The town of Los Alamos was nothing like I expected, as it’s set on the Pajarito plateau below snow capped mountains and every bit a postcard scene.
I’d always imagined that Los Alamos was set in a flat desert scape, much like we’ve seen on old re-runs of the first Atomic tests in the mid 1940’s.
Far from it!
In fact the town and its 12,000 plus inhabitants is surrounded by high peaks and forested ridges.
Interestingly, on closer inspection of the town there seem to be very few buildings from the Manhattan project era that remain.
Unfortunately the museum was closed during my visit (bugger!). Next to it sits Fuller Lodge where the majority of single men lived during that time. In addition, there is a collection of small houses for married couples nearby which served that purpose.
There’s also a memorial to the Manhattan Project, with statues of Robert Oppenheimer (Laboratory Director) and General Leslie Groves (Commanding General) on the lawn outside Fuller Lodge…but little else.
What was cool, was that three deer wandered out of the nearby bush and strolled just meters from me, seemingly without a care in the world. They were so beautiful and seemingly not afraid of human interaction.
I was expecting the town to be all about its history, but in fact it’s actually the opposite, where I feels like it’s disassociated itself from the past. Almost invisible if you will.
I know this sounds crazy given the gravity of its history, but to say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful 53 km (33 miles) drive from Santa Fe, with incredible scenery, especially on a crisp, clear blue sky day. It was definitely worth the drive!
Now, to be fair I’m sure the government is not keen on lots of tourists hanging about because of the National laboratory at Los Alamos. Situated just north of the town itself, it is still operational in every sense of the word.
Although today, it mostly researches earth sciences, space exploration, nuclear fusion (a callout to its heady past) and nanotechnology. Well, that’s what they tell you anyway. 🙂
One of the coolest things in Los Alamos was the restored main gate and entrance to the town (the photo above). This throwback was worth the drive unto itself!
Once back in Santa Fe I explored some of the great art galleries that are so prevalent around town.
The most famous one I visited was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum (217 Johnson St). I was fortunate to be on hand to see the “Becoming Georgia O’Keefe” exhibition, that outlined her life over the more than six decades of work.
I particularly loved to see the progression in her personal life and the subtle and sometime not so subtle changes to her creative genius along the way. Quite stunning!
Of course there were a number of other notable contemporary galleries selling all manner of work, from local artists to a number of international artists.
In addition, Santa Fe has quite a number of furniture makers and antique sellers intermingled with the galleries. And a perfect way to while away the morning or afternoon depending on the tempo of your day.
A true feast for the eyes!
Another of the fascinating things about this part of New Mexico is that there are a multitude of National Parks and Monuments within a relatively small area. This is great for hiking and exploring the natural beauty of which this well known area of the South West.
Both have their charms so bring your hiking boots and camera!
Overall Santa Fe delivered…and in a big way! Much more than I had expected, it felt regional and small town, but with the life and vibrancy of a much larger city.
My recommendation is to go visit if you have the chance. Of course, I always lean toward a road trip cos’ you can explore and take your time. Yep, that’s the best!
Until next week.