Entering the Alpine Tundra Ecosystem
Unhealthy obsession with Canada? Check.
Ancestrally, I’m half Canadian (French y’all!) so this may be the culprit. One part of Canada I’ve always wanted to see (in addition to all the other parts of Canada) is the Arctic Tundra, but you can’t access this treeless land it until you get way (like, way) north. This will probably never happen for me.
No worries. While in Colorado, I found out Rocky Mountain National Park has its own tundra, the Alpine Tundra Ecosystem, lying above the tree line of the park’s tallest mountains. Driving up Trail Ridge Road you can’t miss the changing landscape or the popular Ute Trail, used by prehistoric people as a pass over the mountains in the summer.
A man who recognized me from the La Fonda in Santa Fe approached me as I was taking this photograph in Taos. I wonder if he wondered what I was doing photographing a mechanical horse.
A lot of people I meet on the road ask where I’m from. I don’t know what to say; there is no straight answer.
“I’m sort of from two places.”
It’s getting annoying to them and to myself to answer this way. I should pick a city already.
My pre-arrival research of Denver involved my girlfriends telling me that the city’s men are hot and many.
Menver, one of them called it.
No further research needed, I concluded.
A bartender in Denver who I’d known for 0.67 minutes told me that Colorado Springs is “weird,” and when I asked why she said it’s because the city is “too white” and “too Republican.”
After leaving the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway there was a good stretch of road that took me through northern New Mexico toward Colorado. This flat, open type of land is good for thinking. It doesn’t change at every turn and in fact lacks many turns at all, it doesn’t make you work to maneuver through it or ask much of you but to hold a reasonable speed and keep one eye out for antelope.
I love the land – most specifically mountains, meadows and shores. I love the way the pines smell like my childhood camping experiences and how the hills and valleys hold the clouds’ shadows in the afternoon. The still of a mountain lake at both ends of the day; the embrace of everyday grass under bare feet; the change in the air that signals an ocean is just a few miles out of sight. It’s a love affair that few of my city-raised peers could understand. Next to being in love, rarity that that is, it’s often been the land that most makes me feel life’s worth. And that’s where I’ll start this story.
What can I say about Santa Fe that doesn’t involve crepes? It has a lot of jewelry and all that same nonsense that you’d find in Albuquerque’s Old Town, yet tenfold and much more expensive. Most of the tourists are older couples, and the concierge at La Fonda told me the median age of residents is 58. I’ve made a mental note to return when I’m old and rich and need lots of jewelry to feel pretty and hide my wrinkled décolletage.
Santa Fe has been calling me for years. When I was in high school and college my parents would take off 6 or so weeks each year to road trip around the country in their Goldwing. One year they returned with a collection of Native American jewelry, pottery, saddle blankets and more. I loved it all, and wanted to see more and learn more about it. So, when planning this road trip I thought, I need to go through Santa Fe.
Traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe you can be a really boring person and take I-25 north, or you can meander up the historically significant Turquoise Trail (NM 14). The trail is a designated National Scenic Byway comprised of 50+ miles (more if you veer off at the south end to drive the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway). A few of the points I thought were interesting:
Sandia Crest Scenic Byway: My first taste of mountains in a while. A short drive that climbs 4,000 feet above Albuquerque, and worth it if only for a break from the desert. I’d never been so thrilled to see trees.
Albuquerque’s Old Town neighborhood
I’m an excellent speller, but couldn’t piece out “Albuquerque” until a few days before I arrived. It’s one of those words you know exists, but you think you’ll never have to use it. So wrong.
Somewhat less annoying than writing out “Albuquerque” is the city itself, which doesn’t offer much to humankind. A few neighborhoods I visited (and my thoughts) are as follows: