Art and Altitude in Santa Fe

It would have been incomplete to leave New Mexico without a visit to its state capitol of Santa Fe, known as “The City Different” for its history, arts, architecture and outdoor adventure making it National Geographic’s pick as the number one “Sense of Place” in the entire world. Or at least that’s what the Official 2019 Visitors Guide says.

Truth be told, we wanted to experience the hype of Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, a massive art exhibit backed by Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin. We had no reservations, and no intel on the area, but we felt like if we got into town early on Thursday, we could beat the weekend rush. And if we could see history, arts, architecture and outdoor adventure on our way to Meow Wolf, that would be a bonus.

When we are flying without reservations, we like to use the Plan A, B, C, D mode. Plan A is a great state or national park near by where the sites are as large as the views. Plan B is a private park that typically trades natural beauty and space for convenience, like the one above in Taos. Plan C is Bureau of Land Management dispersed camping, National Forest, etc. Plan D is a Walmart, Bass Pro Shops, or an interstate Rest Area. Sometimes a Plan C will beat out a Plan B depending on the terrain needed to access the government land.

After 30 minutes on the excellent WiFi at Ojo Caliente, the situation presented Plan A: Hyde Memorial State Park: a 9000 foot up in the mountains park, 14 miles from Meow Wolf with 7 RV sites and none showing available online. Plan B: Nothing. Plan C: Black Canyon Campground in the Santa Fe National Forest – primitive but very close to the state park. Plan D: The Walmart up the street from Meow Wolf.

Climbing off I-25 up into the Santa Fe mountains, Betty sucked in her breath as the road got narrow and twisty. Arriving at Hyde Park, we found the Ranger Station, Visitor Center and Host Camp site abandoned of people. Sheri tracked down three guys with a clipboard who advised us to grab a site if you can find one – like the one across the road. We nabbed site 50, only to be greeted by the volunteer host who informed us that we were in a day-use only site. Following her lead, she and Beethoven drove her Deer tractor to the RV loop where she parked us in the last electric RV site which hadn’t actually been reserved. It was so picturesque, we signed up for two nights. Plan A worked again.

Pushing Meow Wolf off until the next day, we hiked the five mile Circle Loop to the top of the mountain and back. At 9,400 feet, the view, breeze, and lack of oxygen literally took our breaths away. A 30 feet waterfall capped off the hike. Once again communing with nature after a week of civilization, we watched the stars come out in a bright sky to a roaring fire and an endless supply of s’mores.

At 7:30 am, we bundled up in the cold mountain morning and launched the Comos down the 10 mile long steep grade into town prior to breakfast. Hitting 30+ mph speeds, we caught mule deer by the side of the road as we silently zipped by. By 8:30 we were in Historic Downtown Santa Fe eating an authentic southwest breakfast burrito and cup of joe, feeling totally safe, protected by the open carry customers.

Crossing Downtown and heading into the gritty industrial sector of Midtown, we navigated the busy thoroughfare to the Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. A sprawling world has been created inside of an old 20,000 square foot bowling alley. The promo says, “The House comprises dozens of rooms and secret passages that beg to be explored. Two dimensional kitchens? Clothes dryers that double as time-transportation portals? As visitors forge their own paths through the installations, the secrets of the fictional Selig family and their mysterious Victorian house resolve themselves – or not – in otherworldly ways that spark the imagination.”

We visited all 70 rooms in the family home of Piper and Nicholas along with their twin 10 year old kids, Lex and Morgan, her parents and her twin brother Lucious. We read their journals, dug through closets, hacked their computer, visited their dreams, time travelled in portals … all in an effort to solve the mystery of what the heck was going on between the Charter and the Anomoly. We won’t give our takeaways, but we learned a lot about space and time when we entered a portal by walking through the back of the refrigerator, reminiscent of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Four hours later we wrapped it up. We had not found the family, but we had made darn good progress on solving the mystery to life, thanks to this talking tron. If this sounds strange to you, just you wait and see. Meow Wolf is spreading to Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington D.C. in 2022. Trust me, it will be a hot ticket.

Unfortunately, all of that meta-knowledge did little to decrease the distance back to Betty, or flatten the grade we had flown down that morning. After riding through the Railyard and Guadalupe Districts and testing New Mexico cuisine at a local joint, we pedaled off in the hot afternoon sun towards Hyde Park.

Having saved our precious battery bars throughout the day, we cashed them in for the steep climb home. Like a champ, the Comos rose up out of Santa Fe into the mountains with the addition of moderate pedaling. Truth be told, we never could have made it back to the mountain-top campground without the e-bike technology. The paneers held our winter gear which we needed in the morning, and the pedal assist brought us up 2000 feet of elevation until we made it back at 5 pm.

Cruising into camp, large RVs rolled into the park looking for one of the precious 7 sites, but all were taken. While we had cell coverage in town, we joined the Colorado Parks online community and booked the last lake front site at Lathrop, 250 miles to the north for the always busy Saturday night. While it’s good to be lucky, a little prep work never hurts anyone.