Did you know that there is a ski area within a 20 mile drive of downtown Santa Fe? I didn’t. Had no idea. I’m such the avid skier…you’d think that one would be on my radar. Ha! Actually, the husband used to be an avid snowboarder. And when he was wooing me (and I was wooing him right back) I may have led him to believe that I might be willing to try such a snow sport. Me…the coastal kid…who doesn’t like being cold and doesn’t like to drive (or ride) in snow or ice.
Needless to say, I’ve strapped neither board nor sticks to my feet since getting married. Poor husband. I’ve told him that I’m willing to spend a cozy winter weekend at a ski lodge. He can snowboard. I can drink hot toddies, read by the fire, get a massage. I’d be happy as a clam.
How’d I get on that tangent? Oh, that’s right…Ski Santa Fe. I became aware of its existence in my search for things to do before my photography workshop started. Turns out the ski resort sits at the end of the Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway. The byway is said to be most scenic in fall when the aspens change color. I didn’t need to read any more beyond that…I’m a sucker for fall color.
We do not have aspens in Western Washington. Thus explains my salivating passion for them. Actually, I have a salivating passion for any significant fall color. But, aspen…can you beat their fall color?
Before setting out for the byway I stopped by the Tuesday Farmer’s Market at the Railyard. Lots of squash, tomatoes and red chiles, but I had my eye on a local Southwestern restaurant for dinner (I ate Southwestern food three out of the seven nights I was there. Green chile stew, tamales with red and green chile, a sopapilla that made me whimper out loud. And the margaritas. Tart, boozy and all on the rocks. The food alone is reason enough to go to Santa Fe) so I passed up all of the goods. Well, all of the goods except for a pear puff pastry delight and a cup of fresh hot cider. Because it was fall…and I was headed for the aspens…
I headed out of town blasting an 80’s station out of Albuquerque that I has stumbled across the day before. I knew all of the words to all of the songs. The sun was shining. The pastry was flaky and lightly sweetened. Life was good. Very good.
It didn’t take long to begin seeing some color. And it didn’t take a lot of color to impress me. I drove slowly through Hyde Memorial State Park, eyeing empty parking lots and trails that wound tantalizingly off into the trees. The higher I climbed, the more aspen appeared. Golden yellow, leaves blowing gently in the wind. To my delight, there were lots of pullouts along the way (which I took full advantage of). As beautiful as the trees were, I suspect that they had actually peaked the weekend before. Some were almost bare, others quickly casting their leaves to the ground. No matter, there was more than enough color for me.
I pulled into one area that had lots of cars parked along the road. I figured it must be something really good. There appeared to be a small walk-in campground to the right and a wide trail to the left. I headed out on the trail, but hadn’t come equipped for a true hike, so turned around after a relatively short walk. But, not before catching some stunning views of hillsides covered with aspen.
I paused at the ski area (it’s not a large one), but it was quite cool up there and the clouds had rolled in. I hopped back in the car and headed back down the hill to warmer temperatures. Had I gotten my fill? That was an impossibility. But, I had other places to explore and there was a sandwich shop in Santa Fe beckoning my growly belly.