Excavated ruins reveal hundreds of rooms and unique murals, examples of which are displayed in the monument's small archaeological museum. See p. 109.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (Albuquerque): Owned and operated as a nonprofit organization by the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, this is a fine place to begin an exploration of Native American culture. The museum is modeled after Pueblo Bonito, a spectacular 9th-century ruin in Chaco Culture National Historic Park, and contains art and artifacts old and new. See p. 88.
Petroglyph National Monument (Albuquerque): In the past few years, this monument has made national news due to conflict over whether to allow a road through these lava flows that were once a hunting and gathering area for prehistoric Native Americans. History in the making aside, the site has 25,000 petroglyphs (prehistoric rock carvings) and provides a variety of hiking trails in differing levels of difficulty, right on the outskirts of Albuquerque. See p. 90.
Bandelier National Monument (Los Alamos): These ruins provide a spectacular peek into the lives of the Anasazi Pueblo culture, which flourished in the area between A.D. 1100 and 1550, a period later than the time when Chaco Canyon was a cultural center. (Recent findings suggest that some Chaco residents ended up at Bandelier.) Less than 15 miles south of Los Alamos, the ruins spread across a peaceful canyon. The most dramatic site is a dwelling and kiva (a room used for religious activities) in a cave 140 feet above the canyon floor-reached by a climb up long pueblo-style ladders. A visitor center and museum offer self-guided and ranger-led tours. See p. 188.
Pecos National Historical Park: It's hard to rank New Mexico's many ruins, but this one, sprawled on a plain about 25 miles east of Santa Fe, is one of the most impressive, resonating with the history of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. You'll see evidence of where the Pecos people burned the mission church before joining in the attack on Santa Fe. You'll also see where the Spanish conquistadors later compromised, allowing sacred kivas to be built next to the reconstructed mission. See p. 185.
Taos Pueblo (Taos): This is a rich place to stroll and eat fry bread while glimpsing the lifestyles of some 200 Taos Pueblo residents who still live much as their ancestors did 1,000 years ago, in sculpted mud homes without electricity and running water. The remaining 2,000 residents of Taos Pueblo live in conventional homes on the Pueblo's 95,000 acres. See p. 223.
Acoma Pueblo (Acoma): This spectacular adobe village sits high atop a sheer rock mesa. Known as "Sky City," it is home to 65 or so inhabitants who still live without electricity and running water. The sculpted mission church and the cemetery seem to be perched on the very edge of the world. Visitors can hike down through a rock cut, once the main entrance to the pueblo. See "Acoma & Laguna Pueblos" in chapter 9.
Aztec Ruins National Monument (Aztec): These ruins of a 500-room Native American pueblo abandoned by the ancestral Puebloans more than 200 years ago feature a completely reconstructed kiva that is 50 feet in diameter. See "Farmington: Gateway to the Four Corners Region" in chapter 9.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (Nageezi): A combination of a stunning setting and well-preserved ruins makes the long drive to Chaco Canyon an incredible adventure into ancestral Puebloan culture. Many good hikes and bike rides are in the area, and there's also a campground. See "Chaco Culture National Historical Park" in chapter 9.
Gila Cliff Dwellings: Perched in deep caves within a narrow canyon outside Silver City, these ruins tell the mysterious tale of the Mogollon people who lived in the area from the late 1200s through the early 1300s. See "Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument" in chapter 10.
3 The Best Outdoor Activities
Ballooning: Back in the 1960s, my parents were part owners of the first hot-air balloon in New Mexico. We'd spend weekends riding the air over Albuquerque. Today, with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta bringing more than 800 balloons to the area, it's become the sport's world capital. Fortunately, visitors can let loose the tethers and float free, too. Most of the operators are located in Albuquerque; see "Outdoor Activities" in chapter 5 for recommendations.
Horseback riding: New Mexico's history is stamped with the hoof, originating when the Spanish Conquistadors brought horses to the New World. Riding in New Mexico still has that Old West feel, with trails that wind through wilderness, traversing passes and broad meadows. Some of the best rides are in the Pecos Wilderness and on Taos Pueblo land. See "Outdoor Activities" in chapter 6 and "Other Outdoor Pursuits" in chapter 7.
Biking: New Mexico's varied terrain offers a broad range of biking options, from long stretches of empty asphalt to steep mountain descents. Almost anywhere you go within the state you'll find trails. I've hooked onto some fun old mining roads in the Black Range down south and explored sage forest on the rim of the Taos Gorge in the north. See the "Biking" sections found in the city and regional chapters, especially Taos (chapter 7).
Llama trekking: Careful, they may spit at you, but that's the only drawback of these docile creatures, who gladly carry all your gear while you dance freely along the trail. Most outfitters are into gourmet food, so whether you choose a half-day trek or a weeklong one, you'll eat well. Some of the best llama trekking is in the Taos area, which has two excellent operators. See "Other Outdoor Pursuits" in chapter 7.
River rafting and kayaking: I spend April to October in my kayak, so I can vouch for both the adrenaline rush and the pristine scenery you'll encounter rafting or kayaking in New Mexico. Half- or full-day white-water rafting trips down the Rio Grande and Rio Chama originate in Taos and can be booked through a variety of outfitters in the area. The wild Taos Box, a steep-sided canyon south of the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, offers a series of class IV rapids that rarely lets up for some 17 miles, providing one of the most exciting 1-day whitewater tours in the West. See "Other Outdoor Pursuits" in chapter 7.
Fishing: Ask any avid fisher in the nation if he's fished the San Juan (see "The Great Outdoors in Northwestern New Mexico" in chapter 9), and if he hasn't been there, he'll still know what you're talking about. A world-class, catch-and-release fishing spot in northwestern New Mexico, it's ideal for the competent caster because many of the fish have been caught so many times they'll swim around your ankles and dare you to figure out exactly what they want to eat. Other rivers in New Mexico provide a less frustrating but equally beautiful challenge, and the lakes offer plenty of angling, too. Bass, trout, cut-throat, walleye, and perch are among the varieties of fish that may nibble at your hook.
Hiking: What's unique about hiking in New Mexico is the variety of terrain, from the pure desert of White Sands in the south to the alpine forest of Valle Vidal in the north. In between, there's everything from the lava flow badlands of El Malpais to the hauntingly sculpted rock formations at Abiquiu that artist Georgia O'Keeffe made famous in her paintings. For details about White Sands hikes, see chapter 11; for northern New Mexico hikes, see especially chapters 6 and 7; and for El Malpais and Georgia O'Keeffe country, see chapter 9.
Skiing: Many, such as me, who have skied in the East and widely in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, still find Taos Ski Valley (see "Skiing" in chapter 7) to be one of the most fun mountain romps there is. With its rustic Bavarian feel and its steep mogul runs, it's an awesome playland. Santa Fe (see "Outdoor Activities" in chapter 6) and Ski Apache (see "The Great Outdoors in Southeastern New Mexico" in chapter 11) also provide some challenge, plus plenty of terrain for beginners and intermediates, as do some of the smaller areas in the state. If you're into cross-country or backcountry adventure, you'll find plenty of that here, too, especially in the Taos, Red River (see "Other Outdoor Pursuits" in chapter 7), and Chama (see "The Great Outdoors in Northwestern New Mexico" in chapter 9) areas.
4 The Best Museums
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (Albuquerque): Take a journey down into the caverns of New Mexico's past in this museum, which owns the largest U.S. collection of Spanish colonial artifacts. Displays include Don Quixote-style helmets, swords, and even horse armor. You can wander through an 18th-century house compound with adobe floors and walls, and see gear used by vaqueros, the original cowboys who came to the area in the 16th century. See p. 88.
Museum of Fine Arts (Santa Fe): This museum's permanent collection of more than 8,000 works emphasizes regional art and includes landscapes and portraits by all the Taos masters as well as contemporary artists, including R. C. Gorman, Amado Pena, Jr., and Georgia O'Keeffe. The museum also has a collection of photographic works by such masters as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Elliot Porter. See p. 150.
Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe): Whenever I want to escape the routine of everyday life, I stroll through this museum and witness the magic created by cultures all over the planet. Its perpetually expanding collection of folk art is the largest in the world, with 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries. You'll find an amazing array of imaginative works, ranging from Hispanic folk art santos (painted and carved saints) to Indonesian textiles and African sculptures. See p. 155.
Taos Historic Museums (Taos): What's nice about Taos is that you can see historic homes inside and out. You can wander through Taos Society artist Ernest Blumenschein's home, which is a museum. Built in 1797 and restored by Blumenschein in 1919, it represents another New Mexico architectural phenomenon: homes that were added on to year after year. Doorways are typically low, and floors rise and fall at the whim of the earth beneath them. The Martinez Hacienda is an example of a hacienda stronghold. Built without windows facing outward, it originally had 20 small rooms, many with doors opening out to the courtyard. The hacienda has been developed into a living museum featuring weavers, blacksmiths, and woodcarvers. See p. 222.
Millicent Rogers Museum of Northern New Mexico (Taos): This museum is small enough to offer a glimpse of some of the finest Southwestern arts and crafts you'll see, without being overwhelming. It was founded in 1953 by family members after the death of Millicent Rogers, a wealthy Taos emigre who in 1947 began acquiring a magnificent collection of beautiful Native American arts and crafts. Included are jewelry, textiles, pottery, kachina dolls, paintings, and basketry from a wide variety of Southwestern tribes. See p. 220.
The Hubbard Museum of the American West (Ruidoso): This museum holds a collection of more than 10,000 horse-related items, including saddles, sleighs, a horse-drawn fire engine, a stagecoach, and paintings by artists such as Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and Frank Tenney Johnson. See p. 352.
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Table of Contents
LIST OF MAPS.
WHAT’S NEW IN NEW MEXICO.
1 THE BEST OF NEW MEXICO.
2 NEW MEXICO IN DEPTH.
3 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO NEW MEXICO.
4 SUGGESTED NEW MEXICO ITINERARIES.
5 THE ACTIVE VACATION PLANNER.
7 SANTA FE.
9 NORTHWESTERN NEW MEXICO.
10 NORTHEASTERN NEW MEXICO.
11 SOUTHWESTERN NEW MEXICO.
12 SOUTHEASTERN NEW MEXICO.
APPENDIX: FAST FACTS, TOLL-FREE NUMBERS & WEBSITES.