Actually had a fair number of expert trails for such a tiny place
Our route took us through the forested hills and canyons of the Carson National Forest, where we stopped at the adorable Sipapu Ski Area: marketed as the first NM ski mountain to open and the last to close (if you can find it, that is), both H and I were instantly enamored with it. Then as we continued south, we consulted the gazetteer and started taking trips up little side roads that wound narrower and twistier before fading out entirely in someone's dooryard. We were pretty much looking to see what we could find: farms, old cemeteries, adobe ruins, elk crossings.
Out where the deer and the antelope play
After spotting it on the map, we pulled in at the Fort Union National Monument, which holds the ruins of three forts (log construction, begun in 1851; an earthen fort built in 1861; and the impressive stone and adobe construct still visible, put up in 1863 and finally abandoned in 1891), built to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Over 150 years later, the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail are still there, testament to the thousands of people who traveled it. This is a very interesting and well-presented site, with a self-guided tour winding in and around the remains of the fort.
The low spot where I'm standing is where the
Santa Fe Trail is, perpendicular to those paths
While the rules of this national monument explicitly prohibits any reconstructions of the buildings, it allows for repairs and there were many workers out there, propping up leaning walls and slathering period-specific adobe, mud and plaster on the stonework. Critters in the immediate area included pronghorns, turkey vultures and a tiny baby rattlesnake, curled up on a stone wall near where the guys were working. Other than that, we mostly had the whole place to ourselves.
Jail house - built to last
From there we continued to Santa Fe, skirting enormous, lightning-filled thunderstorms: our weather had definitely changed from the clear blue skies at the start of our week. We checked into the Guadalupe Inn, got cleaned up and headed to the historic Plaza, armed with a street map on which the inn's clerk had helpfully circled points of interest.
We walked around the Plaza, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the surrounding neighborhoods, crossing over the dry-as-a-bone Santa Fe River several times. For dinner, we ended up at the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery: IPAs and ambers, a burrito for H and tamales with "Christmas" (both red and green) chile for me. This was a newish place, close to the Plaza and so with a slightly touristy feel, although there were definitely some locals at the bar with us. The food and beers were decent - but we noted that we had yet to find a brew that matched the Kaktus Brewery's IPA from our first day in New Mexico.
Not as fancy as the Chacoans, even made with better tools
It was full dark and raining as we headed back to the inn. This was not keeping folks from going out, however, and we noted a couple of busy, fun-looking bars and restaurants as we passed, just keeping our options open for the next night out.
Our room at Guadalupe Inn: cool and very quiet