In mid September, we headed toward Santa Fe. We spent a few nights in the mountains outside town at the Big Tesuque (pronounced Tess-you-key) Campground in the Santa Fe National Forest. Tesuque is a Spanish variation of the Tewa name, Te Tesugeh Oweengeh, and means, “village of the narrow place of the cottonwood trees.” The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains and boast the highest peaks in the state, topping out at just over 14,000 ft. The campground was right on the a scenic byway that goes up to Ski Santa Fe and is flanked on both sides by creeks, the bigger one being Tesuque Creek.
It’s quiet in the mornings and evenings, but very busy during the day with day hikers and mountain bikers. With many hiking trails and big views, and it’s close proximity to town, this is easy access for outdoor recreators and tourists. Not exactly the remote solitude we are used to. Actually, it felt very much like many trailheads in Phoenix. Folks pulled up in new and expensive cars popular with the big town outdoorsy crowds, looking like they walked out of an REI catalog. People who think leash laws don’t apply to them (eyeroll). Though it was a bit crowded for our liking, if we could have received cell service anywhere in the area, we likely would have stayed to enjoy more of the hiking. After all, it’s not often we get a camp spot with a creek right next to it.
We were at a point where we had to be connected, however, so off we went to other side of town to another part of the Santa Fe National Forest, the Caja del Rio Plateau. We dropped about 3,000 ft. in elevation and went from ponderosa and aspens to pinon pines and junipers. From the mountains to high desert plateau.