It’s Time To Hit The High Road To Taos Again

It’s late May and the weather is getting steadily warmer, trees are leafing their spring green, and it’s time to hit the High Road to Taos, stay overnight, take the Low road (Route 68) on the way back to Santa Fe, and discover a few great historical and cultural treasures along the way. Many areas of New Mexico offer authentic experiences for us avid time travelers who wish to drop the shackles of high-speed everything and remember a simpler time and lifestyle. The Scenic High Road is one of the best!


Only a thirty minute easy drive from Santa Fe (along the 285, to the scenic 503, and left on route 98), Chimayo, with its beautiful Santuario, sits quietly amid the early sprouting elms and cottonwoods, as it has since 1816.

ElSantuario de Chimayo4-13

Making a left at Junction 76, I take a short half-mile detour to visit John Abrums’ Chimayo Trading & Mercantile and his extensive collection of authentic Native American arts. His patio is inviting on this warm day with its fountain and chile ristras.


For over twenty-five years, John has collected some of the finest examples of historic and contemporary fine art, pottery, jewelry, baskets and weavings by premier Native American artists from all over the Southwest. His pottery collection alone includes works from the Pueblos of Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owningeh, Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz.


Back on The High Road and heading north, there’s Centinela Traditional Arts and Oviedo Carvings and Bronze, just two of the seventy or more artists and artisans that inhabit The High Road. In 1998, the artist communities of the historic land grant villages of Chimayó, Córdova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, Chamisal, Peñasco, and Vadito got together to form The High Road Artisans Group. Their mission is to preserve and sustain the longstanding, self-sufficient lifestyle and livelihood of the villages en route to Taos. They are doing a great job of keeping the area simple and pristine and seemingly unfettered by modernity.


The whole area captures the essence of rural New Mexico from a time long past, with views reminiscent of Swiss Alpine meadows. The Truchas Peaks are some of the highest in the New Mexico Rockies at 13,101 feet. Precambrian quartzite forms their core.

At an elevation of 8,000 feet, the tiny village of Truchas (Spanish for trout) is an active artist community with many homes and galleries welcoming visitors to drop in and see beautiful original artworks. Trish Booth’s Ghost Pony is one of the first galleries on the left as you enter the village.

Ghost PonyGrdn

As I stroll through town, I’m struck by the peace and quiet. There’s nothing to interfere with the sound of the wind rippling through the flags at the Montez Gallery…

Montez Gallery Truchas

…and the racing acequia that draws from the Truchas River and rushes to irrigate those “Milagro Beanfields” and other farm crops the area is known for.


There are many galleries open year-round, including Hand Artes, Cardona Hines, Cortina, and others whose welcome signs you see as you cruise along the main road. But as the summer approaches, like colorful blossoms, more open up. And you must remember the last two weekends in September when the autumn colors are highlighted by the Annual High Road Art Tour.


Back on 76 and continuing toward Taos, there’s the artists’ co-op, The High Road Marketplace. It is open every day, year-round, and offers a varied selection of arts and crafts from along the High Road.

Highroad Marketplace

I could spend hours browsing the many unique treasures. I love this wooden serving bowl with turquoise inlay.

Wooden Bowl Turquoise Inlay

I’m not a smoker, but I couldn’t help falling for the artistry of these pipes made of wood and elk horn.


Before heading out of Truchas, I stop in at a relatively new gallery just past the Market Place. Joan Zalenski’s OffCenter Contemporary Fine Art and Photography welcomes visitors everyday from 10a.m. – 6p.m. and by appointment when you call ahead (505) 689-1107. Joan’s work is beautiful and she’ll even serve up a cappuccino or espresso as you enjoy your surroundings.

JoanZalenski Photo

Photo: Joan Zalenski

I move on toward Taos, knowing there are more treasures ahead.

Sign to Ojo Sarco

The road bends and suddenly there it is – the Las Trampas Church of San José de Gracia. Looking majestic and minding its own business for the past 200 years, and as its sign states, “one of the finest surviving 18th century churches in New Mexico.”

Las Trampas Church2

The village of Las Trampas (locally referred to as Trampas) was established in 1751 by twelve families from Santa Fe.  At that time much of northern New Mexico was uncharted, and Spanish settlers risked being raided by Native tribes, such as the Comanche, Apache and Ute. Despite the dangers, seventy-four-year-old Juan de Arguello led the families to the land he had been granted by the first Governor of New Mexico, Tomás Vélez Cachupín. The church is now a National Historic Landmark, and the entire village is registered as a National Historic District.  The church interior is usually only open on Friday and Saturday – donations are appreciated.

The High Road is lined with tall pines as it continues to wind through the mountain valley.

road to taos

And the views of Taos’ mountains invite me ever onward to The High Road’s end.

taos mntns

The entire 70-mile drive can be done in as little as an hour and a half, if you’re in a rush. But The High Road isn’t meant to be rushed and when you’re stopping as much as I did,  it’s best to allow at least half a day, about 3 – 4 hours.

The Sugar Nymphs Bistro alongside the Peñasco Theatre is a colorful and tasty roadside treat. The bistro is open for lunch, brunch and dinner. But different seasons call for different hours, so it’s best to give them a call first if you want to be sure of a table. (575) 587-0311.


The Peñasco Theatre, hand-built in the early 1940s, now serves as a community hub that offers year-round arts programs, and aerial trapeze acts, music, and one-of-a-kind theatrical pieces through the summer season. They are also home to an aerial trapeze school for adults and children. (575) 587-2726.

SugarNymphs-Theater Penasco

Traveling through this creative little town, I keep my eyes open for the many jewels embedded alongside and nearby its main thoroughfare. There’s the Gaucho Blue Fine Art Gallery, which carries a wonderful variety of works from local artists of the area (575) 587-1076. Marx Contemporary, Art For The Heart Gallery, and Walking Woman Gallery are a few other treasures, situated across from the Peñasco Post Office. Art For The Heart is a nonprofit project of the Mountain Ambulance Service, offering a walk-in art space with materials you can use to create your own work, and a lovely array of unique folk, fine and wearable art from as many as twenty five local artists. They also have a beautiful garden where folks can sit awhile and take in the summer’s blooms. They are open Thursday through Sunday 11am – 5pm, or by appointment. This would be a great place for a small group of friends of any age wanting to soak up some Peñasco art and charm to create their own pieces of High Road Art. Call Founder Jean Nichols to find out more (505) 417-0155.


Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort is just a few miles away where the river runs through town, and although there’s plenty more to see and write about, it’s time to get settled for the evening.


Arriving in Taos around 5.30 pm, I check in at El Pueblo Lodge. I’m traveling with my quadruped best friend and El Pueblo caters nicely to those of us with dogs. A warm, friendly place with lush, shaded, grassy grounds, and southwest charm throughout. They are located just a mile from the Taos Pueblo and a short walk from the historic Plaza on the main vein through town, Paseo del Pueblo Norte.


A scrumptious dinner at Doc Martin’s Restaurant, located in the Historic Taos Inn, satisfies the gaping hunger I’ve conjured up during the drive. No, I didn’t eat all these meals, but thought it a good idea to show you how diverse and delicious their food is.

entrees_ intrenet4_

There are plenty of unique activities, museums and galleries to experience in Taos. Of course, the Taos Pueblo is a must, and I enjoy Wilder Nightingale Gallery, and Chimayo Trading Del Norte, the Blumenschein, La Hacienda de los Martinez, and others. For activities, there’s the wonderful experience of llama trekking with Wild Earth Llama Adventures, or if you visit in winter they offer snowshoeing tours (llamas don’t trek the snowshoeing tours). Here’s a link to a Taos Day Trip Guide with more detailed information on these and other ideas for your visit.

My return journey to Santa Fe is along the Rio Grande River Valley along route 68, sometimes referred to as the Low Road. It offers more stunning views and special finds. Today, there’s a slight haze in the air turning the mountains and Rio Grande Gorge many shades of blue.


Starting around April 20th and through August is the perfect time to raft the Rio Grande.


Their rigs are ready and a fresh bus load of eager rafters wait to board. Kokopelli Rafting Adventures are my favorites for rafting or kayaking the New Mexico and Colorado rivers. Of course the earlier you go, the higher the water and the bigger the rapids. The Taos Box is the highest part of this particular tour, where the water is more active during the early season. The lower stretch is called Racecourse and is a popular half-day ride. As the water lowers throughout the season, the challenge shifts from high water riding to rock navigation, which is also a lot of fun. And there’s plenty of nice easy cruisin’ to be done in between.

Floating on the Rio Grande

The road follows this stretch of river through the canyon and there are many stopping points to enjoy along the way. After about 27 miles I arrive in Velarde and stop in at Black Mesa Winery to say “Hi” to owner Jerry Burd. The vines are sprouting beautifully in the spring sun.

Black Mesa Vineyard

Black Mesa is well-known for their many delicious wine options, among them Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Montepulciano, and Riesling. A signature wine of theirs is the ever-popular Black Beauty, a red wine with a dark chocolate taste…mmm! Folks love to visit and sit in the shaded wine garden sipping their faves.

Black Mesa Entrance

Whichever route you choose to get to and from Taos, you won’t be disappointed – there’s so much to discover along the way. And don’t be put off by winter either. Though there may be snow on the mountains, the roads are generally clear and the views are gorgeous!!

REMEMBER: The High Road Arts Tour is EVERY year during the last two weekends in September. The fall colors are peaking, and over 70 artists open their studios to you! 

It is great to be out in the clear fall weather, strolling historic villages and looking at beautiful fine art and crafts.


If you need help planning your visit to the northern New Mexico area, please call me at (505) 470-2991 or write an email with questions to: I offer free suggestions and trip advice based on my 24 years living in this enchanting area.

For more information on The High Road and other authentic experiences in Northern New Mexico please go to:



Cowgirl BBQ: Celebrating Twenty Years!

On June 1, 1993, The Cowgirl Hall of Fame  in Santa Fe opened its doors to a town hungry for barbecue. And for twenty years, the bustling restaurant has served up dependably delicious food, drink and live entertainment and established itself as one of Santa Fe’s most fun and colorful characters.

Cowgirl BBQ sign

In the late 1980s, two ladies, Texan Sherry Delamarter and Colorado native Pam McCleary, with the help of a few important investors, opened a restaurant called The Cowgirl Hall of Fame, in the West Village of New York City. The name paid homage to the original Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Hereford, Texas, and the food and decor honored the cultural heritage of the American Cowgirl lifestyle. One of its principal founding members was Barry Secular, a native New Yorker and semi-pro baseball player. In the early 1990s, Barry started a family and moved to Santa Fe. Ready to open a restaurant but being new to the area, he wasn’t sure what type of cuisine the locals would want. He placed an ad in the local Santa Fe Reporter and asked the question. The resounding response was “BARBECUE!” And so it was that 319 Guadalupe Street became Santa Fe’s Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Cowgirl BBQ Bar

Cowgirl BBQ Bar

Although the initial idea was based on the New York restaurant’s theme, there were necessary distinctions, which, over time, worked to make the two Cowgirls more distant relatives than sisters. Managing owner Nicholas Ballas describes the New York restaurant as being more of a novelty to the area, and its decor tends to exaggerate the cowgirl theme. “An obvious difference between New York and Santa Fe is you don’t have to go far in Santa Fe to find real ranchers and cowgirls,” he says. “For that reason, one of my jobs was to ‘keep it real’ in honor of our unique, indigenous culture.”


Keeping it real includes consistently serving up scrumptious, honest and affordable food, craft-brewed beers and terrific margaritas, and covering the glittering walls with photographic tributes to great cowgirls and rodeo queens throughout America’s history.

One of the Photos on Cowgirl's Wall of Fame


The name is now simply The Cowgirl BBQ and the restaurant has definitely succeeded in being nourishing, fun and welcoming to everyone. Cowgirls and boys, workers of all collar colors, musicians, travelers and locals of every age converge here.

With a full kids’ menu, The Cowgirl caters to the littl’uns too. Moms are happy to eat and chat while their youngsters go safely wild in the outdoor play area. And the big kids can play pool in the game room.


The Cowgirl always “smokes it right” thanks to Chef Patrick Lambert, who keeps pace with an extensive menu covering multiple borders from Texas BBQ, Mexico, and of course New Mexico.  New items regularly appear on the menu in honor of regional and international cultural celebrations from Cajun and Creole for Mardi Gras to specialty bratwursts for Oktoberfest. And don’t forget the All-American winter comfort foods like braised lamb shank and meatloaf to get us through the colder months. The meats are organic and hormone-free, and there are plenty of fresh salads and meatless dishes to choose from for those of the veggie ilk.

To celebrate their 20th, they have created a monumental green chile cheeseburger called “The Mother of all Green Chile Cheeseburgers!” Chef’s proprietary blend of 100% hormone-free, organic beef, buffalo and bacon topped with green chile, brie cheese, and tomato is cocooned within a pretzel bun. Yes, it is the mother of all burgers and yes, it is delicious!

Cowgirl BBQ The Mother Green Chile Cheeseburger

Cowgirl BBQ “The Mother” Green Chile Cheeseburger

The Cowgirl is well known for dishing out decadent desserts, including their famous Ice Cream Baked Potato – a monolith of vanilla ice cream dusted with chocolate and topped with whipped cream, all dressed up to resemble a baked potato! And this divine Molten Lava Chocolate Cake deserves honorable mention.

Cowgirl BBQ Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

If you’re having a party or event they’ll bring The Cowgirl to you, or dedicate one of their ample-sized dining rooms to your group. Voted Best Full Service Caterer for three consecutive years by locals voting in The Santa Fe Reporter, The Cowgirl team runs a tight ship taking care of your event, both on site and on location.

Staying true to its desire to always keep the customer satisfied, The Cowgirl is one of the few places in Santa Fe that brings live musical entertainment to its customers daily. The afternoon and evening atmosphere is always vibrant. Now, as it gallops toward its twentieth anniversary on June 1st, 2013, The Cowgirl is preparing to ring in the next decade in style by planning an all-day-long block party celebration. Festivities will include live music from great local bands, freebies and giveaways of collectibles, and food and drink specials!  The live music starts at noon, with Jim Almand, and continues through the day with The Bus Tapes, The Sean Healen Band, Jono Manson, Broomdust Caravan, Felix y Los Gatos, and The Joe West Revue. The Mayor will drop by at 2 p.m. to cut the birthday cake. Starting at 8pm on the patio, they’ll top off the evening with the live music of  Bone Orchard.

This promises to be a terrific celebration and tribute to a well-loved restaurant and true local character. I’d like to say “Thank YOU!” to all the locals who voted for barbecue back in the 90s, and to the owners, and everyone since who has helped make The Cowgirl BBQ the great joint that it is!

Cowgirl Owners Nicholas Ballas and Chef Patrick Lambert

Two of the Cowgirl Owners, Nicholas Ballas and Chef Patrick Lambert

Whether you’re local or happen to be here on vacation June 1st, stop in and join in the celebration to wish the hardworking owners and staff a well-deserved “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

For more information on The Cowgirl BBQ go to:

Custom Cowboy Boots: There’s A Trend On The Rise

There’s a trend on the rise, and it started right here in Santa Fe! Everyone knows that since the mid-1800s cowboy boots have been a favorite of presidents and kings, and of course, cowboys, riders, wranglers, farmers and fashionistas all over the world. The myriad designs of hand-tooled, multi-colored leathers from cowhide to snakeskin, with the sloping stacked leather heel and pointed toe, never go out of style. But thanks to Roy Flynn, owner of our favorite custom cowboy boot store, Boots and Boogie, the custom-designed, hand-crafted, monogrammed boot is fast becoming a must-have amongst young women, particularly brides-to-be, all over the country. This pair is made from alligator belly on the foot and side stripe with cognac-colored, “mad dog” goat on the shaft, with a beautiful script monogram.


Custom Monogrammed Wedding Boots

Roy Flynn and the Boots and Boogie store are true Santa Fe characters. When I visited Roy recently, it wasn’t a surprise to find many people coming by just to chat awhile, and take photos of the tall cowboy and his unique array of high quality, custom-crafted boot designs that line the store like gallery art.

BootsnBoogietaking pics

The living-room-sized sofa keeps you comfy while you try on boots, and take in all the artistry that surrounds you. It’s easy to hang out for awhile when your friendly host obviously loves what he does. And sure enough, a young bride-to-be came in to get her very own pair of monogrammed boots designed for her wedding in July. She was wise to plan ahead; a custom pair can take anywhere from a few weeks to five months to make.


Along with the extraordinary designs come some of the most unusual skins, including shark, stingray, gator, python, anaconda, hippo? Yes hippo, and even bullfrog!

Hand Tooled Custom Cowboy Boots Stingray skin and alligator.

Left and Right: Alligator. Center: Stingray skin, zebra design.

And if you don’t see something you like, you can create your own design. Pick and choose from skins, colors, designs, heel and toe shapes and sizes to your heart’s content.

Hand Tooled Custom Cowboy Boots Blue Bonnets

Hand Tooled Blue Bonnets

Roy works with a select few specialty boot makers. He likes to think of them as the “Buick, Cadillac and Rolls Royce” of their trade. The majority of the boots are his own designs. He doesn’t carry anything that would distract from the art of the boots in any way. Roy says, “Nothin’ but boots allows for top-quality attention to the customer, the specialty design, service and finished product.”  This shorter boot has a beautiful hand-tooled and painted rendering of Our Lady of Guadalupe.


Hand Tooled Our Lady of Guadalupe Boot

When someone loves what they do as much as Roy loves being a “custom boot guy,” it makes you wonder, do cowboys have more fun?  “I get to meet some of the d’rndest people,” Roy says with his Texan lilt and beaming smile. “I have such a good time doin’ this.”

Another character and source of joy in Roy’s life is Boogie, his 9 year-old Malamute. “There’s nothin’ mute about him,” Roy says. “Boogie is a singer, and chatterbox. Every morning he sings along with me. It’s hilarious.”chatting with Boogie


Boots and Boogie and its wearable art is a Santa Fe attraction as worthy of a visit as a gallery or museum. In fact, at 73 years of age, Roy jokes about how Santa Fe is home to The Oldest Church and the Oldest House.  “We can add that it’s home to the Oldest Cowboy Boot Guy too!” He says with a chuckle.

You’ll find Roy in the El Centro Shopping Center, across from the southwest corner of La Fonda Hotel. I recommend that everyone, whether in the market for a pair of boots or not, stop by and say “Hi”. You never know, you’ll likely learn more about why, according to Roy, “There’s nothing quite like being a cowboy late in life.”


For more information on Boots and Boogie go to:

Or Call Roy at: (505) 983-0777 and mention you saw this article on Santa Fe Selection. Thank you!