Monday, July 17, 2017


Image of Galisteo Basin from this real estate listing

We're lucky to be able to pass through the Galisteo Basin when we go to Santa Fe. It helps make the fifty mile or so drive an adventure, something we look forward to rather than dread.

Getting to Santa Fe from Albuquerque on I-25 might be a little quicker, but the drive is horrid and it's often a mess either due to weather or more frequently due to wild drivers causing wrecks. This is  New Mexico, after all.

The other alternative, the Turquoise Trail (Highway 14) from Tijeras north, is scenic in parts, but it also tends to be heavily trafficked, and once at Madrid, traffic slows to a crawl. It's not a pleasant drive, and it seems to take forever.

Our preferred drive is lightly trafficked Highway 41 to 285 through El Dorado and into town via Old Pecos/Old Santa Fe Trails if the destination is in town; turn off at Camino Los Abuelos in Galisteo beside the church (Highway 42) to Highway 14 and thence past the State Prison ruins to Rancho Viejo and (eventually) to IAIA.

The village of Galisteo is the midpoint of our journey; the road through the Galisteo Basin constitutes one third of the trip.

Lucy Lippard's magisterial 'Down Country" traces some of the Native Pueblo history of the region and touches a bit on the Spanish history, but it leaves out much of the contemporary history including its use as a kind of refuge from the intensely competitive artists' environment in Santa Fe.

Movies have been made there for decades -- it was once a more popular location than it is today, partly because today's locals are not so keen on the intrusion. There is a movie set just outside of town behind a ridge (so as not to interfere with the village's pristine adobe-ness.) Almost all the few hundred residents are artists of some kind (including writers like Lucy Lippard) or related to artists. A huge ranch, the Bar S Ranch, comes right up to the edges of Galisteo on the south while the Galisteo Basin Preserve and the Flywheel Ranch provide some protection from development on the north and west. The general absence of development is part of what makes the area so appealing to artists and travelers (and movie makers) alike.

If you're going to live in Galisteo, it definitely helps to have money. Lots of it. While some properties are available for less than a million dollars, many are priced well north of that. There seems to be a fairly constant churning of luxe and not-so-luxe properties in the area, partly because people die off when they're old, even if they're rich, and partly because some people move out to Galisteo--  for whatever reason -- little realizing how much work it is to live there.

Everything is more difficult than it would be in the city.

There are no services in Galisteo, for example. There used to be, but there are no longer any places to get groceries or gas or supplies.There is a historic church:
Church, Galisteo, New Mexico
From WikiMedia Commons, Tom Harrington - originally posted to Flickr as Church, Galisteo, New Mexico

and a sala -- used as a community art gallery-- and that's about it. Ruins of the past are found all over the village and in the country-side.

Though electricity and propane fuel are available through the usual means, it's wise to have your own generator because you never know when the power will go out or how long it will stay out. Better yet, have some solar panels installed, just make sure they're hidden from view and don't disturb the pre-industrial ambiance of the place.

Learn to slow down.

That's the basic lesson of places like this and throughout New Mexico if you listen. Learn to slow down. 

Some of the ricos and famosos who chase their dreams to Galisteo or other fashionable parts of New Mexico may never learn that lesson. They won't hear the call to ease up a bit. Things will (usually) work out one way or another.

The road that winds through the Galisteo Basin is an invitation to slow down. It's posted at 55 miles an hour, which is certainly fast enough to get you where you want to go. Through the village, it's 35mph, to me almost too fast. There's not a lot of traffic which is one of the pleasures of the drive through the Galisteo Basin. Nature isn't unsullied, but there is wildlife like pronghorn antelope, rabbits, scurrying voles, ravens and hawks patrolling for road-kill, buzzards afloat on the updrafts, horses, cattle of various breeds. When the monsoons come, the roadsides are awash in wildflowers, but this year, while the monsoons came early, they've been infrequent, and the wildflowers are sparse.

For months, I couldn't take the trip north through the Galisteo Basin -- too much pain, discomfort, distress. There were times I could hardly walk, could not even imagine sitting in the car for the hour it would take to drive to Santa Fe. I really missed it. When we've recently gone to Santa Fe through the Galisteo Basin I've felt rejuvenated.

It brings joy to these tired old bones and joints.

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