Kicking Down the Door with Whitehorse

I recently took in a concert at the London Music Hall with a good friend of mine. The band playing that night was Whitehorse – a Canadian folk-rock, husband-and-wife duo from Hamilton, Ont.

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(Photo courtesy of London Music Hall)

My boyfriend introduced me to Luke and Melissa’s music when we first started dating and I became an instant fan.

I first saw Whitehorse (and my friend was there too!) in July 2013 at Hillside Festival in Guelph where they closed out the main stage. It was my first time attending Hillside Festival and seeing Whitehorse live made it even more exciting and special.9425402706_1647bf19a1_z

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Whitehorse at Hillside Festival 2013. (Photos by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

I saw them again a couple months later in Waterloo at Starlight Social Club’s 10th Anniversary event.10526528374_bd5eaa77ff_z

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Whitehorse at Starlight Social Club 10th Anniversary. (Photos by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

The night at London Music Club was particularly special because I had won a pair of tickets, plus a VIP meet & greet with Luke and Melissa, and I got to share it all with my friend Duncan. Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 1.28.13 PMApart from my boyfriend, I don’t think there’s anyone else who would have enjoyed it more than Duncan – I am so happy he could go with me!23658361_10155743953597464_5787873978799978188_nThe VIP meet & greet was hosted by Big Rock Brewery and included meeting Luke and Melissa a taking a photo with them, an intimate acoustic performance, a Big Rock Brewery x Whitehorse t-shirt and pint glass, as well as a signed copy of their new album Panther in the Dollhouse.24825866_10155790155477464_1645388485_oThe show opener was Begonia, who I really enjoy. I saw her at Hillside Festival this past July so I was excited to see her perform again.

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Begonia at Hillside Festival 2017. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

Here are some of my favourite Begonia songs:
Out of My Head – Begonia
Lady in Mind – Begonia
Juniper – Begonia

When it was time for Whitehorse to take the stage, Luke and Melissa made a point of “kicking down the door” of London Music Hall, and they did not disappoint.24879477_10155790129707464_1483591000_o24726236_10155790129467464_506099338_o24740184_10155790129822464_1136196990_o24825959_10155790131582464_2074414780_o24726067_10155790134852464_1568516218_oWhitehorse performed a lot of songs off their new album, with a handful of older favourites, such as ‘Achilles’ Desire’ (The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss), ‘Tame as the Wild Ones’ and ‘Evangelina’ (both off of Leave No Bridge Unburned). It was awesome to hear Panther in the Dollhouse live because it is such unreal album that really tells a story:

“The pair makes a shift on this album from writing autobiographical songs to writing songs they refer to as “anti-fairytales,” written from the point of view of a cast of mostly female characters who grapple with issues of life, death, sex and love, all floating in an atmosphere of cinematic desert-noir.”

According to Whitehorse: “The title came from a dream. The dollhouse is a place of wholesome, conventional life. It is a perfect depiction of grown-up life based on childhood ideals and social conditioning. Enter the panther and suddenly the animal instincts we are all born with are knocking over these perfectly placed people and furniture. For better or worse, there is no ignoring this creature.”

CBC First Play: Whitehorse Panther in the Dollhouse

I LOVE every. single. song. on Panther in the Dollhouse.

Honestly.

My favourite songs of the night were obviously the two older ones I mentioned above, but also Panther in the Dollhouse‘s ‘Nighthawks’, ‘Boys Like You’, ‘Manitoba Death Star’, and ‘Epitaph in Tongues’.

At the end of the set they left the stage only to come back moments later to play a rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ – SO GOOD. I loved hearing those bouncy riffs come out of Luke’s signature White Falcon.

It was an amazing night, to say the least. I am still thinking about it!

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An Evening with Buffy Sainte-Marie

On the evening of August 7, my boyfriend and I travelled to Stratford for a very special concert, one that I had been looking forward to since the tickets first went on sale last December.

The tickets were a birthday gift from my boyfriend and they were to see a rare, solo performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Avondale United Church. Buffy was performing as part of Stratford Summer Music, and to a sold-out crowd.

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(Photo by Matt Barnes Photography)

This show was the second time that I would see Buffy. I saw her for the first time at Hillside Festival 2016 in Guelph, Ont. where she closed out Sunday night on the main stage.

I’ve been a fan of Buffy for a very long time.

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Buffy Sainte-Marie at Hillside Festival 2016. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

The Stratford show was also a part of Buffy’s tour for the promotion of her new album Medicine Songs, which was slated for release on Nov. 10.

 

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(Photo courtesy of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s website)

Medicine Songs comes on the heels of her 2015 release Power in the Blood and revisits her material from the last 50-plus years of her career with new arrangements and lyrics. The album includes activist songs such as ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying’, ‘Universal Soldier’, ‘Little Wheel, Spin and Spin’, ‘Fallen Angels’, ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’, ‘Carry It On’, and ‘Star Walker’, to name a few.

It also features two new songs: ‘The War Racket’ (as well as an unplugged version), and ‘You Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)’ featuring throat singer and fellow Canadian Tanya Tagaq. Buffy also wrote two new sections to the Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward classic ‘America the Beautiful’.

“This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.”

“I’ve found that a song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook. It’s immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, easy to understand – and sometimes you can dance to it. Effective songs are shared, person-to-person, by artists and friends, as opposed to news stories that are marketed by the fellas who may own the town, the media, the company store and the mine. I hope you use these songs, share them, and that they inspire change and your own voice.”

“It might seem strange that along with the new ones, I re-recorded and updated some of these songs from the past using current technologies and new instrumentations – giving a new life to them from today’s perspective. The thing is, some of these songs were too controversial for radio play when they first came out, so nobody ever heard them, and now is my chance to offer them to new generations of like-minded people dealing with these same concerns. It’s like the play is the same but the actors are new.”

“I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide thoughts and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie on her album Medicine Songs

At her Stratford show, she played so many of my favourites: ‘Cripple Creek’ (with her mouth bow!), ‘It’s My Way’, ‘Little Wheel Spin and Spin’, ‘Cod’ine’, ‘I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again’, ‘Sunday Blue’, ‘We Are Circling’, ‘Not the Lovin’ Kind’, ‘Cho Cho Fire’, ‘Farm in the Middle of Nowhere’, and ‘Generation’, to name a few.

She also played ‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’, ‘Darling Don’t Cry’, ‘Universal Soldier’, and ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying’ – songs that give me goosebumps and nearly bring me to tears every time I hear them.

In addition, she performed ‘The War Racket’ (she played it at Hillside as well!). She also performed a spoken word rendition of her song ‘Carry It On’ – similar to her Polaris 2015 performance.

Buffy sounded amazing and sang with so much emotion. She really gave it her all and commanded the stage.

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Buffy Sainte-Marie at Hillside Festival 2016. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

At the end of the show, she was gracious enough to do a meet & greet, photos and autographs.

I got the chance to meet her and tell her how much I loved the show and her work. A dream come true!20638039_10155466299257464_4409231807838583900_n20727841_10155470119492464_1390729207449900192_nA very magical, wonderful and special evening – to say the least! One that I will remember forever.

Reminiscing About The Long Weekend

Last weekend was a big one for Canadians. Every year on July 1 we celebrate our country’s confederation, but this year was even more important because it marked our 150th year as Canada.And because the holiday fell on a Saturday, this year we also had a nice long weekend! My boyfriend and I decided to head up to our friend’s cottage for some fun where we spent time at the beach, had campfires and explored.We also spent time playing some games. The guys especially enjoyed playing a couple games of ‘Warhammer’ – a table-top fantasy game that involves strategy. Two or more players compete against each other with armies built with miniatures that come in a variety of races, and they take turns moving around the board to simulate combat. It is a very involved game and can take hours to complete.One thing that I especially love about the cottage is the mornings where everything is so quiet and peaceful. It’s nice to wake up and sit on the patio with a cuppa and just relax…… And hanging out with the kitties – Karma and Dharma.On the evening of Canada Day, everyone gathers down at the beach to watch the fireworks shows, which are put on by several families. We got down to the beach just in time to watch a particularly fascinating show up close!∆ ∆ ∆

To round out the long weekend and the Canada Day festivities, I celebrated my birthday (as I do every year because it’s on the fourth of July! 😋 )

My boyfriend and I went to Waterloo and spent a few hours there. On the way, we stopped in Stratford so we could pick up iced Americanos at Balzac’s for the road.

When we got to Waterloo, we went to J&J Superstore to look at boardgames. I was given some money as a birthday gift and wanted to put it towards one of the boardgames I’ve had my eye on.

If you’re ever in Waterloo, or you are just looking for an awesome board and card game store, I highly suggest you check out J&J. You won’t be disappointed by their selection!

Though I’ve wanted a couple of boardgames for a while, I really had my heart set on picking up Carcassonne.It is one of my absolute favourite games because it is both fun and easy to quickly teach others. It’s also great for two players, so my boyfriend and I can play it together a lot (something we already do on his tablet with the Android version of the game).

The game starts with a single tile face up, with the other tiles shuffled face down. Players then take turns picking up tiles and laying them out in order to build the medieval French countryside of Carcassonne (a real place in France!). Each new tile has to be placed in such a way that it connect to a tile that has been placed previously, it also must extend upon the feature of the tile it touches: roads must connect to roads, fields to field, and cities to cities.When we got back to our apartment, my boyfriend treated me to gifts of apple pie flavoured moonshine from Murphy’s Law Distillery, chocolates and tickets to see one of my favourite musicians Buffy Sainte-Marie! He also made us a beautiful steak dinner that consisted of roasted baby potatoes, Brussels sprouts and fiddleheads, with mushrooms sautéed in butter with onions and garlic.To go with dinner, we open a bottle of wine that I picked up exclusively for my birthday. It was one I had never tried before, but I really liked the design of the label (which is how I usually choose my wine, beer and cider haha) and to be fair, I really don’t think you can go wrong with Cab-Sauv!

All-in-all it was a pretty fantastic long-Canada Day-birthday-weekend! I couldn’t have asked for better weather either.

… And of course I got my birthday drink from Starbucks to top it all off!

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What did you get up to on the Canada Day long weekend? Did you do anything extra special or out of the ordinary? I would love to hear all about it!

Jam-Packed Weekend

Now that it is officially summer, a lot of events are happening around the City of London. This past weekend in particular was super fun, but also super busy!

First, we celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks early on Friday with a group of some very dear friends. The morning was a bit worrisome because it had rained… and rained, and rained!  Luckily it ended up holding off just in time so we could go mini golfing at the Tin Cup!After we went for dinner at Beertown Public House where I had the Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a side of french fries and gravy. It was probably the best crispy chicken I’ve ever had, if I’m being honest – it was so flavourful and was crisped to perfection. The sandwich came on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, Gruyère, roasted garlic aïoli and pickled jalapeños (YUM!)

Where we were sitting was unfortunately too dark for photos, but I can tell you the food was delicious and I would highly recommend it if you’re having a hard time deciding on what to get!

After, most of us headed back to my apartment for drinks and boardgames. It was a great way to end the night! Everyone was too full for cake, so I sent everyone home with their slice. It was a very beautiful cake given to me by my boyfriend, and it was delicious too!

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On Saturday evening we headed out with our friends Lenny, Heather and Eric to check out the Appleseed Cider Festival – an event that celebrates Ontario Craft Cider producers and their cider products!I tried four different ciders, three were from KW Craft Cider in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and the other was from the County Cider Company in Waupoos, Ont. The ones from KW Craft Cider were Cherrymint, Thai Ginger, and Canadian Shield Berries. The one I tried from County Cider Co. was called Feral.The Cherrymint cider was good, you could really taste the mint on the end notes. This cider was very tart – I would consider it to be a dry cider, but I’m not sure. All-in-all it was good, but I don’t know if I would buy it.

The Thai Ginger cider was very unique, but tasted great! You could really taste the hot green Thai chili peppers, but the taste was well-balanced out by the ginger spice. I sampled a chili pepper beer in Santa Fe, and the flavour and heat of the pepper were very overwhelming. This cider would be great on a hot day, especially if you’re looking for something to sip on.

The Canadian Shield Berries cider was delicious! It tasted like… sparkly juice! (If sparkly juice were a thing and had a flavour haha). You could taste the tartness of the currants and cranberries, but also the sweetness of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. I normally am cautious of ‘strawberry’ flavours, as I find they can come out too strongly for my liking. There’s nothing wrong with strawberry, it’s just not my preference!

The Feral cider was by far my most favourite. It’s a combination of County Cider Co.’s Waupoos Premium cider – an off-dry cider with tangy apple flavour – and wild raspberries and cranberries. I’m a big fan of cranberry juice, and so I was pleased when I could really taste the cranberry at the beginning and then the raspberry at the end. I think I will be calling in an order, since Feral is not sold in LCBO stores!

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On Sunday afternoon we checked out the International Food Festival in Victoria Park.We got there at a really great time, and there was tons of food to choose from. I went with a beef and lamb gyro from Sammy’s Souvlaki.I forgot to take a photo before digging in… so worth it though! Mmm.

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You can tell that summer is finally here in Ontario – there is so much to do and see during this time of year. I look forward to sharing my summer adventures with you!

If you’re from Canada – what are you doing this Canada Day long weekend, and do you have any special plans for Canada 150?

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Mercer Hall and Balzac’s, Stratford

After seeing Guys and Dolls, we decided to go out for dinner at Mercer Hall.We had been here once before with a group of friends, the same ones that we went to Keystone Alley with, actually! This time it was really nice to go out as just the two of us and discovering more of what Mercer Hall had to offer.

When we walked in to the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by the host as well as the big sign behind the bar that had the featured beer… Flying Monkeys’ ’12 Minutes to Destiny’ – a hibiscus pale lager that has a delicious deep purple, ruby-like colour. I’m sure you can guess what we had to drink!It was delicious, fruity and crisp. It wasn’t too hoppy, bitter or sweet, it really is a perfect summer beer – I love drinking something that tastes great and refreshing.

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In terms of the menu, there is SO much to choose from; it can be overwhelming to the eyes, and the palate… I had such a hard time choosing because everything sounded so delicious, I could just imagine the flavours!

Mercer Hall’s menu I would describe as being ‘North American with some Asian influence’ – seaweed, rice balls, steam buns, tempura, kimchi sauerkraut, and wasabi mustard are just some of the Asian inspired items and ingredients found on the menu. In addition, the menu also offers quite a few vegetarian dishes, and they’re all pretty unique, too! You really can’t go wrong.

We split a Tempura Plate as an appetizer, which was delicious! The plate consists of seasonal veggies with Ponzu for dipping. I love tempura on veggies, especially yam. Tempura asparagus was interesting, I really liked it! (The plate looks a bit sparse because we couldn’t resist eating some of the tempura as soon as it came to the table – it tastes best hot!)For our mains, my boyfriend got the Tonkatsu Schnitzel on a bun, which came with chili potato slaw, wasabi mustard, pickles and a side of fries. He really said he really liked the breading on the pork, and that it was very flavourful.I got the Stick Beef Bowl, which was sort of like a stir fry. It came with glazed flatiron steak (which was perfect and SO tender), grilled asparagus, and curry peanuts. I really loved the peanuts and parsley with the curry sauce and rice, I had never thought of adding them to my stir fry but I might have to start! Mmm.I just really love the atmosphere at Mercer Hall. The decor is kind of Old World industrial meets country-vintage, with incandescent “Edison bulb” string lights and fixtures, copper tiles on the walls, barrels and soft greys throughout.We were too stuffed for dessert, but we did take a walk over to Balzac’s Coffee Roasters for iced Americanos before heading home. I love Balzac’s so much, we always stop in any time we’re in Stratford.Once we left the café, we could tell it was going to rain… and soon! The wind picked up, the dirt in the streets started flying and the leaves were whipping off of the trees in sheets – we were in for a doozy! At least we were fairly close to the car at this point and made it just as the rain was starting to come down in big, fat droplets.

Have you ever been to the Mercer Hall, or to a Balzac’s location? If so, what is your favourite thing to order, and what should I try next?

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Guys and Dolls, Stratford

Today I went to Stratford to see Guys and Dolls at the Festival Theatre! It was a beautiful day for a show and a walkabout around town.Guys and Dolls is a musical of the ’30s and ’40s, that is set in 1950s New York, where illicit gambling and fast-talking is the norm. Strapped for cash, gambler and crap entrepreneur Nathan Detroit is desperate to get his hands on some cash to secure a venue for his craps event – anybody who is anybody will be there, so the heat is on!

When Detroit runs into high-roller Sky Masterson, he makes Masterson an offer he can’t refuse, one that Detroit thinks is a ‘safe bet’ and will net him some easy cash: Can Masterson take any doll that Detroit names on a date?

Surely not if the ‘doll’ happens to be the strait-laced, level-headed Sgt. Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission. But it turns out that it’s hearts that are at stake, and where love’s concerned there’s no telling how the dice will land.

Evan Buliung (centre) as Sky Masterson with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Guys and Dolls was vivid and energetic. The singing and dancing were on point. Director and choreographer Donna Feore is sheer talent, as is the company she worked with to make this show possible. I LOVED the opening act of the show, where everything was bustling like it was a busy city street and harbour area. Every scene of the show was exceptional!

Members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The acting was also incredible – the company was full of talent. There is so much to say, but here is a bit about the artists who played some of my favourite characters:

I first encountered the talent of Alexis Gordon (Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls) last fall when she played Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music.

Alexis was great in A Little Night Music where she played a similar role of a straight-laced, naïve young woman – but the character of Sarah Brown was a firecracker just waiting to be lit! It was really nice to see Alexis portray a strong female character, and one that was a more major role. Also of note is Alexis’ singing! She has an incredible voice that you have to hear to believe.

This was my first time encountering the calibre of Blythe Wilson (Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls). She made Miss Adelaide come to life with believable effervescence. I hope I am able to see more of her work!

Alexis Gordon (left) as Sarah Brown and Blythe Wilson as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

I also enjoyed the smooth-talking and wise-cracking of both Sean Arbuckle (Nick Detroit in Guys and Dolls) and Evan Buliung (Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls). I also encountered Sean in A Little Night Music where he portrayed the more minor role of Mr. Lindquist.

The duo of Trevor Pratt (portraying Nicely-Nicely Johnson in this performance of Guys and Dolls) and Mark Uhre (Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls) were a riot! They’re really an ideal friendship and comic-relief.

My favourite aspects of the show were the signs that could change from black and white to all sorts of neon colours – and with the stage floor looking like a map of the city and the stage background made to look like scaffolding and fire escapes, it all really transported you and made you feel like you were on the mean-streets of New York City.I also loved the costumes, everything was gorgeous, period-appropriate, bright and sparkly. I especially loved Miss Adelaide’s outfits and her Hot Box Club costumes, in particular the one she wore for Bushel and a Peck – it was sparkly and gorgeous; it was exactly what I picture when I think of showgirls, very Gatsby-esque. The ensemble costumes for Take Back Your Mink were also gorgeous, and I loved that dance number!

Blythe Wilson (centre) as Miss Adelaide with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Aaaah, there is so much I could say about this show but I think I will leave it here. All I can really say it that if you get a chance to Guys and Dolls in Stratford, GO! It’s on until October 29.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, New Mexico

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks are located near Cochiti Pueblo, approximately 40 miles (65 kilometres) southwest of Santa Fe. ‘Kasha Katuwe’ means ‘White Cliffs’ in the Keresan Pueblo language. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks was designated as a national park in 2001, but the area and rock formations themselves are more than 7,000,000 years old.The ‘tent rocks’ get their name from how they look – literal tent-like cones made from layers of soft pumice and tuff that have eroded into this shape over time; the rock is very similar to what you see at Tsankawi. Some of the tent rocks are very short but others can reach upwards of 90 feet!When you walk on the 1.2 mile (1.9 kilometre) trail, you’re eventually led through a slot canyon that opens at the base of a rocky lookout that requires you to climb up a series of stairs. Once you reach the top, you get an magnificent view of the Tent Rocks.When you’re at the top, make sure you look down at the area around you, because you may just find some ‘Apache Tears’ – little round bits of obsidian that were formed during the pyroclastic flow, just like the Tent Rocks themselves. When you walk through the slot canyon you can sometimes see them embedded in the ‘walls’.It was a hot walk the day we went, so make sure you bring water with you and that you wear a hat. It’s a great spot if you’re looking for more intense hiking, as some of the trail through the slot canyon is very steep and rocky – lots of climbing! It is not recommended that you go when it is raining because slot canyons are prone to flash-flooding.

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Pecos National Historic Park, New Mexico

Pecos National Historic Park was established as a national monument in 1965 and became a national historic park in 1990 following the inclusion of the Forked Lightning Ranch and the Glorieta Battlefield.The Pueblo and Mission Ruins Trail is a 1.25-mile (two kilometre) self-guided trail through the Pecos Pueblo and Mission Church sites. In addition, there is also the 2.25-mile Civil War Battle of Glorieta Hiking Trail, which we did not see during this trip.Pecos holds and preserves more than 12,000 years of history and cultural remains including pueblos and kivas, two Spanish Colonial Missions, part of the Santa Fe Trail, the Civil War battlefield at Glorieta Pass, and the Forked Lightning Ranch that was built in the 20th century.In addition, Pecos was the chosen summer home of E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson, a Texas oil magnate, and his wife, actress Greer Garson. Fogelson bought the Forked Lightning Ranch in 1941, expanded it to 13,000 acres and raised Santa Gertrudis Cattle. He married Garson in 1949, and together they helped to protect the land and actively supported preservation efforts.

Greer sold the ranch to the Conservation Fund in 1991, who then donated to the National Park Service. She and Fogelson received the Department of the Interior’s highest civilian honour – the Conservation Service Award.According to her friend, newspaper columnist Louella Parsons, Garson said, “I am taking to ranch life like a duck to water. I’ve switched from bustles and bows to Levi’s and boots, and I think it’s definitely a change for the better.”

I definitely share that sentiment!
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Galisteo Basin, New Mexico

One of the days of our trip was spent almost entirely at Galisteo Basin, where we wandered around the desert looking at plants and for signs of a by-gone era.We also hiked a lot, clambering our way up on top of some rocky hills and mountains that had spectacular views.Galisteo Basin is approximately 467,200 acres of desert and rugged sandstone with carved arroyos (Spanish for ‘streams’) and vast grasslands that stretch from San Miguel County, across Santa Fe County and into Sandoval County. Its main watercourse is the Galisteo Creek that flows down into the Río Grande.

Galisteo is located between two mountain ranges – in the northeast are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and in the southwest are the Sandia Mountains – and it also connects the Great Plains and the Río Grande Valley. These features made Galisteo a desirable trade route.The earliest known humans to inhabit Galisteo Basin were the Paleo Indians, who arrived in the area early as early as 7500 to 6000 B.C. As time went on, other ancestral peoples and Spanish explorers also made Galisteo their home. Despite its ideal area, much of the Galisteo Basin remained sparsely populated until around the 12th century.

From the late 1200s to about 1600 A.D., several large pueblos were built approximately 12 miles (19km) from the heart of where the Galisteo Basin Preserve land is today. The largest and most well-known pueblo in Galisteo Basin is the San Cristóbal Pueblo which contained five eight or nine-room blocks that were several storeys in height. It also had five ceremonial plazas, the largest of which had a ceremonial Kiva. It is estimated that the San Cristóbal Pueblo had a population ranging between 500 and 1,000 people.

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When we arrived at Galisteo, we entered via Highway 285 and travelled down Astral Valley Road until we reached the end of Southern Crescent Drive at Candid Crossing.We spent a few hours walking along and off the trails in that area to take photos of the plants. We also found evidence of ‘cowboys’ that had used once use the area – square nails and shards of glass that were patinated in shades of pink and purple. In fact, I found a chunk that had part of a drug company name that I was able to trace back to at least 1910!Later on in the afternoon we moved on to more hiking. We got back in the car and made our way to the Cowboy Shack trail head where we proceeded to trek the Shepherd’s Trail.Coming to a fork in the road at marker 19, we made a left to continue on to Eliza’s Ridge Trail and then Sophie’s Spur. Here we met a nice family and their dog who was very agile and adventurous!When we got to marker 20, we doubled back and made our way the fork where we decided to go along the trail to marker 39 where Liam’s Lark and Cinque’s Spur meet. We went this way to take a look at the valley, which was very lush and green despite the rest the trails being so sparse and rocky. We did see this neat tree along the way though!I loved Galisteo Basin so much and wanted to spend more time there. I just loved looking at all of the beautiful desert flowers and cacti (especially the cacti!), and also searching for signs and a portal back into a time gone by.There’s just something about the vastness of the desert that makes one feel free – when I close my eyes, I can imagine being there, looking out over the vista. It feels like I’m really there. I can’t wait to go back.∆ ∆ ∆

Tsankawi Village Trail, New Mexico

After our visit to Bandelier National Monument, we drove about 12 miles (19km) to Tsankawi (sank-ah-WEE) – a Tewa word meaning “village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti”. The Tsankawi Village Trail is but a small portion of the protected lands within Bandelier.Tsankawi Sign, New MexicoIn addition to being a part of the National Monument, Tsankawi is also an archaeological site that is culturally significant to the people of San Ildefonso Pueblo, who are descendants of the Ancestral Tewa people who once inhabited Tsankawi several thousand years ago.

When you enter the park, don’t forget to pick up a trail guide!Like the Frey Trail at the main park, Tsankawi Village Trail is self-guided and has various numbered markers along the way that tell you more about what you’re looking at. The loop is 1.5-miles (2.4km) in length.

A large portion of the Tsankawi trail takes hikers through various footpaths and stairways that were cut into the tuff (soft volcanic rock) by the Tewa. These footpaths provided the Tewa with safer and easier access to the mesa-top. As you walk along the routes, you can’t help but imagine what daily life would have been like.Photo by Riaz QureshiImagine walking on these in the rain or during the winter!Footpaths, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoFire stone/artifact at Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoOnce you reach the mesa-top there is a spectacular view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Jemez Mountains and the Río Grande Valley. It’s really a sight to see! I spent a lot of time just taking in the landscape.Tsankawi1Mesa-top, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoMesa-top, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoThe village portion of the trail had about 275 ground-floor rooms, many of which were only one to two storeys high. These rooms were used for everything including sleeping, cooking and storing crops and other supplies.

It is believed that the Tewa made Tsankawi their home sometime during the 1400s, where they built their houses and other structures using volcanic rock and adobe. Like the people living at the Frijoles Canyon, the people of Tsankawi took advantage of building cavates (cave dwellings) into the rock face. Many of the caves had stone buildings built out front, which helped to keep the dwellings warm in winter and cool in summer.Seeking - Tsankawi, New MexicoBecause the area receives only about 15 inches of rain per year, Tsankawi experiences periods of prolonged drought. Despite this, the Tewa found ways to thrive through foraging for native plants and cultivating beans, corn and squash.

Plants, like the Tewa people, also adapted to the dry landscape. The types of plants that can be found along the trail are typical of piñon-juniper woodlands and include piñon, yucca, rabbitbrush, salt brush, juniper and mountain mahogany. The Tewa and other Ancient Pueblo people used these plants for food, medicine, dyes, spices and tools – many of which are still used by the Pueblo people of today.Indian Paintbrush, Tsankawi, New MexicoWhile the Tewa were able to live at Tsankawi for generations at some point around the late 16th century, the Tewa left. Archaeologists believe they relocated due to heavy drought and other factors, such as the soil becoming infertile due to years of farming and the depletion of resources. It is believed the Tewa had to venture out further and further to gather even the most basic of resources including fire wood.

As time went on, the buildings fell into ruin due to the elements – the roofs collapsed, the walls crumbled and washed away. As a result, artifacts such as pottery and tools were washed away and the rubble and sand covering everything. Plants eventually began to grow all over the disturbed ground, further obscuring what was once visible.

Today you can find shards of pottery and other artifacts along the footpaths. In addition to encountering these small pieces of the past, you can also see many petroglyphs carved into the rock face.Pottery Shards at Tsankawi Village Trail, New Mexico Pictographs, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoPictographs2, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexcoMuch of Tsankawi and nearly 3,000 other archaeological sites at Bandelier remain unexcavated – only a handful have been. This is largely due to the cultural significance of the area to the San Ildefonso Pueblo, but thanks to modern technology much can be learned about the site without ever having to uncover it.Footpaths at Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoFor more information on Bandelier National Monument, check out my previous post!

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