The price of gas is skyrocketing. Paradoxically, our streets are clogged with rumbling SUVs and trucks, a scenario made even more precarious by the proliferation of gas-saving motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, buses and taxis. Drivers seem to engage in increasingly ill-mannered hysterics or out-to-lunch madcap maneuvers. A mellow summer mood leading to fantasies of dashing out for ice cream or a paleta is immediately destroyed by the indignities, if not life-risking perils, of driving there.
The obvious solution is walking. A few companies in Santa Fe offer organized walking tours. Sign up for one or two of these, adding your own local color to the comments of the tour guide. Tour guide: "This is the Oldest House in the United States." You: "There used to be a bookstore right up there called Burnt Horses where a guy in a dress would get up and read apocalyptic sonnets."
The walks briefly outlined herein are merely prompts, suggestions to get you moving. Think of that ancient navigational trick used since the dawn of time by crafty shamans, hunter-gatherers and navigators: the four directions.
East from the Plaza: Starting location: Corner of Lincoln and Palace. Basic length: 2 miles. Difficulty: Easy to Extreme.
***image4***This journey takes you past the famed portal of the Palace of the Governors, crowded with Indian vendors selling authentic jewelry and other items. Many visitors to Santa Fe never seem to walk farther than this, but the rewards are rich as the blocks unfurl toward the east. Pass a wide variety of shops on your left as you try to stay on the narrow buckling sidewalk in the face of herds of westbound shoppers. On the right is St. Francis Cathedral and Cathedral Park. Cross Paseo against the light for an especially bracing experience. The walk on Palace away from town up a gentle grade transports you into centuries past, when writers, artists and intellectuals lived for next to nothing in huge rambling adobes, bartering lousy poetry for pots of green chili stew. By the time you get to Alameda Street, you have many options. Switch direction back to town and dawdle along the cottonwood-lined Santa Fe River, push on to fabled Canyon Road or continue east-southeast on Alameda until it becomes Camino Cruz Blanca. This last option is for the experienced walker only, as it leads ***image8***one to the strange world of St. John's College and beyond, into the wilds of Santa Fe National Forest and, eventually, Oklahoma.
West from the Plaza: Starting Location: Corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and San Francisco Street. Length: 4 blocks-1.3 miles. Difficulty: Easy.
The density of bars, eateries, shops and foot traffic on this escapade makes it the perfect experience for the infirm, the acquisitive or the slothful. Break this path up into segments, stretching the entire experience out over the course of the summer. For example, walk to Häagen-Dazs, have a banana split, and then go ***image6***home and take a nap, resolving to forge on to Evangelo's next time. Along the entire route, one encounters ephemeral galleries and stores, some of which could be out of business by the time one completes the route. Walk south on Guadalupe into the fabled Guadalupe District and on to the Railyard, or continue west down San Francisco Street into one of the older barrios of Santa Fe. This segment affords the opportunity to see gentrified swanky remodels side-by-side with harrowingly ramshackle adobe huts on the verge of collapse. Jog south on Camino del Campo and west on Alameda, past the tidy subsidized housing development, and end at the Salvation Army. Make yourself useful.
North from the Plaza: Starting Location: The Obelisk. Basic length: 1.5 miles. Difficulty: Easy to Extreme.
Santa Fe's own mini-Washington Monument initiates this trek. The Obelisk, at the center of the Plaza, is variously a war monument, a focal point for cultural controversy, an eyesore, an anachronism or a quaint and harmless oddity, depending on whom you ask. It's rumored that the word "savages" has been etched on and chiseled ***image3***off more than 400 times. Head to the corner of Palace Avenue and Washington Avenue and walk north on Washington to Paseo de Peralta. For some, this walk ends with a library book, a fish taco and a gelato, but adventures await hardier souls. A right turn on Paseo takes one to the Cross of the Martyrs and Fort Marcy Park. The switchback steps leading to the large white cross are dotted with plaques outlining the entire history of New Mexico and Santa Fe. Homeless drifters congregated along the way sometimes offer their own colorful, if somewhat rambling, tales. From the Cross, one's options to the north are limited only by the compulsion to keep walking-the mountains, Truchas, Wyoming, you name it.
Southwest from Santa Fe Place: Starting Location: The intersection of Cerrillos Road and Airport Road. Basic length: 5 miles. Difficulty: Extreme (traffic, aesthetic challenges, sprawl).
A Santa Fe Reporter exclusive, this jaunt is the perfect antidote to "the oldest this or that," tiresome quaintness, bothersome and soporific history and pedestrian-clogged, narrow streets. Experience the new Santa Fe as you meander among fast-buck megastores, mobile home parks, industrial wastelands, acres of new and used ***image2***cars, junkyards and swirling dust clouds from piñon-juniper woodland that's been completely stripped of any sign of life in preparation for high-density housing. See where most of the people who washed your dishes after you stopped to eat on one of your downtown walks actually live. Dodge speeding motorists or aggravated law enforcement officers. From the starting location, mosey down either Cerrillos Road or Airport Road. If you walk far enough you eventually end up in pristine open space, the roar of rubber-stamped development a fading memory. Legend has it that many just keep walking.