If word gets out about the hidden gems of the Rio Grande Rift Valley stretching north from Santa Fe through Ojo Caliente and Abiquiu to Taos, it might just be quartered off as a National Park.
Before that happens, get here.
The spotlight this year in North American travel has been largely on National Parks like Glacier or Zion and on the newish rising-star towns of Bend, OR and Asheville, NC. Indeed, these are all fabulous places to travel, eat, drink, explore and, of course, ride bikes and I love guiding in all of these destinations. But there is a region, very appropriately known as the “Land of Enchantment”, that has recently slipped under the radar despite being a hot-bed destination for over 1,000 years. And truth be told, that is just fine by me!
Why would I say that? Because this is one national treasure you don’t have to share with the crowds. This is a land where the history doesn’t need to be recreated in taxidermy dioramas or CGI animation because it lives in the people, the architecture, the art, the landscape and the amazing cuisine. In fact, if word gets out about the hidden gems of the Rio Grande Rift Valley stretching north from Santa Fe through Ojo Caliente and Abiquiu to Taos, it might just be quartered off as a National Park. Before that happens, get here.
Truth be told I fell in love twice in the “Land of Enchantment.” The first time was with the place itself. To escape the Texas summers in college I picked up work as a counselor at a wonderful camp on the Pecos River in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Situated just outside of Santa Fe, my days off were spent cramming in as much adventure and exploration as I could. On these days there was little sleep and a lot of biking, hiking and outdoor activity in the endless playground of northern New Mexico.
I investigated pueblo ruins, discovered natural springs and Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs. I met Native American elders and artisans in places like Taos, Nambé, and Jemez Pueblo. I tested my tolerance with an array of roasted chiles from Carlito Medina at his chile shop and art gallery in Chimayó and learned that females are by far the spiciest. I found creative inspiration in conversations with the famous Taos artist Ed Sandoval and Jemez Pueblo sculptors Andrea and Bill Fragua. I roamed the 400-year-old adobe lined streets of Santa Fe, feeling as if I had been transported to another country in another time, all the while marveling at the colors, the textures, the forms, and best of all the light. After four summers there was no doubt why northern New Mexico was referred to as the “Land of Enchantment.”
In the spring of 2011 I was back in New Mexico assigned to guide the trip I had designed for Trek Travel. My co-guide was a “rockstar” second year guide who had proved herself through all manner of trips and challenges in her first year. She was eloquent, graceful under fire, intelligent, a strong rider and a savvy problem solver. She was also incredibly photogenic. As we prepared for the first trip of the season, it became clear that this place was not simply enchanting to me, she was hooked on it too. It’s not difficult to fall in love with the New Mexican landscape, but it is actually incredibly difficult to fall in love with a co-guide with whom you spend 24 hours a day for 6 weeks straight. Despite the odds, this was the second time I fell in love in New Mexico, and nearly five years later Elizabeth and I married.
It’s not difficult to fall in love with the New Mexican landscape, but it is actually incredibly difficult to fall in love with a co-guide with whom you spend 24 hours a day for 6 weeks straight.
Over the years we have guided in many destinations both together and independently, in North, Central and South America as well as Europe. We have designed trips in various regions and it turns out we make a great design and guide team. Cycling, travel and living well are our passion and it’s how we spend our free time as well as make our living. This spring Elizabeth and I were asked to return to New Mexico to re-design the old itinerary. We were given free reign with only two parameters: 1) Make the trip comfortable for riders of both modest and avid ability and 2) Make it awesome. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity.
In the spring we made our way back to the Rio Grande Valley to begin our trip design. The blossoms were on fire and the aspens were just starting to pop their quaking neon green. The 70 degree air was crystal clear and intoxicating with the sweet smells of ponderosa pine and piñon fires from rustic kiva fireplaces. The enchantment was indeed still there if not stronger than ever. Over the course of our research it was not difficult to create quite possibly one of the most ideal cycling trips in North America.
Fantastic hotels in Santa Fe, Ojo Caliente and Taos as well as gourmet and homestyle Southwest cuisine are of course standard. Days are filled with quiet bike routes that can be mellow with a shuttle or fulfilling for the avid rider, linking every mile from Santa Fe to Taos. Secret hiking opportunities reveal sublime and inspiring landscapes as well as artifacts of ancient civilizations. Mineral hot springs at Ojo Caliente offer serenity and recovery from activity filled days. Personal interactions with Native Americans and 10th generation Spanish Colonial settlers add authentic exposure to unique cultures. The majesty of both the desert–that inspired generations of artists including Georgia O’Keefe–and the towering southern tip of the Rockies that soar to 13,000 feet will leave you speechless and truly enchanted. Best of all this cruise from Santa Fe to Taos offers the kind of peace and that you simply cannot find elsewhere in North America. There is no better way to experience Northern New Mexico than on bike and foot, and we are so excited for the incredible experience we have created for you in the Land of Enchantment. We hope to see you there.
Join us in New Mexico