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Ojito by starlight September 25, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in Adventure, Nature tourism, New Mexico.
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ABQ Ojitos Jemez082

One of my very favorite partners in adventure is my sister Tami. Like me, she tends to live just a tiny bit on the edge of what other people see as possible. She wants to do it all, and so every day ends up being an adventure.

Like the night we tried to do too much, ran late and ended up wandering lost in the Ojito Wilderness by starlight.

Not to worry, she assured me. It doesn’t matter that we’ve lost the trail. We can just follow profile of that mesa. We’ll end up there eventually.

We were looking for the hoodoos, those peculiar rock formations that loom like giant goblins over the landscape. She had been hiking in to this spot once a month to study the night sky for her shamanic astrology practice, and this time she was including me. It was a magical place, sacred to the Zia Pueblo, and I was thrilled.

Nonetheless, the thrill was wearing off a bit as I, jetlagged and sleep deprived, stumbled against a cactus and grabbed for the duffel bag that kept sliding off my shoulder.

“Wait, there’s not supposed to be a dropoff here,” I heard in the distance.

Not reassuring.

Things worked out, as they always do with Tami. We didn’t find the hoodoos that night but we stumbled across something almost as nice, given the hour: a cleared-off campsite with a fire ring and a clear view of the horizon. We spread our tarp and our bags and laid back to wonder at the constellations.

Really, we had just been trying too hard, I thought to myself. It’s all right here.

The fiery edges of the sky woke me before dawn and I grabbed my camera to capture it. We made our way to the hoodoos and caught them in the gold-red light of early morning.

Finally I turned my camera on the most beautiful sight of all: my sweet sister perched on the overlook, contemplating the wonder of it all.

Tami sunrise

A little tour of the magnificent Ojito Wilderness, just after the monsoon rains. Enjoy.

Dancing in a city in the sky September 2, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in Native American culture, New Mexico.
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ACOMA PUEBLO, N.M. — Today I’m preparing for a glimpse into the past, a day when the ancestors dance with the living in a village in the sky.

Acoma Pueblo glistens in the late afternoon sunlight as it must have when Spanish explorer Coronado first saw it.

Acoma Pueblo glistens in the late afternoon sunlight as it must have when Spanish explorer Coronado first saw it.

It’s San Esteban’s Feast Day at Acoma Pueblo, a village that vies with Taos Pueblo for the distinction of being the oldest continually inhabited village in the United States. Also called Sky City, this pueblo sits atop a mesa as it has for a thousand years. This was one of the so-called Seven Cities of Gold that Coronado found in his trek across these lands; historians speculate it was the mica windows glinting in the sun that gave the Spaniard the idea that the inhabitants were harboring a wealth of gold, but their only wealth lay in their rich traditions.

Yesterday we toured the village and the beautiful the Sky City Cultural Center at its base. Award-winning Acoma potters Lee and Florinda Villo gave us a demonstration of their work, and we dined with Chef Lawrence “Jay” Riley at the Yaaka Cafe, where he prepares the native dishes of his childhood but with a chefly flair.

Today we won’t be able to take our cameras because of the sacred nature of the event we’re about to see. But here’s a glimpse of the cultural center and Acoma Pueblo, the village in the sky. (check back later for captions – now I have to run!)

From Albuquerque to Andalucia August 31, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in New Mexico, Spain.
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Though you wouldn’t know it from my recent posts, I’ve been working the past week from the beautiful home of my beautiful sister Tami Brunk, located near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque’s surprisingly green and vibrant South Valley. Tami has been sharing with me some of the lesser-known attractions of Albuquerque’s south side, such as the lush cottonwood forest along the river called Paseo del Bosque.  We paid a visit to the Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreño for some delicious pupusas – there’s a whole savory range from green chile to grilled fish to Mayan flower pupusas – and arrived in time to catch a performance from a local jarocho group (no, jarocho is not Salvadoran, it’s Veracruzan, but it’s a wonderful complement to the pupusas!)

A Veracruz-style jarocho band livens up Albuquerque's only Salvadoran pupuseria.

A Veracruz-style jarocho band livens up Albuquerque's only Salvadoran pupuseria.

The best part of my stay, besides spending time with Tami, has been learning more about the organization she’s been working with as its organizational and developmental director. La Plazita Institute, under the guidance of visionary leader Albino Garcia, has literally helped make the South Valley bloom, on many levels. The organization has a whole network of projects ranging from an urban organic farm to community outreach programs for gang-involved youth.

This week, I’ll be heading west to Acoma Pueblo, where I’ll be seeing the Sky City Cultural Center and a whole host of cultural and natural attractions. But first, I want to share with you a piece that just came out in The Buzz Magazines of Houston, a group of lifestyle magazines that has hired me as their travel editor. It’s a monthly column featuring the travels of readers in The Buzz circulation areas, but for my introductory column, I wrote about my own travels to two of my favorite places: Albuquerque and Andalucia.

Here’s the piece, From Albuquerque to Andalucia.