Thursday, November 4, 2010

Visiting the aspen light shows

By S. Derrickson Moore
“This is a REAL light show,” said my soulmate Dr. Roger, as we journeyed through patches of golden aspens in the hills and valleys and mountains of Northern New Mexico.
Autumn could be the best time to visit Northern New Mexico and this is a particularly spectacular fall. In late October, many of my favorite summer flowers — including big, beautiful stands of cosmos — were still in bloom and it was pretty close to prime time for those amazing Aspens.
No photographs I’ve ever seen can really capture their brilliant and ethereal beauty, and I’m not sure words can describe them, but I’ll give it a shot.
You’ll find them glowing In fields of fading green, on gray and rosy mountain tops, in a serene river valley by an isolated monastery, and within familiar Abiquiu vistas etched on the brains of fans of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings.
Mysteriously backlit with powerful luminosity, even when the day is rainy and overcast, the aspens radiate an ebullient, big yellow joy. They’re an annual surprise that never gets old.
There’s gold in them thar hills.
We found them at Pecos Benedictine Monastery near Pecos, an easy afternoon trip about 25 miles east of Santa Fe, within a thousand serene acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, anointed with ponds and a winding stretch of the Pecos River.
We explored an autumn wonderland to discover a bridge linked to an island with flowering bushes, and on a quiet riverfront path, we came upon the “Hosanna Madonna,” a deeply moving rustic statue of an exuberant mother lifting her holy child skyward, showing him to the heavens.
We saw them on daily explorations from our home base at Santa Fe’s newly renovated St. Francis Hotel, when we set off on short strolls to the Santa Fe Plaza and longer hikes down Canyon Road and through the trendy railroad district.
We found bursts of them in the thoughtfully designed and lovely eco-friendly landscaping at El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos.
A few early fliers swirled in golden gusts as we wandered paths by the resort’s streams and waterfalls and walked through the Taos Plaza and visited galleries on Ledoux Street.
I’ll be writing more about adventures in Northern New Mexico in coming weeks.
Santa Fe’s special 400th anniversary celebrations are coming to a close, but it’s hard to imagine a better time to celebrate the City Different’s unique beauties.
The tourist jams have abated a bit. The skies are that crisp autumn-winter New Mexico lapis lazuli. Bargains abound in everything from arts and crafts to clothing, home accessories and meals and lodging.
You can plan your own quadracentennial homage to Santa Fe: 1610-2010 with a self-guided tour of the New Mexico History Museum and historic sites and buildings on and around the Santa Fe Plaza.
It’s always fun to put together your own fall picnic. Visit the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Santa Fe Railyard. It’s not as big or well-stocked as ours (they were voted No. 2 in the state in the same poll that ranks the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts market No. 1 in New Mexico), but it’s a market with style and tasty treats.
Stop by Kaune’s Market, on Old Santa Fe Trail for some gourmet goodies. Or fill your picnic basket at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, located close enough to one another to make buffet comparison shopping easy.
And if you hurry, you might still be able to catch the last of the aspens, the best autumn light show in the state.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

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