High Desert Sun

Santa Fe
  |  Gorp.com

With a population of 66,000, Santa Fe is the nation's most distinctive small state capitol. It is self-consciously stylish, having attracted Cadillac cowboys and wealthy, art-collecting part-time residents from both coasts. Its carefully maintained territorial/pueblo look adobe or adobe-colored stucco buildings were mandated as the official building style years ago by the authorities can sometimes seem overly manicured.

Its quaint winding streets, old churches and central plaza, the setting for Willa Cather's classic novel Death Comes to the Archbishop, now bustle with so many tourists it can feel like a southwest Disney World. The tourist season reaches its peak in August, when Indian Market, a huge bazaar of fine arts and crafts made by Indians from the entire West, takes over the center of town.

Not far from the surface of Santa Fe life there exists perpetual tension between the rich Anglos, who worship turquoise and attend performances of the world-famous Santa Fe Opera during the summer, and the native Hispanics, who fear they are being priced out of their hometown and who are disturbed by the subdivisions that continue to radiate outward across the pink-earth prairies.

Happily, recreational enthusiasts can find fun on foot, by bicycle and by car within a short distance of Santa Fe.

Just beyond its adobe compounds is the Pecos Wilderness area, part of the Santa Fe National Forest. This is a marvelous playground for backpacking, day hiking, photography and fishing.

In the spring, summer and fall, the forest offers logging roads and single-track trails for mountain bikers. The scenic drive from the center of Santa Fe to the Santa Fe Ski Basin passes several good hiking and biking trails and affords glorious views of the surrounding landscape. A longer drive northwest to Tierra Amarilla passes through Abiquiu, where painter Georgia O'Keeffe made her home among sandstone ridges dotted with juniper bushes.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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