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Historic Culture with a Hint of Honey

Jemez Pueblo, home to more than 3,000, no longer welcomes visitors except on selected days. However, visitors can get a taste of the Jemez culture at the Walatowa Visitor Center, on NM 4, 8 miles north of the junction with US 550 (tel. 877/733-5687 or 505/834-7235; www.jemezpueblo.org). A museum and shop highlight the center, which also offers information about hiking and scenic tour routes. While in the area, you may encounter Jemez people sitting under ramadas (thatch-roofed lean-tos) selling home-baked bread, cookies, and pies. If you're lucky, they may also be making fry bread, which you can smother with honey for one of New Mexico's more delectable treats.

Sampling Nature's Nectars

When I was young, people often used to head out from Albuquerque to "the Jemez." That meant they were going to the hot springs. Back then, it was the place where the hippies hung out, naked, and it held a kind of foreboding allure for me. Today, the allure is one of comfort and beauty. My choice is to go to the naturally running springs (ask locally for directions), but if you prefer the more controlled environment of a bathhouse, that option is available, too. The waters running through the Jemez area are high in mineral content. In fact, the owner of Jemez Springs Bath House, 62 NM 4, on the Jemez Springs Plaza (tel. 505/829-3303; www.jemezspringsbathhouse.com) says they are so healing, more than once she's had to run after visitors who walked off without their canes. This bathhouse was one of the first structures to be built in what is now Jemez Springs. Built in 1870 and 1878 of river rock and mud, it has thick walls and a richly herbal scent. You soak in individual tubs in either the men's side or the women's side. In back are a series of massage rooms, and outside is a hot tub within a wooden fence -- not the most romantic setting. In front is a gift shop packed with interesting soaps and soulful gifts. Jemez Springs Bath House is open daily 10am to 8pm.

Another option in town is the Giggling Springs (tel. 505/829-9175; www.gigglingsprings.com), across the street from the Laughing Lizard. A small outdoor pool, surrounded by sandstone and funky art, highlights this place. The Jemez River acts as a cold plunge. It's open Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 8pm, with an abbreviated schedule in winter. Reservations recommended.

At Ponderosa Valley Vineyard & Winery, 3171 Hwy. 290, Ponderosa, NM 87044 (tel. 800/WINE-MAKER [946-3625] or 575/834-7487; www.ponderosawinery.com), 3 miles off NM 4 south of Jemez Springs, you'll find a quaint country store with some of New Mexico's best wines. If you're lucky, the vintners will be presiding over the small curved bar and will pour you delectable tastes while telling stories of the history of wine in New Mexico and of the Jemez area, where they have lived and grown grapes for 30 years. Be sure to try the full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon (excellent), an award winner at the New Mexico State Fair. All wines are produced from New Mexico grapes and award winners. They are famous for their Rieslings. The fruity zinfandel is like nothing you've ever tasted. This is the oldest wine-growing region in the United States, and the product definitely has its own spirit. A 10- to 15-minute tour will take you through the cellar and vineyards. You'll likely want to take a bottle with you. They range in price from $10 to $30.

The Turquoise Trail

Known as "The Turquoise Trail," NM 14 begins about 16 miles east of downtown Albuquerque, at I-40's Cedar Crest exit, and winds some 46 miles to Santa Fe along the east side of the Sandia Mountains. This state-designated scenic and historic route traverses the revived ghost towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos, where gold, silver, coal, and turquoise were once mined in great quantities. Modern-day settlers, mostly artists and craftspeople, have brought a renewed frontier spirit to the old mining towns.

Sandia Crest -- As you start along the Turquoise Trail, you may want to turn left onto Sandia Crest Road and drive about 5 minutes to the Tinkertown Museum, 121 Sandia Crest Rd. (tel. 505/284-5233; www.tinkertown.com). The creation of Ross Ward, who took 40 years to carve, collect, and construct the place, it is mostly a miniatures museum, featuring dollhouse-type exhibits of a mining town, a circus, and other venues, with push buttons to make the little characters move. The building itself is constructed of glass bottles, wagon wheels, and horseshoes, among other ingredients. Great fun for the kids here. It's open daily from April 1 to November 1 from 9am to 6pm. Adults $3, children ages 4 to 16, $1.

Golden -- Golden is approximately 10 miles north of the Sandia Park junction on NM 14. Its sagging houses, with their missing boards and the wind whistling through the broken eaves, make it a purist's ghost town. There's a general store widely known for its large selection of well-priced jewelry, as well as, across the street, a bottle seller's "glass garden." Be sure to slow down and look for the village church, a great photo opportunity, on the east side of the road. Nearby are the ruins of a pueblo called Paako, abandoned around 1670.

Madrid -- Madrid (pronounced "Mah-drid") is about 12 miles north of Golden. This town and neighboring Cerrillos were in a fabled turquoise-mining area dating back to prehistory. Gold and silver mines followed, and when they faltered, there was coal. The Turquoise Trail towns supplied fuel for the locomotives of the Santa Fe Railroad until the 1950s, when the railroad converted to diesel fuel. Madrid used to produce 100,000 tons of coal a year, and was a true "company town" but the mine closed in 1956. Today, this is a village of artists and craftspeople seemingly stuck in the 1960s: Its funky, ramshackle houses have many counterculture residents who operate several crafts stores and import shops.

The Old Coal Mine Museum and Old West Photography (tel. 505/438-3780) invites visitors to peek into a mine that was saved when the town was abandoned. You can see the old mine's offices, steam engines, machines, and tools. It's open daily; admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for children under 6. You might want to have a picture taken in one of the 1,000 costumes at Old West Photography, $3 per person, $25 for one 8*10 or two 5*7s.

Next door, the Mine Shaft Tavern (tel. 505/473-0743) continues its colorful career by offering a variety of burgers (try the green chile cheeseburger) and presenting live music Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons; it's open for meals in summer Monday to Thursday 11am to 6pm and Friday to Sunday 11am to 8pm. In winter, meals are served Monday to Thursday from noon to 4pm and Friday to Sunday noon to 8pm. The bar is open in summer Sunday to Thursday 11am to 11pm and Friday to Saturday 11am to 1am. In winter the bar is open from Sunday to Thursday noon to 10pm and Friday to Saturday noon to 1am. Next door is the Madrid Engine House Theater (tel. 505/438-3780), offering melodrama during the summer. Its back doors open out so a steam locomotive can take center stage. The place to eat is Mama Lisa's Café, 2859 NM 14 (tel. 505/471-5769). You'll find salads, sandwiches, and New Mexican specialties, all prepared with fresh ingredients. During the summer, it's open Wednesday to Monday, from 11am to 4:30pm. In winter, it's open intermittently, so call ahead.

There's Art in Them Thar Hills -- Once a fabled mining town, now Madrid has become a notable arts village, a great place to wander on a sunny day. Start on the south end of town at Al Leedom Studio, 2485 NM 14 (tel. 505/473-2054), where the studio's namesake sells inventive glassware, made in New Mexico from recycled glass. Around the corner, step into the Painted Horse Gallery, 2850 NM 14 (tel. 505/473-5900), an intimate place showing modern landscape paintings by Dean Dovey, as well as jewelry and gifts. Jezebel, 2860 NM 14 (tel. 505/471-3795), just down the street has lamps with dazzling slumped-glass shades. Next door, Indigo Gallery, 2584 NM 14 (tel. 505/438-6202), represents 20 artists who live in New Mexico, their colorful work ranging from realism to abstract. Stop for coffee and pastries at Java Junction, 2855 NM 14 (tel. 505/438-2772), where you'll want to gawk over their vast hot sauce collection, including brands named "Scorned Woman," "Cowboy Cayenne," and "Original Death Sauce." If you'd like to stay the night, inquire about their Victorian suite upstairs. On the north end of town, check out Seppanen & Daughters Fine Textiles, 2879 NM 14 (tel. 505/242-7470), a quaint house draped floor to ceiling with weavings from lands as near as Navajo and as distant as Tibet.

Cerrillos & Galisteo -- Cerrillos, about 3 miles north of Madrid, is a village of dirt roads that sprawls along Galisteo Creek. It appears to have changed very little since it was founded during a lead strike in 1879; the old hotel, the saloon, and even the sheriff's office look very much like parts of an Old West movie set. You may want to stop in at Casa Grande Trading Post, 17 Waldo St. (tel. 505/438-3008), a shop that was featured on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. You'll find lots of jewelry and rocks, as well as the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum, full of artifacts from this region's mining era.

It's another 15 miles to Santa Fe and I-25. If, like me, you're enchanted by the Galisteo Basin, you might want to stay a night or two in nearby Galisteo at the Galisteo Inn [STST] (tel. 866/404-8200 or 505/466-4000; www.galisteoinn.com). Set on grassy grounds under towering cottonwood trees, this 300-year-old hacienda has thick adobe walls and all the quiet a person could want. Rooms, all remodeled in 2004, are decorated with brightly painted walls and fun, bold-colored art. In their award-winning La Mancha restaurant, the inn serves dinner Wednesday to Saturday, and Sunday brunch; some nights live music plays on the lovely patio; in winter, hours are more limited. There's a lovely pool large enough to swim laps, a hot tub, and guided horseback riding with Linda Vista Stables (tel. 505/466-8930). The inn is on NM 41, 15 miles from Cerrillos via the dirt County Road 42. For another good horseback-riding outfitter in this beautiful area, try Broken Saddle Riding Company. A 1 1/4-hour ride is $55 a person, 2-hour ride is $75, 3-hour ride is $95, and riders are grouped according to skill level. For more information, call tel. 505/424-7774 and listen to the recorded message, or go to www.brokensaddle.com.

If you're getting hungry on the way back to Santa Fe, stop by the San Marcos Café, 3877 NM 14, near Lone Butte (tel. 505/471-9298). Set next to a feed store in a curvaceous old adobe with wood plank floors and lots of Southwest ambience, this cafe serves creative fare such as cinnamon rolls and their special eggs San Marcos -- tortillas stuffed with scrambled eggs and topped with guacamole, pinto beans, Jack cheese, and red chile. Open daily 8am to 2pm (cafe stops serving at 1:50pm).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.