Who went on the trip?
Dave and Laura
When did your trip take place?
What place, or places did you go?
Cimarron Canyon State Park, Village of Cimarron, Capulin Volcano National Monument
What was the most uniquely New Mexican True thing you did while on your vacation?
Staying the night at a purportedly haunted hotel during a drizzly (and eerie) New Mexico evening. Cimarron's Express St. James Hotel, built in 1872, has harbored a whole lot of who's who of Wild West heroes and outlaws—Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and Billy the Kid (of Lincoln, NM). And the inn's been privy to its share of killings back in the day, as many as 26 in the saloon alone. It's apparently those lost spirits who have earned the St. James a worldwide reputation among ghost hunters. We weren't entirely sure whether or not we'd stumble on said ghosts, so we pre-documented convincing looks of horror in the event that all the detectives had to go on the following morning were the photos taken from that fateful sleepover. Our memorable evening thankfully was poltergeist free.
Describe your favorite meal from the trip. Tell us where it was, what you liked about it and what made it an authentic New Mexico dining experience.
In the middle of nowhere on a vacant stretch of Highway 64, swallowed by rolling plains in all directions, there is a single red building: Colfax Tavern. But no local knows it as Colfax Tavern—it's simply called Cold Beer. And as soon as we drove up, it was unmistakably clear why. Gargantuan white letters boasting of chilled cerveza blotted out the surrounding prairie. While we were puzzling over how we had never explored this part of New Mexico in the 20 years we'd lived here—iconic destinations like White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Santa Fe always seemed to get priority—proprietor Roger Smith greeted us like we were neighbors living just down the road. Soon we were eating one of his signature pizzas smothered in roasted New Mexico green chile (and topped with his own fiery Chipotle seasoning) when the afternoon football scores started scrolling on the bar's TV. I quickly turned my head; I had recorded the Redskins game. "Oh, the Redskins?" said Roger. "They lost. RGIII got hurt." At least he swiftly pulled off that band aid. Only a friend could get away with such candor, and by all accounts we had a new one. Right then a cold beer sure sounded good. We were in the right place.
Describe the most beautiful thing you saw while on your trip.
Fall is arguably the most enchanting time in New Mexico. And while the hugely popular Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta should not be missed, it's nice to know that you can still enjoy quiet solitude just a short drive away. That October weekend the fall colors were blazing outside of Taos at Cimarron Canyon State Park, hidden and virtually untouristed between Eagle Nest and Cimarron off twisty Highway 64. As the mist and clouds trundled into the canyon, the golden aspens only turned more breathtaking, so much so that the wildflowers lining our walking paths almost went unnoticed. Almost.
Tell us about your greatest outdoor adventure.
Sometimes unexpected weather can turn an already incredible adventure magical. A mix of rain and snow had swept through Capulin Volcano National Monument the prior evening, freezing on the trees, dressing every branch with crystal sleeves. As the day warmed, the ice splintered and cracked and clattered to the earth. Nature's din disguised our footsteps—no small feat these days because of the forearm crutches required for my multiple sclerosis—and we took every advantage. We enjoyed back-stage access to families of mule deer sightseeing along our hiking trail and young pronghorns playing among the Chokecherries sprouting from the cinder cone volcano. When the clouds eventually cleared, Capulin looked every bit like a dessert freshly sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped, of course, with forever New Mexico blue skies. We could not have scripted it better.
If you had to narrow it down, what one piece of advice or inside scoop would you offer to those who might visit the same place?
Please, please don't make the same mistake we did and leave undiscovered the unsung northeast corner of New Mexico, where the plains meet the Rockies in most dramatic fashion. A few quick tips we learned on our latest Land of Enchantment adventure: enter Cimarron from Tao's Enchanted Circle. Drive to the top of Capulin volcano—from the crater's rim you can see into Colorado and Oklahoma. And when you stop off at Cold Beer for a pint of Santa Fe Brewing's finest and a green chile cheeseburger, be forewarned that Roger is going to know the score of the game. Oh, one more thing: ask the staff at the St. James about permanently locked Room 18.....and be sure to sit down when they tell you.