Off the Beaten Path in New Mexico

                     One last post from my most recent trip to New Mexico!                   

                          Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  Getting off the beaten path. That statement could mean several things that have to do with life but for my purposes this week it means travel destinations, either far away or close by. There are many great (and free) hiking trails that are open to the public in camping areas around Taos that take you about as far out into mother nature as you may want to go. These trails lead deep into the woods and up into the mountains, offering hikers some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

One such spot is just outside of Angel Fire. Elizabeth Town was once a thriving mining center but today it is a ghost town. Hikers can wander through the old, abandoned buildings and visit the graveyard which with 360 views is one of the most beautiful and serene spots I have seen. It does take a smart guy to know that camping is the number one activity in this part of the world during the summer months. Among other things, campers can easily participate in hiking, swimming, fishing and rafting, all a treat to a person’s eyes and soul.

As all good things hopefully lead to better ones for now I have to sadly say goodbye to north central New Mexico.

Yes, Ghost Ranch, Philmont, Taos, the ghost town of Elizabeth Town and Bobcat Pass are behind me for the time being but I am already planning a return trip in late September/early October to another of Georgia O’Keefe’s favorite spots that I want to explore.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road……………..







New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle 2014: Have Walker will Travel

       More travels in New Mexico …………………………………             

                     Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  Over the last three weeks, I’ve taken you to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Ghost Ranch in Abiqui, Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, the UUBar Ranch and the St. James Hotel, all in Cimarron, New Mexico. At Philmont, where Waite Phillips’ mansion is open for tours all year around, I am always amazed at Waite’s foresight in providing such a gift to the boy scouts. There is a completely different feeling at the St. James as one wonders what life was like for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail which ran right alongside this historic hotel. At Waite Phillips’ famed UUBar Ranch I saw hundreds of elk, along with many deer and other animals. I looked down from 10,000 feet across snow covered valleys while dressed in shorts in June! All in all, it was quite the trip!

I also had the opportunity to take the “enchanted circle” loop which consists of Taos, Red River and the village of Angel Fire. Already well known as a great family ski area, Angel Fire has become a summer destination as well. The “Chili Express” ski lift runs through the spring and summer,  taking visitors  up 9,000 feet in the longest lift in New Mexico to a view looking down from the heavens. The resort offers every imaginable summer activity including golf, tennis, mountain biking, a zip line and miles of hiking trails. Guests at the Angel Fire Lodge have access to the Country Club which has a huge lap pool, a top notch fitness center and massage services. Elements Restaurant at the Country Club is one of the best places I ate at during the whole trip and the service was top notch. Definitely a 5 star place and perfect for a special occasion.

This time around, I was traveling with a person who uses a walker and the Angel Fire Lodge offered the best accessibility of anyplace we stayed. The entrance had a ramp from the parking lot and the bathroom included several grab bars and a shower with no lip, a comfortable bench seat and a hand held shower. The room itself was quite spacious and could easily accommodate a wheelchair. A nearby elevator takes you to the pool, which is also accessible, and the on-site restaurant, Legends Grill.

During the summer months there are plenty of deals on rooms in the area as well, both at the Lodge and at one of the many condo complexes in the village which are great for extended family stays. Easy to get to in either summer or winter, Angel Fire is a must visit when you’re in this area. You can check them out at

Another happening in this part of the world is the closing of Chevron’s Questa molybdenum mine near Taos and I’m sad to report that 300 people have lost their jobs as a result. Molybdenum is an alloy used in steel and other heavy industrial products and the Questa mine had been the largest employer in Taos County for many years. According to the Taos News employees at the mine were given very little notice and had just been told about the layoffs during an employee meeting on June 2nd. For more info go to the website for the Taos News,

On another sad note, a man I’ve spoken with and interviewed several times with strong ties to our area, has died. Kem Rogers was one of those guys I wish I’d met when he was younger. The first grandson born to Will Rogers, Kem was a big time cattleman and until recently a faithful participant in many of the annual Will Rogers celebrations in Claremore. During the last couple of years, his daughter Jennifer Etcheverry, whom I’ve also interviewed, had taken over that responsibility due to Kem’s poor health.

Kem’s cattle business encompassed operations in Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. At the time of his recent retirement, he had one of the largest cattle feeding companies in the U.S. Like his grandfather, Kem loved the sport of polo and he kept a string of polo ponies throughout his life until health problems finally forced him to give them up. James Kemmler “Kem” Rogers was 75 and you can find more information about his life at

One last word on the local scene before I go: word has it that on September 12th a great musical event will be held out at Woolaroc. I’ll have more on that later. Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………….










Ghost Ranch & The St. James Hotel

A film about my travels in this area will be posted  this coming week.

                     Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  After a few days spent at the Ghost Ranch in north central New Mexico, I’ve come back to Bartlesville a new man. The magic of place and the experience of walking in the footsteps of the famous people who have stayed there one sees life from a different perspective.  The early Indian people who lived in the area and the early Spanish explorers of 1598 called it “El Valle de la Pierra Lumbre” which translates as ‘The Valley of the Shining Stone.”

In the early 1920s Carol Stanley opened a dude ranch on the property where she hosted many wealthy families and celebrities such as Charles Lindbergh and the great conductor Leopold Stokowski. Editor and publisher Arthur Pack visited the ranch in 1933 and fell in love with it. He eventually purchased Ghost Ranch and over time he acquired additional acreage around it, enlarging the ranch to a total of twenty-one thousand acres. At the same time, artist Georgia O’Keefe began visiting and after a long negotiation she finally bought seven and a half acres from Arthur Pack, just a short distance from his home. O’Keefe built a house on her land which still stands today.

In order to protect Ghost Ranch from development Arthur Pack and his wife donated the entire property to the Presbyterian Church in 1955 to be used as an educational center. Today the ranch can accommodate over 300 guests who are able to enjoy not only the beauty of the multi-colored hills and sandstone cliffs but also the legends surrounding the site. Rumor has it that outlaws from years past buried sacks of gold somewhere in the canyons, amongst many dead bodies. There are also stories about monsters that roam at night but no one who sees them lives to talk about them. The locals call Ghost Ranch “Rancho de los Brujos” or “Ranch of the Witches” and tell you about six foot tall earth babies covered in red hair and ghost cows with wings. Others recall meeting the scientists who developed the atom bomb during World War II in Los Alamos, just a few miles west of the ranch.

Its kind of scary after the sun goes down here when you can hear cries that sound like people in pain. Everything is peaceful during the day when you can hike trails called Chimney Rock and Kitchen Mesa. For real hikers there’s the Box Canyon trail where dinosaur fossils are common This is a place where the spirit world and the present day human world come together and its about as beautiful as it gets. Just an hour and a half drive northeast of Santa Fe, Ghost Ranch is another American treasure that the Original Buffalo Dale highly recommends. If you want to know more about rates and reservations go to or visit my website but beware, like me this trip might just rearrange the way you look at life.

Another inspiring place that I’ve written about before is Philmont Scout Ranch. Just a few miles outside of Cimarron, New Mexico along the old Santa Fe trail, Philmont is not only one of my favorite places but was also one of legendary oil man Waite Phillips’ as well.  Philmont sits at 6,430 feet above sea level and the first thing you see is the mountains. Majestic to say the least. Your visit there will be filled with history as well.

A tour of the Waite Phillips home is a must along with a visit  to the celebrated St. James Hotel where many an early day cowboy met his death. Buffalo Bill, Clay Allen, Jesse James and many others stayed at the St. James and you can too. But beware, ghost sitings are common here. The St. James is owned by Oklahoma businessman and philanthropist Bob Funk and it is as much a museum as a hotel. All the guest rooms in the original part of the building are decorated in old west style from the 1800s. The common areas are filled with western art and artifacts including original Will James drawings, a collection of spurs and paintings of the hotel’s famous guests. This is another of my favorite stops whenever I’m traveling in this part of the world and for sure it’s a must if you’re out  that way. As an added bonus, elk, deer, turkey and even bear can be seen in the area on a regular basis.

I’m out of space now but next week I’ll have more from my travels in New Mexico. Till then, I’ll see you down the road….





New Mexico and the famous La Fonda Hotel

                                    Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  While traveling I often run across places of interest not always on my itinerary and the first night on the road this week that’s just what happened. The exit for Conchas Lake is five hours west of Oklahoma City on I-40 and then you drive thirty miles northwest of Tucumcari, New Mexico.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the lake when it built a dam on the Canadian River in 1939. Conchas Lake State Park is immediately adjacent to the lake and it is divided into two recreational areas with camping, swimming beaches and fishing docks available in both parts.  The park sits at an altitude of 4,200 feet and for me it is the scenery I found that really sets it apart. From the campgrounds you can see the beautiful canyons and bluffs that are typical of this part of the country. Even though it was still very cold, the clear water was so inviting I couldn’t resist taking a swim. Although Conchas Lake is the third largest lake in the state it is also referred to as the hidden treasure of New Mexico because it is so far off the beaten track. If you visit don’t expect any shopping or fancy restaurants. There is a marina and a small general store for supplies, the rest of the entertainment is provided by nature. This is a cool spot and just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for peace and quiet.

My next stop was Santa Fe and the historic La Fonda Hotel which is where I am now. Santa Fe is one of the oldest communities in the country and La Fonda has been a part of the local history since the very beginning. Fonda is the Spanish word for inn and since the early days there has been an inn on this site which was a preferred stopping place for a wide range of people including fur trappers, soldiers, gold miners, gamblers, politicians and outlaws. In 1833 Mary and William Donoho established the Exchange Hotel here which also became known as the “American Fonda.”

The Donohos weren’t the last innkeepers as up until statehood in 1912, La Fonda had several owners. Then in 1919 after World War I, the original hotel was demolished. When the current hotel opened in 1922 it was built on the same spot and with much hoopla, was advertised as the finest hotel in the west. La Fonda was sold again in 1925 to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad which operated La Fonda as one of their “Harvey House” hotels for forty years. The Harvey House chain was known for operating hotels and restaurants near busy railroad stops and they were also famous fortheir “Harvey Girls”, the professionally trained and neatly dressed young waitresses who became the hallmark of the chain.

In 1968 Santa Fe businessman Sam Ballen purchased the property and nowadays his heirs are running it. Over the years the hotel has been renovated several times and just before I arrived another big remodel which encompassed the 172 guest rooms and the distinctive bell tower had just been completed. All of the rooms have retained their southwest character but new creature comforts and creative upgrades have been added. The bell tower now includes a bar where, weather permitting, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city. The hotel is also known for its extensive collection of original art, including many pieces by Pueblo artists, which hang in the guest rooms and public spaces.

If you haven’t been to La Fonda before or heard all the stories about the legendary people who have stayed there here’s a short list starting with Charles Lindbergh, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland as well as Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, and I could go on.  During World War II it was rumored that spies were staying at La Fonda in an attempt to meet scientists working on the Manhattan project who would occasionally stop by the hotel bar.

As this is my first day in town, I’m sure I will turn up more interesting stories about the oldest hotel in the oldest capital city in America. I’m also planning to give you a restaurant review as there are first rate restaurants on every corner and on the blocks in between. There are numerous museums and art shops and local craftspeople sell their handcrafted jewelry and artwork on the sidewalks around the central square, just steps from La Fonda. It doesn’t take long for the rich history here to take you back to a bygone day when legends walked these very streets and the United States was in its infancy. So for the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking you for a ride through north central New Mexico.

And till next week, Adios, I’ll see ya down the road…..