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Native New Mexico
Hit high passes, rapids, and ancient pueblos By Cliff Ransom

DAY 1: A touch of divinity comes dirt-cheap at El Santuario de Chimayo, a 19th-century adobe church in the town of Chimayo, where the earth is believed to have curative powers. A spoonful of the miraculous can't hurt later in the day as you hike to 11,400 feet (3,477 meters) in the nearby Pecos Wilderness. The six-mile (9.7-kilometer) trek along babbling Rio de las Trampas brings you to the Trampas Lakes (your choice of two). They rest below treeline at the base of 13,102-foot (3,996-meter) Truchas Peak, the second highest in New Mexico. Make camp amid ponderosa pines and spend the next hours exploring the slopes, lounging, and fishing for trout.

DAY 2: Pack out early and head to Taos for a morning stroll through the town's famed pueblo. Among the multistory adobe structures, Native American craftsmen sell glittering pots shaped from local mica-rich clay, while women cook flatbread in huge, beehive-shaped ovens. Then join Native Sons Adventures for a half day of guided mountain biking on the West Rim Trail, which edges precariously above the Texas-bound Rio Grande. Back in town, clean up at the no-frills Indian Hills Inn, two blocks off the Taos plaza.

DAY 3: Prepare for an afternoon on the Rio Grande by scouting it from above in the morning at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. From La Junta Point, you'll look down 800 feet (244 meters) to the churning confluence of the Rio Grande and the Red River, both National Wild and Scenic Rivers. The afternoon's run, the Racecourse, hits both Class III boulder gardens and tranquil stretches of willow-lined flatwater. Finish with a sunset drive through Georgia O'Keeffe country to the campground at Bandelier National Monument at the edge of the Jemez Mountains.

DAY 4: Archaeological sites are more densely concentrated in Bandelier National Monument than anywhere else in the nation—and there's no shortage of visitors either. You can lose most of your peers by walking six miles (9.7 kilometers) to the unexcavated ancestral pueblo of Yapashi. The rugged trail plunges in and out of a sheer red-rock canyon to end on a mesa-top scattered with masonry structures and several ceremonial kivas. You might have them all to yourself.

VITALS: El Santuario de Chimayo (+1 505 351 4889). Carson National Forest (for info on Trampas Lakes; www.fs.fed.us/r3/carson). Native Sons Adventures ($45 per person for guided biking, $50 for rafting; www.nativesonsadventures.com). Indian Hills Inn ($59; 800 444 2346 [U.S. and Canada only]). Bandelier National Monument ($10 per campsite; www.nps.gov/band).

Map courtesy of Computer Terrain Mapping

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September 2004

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