Palabras Pintorescas - Taking trips to unknown lands

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By Editha Bartley

I know there are different schools of thought when it comes to travel — taking a trip into unknown lands. Some just strike out on their own, often with a guidebook in hand, and discover the new area, country or whatever by themselves. I come from a very different school. My family always thought one should go on a tour with a guide who has the knowledge to enlighten and build a base of knowledge for the area.

Then you, the traveler, can decide whether you want to see and learn more about wherever you are.

I have traveled many miles with guidebooks in hand, but I have traveled many more miles with guided tours. Some tours are very large and crowded. My fellow columnist Art Trujillo had that experience this summer in Europe. One of the goofiest guided tours I ever had was in Old Jerusalem, where we ended up in the famed Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We were one of at least five tours with guides who tried to outshout each other in various languages. We learned to always carry a guidebook as well on a trip like this so we could look up and try to figure out what we just saw and heard.

Consequently I never turn down a chance to take yet another tour with a local guide. I didn’t have to think twice about hopping on a school bus (air-conditioned, even!) with strangers, plus some neighbors and friends, for a tour of the Santa Fe Trail. Yes, I lived almost my whole first 20 years just 10 miles from Fort Union and I prowled those grounds long before it became a national monument. This tour, sponsored by our local CCHP was led by Rudy Laumbach, one of our best local historians and tour guides. We suffered through a fried chicken picnic among those giant old willow trees at Watrous and had a delightful walking tour of the old fort by a Park Service guide who walked the whole route backwards as he both talked and answered questions. Pretty impressive, I’d say, because I have difficulty just walking and talking (I don’t chew gum) in a forward motion.

We bemoaned the loss of the railroad station in Watrous, among several other once stately and very functional buildings there. We followed the Santa Fe Trail all the way to the very beautiful and very old San Miguel del Vado Church in San Miguel, south of Las Vegas. Rudy has good connections, I’d say. We had a very extensive tour of this old church by two parish members who even opened up doors that led into a smaller chapel, plus church cabinets containing old scrapbooks full of history (including many photographs) of the old church and its restoration. These cabinets were in the parish hall across the street and the pride the locals have in their old church shines through. It is difficult to discover something like this on your own. That’s why I like to go on tours, even if they are right in my own back yard!

Our tour group included photographers, artists, historians and tourists who wanted to learn more about this huge area. They may have been strangers, but we were all friends by the end of the tour. The bottom line is: How can you, Rudy and CCHP, top this? Keep me on your list for next year, for sure!  

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.