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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Road to Santa Fe

September 6th, 2007 · No Comments

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History is the theme of today’s trip. The destination today was Santa Fe, the first city settled by Europeans in the United States.

While our history books teach us that my ancestors (and a few others) who came over on the Mayflower in 1620 to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts, were the first Europeans in this country, the history books are wrong. The first European settlement was in Santa Fe in 1609, when the Spanish governor chose this city as the capital of Spain’s Kingdom of New Mexico.

The Palace of the Governors, built in 1610, still stands. It was the seat of government under Spanish, Pueblo Indian, Mexican, and U.S. territorial rule until 1909. Now it is a state history museum that I plan to visit on this trip.

I came here to meet my old friend and associate Gretchen Becker, who also just arrived. She flew in from her sheep farm in Vermont to meet with two college friends, who I also just met. The four of us went out to dinner together at a colorful Mexican restaurant.

My first stop was at southern Colorado’s Fort Garland, which is now a museum. From 1858 to 1883 it was a U.S. fort built to protect the American settlement in the San Luis Valley. Here is a view of Mt. Blanca, elevation 14,345, from Fort Garland.

Mt. Blanca from Fort Garland

Mt. Blanca from Fort Garland

After visiting the fort, I drove through the small town of San Luis, which in 1851 became the first European settlement in the state. It is 16 miles south of Fort Garland.

My special interest in Fort Garland is that Kit Carson commanded the fort from 1866 to 1867, when he retired from the Army due to ill health. That great new book, Blood and Thunder, gave me admiration of him where I previously has much skepticism.

But it was the story of Zebulon Pike, after whom Pike’s Peak was named, that intrigued me the most at the museum. The Pike Expedition of the American and Spanish southwest of 1806-07 was in some ways as dramatic as that of Lewis and Clark a few years earlier.

After entering the state of “New Mexico USA,” which their license plates say so the rest of us won’t take them for foreigners, I stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. Here is a view of the point where the Rio Grande meets the Red River, which reverberates in my mind from the classic Western directed by Howard Hawks movie staring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

The Red River (on the left) joins the Rio Grande

The Red River (on the left) joins the Rio Grande

Then I proceeded to Taos and didn’t fail to stop at the Taos Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited place in the country (take that Plymouth!). It is at least 1,000 years old.

Doris and I visited the Taos Pueblo on home leave in 1968 between assignments in Kenya and in Malawi. That was almost 40 years ago, but considering the ancient history of the pueblo, I figured not much had changed. However, everywhere I went from Taos to Santa Fe there is one major change – casinos everywhere now.

Here are two pictures of the Taos Pueblo.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

Close-up of the Taos Pueblo

Close-up of the Taos Pueblo

This is the road to Santa Fe today. But a couple of weeks ago I went to the Denver Art Museum on the way back from getting a massage. As I usually do at the DAM, I went to the exhibits of Western art. I found this, one of my favorite paintings of the west.

"The Road to Santa Fe"

"The Road to Santa Fe"

It’s called “The Road to Santa Fe.” The road is different today.

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