April 29 – May 2, 2019 (note the dates – this is a catching up blog from last spring).
I had been wanting to get back to New Mexico for some time. Although we have actually made many stops in the state, it has always seemed like we were just passing through to get to somewhere else or it was just too dang cold to spend any significant time exploring. Last Spring a year ago (2018) we were perched on a hill in the middle of the New Mexican desert writing blog posts and making plans to visit a few nearby spots when we were informed that there were houses back in Atlanta that were in dire need of paint. So we once again hurried through New Mexico and sprinted back east to save an aging Atlanta home from the ravages of time and a couple more weeks of fading and peeling color.
This year we found ourselves at the Colorado/New Mexico border with another month ahead of us before we had to get back to all our pets, friends and peeling paint. Finally, we had our chance to give New Mexico another go. We decided that we wouldn’t answer painting emergency calls, and we would deal with any unpleasant weather that came our way. I had a handful of places I wanted to visit; and surprisingly many of them weren’t our usual three Rs – rocks, ruins, or roadside attractions.
Although New Mexico is the 5th largest state (by area) in the US, its population density is ranked 45th. But still, the people who have lived here have often done so with a passion. We explored a few of these passions in New Mexico – sustainable living, art, and bombs.
Our first stop was at the Earthship community outside of Taos. Earthships are sustainable homes made from recycled materials. If we were to live in a house again, I’d want to build an Earthship. New Mexico probably has the best conditions for an Earthship, but you can find them all over the world, including places like Haiti and Puerto Rico, where funds have been donated to build sustainable hurricane-resistant homes.
Rio Grande Gorge
After our visit to Earthships, we headed down the road a bit to the Rio Grande Gorge Rest Area to do a bit of hiking and spend the night.
People have occupied the area around Santa Fe for at least several thousand years. First, indigenous peoples built pueblos on the current site of the city. Then came the Europeans. They started in 1598 when Don Juan de Oñate came north from Mexico to claim a colony in the region for New Spain. In 1610 Santa Fe was established as the capital of the region, making it the oldest capital city in the US today.
After our trip to Mexico and learning about Mexican artists who had a passion about their environment and country, I wanted to explore great American artists that had similar passions. We found Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico. Her home and studio in Abiquiú was a bit pricey, so we opted to just visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe.
From Santa Fe we headed to Los Alamos to visit the Manhattan Project National Historic Park and the Bradbury Science Museum.
In 1942 the US was looking to study atomic bomb development. Robert Oppenheimer, among others, advocated a central facility where theoretical and experimental work could be conducted and suggested that the bomb design laboratory operate secretly in an isolated area. Located on a mesa about thirty miles northwest of Santa Fe, Los Alamos was virtually inaccessible and fit the bill. Some of the buildings appropriated for the project still stand. A few of these are open to the public.
Spoiler alert! The atom bomb was built (and used). But the Los Alamos National Laboratory still exists and is still tightly secured. A tour of the Bradbury Science Museum can give you an idea of what the scientists are working on now.