A Visit to Dan’s Boots & Saddles, Smoke Plumes, and Blessed Watermelons

I visited the historic Dan's Boots & Saddles while in Albuquerque....and sure enough, I left with a pair of boots!

Three weeks in New Mexico left me ready for the one constant in the Northeast (rain), but before we caught our plane ride eastward, I wrangled my two-year-old son and (older) husband into Dan’s Boots & Saddles, an Albuquerque landmark that began its run on the historic Route 66 in the 1950s. This monster of a tack-n-gear shop now sits on 4th Ave in the Los Ranchos area, and we passed it several times en route to this trip’s favorite New Mexican eatery (El Brunos–best house Margarita I’ve ever had).

My son and I browse the saddle selection at Dan's Boots & Saddles.

I wasn’t in the market for a saddle, but I was impressed by a) Dan’s B & S’s selection; and b) their super-friendly customer service. We were greeted and offered help not long after we wandered down one of the long rows of tack and equipment, but there was no sign of an attempt to push product nor disdain when I admitted we were “just looking.” This welcoming atmosphere persuaded me to potter around and lo and behold….I bought a darned cute pair of Justin boots and my son found a plastic farm set that included a tractor (for his sake) and a horse (for mine).

If you’re in the Albuquerque area, make Dan’s B & S a destination, even if you only have a few minutes to spare on the way by. It’s a pleasant, fun way to get a little horse into your system, whether you’re lookin’ to spend money or just compare prices on riding wear, hats, and saddles (both English and Western–great sales racks, too!)

The incredible plume of smoke from the Los Conchas fires--seen from Albuquerque.

The World's Best Watermelon????

Finally, I thought I’d bid a final adieu to my 2011 NM experience by sharing a couple of the more amazing moments from the trip–the smoke “plume” from what remained of the Los Conchas fire was certainly awe-inspiring. I caught a rather poor picture of it while traveling through the Albuquerque suburbs, but a rather amazing version graced the front page of the local paper the following day. We drove up over Route 4 past the Los Conchas trailhead where the fire supposedly started and down to Los Alamos to see the extent of the fire damage–I have a new appreciation for the science, brawn, and bravery behind fighting forest fires, for sure!

And I caught site of this bit of salesmanship along a roadside in Corrales–so, perhaps I’ve a whole new appreciation for watermelon, as well????

Glad to be back in the saddle,

Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

Fourth of July in New Mexico–The Residents of Los Alamos Can Return Home, but When Can Their Horses?

For the next few weeks I will be posting from New Mexico, where I am visiting family and thoroughly enjoying the kind of dry heat that evaporates all signs of perspiration in a matter of moments. Unfortunately, this same “antiperspirant”-type heat has contributed to what is now the largest wild fire in New Mexico’s history.

We spent yesterday, the Fourth and our nation’s 235th “birthday,” in Jemez Springs, just south of Los Alamos and the parts of the Jemez Mountains that have been ravaged by the Las Conchas Wild Fire–which although now over 25% contained, still burns on after consuming almost 104,000 acres. The celebration featured a parade, a band, the mayor and a state senator, but there was no BBQ, there were no fireworks planned, and this year, there were no horses.

The absence of horses from the parade may not have been directly related to the fire that still sits close enough to Jemez Springs to fill the Jemez River valley with smoke, clouding the usually stunning view of the striated red mountains and turning the late afternoon sun and early evening moon an eery red. However, Los Alamos residents, evacuated last week, moved their horses to several farms and equestrian centers in Santa Fe (where I understand local Pony Clubbers are helping care for them–hurray!). And although residents are now being allowed to return to Los Alamos, heavy smoke and damaged property will no doubt delay the return of their animals.

Smoke from the massive wild fire in the Jemez Mountains casts a shadow across the Caldera (photo by Eric Draper/Reuters).

I pointedly remember our trip last year to Jemez Springs, and a day trip to the Valles Caldera National Preserve near Los Alamos. It was breathtaking, and as I viewed the vast expanse of grassland, dramatically patterned with massive shadows as the clouds traveled quickly across the sun, all I could think about was riding…if ever a piece of land begged for a gallop, that one did. It spooks me to find a different sort of shadow cast across it in this image by Eric Draper for Reuters.

–Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor