Santa Fe in June
The anniversary of my return
June is always such a colorful and eventful month. It has now become the anniversary month of my return to the Southwest. Looking back at the incredible journey my mom and I made last year in the middle of the pandemic, I can honestly say it is more than evident that we were meant to be exactly where we are. There are few places I have moved to where my livelihood and sense of place settled so quickly as my arrival to Santa Fe was. Everything from my job, place to live and daily routine fell into place right away for me and for my mom at home. I am so grateful that we continue to feel this way and foresee it continuing for the near future.
I knew that it would be important to celebrate this anniversary in the most adventurous and summer-like way possible. For me, that was camping. My mom had not been camping for many decades and was understandably nervous. Luckily, I have pretty much gotten the routine down and know what to bring and how to make it all fit in my Mini Countryman.
Camping in Santa Fe
The plan was to drive up to Navajo Dam, set up at Cottonwood Campground and spend time enjoying the fly-fishing wonderland of the San Juan River. We headed up towards Chama and stopped for lunch at my friend’s wonderful espresso house, Rio Chama Espresso, where we had a nice catch up and a delicious bite. It was remarkably interesting driving through Dulce and then heading north to the turn off towards the lake. The road was often dotted with farms and indicators of being in Apache land. My mom and I would refer to the locals as “cousins” when we would see locals going into the stores and small businesses in Dulce.
The contrast of being out in the northern part of the state, where the indigenous nations are broader, expensive areas, as opposed to the more densely populated small Pueblos creates a totally different sense of history and place. This is one of the features of New Mexico that really gives it a much more diverse feel and why I am more motivated now than ever to explore the lesser-known areas of New Mexico this year.
New Mexico, vast and beautiful
Arriving at our designated spot, we noticed right away that we were one of the few spots that did not have shade. We had to put the tent up in a place that was closer to some trees but not quite in the center of the campsite. The car was completely exposed as was most of the site area. Luckily, all the sites have covered picnic benches.
We quickly tuned into the rhythm of the intense heat that peaked in the afternoon then turned into billowing clouds, wind and eventually some rain. It was the most luscious pleasure to rest from the heat of the day and take a nap in the middle of a thunderstorm. To me, this was probably my most favorite couple of hours of the entire trip. I was transported to childhood and many memories of other camping trips. Despite being in a tent in a storm, I felt perfectly safe and comfortable.
Our time spent there was relaxing and filled with dynamic weather events that accompanied the heat in between walks along the river, watching locals fishing, and gathering as families. Thankfully, although the town of Navajo Lake was basically shuttered, we could drive 30 minutes to Aztec and restock our ice and snacks. Perhaps in the future, we can visit the Aztec ruins. My mom was surprised at how developed this small town was since we had driven through such a long stretch of solitary roads and sparse population.
The experience of being on the road, camping and sleeping with the Thunder Beings was the best medicine to honor in June. June is of course the onset of summer with the Summer Solstice. But it is also Pride Month and now the celebration of Juneteenth. Today, as I write this article at the last minute again, it was Father’s Day and Summer Solstice. The month has been a bit frenetic for me, and we have had an extended bout of heat as has much of the west. The rhythm of the afternoon clouds, rain, and thunder has followed us with regularity. I have been noticing all the Hollyhocks and Cholla that are starting to color the city. Although Pride is being celebrated online only, I nonetheless have been noticing these colors. I even saw a rainbow today for the first time in a while.
I think we need to live here
It was the rainbow that convinced my partner and I to move here on our first exploratory visit back in 2007. We came here specifically to attend the local Pride festivities. We were not disappointed. Our activities began with riding the Southern Pacific Santa Fe train line to Lamy from Santa Fe. The front of the train was decorated with two huge rainbow flags, and the train had an open flatcar so we could stand outside and watch the city and landscape roll by. It had rained that day, and the clouds were abundant with that gorgeous light that is so distinctive here. The train left the station and came to its first crossing over Cerrillos Road. Cars were waiting at the crossing and honked at us as we moved along. We waved, feeling the support and kindness of the locals. As we cleared the crossing, I looked to my left and saw a huge rainbow. I looked at my partner and said, “Yep, I think we need to live here.”
The train ride included a picnic lunch in Lamy complete with red gingham tablecloths set under a canopy of Cottonwoods. My partner was fantasizing about working on the train. Incredibly, he was able to connect with the female conductor and spent the rest of the afternoon talking to her and riding along with her all the way remembering his grandfather’s career in the railroad industry. He eventually was hired and hosted the same food car, pouring drinks, and enjoying many a tourist filled ride to Lamy and back.
Recently, Mom and I went to Harvey Cornell Rose Park, which is in full bloom. Although the park is small, it is nestled in a sweet neighborhood and has some beautiful mature trees and lots of grass. I love the peace and quiet of areas like this in the city. Santa Fe is like this small oasis of flowers. It continues to be a hidden gem that particularly in summer, calls everyone out to appreciate its colors and vibrant local scene. As I wrap up my first year here, I cannot help but be excited about all the ways I can create to make my new home uniquely mine. The City Different really is a place to make your own mark. As the nights become more and more magical with the sweet evening breezes and star filled nights, June will continue to become the nexus point of my year from here on out.