My brother Josh and I are close and even though he lives in New York City and I live in Vermont we see each other often. Starting in 2013 we began a tradition we call Brother's Weekend. We pick a place we haven't been to or haven't had a chance to properly explore and head out for two or three days of brother time. Past trips include Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Savannah, Ottawa, and this year Santa Fe and the surrounding areas. The weekend's are about just the two of us spending time together and generally acting like we're 11 (give or take) and almost always involves covering a blister-inducing amount of ground (or in Savannah taking hotel bicycles further than one should). The Santa Fe area offered the most outdoor adventure options yet.
We flew into Albuquerque very late Thursday and after a night at an airport hotel we picked up the rental car and headed for Santa Fe. We took the long way, going along the side of the Sandia Mountains. After checking in to the hotel we demolished a fantastic meal of blue corn enchiladas at Casa Chimayo, had a little stroll through town, and decided to get a hike in before dark. Since it was already mid-afternoon we picked the Dale Ball trails at the edge of town. Heading up the south trail we reached Picacho Peak (8577') right around sunset. We may have lingered a little too long and had left our packs with flashlights in the car, but a trusty cell phone light got us down through the dark.
The next morning after a huge breakfast we headed out to Bandelier National Monument in the Los Alamos area. From the visitors center we explored ancient pueblo sites including the Alcove House which takes four ladders to get to. There was a modest number of visitors, but once we headed west on the Frijoles Canyon Trail we only saw four trail volunteers a short distance up the trail and two hikers a few more miles in for the rest of our time there. Bandelier was devastated by major fires in 2000 (Cerro Grande Fire) and more recently in 2011 (Las Conchas Fire) and subsequent flooding, but the land has bounced back some and was quite beautiful. The trail itself was not as easy to traverse as it may have once been and required a lot of scrambling over logs and boulders and generally picking your own path, but it was hard to get lost since it was in a canyon. After about five miles we headed up the sometimes slippery (with snow) Frijoles Rim Trail which was prairie lands. The entire loop was about 13 miles which had us hustling to get back to the visitor's center before dark. We made it just past sunset and got out before and gates were locked.
The Bandelier hike was truly blister inducing for my heels, but with a little minor surgery (a needle) and some bandaging up we headed to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument the next day. Near Cochiti, Tent Rocks didn't offer the peaceful solitude of Bandelier, but it did have an amazing slot canyon and wondrous volcanic rock formations. After Tent Rocks we headed back to Santa Fe and drove up the ski basin to over 10,000 feet for some long range views and finished up with another hike on the Dale Ball trails (this time the central section), again finishing after dark.
Our last day we explored the town a little more, visiting the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the San Miguel Church which was built in 1610, and other sites before heading back to Albuquerque and our flight home. We certainly would have had no problem finding things to do and places to explore in the Santa Fe area had we been there longer. Excellent New Mexican food, lots of art galleries and museums, not too crowded, and an almost endless number of trails and natural wonders to explore. Also the place smells amazing - especially up in the mountains. New Mexico in our experience definitely lived up to the "Land of Enchantment" nickname and we'd be happy to come back someday.