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Issue Date: 4 / 2012

The Wines and Wine Country of South Africa



Jerry Sinkovec

 

 

The very chic wine tasting, drinking and sale adjacent to one of the many restaurants at Steenburg. Credit: Jerry Sinkovec Click image to enlarge.

It had been twenty years this year since I last set foot in South Africa. I was away for too long. I first visited the country in 1986 and spent a little over a week of the two months there in the wine country of Stellenbosch and Paarl, and no one ever mentioned the Constantia (Con-Stan-she-ah) area just north of Cape Town. I was very impressed by the fine wines they were producing. At that time, the United States and a few other countries had sanctions against South Africa because of apartheid, so we never saw any of their wines in the United States. Yet, they were producing some outstanding wines that were winning awards all over Europe. A lot of the wine country looked like the Napa area or Anderson Valley area in Mendocino County in California. The only way you knew you were in a place other than the U.S. was because of the Dutch Style of architecture that was used on the wine country buildings, and of course the English that was spoken with an Afrikaans or British accent.

I knew things were going to be different before I ever landed in South Africa. The South African Airways cabin crew were all native South Africans. As I looked through Sawubona, the new SAA in-flight magazine, I noticed the CEO of the airline was a native South African woman, and there were several other articles about other native woman who were managing large corporations in the country. None of this ever existed on my four earlier trips. But the real surprise came when dinner was being served. As they began to offer soda, beer and wine prior to dinner, I asked for a nice Riesling that I knew the country produced. As the steward looked through all the white wine bottles all he could say was Chardonnay time and time again. I finally said, "OK, I'll take a Chardonnay." That is my least favorite American white wine. I feel they are too woody, too dry, and too acidic. So many of them are so woody that I feel only a termite could love them. If I want the taste of wood in my mouth, I'll put a toothpick in it. After I poured the wine into the glass, I gave it a couple of swirls to bring the full nose out of it. I was surprised by the floral and tropical fruit aromas coming from the wine. When I took my first taste of the wine, I was astounded by the fresh fruit flavors I was experiencing. I was really bowled over by the fact I was tasting the true fruit of the grapes, and the affect of the sun, wind, moisture and soil had on them, and nothing else. The wine was from the Welbedacht Wine Estate from the Wellington area, and was a 2010 unwooded Chardonnay. It was then that I realized that this was going to be a wine experience like no other. The food was delicious and consisted of a very nice salad with a creamy dressing and the main entrée I picked was a seafood medley with pasta that was outstanding.

The wine country has gone through some dramatic changes and production has doubled since I was last there. The wineries are no longer wineries; they are resorts in varying sizes with different amenities and activities. Some of them are like a small city that will have homes for the workers in the fields and in the production areas. The wine industry has been very dynamic and is growing rapidly. It is also a good part of the tourist industry as many Europeans come to South Africa just to taste and visit the various wineries, just like we go to California.

Some of the things you'll find at different wineries are contemporary art galleries, golf courses, cricket fields, equestrian facilities, wildlife farms, extensive floral gardens, extensive native plant gardens, winery museums, native and local art galleries, winery estate national landmarks, Eagle Rehabilitation Facilities and Cheetah Outreach Programs. The one I enjoyed most is the Franschhoek Motor Museum at the Anthonij Rupert Winery. There you could see cars you never heard of like a 1909 Le Zebre Tipe-Type or a 1911 Lorraine Dietrich (which sounds more like a movie star name) or a 1928 Type 358 Bugatti. There was a full size version for the father and a smaller version for the son. The car that really caught my attention was the 1935 Cord 810 Convertible in a bright red. It would look at home on the highways of today just as well as some of the retro style cars they are building today.

The very first vine cuttings came from France in 1655 and the first wine produced by Jan van Riebeeck was in 1659. In 1685 the Constantia Wine Estate was established on over 1,800 acres. It was the start of the new world wine making. Over many years the estate has been broken up and there are five major wineries and two smaller ones that now operate on what was once the Constantia Estate or a part of it.

I spent my first night at Constantia Uitsig (eight-zig), which was once a part of that estate. After being able to sleep in the horizontal position for the first time in a few days, I awoke bursting with energy. After a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast and breakfast sausages somewhat like bockwurst but with honey as well and then a delightful light pastry and strong coffee I was ready for whatever the day had to offer. In the process of getting ready for the five wineries I was going to be visiting this first day I ran into Francois Theunissen who is the marketing director for the Constantia Uitsig winery, hotel and its three restaurants. When he found out my reason for being there he invited me to that evenings 2011 Vintners Annual Dinner, something I was totally unaware of. He also advised me not to overdo any lunch I was having. It was going to be hard following his last recommendation.

My first winery visit was to Klein Constantia, just down the road from where I was staying. It also was part of the original estate as were the three others I visited that day. The front of the main building was typical Dutch style architecture and as I stepped through the main entrance I found myself in the lobby area with the reception desk directly in front of me. What was so unique was that if I proceeded to my left front I would be in the production area where all the steel tanks are. If I went to my right front I had access to the wine fields. If I went to my right rear I could descend into the barrel storage area which is underground. To my left rear there was winery art on display. It was a very well tough out area.

In a few minutes Adam Mason, the winemaker appeared and gave me a tour of all the interior facilities. We then headed out to the vineyards' in his four wheel drive truck. The vineyards and the countryside were lush and green and as we got higher you could even see the ocean in the distance. He mentioned he'd take me to the highest point on the property where they have established a new vineyard. I could see where we were headed and I thought the road was a little challenging. It was getting stepper and steeper and I was beginning to feel like an astronaut getting ready for liftoff as most of my weight was in the seatback. We were about 100 yards short of our destination when the wheels started spinning on the still moist ground and grass from the morning dew. We cautiously got out of the truck as neither of us wanted to become a high speed missile headed towards the valley bottom. There were spectacular views in every direction and it was well worth the effort. It was so beautiful.

Back at the winery a table had been set up with the wines I was going to be sampling along with water, some breads and crackers and some cheese. Adam explained each of the wines we sampled and I was astonished by the full rich flavors of the fruit in the white wines. We started with a Chardonnay that had tropical fruit taste and similar nose with a little flower as well. It was unwooded. It was similar to the wine I had on the flight. I was finding it hard to believe how much I enjoyed these wines compared to what I experienced in the states. The second white was an unwooded Sauvignon Blanc and it had a flowery nose and a taste of asparagus, fruit and a little green taste. Then we tried a wooded Chardonnay. They only wood about 20% to 30% of the wine in that batch and only for two or three months. That seems to be what most of the other wineries are doing as well. You still get the great fruit taste of the grapes and the finish is a little more polished, but you don't have any wood taste. We did a few more whites and then a flight of the reds. All the wines were delightful, and made a real impression on me.

Constantia has the best climate and the perfect conditions to produce some of the world's best white wines, and the wineries focus on those wines. Yet, the reds they produce are winning awards in Europe and other areas as well. One of their wines proved highly desirable to a very famous person, Napoleon Bonaparte. Once Napoleon had been shipped off to St. Helena to live in exile, he was still treated well by the British since he was once an Emperor. Every month the British had a case of Constantia Natural Sweet Wine shipped to him, so he could continue to enjoy some of the things he was used to having as Emperor. That wine is still being produced and bottled in the same style bottle that was shipped to Napoleon.

After touring Groot (Large) Constantia and doing a wine tasting there I headed further down the road to Buitenverwachting (Beyond Expectation). There I met Hermann Kirschbaum, Cellar Master and Winemaker. We were going to sample the wines with lunch, which is the way I prefer to do it, but you can only do that once or twice a day if your able to do it with dinner as well. I ordered a light fish dish to go with the wines we'd sample, but it also included a soup, salad and dessert. We tried five wines, a Buiten Blanc 2011, that was a full bodied Sauvignon Blanc based blend that offers a variation of fruit characters including ripe gooseberry, green peppers, green melon and hints of tropical fruit. A Chardonnay 2010, it was a wooded, full-bodied and rich Chardonnay offering a powerful citrus and steely backbone. Classic toasty and butterscotch-like characters with mineral undertones. Good balance of oak followed with abundant fruit. A Sauvignon Blanc 2011, the wine had a pale lemon yellow color and a bouquet reminiscent of green figs with hints of gooseberries and an intrusion of green peppers. The wine is dry, full bodied and has a long lingering finish. A Husseys Vlei Sauvignon Blanc 2011, the wine had a pale lemon yellow color and a bouquet reminiscent of green peppers combined with herbaceous aromas. The wine is dry, full bodied and has a long lingering finish. A '1769' Vintage 2010, this classical Constantia Dessert wine offered a ripe apricot, melon, almond and apple like characters. All the wines and lunch were truly outstanding.

I had one more stop to make that day at a new winery called "Steenburg". It's a very contemporary looking structure and even more so once I stepped into the restaurant and wine tasting area. It looked like you just stepped into a high end restaurant you'd expect to see in New York City. It was very classy and yet had a very warm feel to it with great vistas out of the glass walls on one side. The wines here were outstanding as all the places I visited earlier. It's a place I would highly recommend someone visit if they ever decide to visit the wine country here and play golf.

That evening, I headed over to the restaurant for the Vintners Dinner. About eighty to one hundred people paid $65.00 (390.00 rand) to attend this function and it was a full house. There were eight people at this table and four of them were also with the media in South Africa. Each of the five major wineries in Constantia were going to be presenting their newest offering in a premium Bordeaux style white wine blend. Each winemaker gave a brief talk prior to the wine and matching gourmand dish of the five course meal was served. The best way to describe the food and wine at this grand dinner is to tell you about the chef and restaurant it was held in. Head Chef, Clayton Bell, and his restaurant at Constantia Uitsig has been ranked number one in Africa for over a dozen years and has been ranked number twelve in the world. Need I say more? The food and wines were truly outstanding. The dishes were not only works of art in presentation, but artfully composed with exciting flavors that mingled well with each other and with the wines. It was truly a moveable feast.

Over the week end, I spent some time sightseeing in the Constantia area and doing a little shopping. It was truly a beautiful area that had lush verdant valleys and plains with dark rugged and jagged peaks poking up through the green. I noticed all the flowering plants seemed to have richer and brighter colors than anywhere I'd ever been. As we know, man had his start in Africa, but he had to have been born in Constantia because of the natural beauty. It's the Garden of Eden. It is this lushness from the sea breezes that makes this one of the world's finest white wine growing regions.

Late Sunday, I headed over to the Laiback Winery which was going to be my base camp for the remainder of my two week wine tour. It is one of the few organic wineries in the area and is lovingly cared for by a great couple who truly love what they are doing, and it shows. They have a string of eight very large and contemporary rooms that also offer a large LCD TV a small cooking area. At the far end of the room were glass sliding doors that opened up to a deck overlooking a small lake and a swimming pool off to the left below the main lodge. The sunsets ever night beyond the lake were pretty intense. There were always a few small bottles of their white and red wines in the room to sample or have with a small snack. With the large lunches and sampling the wines before, after and with lunch every day, I never felt there was a need to have dinner.

Over the course of the time I was there I visited over forty different wineries and each of them offered another unique experience in the great wines they are producing in South Africa. Every day there was a surprise of one sort or another, and I was surprised to find an American who owned and operated the Tokara Winery that was nestled in a narrow little valley. Thys Lombard told me he got tired of the rush and hassle of the investment business in New York City and decided to use his more creative talents in developing great wines. And he is doing just that. Every winery I visited, I sampled anywhere from six to ten or twelve wines. And I have to tell you, out of all the wines I sampled, there was not one wine I would have considered marginal or poor. It was a daunting task, and I had to be careful not to over enjoy any of the wines as I was driving myself through the countryside were everyone drives on the wrong side of the road.

I was very surprised one evening when I received a phone call from one of the wineries I was going to be visiting in a few days. It was from David and Susan Sonnenberg, the owners of the Diemersfontein Winery in the Wellington area. Instead of visiting their winery on the scheduled day, they suggested that I come the day before and do the wine tasting with them at dinner that night, then spend the night and attend Pinotage On Tap the following day and spend the night there as well, so I wouldn't have to drive home after the party. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

The next few days was more of the same, sampling some of the most interesting and tasteful white and red wines I've had to opportunity to experience in the last few years. The red wines were more like the red wines you'd find in other parts of the world, true to the accepted style of the grape. But even today, I'm still amazed at how great and yet different the white wines are from South Africa than what we normally have here in the states. They are truly outstanding and the quality is second to none. There is a small winery in the states that produces some outstanding white wines: the Husch Winery in California. There are over 7000 different wines in South Africa, and I've only scratched the surface.

Friday rolled around and after my last tasting I headed for Wellington and dinner at the Diemersfontein Country Estate with David and Susan. As I headed up the stairs of the estate house I could see the elegantly set table on the veranda. After I got settled in, in one of the thirty guest rooms, I went out and met my hosts. David filled me in on the history of the estate and winery and his families involvement starting in the 1940's. Once a few other guests arrived we sat down to a grand dinner and wine tasting. There was nothing left to be desired. The food and wines were excellent and rather than describe them here you can see their descriptions on their web site, as you can with all the wineries visited. Tomorrow is the day I want to relate to you.

I've been to outdoor wine tastings in California, New Mexico and other areas, but this isn't a tasting, it's a celebration of a wine. Pinotage. It's a wine with a sordid history of failures and false starts, and finally a celebration of the long struggle. David has created something unique, first in a wine, then in an event. Pinotage On Tap is an annual event that David holds on the estate grounds each year starting ten years ago. This year it attracted over 2000 fans for a full day of friends, fun, food and wine. The wine has a cult following. For about $35.00 to $40.00, depending on the exchange rate, you gain entrance to the event and you receive a shopping bag of goodies. It includes a wine glass along with information, other memorabilia, and tickets for food during the day and a front seat to some great entertainment. Several steps from where you pick up your goodies is the first barrel of Pinotage where your glass is filled. Throughout the grounds are spread eight barrels of Pinotage, each holding about 250 liters each and one barrel of white wine for those other people. By the end of the day they were all empty which meant about one liter of wine per person was consumed and not one incident of intoxication.

As people continued to stream in, several employees started moving through the crowds with large plates of finger food that was delicious. Every time you saw one of them they would have a different item for tasting to enjoy with the wine. Yes, the wine. What is it about this wine that has so many people flocking to an event like this. In April 2007, Neil Pendock christened it "The People's Pinotage" after his consumer survey in the South African Sunday Times found that it was the "overwhelming favourite" of all pinotages. Since then, the people have spoken again by voting it "The Best Red Wine on Show" at Winex in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2008/9/10. David says," Since we first developed this Pinotage in 2001, as a new and original style, it has taken wine lovers throughout the world by storm! It is praised for its easy accessibility, uniqueness, wonderful rich coffee, smoky overtones on the nose - and yet the preservation of voluptuous fruit on the palate, along with cinnamon and chocolaty notes on the palate. It is vivacious, versatile and velvety. Makes you sit up and smile at the company you are with. It can be paired with a range of different foods - from curries, to game meats, to dark chocolate desserts. It appeals to new drinkers who have not previously been red wine enthusiasts - they find it an easy introduction to the world of red wine - a true midwife to drinking pleasure." I could not have said it any better.

Some of the many vineyards at Klein Constantia. Credit: Jerry Sinkovec Click image to enlarge.


There was an African marimba band in front of the Estate House, a guitarist and singer under one of the large tents containing food and beer vendors and eventually the large stage came alive with the African beat of the main entertainment group. It was mostly traditional African music and the rhythm got the crowd of a thousand in front of the group pulsing and moving with the music.

In your bag of goodies were three tickets for food. One got you a bowl of delicious pasta, another was a bowl of chili with meat and beans with rice and the last was a bowl of chicken and rice with a great sauce. You could also buy some grilled sausages if you were still hungry. A real big event happened in one of the buildings not far from the stage at 2:30PM. They opened the doors to the room with a three by eight foot table with a chocolate fountain at each end and the table buried in strawberries and some marshmallows several inches deep. You had to be careful—it was like a shark feeding frenzy in there. There was an older gentlemen whose job it was to keep the chocolate fountains flowing and the table filled deep with strawberries. He was a very busy man and I wondered if he was up to the task. I worried he could get trampled or have a heart attack, but apparently he survived the ordeal.

What a fun day of great entertainment, food, friends and wine that was always filled with new experiences. After a dazzling sunset the crowds started to disperse to the chartered buses and autos for the trip home. The next morning after another grand breakfast, I thanked my hosts and headed back to my lodging at the Laiback Winery. The next week was filled with more wine tours and wine tastings that never failed to amaze me with their delightful flavors of fruit, melons, and citrus. The wines of South Africa are basically an undiscovered commodity for most of the United States, but they are available on the east coast, Florida, Texas and to a lesser degree on the west coast. If you look closely you'll also find the wines in areas like Nevada and Illinois, but it is a hunt. If you go, it'll become one of your most memorable trips of your life. I didn't want to leave.

Notes

Most of the wineries I visited are importing into the United States. To find out who to contact go to the winery web site and find the list of agents for the United States. Most of them are on the east coast, Florida, Texas and a few on the west coast. They may sell to you directly or advise you of where it can be purchased. My only regret is that I couldn't write about every winery I visited. To do so, would require this to be a book. They all deserved to be mentioned as all the wines were truly outstanding. If you or a group are interesting in making a trip to the South African wine country, I'd be happy to assist you. If you go, you'll want to make sure you get a GPS unit with your car to get you to where you're going rapidly. They do things differently over there and it's actually a better way to navigate. You just put in the longitude and latitude of your destination and your off. It's faster and easier to input than our method of state, city, street name and number. You normally only have to change four or five digits. You might also pick up a cell phone as the U.S. phone won't work over there. You would get your GPS unit and telephone in the terminal prior to getting you rental auto. There are usually one or two vendors at each airport. I'd also advise you to get a copy of Platter's book of South African Wines for 2012 which just came out. All the wineries are listed in the book along with descriptions, maps and the GPS coordinates that make it easy and fast to get there.

 

 

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  New Mexico’s Small Ski Areas

 

 

The names Taos, Angel Fire and Santa Fe bring certain images to mind, but what does the name Sipapu or Ski Cloudcroft conjure up? These are New Mexico’s two small and family owned and operated ski areas which seem to be overlooked by the majority of the skiers. They offer a variety of skiing and some unique experiences in addition to low ticket prices.

 

Last winter, after spending four days at Taos, I decided to pay Sipapu a visit with a friend to explore their slopes and see what they had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed. The area can be reached by roads either from Espanola, Dixon or Rancho de Taos. It’s located on highway 518 east of highway 68. When I pulled into the parking lot across the highway from the main building, I didn’t have the feeling I was at a ski area. It looked like a typical summer resort facility, and brought back memories of what skiing was like in the sixties. Inside, the ticket office was located in what was apparently the general store for the area, and we were greeted warmly by the staff. After getting our tickets and trail map we headed over to the triple chair for the ride up.

 

The area has less than 1,000 feet of vertical which meant a short ride up. We decided to ski the northwest part of the mountain which had the easier runs on it so as to warm up first, before tackling the more difficult runs on the southeast part of the mountain. The first couple of runs were on nicely groomed slopes which were wide open and offered changes in terrain as you descended. They were great high speed cruising runs for us. That part of the mountain is great for beginners and intermediate skiers. They would never get over their head if they stayed on the northern part of the hill. You might say the lift line run divides the hill, as that run offers a ever changing variety of terrain. Easy runs are right at the top, challenging runs are left at the top.

 

After skiing all the runs on the North side of the hill, we decided to do the lift line run. My partner took off first, and headed down the gently sloped run to the first drop off or kicker, depending on how you approached it. He misjudged the drop off and angle and buried his tips in a large roller. I headed over to the left and grabbed some air, and cleared what had given him a surprise. I skied down through some small moguls and skied through a nicely groomed area  where I came to a stop to wait for my partner. He came down and blew past me and skied flawlessly through the next bunch of moguls and rollers. I took off and caught up with him down at the boarding area. There were no lift lines, which was surprising, considering it was a week end. We did  the lift line run a several more times tacking a different line each time we went down. It offered a limitless number of lines to descend and was quite enjoyable no matter which line you took. You could grab air three or four times on the descent.

 

My friend was looking for more of a challenge, so we decided to head left on the next run. He found his challenge, and I found shear exhaustion. The first run we descended was pure moguls from top to bottom. My friend bought the cabbage patch a few times, but he totally enjoyed himself. I was soaking wet with sweat. Al’s run at Taos was only longer, and straight down were this one had a few snaky turns to it. The other runs on the south side offered varying degrees of difficulty, some groomed  and some left with the moguls for the more energetic to enjoy. The ski area offered a little bit something for every level of skier no matter what kind of terrain he or she enjoyed. It was a pleasant surprise to find such a variety of terrain in such a small area by Taos standards, but not lacking in anything.

 

They offer great southwestern food in their restaurant which was reasonably priced, and had  a nice selection of import and special beers to accompany the food. Lodging is also available with or without kitchens in the form of rooms in the main lodge and more remote cabins. It was like skiing in the sixties again with the low prices and informal atmosphere. It’s a bargain and unique experience in today’s expensive ski ticket prices and haute fashion at so many of the areas. Do not let this little unique ski area pass you by this year without skiing and experiencing what it has to offer.

For more information contact:

Sipapu

Route Box 229

Vadito, NM 87579

505-587-2240

 

 

 

Ski Cloudcroft is located just east of the town of Cloudcroft and is accessible from there or Ruidoso. The area has changed hands a few times over the past few years, but seems to be headed in the right direction with the current owners. It's New Mexico's smallest ski area and has the unique distinction of being the southern most ski area in the U.S. It has less than 900 feet of vertical, but don't let that fool you. Their expert runs will challenge the best of skiers. The areas runs are 35% novice , 30% intermediate and 35% expert. A shorter hill means a shorter lift ride and more time on the slopes. You can easily ski the equivalent of Mount Everest, over 30,000 feet in a day. The area is catering to families and couples that don't like being intimidated by the larger mountains like Taos. A family can let their children go on their own, without the fear of them becoming lost. It has a relaxing atmosphere and the staff are helpful and friendly. This ski season, they will have improved many of their existing runs. I happened to be there just before Christmas last year when they got dumped on with over two feet of powder snow. The area which has mostly novice skiers were just happy to get to the bottom, much less ski the deep powder. That left the expert runs and deep powder to me and my partner. We made first tracks and cut up ever slope and still no one ventured out to where we had been. It was pure heaven, and no rush, because there was no competition for the runs or powder. The area offers a little something for everyone.  Their main lodge building also contains a ski rental shop and their restaurant.  The food was very good and reasonably priced.

 

Christmas in Cloudcroft, is a great celebration they have in the town and Lodge at Cloudcroft starting twelve days prior to Christmas  Day. There are a variety of activities for young and old to enjoy. The most romantic place in New Mexico is The Lodge at Cloudcroft. It’s not only a great place to stay while skiing, it’s just a great place to stay and wine and dine on the finest available in the state. The Lodge offers a great buffet on Christmas Day which starts at 11:30 AM and lasts until 3:30 PM; not an event to be taken lightly or missed.

For more information, contact:

Ski Cloudcroft

Box 498

Cloudcroft, NM 88317

505-682-2333

800-333-7542

 

The Lodge at Cloudcroft

800-395-6343

 

Cloudcroft C of C

505-682-2733

 

Words 1275

 

 

 

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Idaho Falls, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

 

 
    
 

 affected by her charm

 

Standing beneath the shadow of the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, I could look down the flights of stairs to the Mississippi River where the Delta Queen was tied up to the wharf. She looked like a floating white wedding cake setting a top a finely etched crystal platter.

 

"Mississippi steamboats were 'magnificent', they were 'floating palaces'...terms which did not over express the admiration with which people viewed them."  "The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book...delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a new book to be read once and thrown aside, for it has a new story to tell every day."

MARK TWAIN

 

It brought back memories of twenty years ago when I first saw the Delta Queen. I was photographing a rendezvous of mountain men and voyagers at Villa Louis, a historical site in Wisconsin. Then, in the distance, from down river, came this unreal sound; like the sound of wailing banshees. It was the Delta Queen with her calliope proclaiming that she was about to arrive. As she pulled up to the dock, throngs of people surged forward to greet her. It was then, I promised myself, that someday I would make a trip aboard the Delta Queen.

 

As I approached the gang plank, a cabin attendant rushed off the Delta Queen and garbed my bags. "Don't worry sir," he said, "your bags will be outside your cabin door after you check in with the purser."  What service and efficiency I thought. On shore, at the end of the gang plank stood this beautiful gray haired lady dressed in a turn of the century bellowing dress. As she greeted me aboard, she placed a faux plastic pearl necklace with a Delta Queen medallion around my neck. As she did I said, "I always thought you received a nice lei when you went aboard ship." She thought I ment something else. With out batting an eye, she replied, "all you'll get from me is a kiss," which she proceeded to give me. The laughter poured out from all those standing around us. It was one of life's most embarrassing moments.

 

After I settled into my comfortable air conditioned cabin, I decided to explore part of the ship. My cabin opened into the elegant Betty Blake Lounge. It has the feeling of a parlor from a well appointed turn of the century estate, with warmth and comfort of prime importance. The walls are covered with richly colored oil paintings of the Greene family members and prior steamboat captains. The dark, highly polished tables and bookcases contrasted with the white, gold trimmed walls and ceiling. The crystal covered lights give the room a soft warm glow. The deep luxurious chairs in floral patterns and soft rose colors seemed to invite you to sit down and relax with a good book. The bookcases are filled with hundreds of books and maps, including many on the history of the Mississippi and steamboating. There is an ample supply of games for the children to while away the hours.

 

I decided to go to the bow, which takes you into the Forward Cabin Lounge. As you pass through the doorway, you come upon the elegant Grand Staircase. With it's gleaming brass, highly polished wood railings and panels, ornate cast grill work and crystal chandelier at the top, it speaks of an era gone by. In the lounge, passengers playing cards and other people making new friends. There was a wonderfully arranged buffet table with fresh fruit salads and bakery. The smell of fresh coffee rolling in the air, along with orange juice and lemonade got my juices flowing. I decided to just have some juice and not ruin my appetite for this evenings dinner, which I was sure would be a dinning experience.

 

Since I had a few hours before we left Saint Louis and had dinner, I decided to go back to the Betty Blake lounge and find a good book or two to enjoy during my river voyage. The first bookcase I came upon was crammed with books and maps on the rivers, steamboating and the Delta Queen. I decided on a book about the Delta Queen. I sunk into a comfortable chair and opened the book.

 

It was interesting.  The Delta Queen Steamboat Company has carried passengers and freight along the rivers of the midwest for over one hundred years. When Captain Gordon Greene purchased his first steamboat in 1890, the sternwheeler H.K. Bedford; Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show starring Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull was playing to full arenas and the massacre of the Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee took place late that year. The Greene Line, which would become The Delta Queen Steamboat Co, flourished over the years. They owned and operated twenty-eight steamboats along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during the early years. Captain Greene was well liked and was known for his business acumen. One of his pilots was known to have said, "Nobody ever treated me better than the Greenes, or paid me less."

 

It was Captain Gordon Greens's son Tom who stepped in to run the company in1944. He was a visionary and a dreamer, and his goal for the Greene Lines was to provide the finest passenger steamboat ever to ply the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. In early 1946, he found it in the steamer Delta Queen, which came a long way around to fulfill her destiny on the Mississippi.

 

The Delta Queen's steel parts were originally fabricated and assembled on the River Clyde at the Isherwood yard in Glasgow, Scotland. The parts were marked, then knocked down and shipped to Stockton, California, where hull and superstructure construction were completed in 1926. The machinery was built in Dumbrton, Scotland; the wheel shafts and cranks were foraged at the Krupp plant in Germany; and the four decks of cabins were built largely of oak, teak, mahogany and Oregon cedar by American shipbuilders.

 

The Delta Queen weathered the Great Depression and traveled the Sacramento River for 14 years. In 1940, during World War II, she was charted by the U.S. Navy. Painted drab gray, the former pleasure craft served gallantly, ferrying troops to and from ocean vessels in San Francisco Bay and taking wounded men from ships to hospitals. In August 1946, the Delta Queen was deactivate by the Navy and turned over to the Maritime Commission for sale. She went to the highest bidder, Captain Tom Greene, for the astonishing sum of $46,250 for this elegant lady.

 

In 1947 and 1948 the Delta Queen was remodeled and refitted for $750,000. Her dark gray paint was stripped to expose shiny brass fittings, polished teak and stained glass windows. She was given new cabins and baths, a new dinning room and an addition to the Promenade Deck. On June 30, 1948, the Delta Queen made her maiden passenger voyage on the Ohio River, roundtrip, from Cincinnati to Cario, Illinois.

 

"Save The Queen," was the rally cry in 1965. It was the year the British cruise liner Yarmouth Castle caught fire, prompting the U.S. Congress to enact the Safety of Life at Sea law that would have forced the Delta Queen,

resplendent with carefully selected and lovingly crafted, but flammable wood into retirement.  Officials from the Greene Line went to Washington to plead their case, and Congress granted a two year extension. In 1968 another two year extension was granted until November 1970. The company officials realized they had to make the public aware of what was about to happen to the ship, and started a campaign to gain public support. More than 250,000 letters were sent to the president, senators and representatives. On June 15th, 1970, the Department of the Interior honored the Delta Queen by placing her on the National Register of Historic Places. In congress, bills were introduced to "Save The Queen," but all these efforts failed to change the November 2, 1970 deadline.

 

On October 20, 1970, the Delta Queen left St. Paul on what was thought to be the vessel's final trip, a two week excursion to New Orleans, ending on November 2nd. This "Farewell Forever" journey attracted thousands of people

along the river who came to the Mississippi's banks to cheer and wave goodbye to the Delta Queen as she passed their communities.

 

Meanwhile, in Washington, the battle to "Save The Queen" was coming to a positive conclusion. An amendment to give the Delta Queen an exemption to the Safety of Life at Sea law was added to an existing congressional bill. The bill passed the house of Representatives on November1st; was approved by the senate on December 7th; and on December 31st, 1970, President Nixon signed the bill into law, giving the Delta Queen another extension until1973.

 

In 1973, the Greene Line was acquired by Overseas National Airways, and plans were made to build an all steel riverboat in case the Delta Queen was forced into retirement. The new riverboat would turn out to be the Mississippi Queen. That same year, the companies name was changed to Delta Queen Steamboat Company, and the Delta Queen got its fourth extension, to 1978.

 

To this day, the Delta Queen continues to operate under congressional exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea laws; with the current exemption good until November 1, 1992. In 1989, the Delta Queen joined an elite list of American treasures, which includes the Statue of Liberty, when she was officially designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark.

 

"The people fasten their eyes upon the coming boat as upon a wonder they are seeing for the first time."

MARK TWAIN

 

The shrill sound of the steam calliope told me that we were under way. I left the lounge and headed to the rear deck where the steam calliope was located. Twenty or thirty people and children were standing around a gentlemen in top hat playing the calliope while a hundred or more people were standing on the starboard side of the vessel waving their goodbyes to friends and family.

 

As soon as I set foot aboard the Delta Queen, I was affected by her charm. Once the gangplank was removed from shore, I lost contact with the present and entered the romantic time of years ago. The Delta Queen truly captures

the spirit of an era gone by.

 

"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do... Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

MARK TWAIN

 

As we got under way, I decided to visit the engine room. The first thing you hear when entering the engine room is the hiss...clickty clack, hiss...clickty clack of the enormous steam engine pushing the vessel through the water. A polished brass panel with a multitude of gauges, switches and colored lights greeted me. A pleasant sweet aromatic smell of fresh oil pervades the room. Little glass oil cups sit atop all the major moving parts keeping equipment functioning. Everything in the room seems to be moving, cams are pushing, gears rotating, levers flipping, arms pushing and pulling and shafts turning. Its from a time when steam was the king of industry, and its a marvel to watch. Its hypnotic, and its amazing that all this has been going on for over the last sixty years without hardly missing a beat.

 

I left the engine room and headed up the Grand Staircase to the Texas Deck and Texas Lounge where it was happy hour. A small band was playing Blues, Dixieland, and Ragtime music. It really set the mood. The smell of fresh

popcorn tempted you. I felt it appropriate to order a Mint Julep. The young couple next to me were from Canada, and they just couldn't get over the charm of the steamboat. They told me they were looking forward to this trip for months, and they weren't disappointed. Jessie, Bill's wife said, "Its like being on a second honeymoon." The lounge has a large expanse of windows, which offered us a grand view of ever changing river vistas. After a few more Mint Juleps disappeared from in front of me, I said goodby to my new friends, and went for a stroll around the vessel on one of the

 four outer decks.

 

It was a hot muggy day when we left Saint Louis, but aboard the steamboat, you always had a cool sweet smelling river breeze as you moved down river. You had the warmth of the sun on one side of the deck, and natures air conditioning on the shady side. There was ample room for relaxing on a chaise lounge acquiring a good tan, or sitting down with a good book or friend.

 

I always stopped at the rear of the vessel to watch and listen to the paddlewheel beat through the water. It's asymmetrical sound had a mesmerizing effect, and it was truly relaxing. As the paddles came up from the water, a necklace of glistening water pearls would fall back to the river. At sunset, they would become pearls of fire as the sun shown through

them.

 

"For man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner."

SAMUEL JOHNSON

 

The chime for dinner broke my trance like state by the paddlewheel. As I headed down to the main dinning room, I wondered who my dinner partners would be. It turned out to be a older fun loving couple. The Brannons were from a small town outside of Saint Louis, where they owned a bar and dance hall. Between all the laughter, we managed to order dinner.

 

We all ordered the Shrimp St. Charles for our appetizer. It's delicate cajun seasonings and spices from New Orleans caught everyone's attention. With out a doubt, it was the most delicious shrimp I'd ever eaten. The soups were a problem for not only me, but for the Brannon's also. They all sounded so delicious, we couldn't make up our mind as to what soup to order. Luckily, we had an understanding waiter. Since we couldn't make up our mind as to which soup to order, he brought us a cup of both. "I'd never had a waiter do that in a restaurant," I remarked. The Brannon's agreed. The Minnesota Wild Rice Soup and Andouille Sausage Gumbo were both unusual and tasty. We decided they should both get gold medals. The three of us ordered the Marinated Artichoke Salad, since none of us ever had it before. It got a thumbs up. I ordered the Veal Oscar, one of my favorites when dinning out. It was cooked to perfection. The tender medallions of sauteed veal were placed over asparagus spears and topped with crabmeat and sauce bearnaise. The Brannon's ordered Salmon en Parchment. The fresh Norwegian Salmon was baked in parchment with fresh vegetables and accented with pernod. For desert I ordered a German Black Forest Cake that was as good as what mom made, or I could get back at Lutz's German Konditorei in Chicago. The Brannon's had the Kahlua Crepes, so we exchanged a little of our desserts to make sure we didn't miss anything. We didn't dare let the waiter know we exchanged some of our deserts in fear of him bringing us each two desserts. We were totally stuffed.

 

The Brannon's and I agreed, dinning aborad the Delta Queen is a unique experience in itself. The preparation, presentation and taste of the food is world class. It was accompanied by a fine selection of wines and champagnes. We had our choice of New Orleans recipes, Continental and good old fashioned American dishes. When the waiter returned, he asked," is there anything else I can get you?" I replied, "only a wheelchair to get me back to my cabin."

 

Later that night, we returned to the dinning room after they had cleared the area to make room for dancing. A band played a great selection of music into the wee hours of the morning. After ten o'clock, another meal was served in the Forward Cabin Lounge. The Brannon's and I decided to go there not to eat, but to sample the many great things they offered. There was Hungarian Goulash with noodles and a large variety of fresh fruit salads and other great tasting pastry. Mrs. Brannon said, "if I leave this trip weighing less than ten pounds more than when I boarded, I'll be doing

 great." I chuckled, and agreed.

 

The next morning we were moving along some dense forest lands and small farms along the Mississippi River. I could smell the sweet fresh cut hay and grass as we passed the farms. Sometimes I could see a deer or other wildlife drinking from the river through the early morning mist. As we came around a bend in the river, there was a small clearing next to where the county road came down to the rivers edge. It was filled with cars and people. The adults and children all had smiles on their faces and were frantically waving their arms in greeting. It was interesting to see, that as the Delta Queen navigates the waterways of Mid America, she is greeted warmly by young and old alike. Its as though the people lining the river banks and the wharfs at the various towns we passed, just received the most wonderful present, and at the same time, are saying good by to an old friend.

 

Our first stop on this trip, St. Geneieve, MO., is one of many great historical sites along the river which give one the opportunity to learn about life in the early days of our growing nation. The buses picked us up at the landing, and we had an pleasant 40 minute drive through rolling green hills and small farms.

 

Strolling through town, which was designated as an historic district, gave me a chance to browse and shop for antique treasures and traditional French delectable treats among the many unique shops. As I walked through this charming town, I discovered many French traditions still exist.

 

St. Geneieve is the oldest permanent settlement in the state, established by the French in 1726. One of the many highlights of the town is the Bolduc House and Herb Garden. Jessie and Bill Turnbull, who I met the night before, joined me in my exploration. As we entered the Bolduc House, we were greeted by the tour guide. She said, "The house, built in 1785, is of a vertical log construction on a rock foundation. The roof trusses are of hand hewn square logs held together with wooden pegs. Some of the furniture in the main room is the original Bolduc furniture." Jessie, Bill and I each took our turn going up the steep stair like ladder to examine the roof supports. Bill said, "I've never seen such good workmanship in such an old house. Jessie remarked, "Not one board in the flooring squeaked anywhere." We all admired

 the Bolduc furniture and silver in the house, but most of the furnishings are French Canadian, created in the same design and spirit as those which were made by the St. Genevieve Creole craftsmen.

 

After a leisurely lunch with the Brannon's, I went for a stroll on the Sundeck. As I approached the rear of the steamboat where the steam calliope was located, I noticed a crowd gathering. Tom Wilson, from North Carolina, who I met this morning on the bus ride, advised me they were going to let anyone who wished, to try and play the calliope. He said, "Every since I was a kid, and went to a circus and heard a steam calliope for the first time, I've wanted to play one."  Everyone was wearing a grand smile. The first passenger sat down and played a few bars of a ragtime song. All that

was needed to get a Vox Callioipus Certificate was to play at least five notes. The shrill sound of the steam calliope evokes memories of childhood from most of the older folks, but brings a look of excitement and joy tothe children aboard. Some of the kids played chopsticks and the adults tried to play their favorite songs. Eventually, Tom had his chance at the calliope. He played the theme from "The Phantom of the Opera." I looked at his certificate, it read in part, "exhibits the required stamina and fortitude to withstand deluges of boiling water, blasts of live steam, precipitations of soot, cinders and blazing embers, and has been known to remain reasonably sober for limited periods while performing without benefit of goggles or asbestos gloves. Even though I don't play a note of music, I had to give it a try. It was the kid in me.

 

I spent another four days aboard the Delta Queen, relaxing and enjoying the rich history along the Mississippi River. Steamboating aboard the DeltaQueen is a unique experience for child or adult. Romantic couples and large families I met aborad the trip, found it a truly relaxing way to vacation and explore America's heartland. Every day brings new vistas, friends, and experiences along with places to explore. Your every care and want is provided for by the ships personnel, which leaves you nothing to do but relax and enjoy yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR

 

JERRY SINKOVEC

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

Word count 3561

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 

I have an excellent selection of photographs to illustrate the article.

 
Food Articles

 

New Mexico’s White Gold

 

Over four hundred years ago, Coronado explored New Mexico searching for Cibola and the seven cities of gold. Today, you can discover New Mexico's seven mountains of white gold in their exciting ski areas. The name New Mexico conjurers images of dry deserts, sagebrush and flat land, but that is only partly true. Thrust up from the desert floor are several magnificent mountain ranges which are the abode of seven great ski areas in the "Land of Enchantment".

 

In the Southern part of the state, you can discover two of New Mexico's  best kept secrets, Ski Apache and Snow Canyon. Ski Apache is 30 minutes from Ruidoso, and offers some of New Mexico's finest powder skiing. The 11,500 foot summit offers you a two hundred mile, 360 degree panorama of two countries and three states.  New Mexico's only 4 passenger gondola along with a triple and double chair lift will whisk you to the summit. They also have 4 other triple chairs, a quad and a double lift, which gives them the largest lift capacity in the state, over 15,300 skiers per hour. Their newest lift, the Elk quad chair opens up a new area of the mountain to expert and novice skiers. Apache Bowl is a vast open area off the northern side of the summit which allows you to ski a variety of terrain. To the North of the bowl are three beginner runs, six intermediate runs and eleven expert runs that are the finest powder runs in New Mexico. The expert runs are steep and wide which makes them ideal for deep powder skiing. Most of the skiers that ski at Apache are beginner and intermediate, and you'll find you'll have the expert slopes all to yourself. Ski Apache is a large ski area  that offers something for everyone with over 40 runs to choose from. The ski area ca­ters mostly to families and novice skiers.  This season, the lower half of the mountain will be covered by snow making equipment and a new day lodge with all facilities will be open at the base of number eight lift. What really makes Ski Apache so unique is the lack of lines and the dry desert air that brings them the fluffy powder throughout the ski season.

 

Just 40 minutes south of Ruidoso is the Snow Canyon Ski Area located at the edge of Cloudcrouft. The Lodge in Cloudcroft, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the new owner of the area. It's New Mexico's smallest ski area and has the unique distinction of being the southern most ski area in the U.S. It has less than 1,000 feet of vertical, but don't let that fool you. Their expert runs will challenge the best of skiers. The areas runs are 35% novice , 30% intermediate and 35% expert. A shorter hill means a shorter lift ride and more time on the slopes. You can easily ski the equivalent of Mount Everest, over 30,000 feet in a day. The area is catering to families and couples that don't like being intimidated by the larger mountains like Taos. A family can let their children go on their own, without the fear of them becoming lost. It has a relaxing atmosphere and the staff are helpful and friendly. This ski season, 100% of the runs will be covered by snow making equipment, and they will have improved their existing runs. The Lodge at Cloudcroft has the ski industries most unique ski package. If you stay at the lodge, and if your a romantic you'll want to, you get a free lift ticket, that means a $50.00 savings for a couple per day. And if you want a diversion, you can exchange that lift ticket for a ticket to go snow mobiling and explore some of the countryside, or if your a romantic, you and your friend can go for an evening sleigh ride.

 

Santa Fe Ski Area is serviced by a quad chair, a triple chair, 2 double chair lifts and a surface lift.  The areas runs are 20% novice, 40% intermediate and 40% expert. The upper part of the mountain offers a large selection of expert runs or a novice or intermediate run to the bottom, while the lower part of the mountain offers many novice and intermediate runs. The best time to visit Santa Fe is around Christmas, when there are so many other activities going on in the area. This December 19th, an event called Las Posadas will be enacted in the streets Santa Fe which reenacts Mary and Joseph's attempts to find lodging. All the buildings are trimmed in luminaries, candles set in sand weighted brown paper bags. It turns Santa Fe into a Christmas Tree. Its an opportunity to learn of the many different cultures which make New Mexico the Land of Enchantment. There are Matachine dances at many of the Indian Pueblos and in some of the small Hispanic villages. The dance is over three hundred years old, and no one knows the origin of the dance. It is mysterious and captivating. It's a kaleidoscope of moving color and sound, an experience you'll never forget. For a listing, and times and dates of the many different activities in the area, check with the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau or the Concierge in your hotel.

 

Pajarito, located at Los Alamos, is the home of the atomic bomb. It's one of the least known of New Mexico's ski areas, but offers a lot of unique and uncrowded terrain. The area cannot advertise because it belongs to the nonprofit Los Alamos Ski Club, which may not compete with the other ski areas. Few people know about it and they don't often get crowded. The one draw back is that they're only open on week ends and on Wednesdays. They have 32 runs with 25% beginner, 25% intermediate and 50% advanced. The area is serviced by four chair lifts and a surface lift. They have some exhilarating ski runs no matter what your ability.

New Mexico's skiing Mecca is Taos. It has the reputation of being a challenging area, for ex­perts only, but that's not the case any longer. The area has 71 slopes with  51% expert, 25% intermedi­ate and 24% beginner. They are serviced by 2 quad chair lifts, 1 triple chair lift, 5 double chair lifts, and two surface lifts with a total capacity of 10,600 skiers per hour. Taos has the steepest slopes of any of the areas. You'll realize that when your standing at the top of  Stauffenberg, an expert chute, and you see nothing but empty space beneath your skis. They are the only New Mexico area that has double black diamond runs (extremely difficult). But don't let that intimidate you, you can ski from the top of the mountain to the base lodge on the easiest of runs. The fun thing to do at Taos is to find the Martini Tree, where you can sip a free Martini from a glass bota, chilling in the snow. What makes Taos so unique is the European atmosphere that is everywhere. Most of the lodge and restaurant owners are Austrian, Swiss or German, and they've brought their rich heritage with them, and it adds to the experience of skiing Taos, something you'll never forget.

 

Red River Ski Area offers you a Wild West ski vacation. It's New Mexico's only ski area nestled at the edge of a town that brings the feeling of the old west to life. The enter­tainment and night life are geared for the skiing family, but singles also have a great time in Red River. You'll find everything from melodrama to western dancing. The ski area has 3 double chairs, 2 triple chairs and one surface tow that cover the mountain. The back side of the mountain is an uncrowded area that is an ideal place for the family to ski. They even have a special area for the kids to ski and have fun in, it's called Moon Star Mining Camp. The front side of the mountain offers a full range of runs from expert to novice. 

 

Angel Fire is New Mexico's newest ski area. Their three million dollar snowmaking system covers 60% of the mountain, and  guarantees good skiing all season long. The area is serviced by 4 double chair lifts and 2 triple chair lifts. Over 45% of the mountain is dedi­cated to intermediate skiers, 40% novice and 15% expert. If your a high speed cruiser, you'll love Angel Fire. Their runs were cut very wide, so even when the area is crowded, there is plenty of room to ski around other skiers. Angel Fire also caters to families and has a great ski school, that excels with children. When the kids want to go back, you know they are doing something right.

 

 

 

 

New Mexico’s Small Ski Areas

 

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

 

The names Taos, Angel Fire and Santa Fe bring certain images to mind, but what does the name Sipapu or Ski Cloudcroft conjure up? These are New Mexico’s two small and family owned and operated ski areas which seem to be overlooked by the majority of the skiers. They offer a variety of skiing and some unique experiences in addition to low ticket prices.

 

Last winter, after spending four days at Taos, I decided to pay Sipapu a visit with a friend to explore their slopes and see what they had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed. The area can be reached by roads either from Espanola, Dixon or Rancho de Taos. It’s located on highway 518 east of highway 68. When I pulled into the parking lot across the highway from the main building, I didn’t have the feeling I was at a ski area. It looked like a typical summer resort facility, and brought back memories of what skiing was like in the sixties. Inside, the ticket office was located in what was apparently the general store for the area, and we were greeted warmly by the staff. After getting our tickets and trail map we headed over to the triple chair for the ride up.

 

The area has less than 1,000 feet of vertical which meant a short ride up. We decided to ski the northwest part of the mountain which had the easier runs on it so as to warm up first, before tackling the more difficult runs on the southeast part of the mountain. The first couple of runs were on nicely groomed slopes which were wide open and offered changes in terrain as you descended. They were great high speed cruising runs for us. That part of the mountain is great for beginners and intermediate skiers. They would never get over their head if they stayed on the northern part of the hill. You might say the lift line run divides the hill, as that run offers a ever changing variety of terrain. Easy runs are right at the top, challenging runs are left at the top.

 

After skiing all the runs on the North side of the hill, we decided to do the lift line run. My partner took off first, and headed down the gently sloped run to the first drop off or kicker, depending on how you approached it. He misjudged the drop off and angle and buried his tips in a large roller. I headed over to the left and grabbed some air, and cleared what had given him a surprise. I skied down through some small moguls and skied through a nicely groomed area  where I came to a stop to wait for my partner. He came down and blew past me and skied flawlessly through the next bunch of moguls and rollers. I took off and caught up with him down at the boarding area. There were no lift lines, which was surprising, considering it was a week end. We did  the lift line run a several more times tacking a different line each time we went down. It offered a limitless number of lines to descend and was quite enjoyable no matter which line you took. You could grab air three or four times on the descent.

 

My friend was looking for more of a challenge, so we decided to head left on the next run. He found his challenge, and I found shear exhaustion. The first run we descended was pure moguls from top to bottom. My friend bought the cabbage patch a few times, but he totally enjoyed himself. I was soaking wet with sweat. Al’s run at Taos was only longer, and straight down were this one had a few snaky turns to it. The other runs on the south side offered varying degrees of difficulty, some groomed  and some left with the moguls for the more energetic to enjoy. The ski area offered a little bit something for every level of skier no matter what kind of terrain he or she enjoyed. It was a pleasant surprise to find such a variety of terrain in such a small area by Taos standards, but not lacking in anything.

 

They offer great southwestern food in their restaurant which was reasonably priced, and had  a nice selection of import and special beers to accompany the food. Lodging is also available with or without kitchens in the form of rooms in the main lodge and more remote cabins. It was like skiing in the sixties again with the low prices and informal atmosphere. It’s a bargain and unique experience in today’s expensive ski ticket prices and haute fashion at so many of the areas. Do not let this little unique ski area pass you by this year without skiing and experiencing what it has to offer.

For more information contact:

Sipapu

Route Box 229

Vadito, NM 87579

505-587-2240

 

 

 

Ski Cloudcroft is located just east of the town of Cloudcroft and is accessible from there or Ruidoso. The area has changed hands a few times over the past few years, but seems to be headed in the right direction with the current owners. It's New Mexico's smallest ski area and has the unique distinction of being the southern most ski area in the U.S. It has less than 900 feet of vertical, but don't let that fool you. Their expert runs will challenge the best of skiers. The areas runs are 35% novice , 30% intermediate and 35% expert. A shorter hill means a shorter lift ride and more time on the slopes. You can easily ski the equivalent of Mount Everest, over 30,000 feet in a day. The area is catering to families and couples that don't like being intimidated by the larger mountains like Taos. A family can let their children go on their own, without the fear of them becoming lost. It has a relaxing atmosphere and the staff are helpful and friendly. This ski season, they will have improved many of their existing runs. I happened to be there just before Christmas last year when they got dumped on with over two feet of powder snow. The area which has mostly novice skiers were just happy to get to the bottom, much less ski the deep powder. That left the expert runs and deep powder to me and my partner. We made first tracks and cut up ever slope and still no one ventured out to where we had been. It was pure heaven, and no rush, because there was no competition for the runs or powder. The area offers a little something for everyone.  Their main lodge building also contains a ski rental shop and their restaurant.  The food was very good and reasonably priced.

 

Christmas in Cloudcroft, is a great celebration they have in the town and Lodge at Cloudcroft starting twelve days prior to Christmas  Day. There are a variety of activities for young and old to enjoy. The most romantic place in New Mexico is The Lodge at Cloudcroft. It’s not only a great place to stay while skiing, it’s just a great place to stay and wine and dine on the finest available in the state. The Lodge offers a great buffet on Christmas Day which starts at 11:30 AM and lasts until 3:30 PM; not an event to be taken lightly or missed.

For more information, contact:

Ski Cloudcroft

Box 498

Cloudcroft, NM 88317

505-682-2333

800-333-7542

 

The Lodge at Cloudcroft

800-395-6343

 

Cloudcroft C of C

505-682-2733

 

Words 1275

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Con Queso

 

When ever the holidays roll around, I like to make a rich and creamy Con Queso with loads of taste for guests.

About 30 years ago when I visited Santa Fe for the first time, I stopped in at the La Fonda Hotel to have a beer. It so happened it was happy hour and they had chips and a Con Queso out for all to enjoy. It was the best Con Queso I had every had. Having tried many Con Queso’s over the years at many restaurants and parties, none of them ever measured up to the one at La Fonda. There was always something missing. That is, until I came upon this recipe and made a slight change. Its a fast and easy recipe, and one you’ll get addicted to. The list of ingredients and preparation is short and simple.

 

1- 8 ounce package of Velveeta

1- can diced green chiles 3 or 4 oz.

1- can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.

6-7 Tablespoons of Pace Medium Picante Sauce

 

In a double boiler with about two inches of water in the lower pan, place the Velvetta in the upper pan, broken up to aid the melting. When the cheese is just about melted, stir in the can of soup with a whisk and mix well. When those ingredients are well heated and mixed add the can of Hatch green diced chile and the Picante sauce and  mix. You can vary the amount of sauce to your liking and also go with a hotter or milder sauce if you like. Be sure all the ingredients are well melted, heated and mixed before serving with corn chips.

 

Some great beers that go well with the Con Queso are Sierra Blanca’s Nut Brown Ale or Alien Ale; Samuel  Adams October Fest, or Blue Moon Heffe Weizen. Happy Holidays!

 

 

Words 310

 

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83406

208-523-1545

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 

 

A Pairing of Beers

The number of new microbreweries and breweries opening in America is growing monthly. It’s the renaissance period of beer making in this country. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to travel to different parts of the country, and at every town or city you stop in, you have the opportunity to visit their own microbrewery or brewery. It’s been that way in Europe for hundreds of years, but America lost most of its small breweries in the fifties and sixties. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the new beers coming into the market place, many of them being excellently made beers, some of them being mediocre in quality. On the whole, the quality of most of the beers is very good to excellent.

 

An outstanding beer, is one that meets the criteria for the style of beer for which it was brewed, and has distinguishing characteristics which make it stand out above all the others in taste, color, nose or smell. An outstanding brewery or microbrewery is one whose each style of beer has outstanding characteristics, be it three or ten different beers that they brew. There are many breweries or microbreweries, which produce only a few good beers and then a few poor quality beers. Hopefully, that will change in the next few years as they gain experience.

 

Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to sample many of the new beers coming into the market place from various brewers, both large and small from different parts of the country and also some imports. I’ve been working on pairing them with different wild game and ethnic dishes. It’s been fun and interesting working with the various tastes in food and beers. For the uninitiated beer drinker, the following groupings will help you in picking out some good combinations that really work well together. The reason you’ll find a selection of some different style beers in the same column is because I realize taste is a very subjective thing, but yet there are some beers that just seem to work better with certain dishes than others. The first listing, or bold listing is the one that just shines above all the others in this particular matching, but yet, the others are all equally good as well. There is a first place listing, and the rest are all equal in their second place listing, it’s just a matter of personal taste and to give you a little choice when shopping. Even though they are not truly micro brews, I’ve included some specialty beers produced by Michelob, which are of high quality, good character and have a great taste as well, which are worthy of your consideration.

 

I’ll list the main food your matching to, then the beer manufacturer and the style of the beer. * Denotes an imported beer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steak or beef dinners

 

Anchor Steam Beer     Porter

Sierra Blanca                 Nut Brown Ale

Paulaner*                      Marzen

Left Hand                      Porter

Michelob                       Black & Tan

Michelob                       Amber Bock

 

Fajitas, chicken or wild bird with a citrus marinade

 

Paulaner*                    Heffe Weitzen

Celis                             White Beer

Blue Moon                     Heffe Weizen

Michelob                       Heffe Weizen

New Zealand Brewing*            Steinlager

 

Cream Sauce with roasted Garlic Pasta

 

Left Hand                     Pale Ale

Blue Moon                     Honey Blonde Ale

New Zealand Brewing*            Steinlager

Michelob                       Black & Tan

 

Buffalo Steaks

 

Left hand                     Porter

Michelob                       Amber Bock

Paulaner*                      Hefe Weizen

Celis                             White Beer

Michelob                       Tequiza

 

Cajun Dishes

 

Minnesota Brewing            Yellow Belly

Blue Moon                     Heffe Weizen

Paulaner*                      Heffe Weizen

Michelob                       Heffe Weizen

Blue Moon                     Honey Blonde

 

Pork Dishes

 

New Zealand Brewing*            Steinlager

Paulaner*                      Marzen

Michelob                       Amber Bock

Paulaner*                      Salvatore

Minnesota Brewing Golden Carmel Lager

Sierra Blanca                 Nut Brown Ale

 

Korean Dishes

 

Paulaner*                    Heffe Weizen

Michelob                       Black & Tan

Sierra Blanca                 Nut Brown Ale

Blue Moon                     Honey Blonde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Pasta Dishes

 

Sierra Blanca              Pale Ale

New Zealand Brewing*Steinlager

Michelob                       Pale Ale

Left Hand                      Pale Ale

Blue Moon                     Honey Blonde                                     

 

 

Teriyaki Dishes

 

Left Hand                     Porter

Left Hand                      Sawtooth Ale

New Zealand Brewing*Steinlager

Michelob                       Amber Bock

Minnesota Brewing Golden Carmel Lager

Michelob                       Black & Tan

Sierra Blanca                 Nut Brown Ale

 

Shrimp Cocktail

 

Michelob                      Tequiza

Celis                             White Beer

Michelob                       Honey Lager

Blue Moon                     Heffe Weizen

Blue Moon                     Honey Blonde

Sierra Blanca                 Pale Ale

 

German Sausage with Sauerkraut or Red Cabbage and German Potato Salad

 

Sierra Blanca              Nut Brown Ale

Paulaner*                      Marzen

New Zealand Brewing*Steinlager

Left Hand                      Pale Ale

Michelob                       Amber Bock

Blue Moon                     Honey Blond

 

words 730

 

Laisser Les Bon Temps Rouler

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

 

 

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s rich in culture and history and has a unique atmosphere like no other city. It has a great architectural style and another great style in its food. You can dine in a variety of restaurants and almost always get a great meal. You can spend $15.00 and have a great dinner or $150.00 at The Windsor Court Hotel restaurant if you really want to pamper yourself. It’ll always be good, and always a little different, but always New Orleans in style.

 

On a recent trip to the city, I attended a couple of cooking schools and learned some great things about cooking Cajun or Louisiana foods. It was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to learn some of the secrets to their way of cooking and seasoning things.

 

What I’m going to tell you here will allow you to have the same great tastes experiences without going to New Orleans or having to spend hours preparing sauces. You can make great Cajun or Louisiana dishes right here in Idaho or Utah with what you can find at your local grocery market, and make it easily and quick.

 

I always like to start a Cajun evening with a large bowl of pre-cooked Shrimp that everyone just reaches into and grabs what they want. I serve them with Shrimp Cocktail Sauce and Seafood Sauce Cajun Style from Louisiana Fish Fry Products in Baton Rouge, LA. You can find the Cocktail Sauce at most better food stores, but I haven’t seen their Seafood Sauce Cajun Style in the stores here as yet. It’s richer, darker and really tangy, and much different than any other sauce I’ve ever seen or tried. If you want to try something great, call Louisiana Fish Fry Products at 1-800-356-2905 to order a bottle. They also make a lot of other great products and sauces for cooking, serving and seasoning Cajun dishes. Be sure and ask for their catalog.

 

There are two products you can use without having to do things from scratch. You can serve them both the same evening or make a meal out of just one of them depending on how many people your having over. You can also put two of the same packages together and feed twice as many people. What’s so good about them is that they’ll taste just as good as if you have slaved in the kitchen for hours and made everything from scratch. No one will know if you don’t tell him or her. In the rice and dried bean section of your store, look for two Mahatma products, Gumbo and Red Beans and Rice. Just follow the directions on the packages, they are very easy to make and contain all the major seasonings for a great Cajun flavor. The Gumbo and the Red Beans and Rice form the base for the meal you’ll serve.

 

You’ll obviously serve the Gumbo first and there are some things to add to it. I usually like to have seafood in my gumbo, but you can put anything into it you like…whatever you have left over in the kitchen, ham, chicken, sausage, etc. That’s how gumbo came into being. They would just add leftovers into the pot to thicken it up, and that would be Gumbo for the evening. You can even add some leftover vegetables. I usually take one chicken breast and cut it up into small pieces no larger than ½”. I add it to the Gumbo after it’s been cooking for about ten minutes. About seven to ten minutes before the Gumbo is finished cooking I add a large handful of fresh Shrimp to the pot and some fresh Scallops or other seafood I might have in the house. There isn’t anything you can’t add, leave it up to your taste and experiment with different things. Don’t put the Shrimp or other seafood in at the beginning, or they’ll be tough. Serve in a bowl along with some tasty five-grain crackers.

 

 

When you start the Red Beans and Rice cooking add about a pound to a pound and a half of Andouille Sausage to the pot sliced about a quarter to one half inch thick. Also add one Chicken breast cubed. The sausage and chicken will add their flavor to the pot. Cook as directed on the package. If you can’t find Andouille Sausage in the stores in town, but you can order it from a famous sausage maker in Milwaukee, WI. Call Usingers at 1-800-558-9997. They’ve been in business since 1870 and making great sausages for many different nationalities ever since, along with great gift and sample packages. They not only have a great Andouille Sausage but a great selection of other sausages and meats including Chorizo and Linguica. They have a complete price list and catalog they’ll ship you. They ship products all over the USA via UPS and Fed Ex, and it gets to you fresh. You’ll love what they do.

 

Serve the dish on a plate along with some vegetables on the side if desired. A great French bread would be a great complement to the meal.

 

Sex for your taste buds. While attending one of the cooking schools in New Orleans I was introduced to two wonderful and sensual sauces that are a delight to savor and work well with any Cajun dish, or any meal for that matter. Cajun Power Herbs & Spices and Cajun Power Garlic Sauce add that something extra to a meal. I don’t mix the sauces into any of the dishes, but you can. I like savoring the seasoning of the dish by itself, but sometimes I’ll add a couple of drops of one sauce to a forkful of Red Beans and Rice, then I’ll try the other. I’ll alternate between the three different exciting tastes throughout the meal. Try it; you’ll be hooked for good. I haven’t seen Cajun Power Sauces on any of the shelves of the stores I frequent, but they could be available somewhere in town. If you can’t find it here, contact: Cajun Power Sauce Mfg., Rt. 2, Box 278, Abbleville, LA 70510, 318-893-3856. They have a catalog and price list of nine products you can order from them.

 

There are several beers that work well with the spicy Cajun dishes depending on whether you prefer a dark or light beer. The beer I chose and worked wonderfully in cleansing the palate was an Amber Bock beer from Brownstone Brewery in Idaho Falls. They also make a wonderful Hefe Weissen that would work equally well if you prefer a lighter beer. They can supply you with a full keg, half keg or a mini for your dinner party. They can be reached at 208-535-0310. Let the good times roll.

 

Word count 1,147

 

AUTHOR

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Idaho Falls, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

Laisser Les Bon Temps Rouler

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL WITH WINE

 

 

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s rich in culture and history and has a unique atmosphere like no other city. It has a great architectural style and another great style in its food. You can dine in a variety of restaurants and almost always get a great meal. You can spend $15.00 and have a great dinner or $150.00 at The Windsor Court Hotel restaurant if you really want to pamper yourself. It’ll always be good, and always a little different, but always New Orleans in style.

 

On a recent trip to the city, I attended a couple of cooking schools and learned some great things about cooking Cajun or Louisiana foods. It was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to learn some of the secrets to their way of cooking and seasoning things.

 

What I’m going to tell you here will allow you to have the same great tastes experiences without going to New Orleans or having to spend hours preparing sauces. You can make great Cajun or Louisiana dishes right here in Albuquerque with what you can find at your local grocery market, and make it easily and quick.

 

I always like to start a Cajun evening with a large bowl of pre-cooked Shrimp that everyone just reaches into and grabs what they want. I serve them with Shrimp Cocktail Sauce and Seafood Sauce Cajun Style from Louisiana Fish Fry Products in Baton Rouge, LA. You can find the Cocktail Sauce at most better food stores, but I haven’t seen their Seafood Sauce Cajun Style in the stores here as yet. It’s richer, darker and really tangy, and much different than any other sauce I’ve ever seen or tried. If you want to try something great, call Louisiana Fish Fry Products at 1-800-356-2905 to order a bottle. They also make a lot of other great products and sauces for cooking, serving and seasoning Cajun dishes. Be sure and ask for their catalog.

 

There are two products you can use without having to do things from scratch. You can serve them both the same evening or make a meal out of just one of them depending on how many people your having over. You can also put two of the same packages together and feed twice as many people. What’s so good about them is that they’ll taste just as good as if you have slaved in the kitchen for hours and made everything from scratch. No one will know if you don’t tell him or her. In the rice and dried bean section of your store, look for two Mahatma products, Gumbo and Red Beans and Rice. Just follow the directions on the packages, they are very easy to make and contain all the major seasonings for a great Cajun flavor. The Gumbo and the Red Beans and Rice form the base for the meal you’ll serve.

 

You’ll obviously serve the Gumbo first and there are some things to add to it. I usually like to have seafood in my gumbo, but you can put anything into it you like…whatever you have left over in the kitchen, ham, chicken, sausage, etc. That’s how gumbo came into being. They would just add leftovers into the pot to thicken it up, and that would be Gumbo for the evening. You can even add some leftover vegetables. I usually take one chicken breast and cut it up into small pieces no larger than ½”. I add it to the Gumbo after it’s been cooking for about ten minutes. About seven to ten minutes before the Gumbo is finished cooking I add a large handful of fresh  Shrimp to the pot and some fresh Scallops or other seafood I might have in the house. There isn’t anything you can’t add, leave it up to your taste and experiment with different things. Don’t put the Shrimp or other seafood in at the beginning, or they’ll be tough. Serve in a bowl along with some tasty five-grain crackers.

 

 

When you start the Red Beans and Rice cooking add about a pound to a pound and a half of Andouille Sausage to the pot sliced about a quarter to one half inch thick. Also add one Chicken breast cubed. The sausage and chicken will add their flavor to the pot. Cook as directed on the package. I haven’t seen Andouille Sausage in the stores in town, but you can order it from a famous sausage maker in Milwaukee, WI. Call Usingers at 1-800-558-9997. They’ve been in business since 1870 and making great sausages for many different nationalities ever since, along with great gift and sample packages. They not only have a great Andouille Sausage but a great selection of other sausages and meats including Chorizo and Linguica. They have a complete price list and catalog they’ll ship you. They ship products all over the USA via UPS and Fed Ex, and it gets to you fresh. You’ll love what they do.

 

Serve the dish on a plate along with some vegetables on the side if desired. A great bread from the French Riviera Bakery located at 4208 4th St. NW (343-0112) would be a great complement to the meal.

 

Sex for your taste buds. While attending one of the cooking schools in New Orleans I was introduced to two wonderful and sensual sauces that are a delight to savor and work well with any Cajun dish, or any meal for that matter. Cajun Power Herbs & Spices and Cajun Power Garlic Sauce add that something extra to a meal. I don’t mix the sauces into any of the dishes, but you can. I like savoring the seasoning of the dish by itself, but sometimes I’ll add a couple of drops of one sauce to a forkful of Red Beans and Rice, then I’ll try the other. I’ll alternate between the three different exciting tastes throughout the meal. Try it; you’ll be hooked for good. I haven’t seen Cajun Power Sauces on any of the shelves of the stores I frequent, but they could be available somewhere in Albuquerque. If you can’t find it here, contact: Cajun Power Sauce Mfg., Rt. 2, Box 278, Abbleville, LA 70510, 318-893-3856. They have a catalog and price list of nine products you can order from them.

 

There are several wines that work well with the spicy Cajun dishes depending on whether you prefer red or white wines. Geyser Peak has two great white wines that work well with the dishes, either their Riesling or Gewurztraminer. They are both light delicate wines with a slightly fruity aroma. For a red wine, which works with spicy Cajun food, pick up a bottle of the Banfi Centine from the Tuscany area of Italy. It’s a bright ruby-red fragrant wine with unequaled fruitiness. It’s a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvigon and 20% Merlot.

 

Word count 1,165

Jerry Sinkovec

2915 Estrella Brillante NW

Albuquerque, NM 87120

505- 836-1206

 

Pheasant Fajitas

 

Being the hunting season, you might have brought back some game birds, which are remaining frozen for want of a good recipe, or the time to prepare them. Well, defrost them, for you no longer have any excuses.

 

I enjoy cooking a variety of recipes from different nationalities, and wild games dishes, and pairing them with good wines. One of the prerequisites is that the recipe be fast and easy to do, and above all else, taste great. My goal is to always enjoy good food, wine and conversation, and minimize the time in the kitchen. Some wild game dishes take special care and cooking because of the lean meat or other considerations, but this recipe requires no special care and is very easy to produce and looks colorful on the plate.

 

If you like Pheasant, you’ll love my Pheasant Fajitas recipe for two Pheasant breasts, skinless and boneless. You can substitute two Grouse breasts or other game birds; even Chicken breasts if you’re squeamish about eating wild game. Take one-quarter cup freshly squeezed lime juice, one-quarter cup cooking oil, one-quarter teaspoon salt, and six to seven minced cloves of fresh garlic (adjust the garlic according to your own tastes after trying this amount) along with three or four shakes of black pepper and mix. It just takes a few minutes to make the marinade. You can take a fork or a device called a super meat tenderizer made by Jaccard that is sold in good kitchen shops to pierce the breast all over to allow the marinade to penetrate better and add flavor. If at all possible, prepare the marinade the night before and marinate the breasts overnight for the absolute best taste. If you have to do them the same day, four hours is really recommended with two hours being the absolute minimum. Do not slice the meat, as it will only dry out in cooking. Start the Pheasant about four or five minutes before the vegetables over an open grill. Add one green bell pepper sliced, one red bell pepper sliced (one sliced yellow bell pepper is optional), one large Yellow onion sliced in wedges and two medium tomatoes sliced in wedges.) When you add the vegetables, pour a little of the left over marinate on them as they cook to add a little flavor. Watch out for a flare-up when you add the marinade to the vegetables. The time to cook the breasts will be determined by how large the breasts are. Just be sure they are well cooked and white inside. Just remember, that you’ll need a fine grate for your BBQ to keep all the ingredients from falling through the regular grate onto the coals.

 

Serve the breast whole with the cooked vegetables to the side or over the breast. No sour cream or guacamole is necessary, as the tastes you’ll experience will make your taste buds explode with delightful sensations. Serve with refried beans and Spanish rice if desired. I don’t serve Tortillas because the breasts are served whole, and I don’t try and make a rolled hand held meal out of it, but everyone to their own style. Once you have Fajitas prepared this way, you’ll never want to have Fajitas prepared in a commercial brown marinade in a restaurant again. As the suit salesman would say, “I guarantee it”.

 

There are two great wines that go well with a dish of this nature. One is Robert Mondavi, Johannisberg Riesling, Private Selection 2002, which comes very close to some of the great German Mosel wines I’ve tried over the years. It’s a light delicate wine with a slightly soft fruity character, a hint of sweetness and a delightful aroma. It’s one of the most enjoyable white wines from California I’ve ever experienced. It’s the perfect wine for the above dish. The other wine is Beaulieu Vineyard’s 2000 Coastal Chardonnay. It’s a bit drier and the flavors reveal biscuity, green apples and citrus nuances. It’s not overly oaky, which I tend to enjoy more. Both wines are available in most good liquor stores.

 

 

 

Word count 679

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83406

208-523-1545

 

 

Elk, Buffalo and Beer

 

Elk and Buffalo are my two favorite meats. You don’t necessarily have to be a hunter to enjoy those meats, as they are available from firms that raise and harvest the animals at their government inspected and approved facilities. The meats are high in protein and vitamins and have less fat and contain fewer calories than regular beef. Now I know why the Indians were so healthy until we came along.

 

Over the past few months I’ve grilled different cuts of Buffalo and Elk from two companies, which are listed, at the end of the article. You’ll find the meats are of very high quality, very tender, and have less of a wild game taste because of the feed they are provided in addition to their normal grazing. For grilling good cuts of elk or buffalo, I only use a little fresh cracked black pepper and some Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. I never use any marinade or additional seasonings as the taste of the meats is to great to cover up with other flavors. The Lawry’s tends to bring out the flavors a little more, and that’s the reason I tend to use it rather than plain salt.

I always have the grill set on high and make sure the grill is good and hot before I place the meat on it. I want to sear the juices into the meat, and not dry it out. Both elk and buffalo should only be grilled until medium rare, as you’ll tend to dry out the meat and loose some of the flavor if you over cook it. It doesn’t take long to grill the meat properly, so you have to keep your eye on it, don’t overcook it!

 

For the stew meats the following is a recipe I use for a three-quart crock-pot. One pound of elk or buffalo meat cut into ½” to ¾” size pieces; julienne 3 stalks of celery, 3 carrots, 3 or 4 red potatoes cubed and 1 medium to large onion sliced. To the pot ad one can of beef stock and two cups of water along with about ½ teaspoon regular salt and several shakes of ground black pepper along with 3 bay leaves and a teaspoon of Sweet Basil. Also add about 12 whole black or white peppercorns along with ½ oz to 1 oz. of Kitchen Bouquet Browning and Seasoning Sauce. If you cook it on low for eight hours you’ll have a great meal for four people.

I’ve never been disappointed by any of the meats I’ve had from the firms listed below. I think you’ll find them to be tender and flavorful if they are cooked properly. The two finest restaurants where I’ve had both the meats are the St. Jerome Hotel in Aspen for elk and the Denver Buffalo Company in Denver for Buffalo. They were both outstanding meals. I even had raw buffalo as an appetizer with lemon and capers and it was out of this world. It was so tender and sweet it almost defies description.

 

Now there are a lot of beers out there you could pair with dishes like this and I’ve tried many of them, but there is one that is outstanding with these two meats. Other people I’ve had over for dinner and I have concluded the finest beer to pair with these meats is: Melbourn Bros. Cherry Beer. It’s produced in the town of Stamford in Lincolnshire, England. Lincolnshire is the famous fruit-growing region in England, and the brewery is situated right in the center of the fruit-growing region and was established in 1825. They brew it with malted barley, wheat, hops, yeast, water and fresh cherries. They use airborne wild yeasts for natural spontaneous fermentation to produce the beer, which is outstanding. This beer with these dishes is like sex for your taste buds. This beer is as fine or better than the finest Belgian lambic fruit beers. You’ll just have to try it to believe it. I’m sure you’ll find this beer will work wonderfully with some of your own recipes as well. They also produce an Apricot and Strawberry beer as well.

 

The following companies can be contacted to find out who your local dealer is, or to order directly from them. All the meat products are shipped frozen in well packaged insulated containers that are shipped next day air. I’ve never received any meat that wasn’t in perfect condition when I received it.

 

 

 

 

 

Grande Premium Meats (Elk)

19612 US Hwy. 160

Del Norte, CO 81132

888-338-4581

www.uselk.com

Buffalo Nickel

North American Provisioner

POB 241407

Omaha, NE 68124

800-630-7363

www.buffalo-nickel.com

Merchant du Vin

18436 Cascade Ave. S., Suite 140

Tukwila, WA 98188

206-394-5951

www.merchantduvin.com

 

Word Count 787

Author: Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83406

208-523-1545

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 
Published Articles, Travel

Aboard the Royal Scotsman

 

 

As the British Airways jet breaks through the base of the clouds, I catch my first look at Edinburgh and its surrounding countryside. Dark volcanic cliffs contrast with the lush verdant carpet covering the rolling hills. Edinburgh Castle rises majestically above the center of the city.

 

The next morning a Scottish friend, Bill Stewart, drives me down to the train station for my departure aboard the Royal Scotsman. We have a glass of lager before I say goodbye and head for the departure track.

 

I hear bagpipes. Their mournful sound is the official greeting for all the passengers of the Royal Scotsman. The piper is an older woman named Elizabeth, and she is wearing the traditional Scottish kilt and tunic. I am among sixteen passengers ready to board the train. John CoWan, our official Scottish Blue Badge Tourist Guide for the trip, greets us. As our bags are being stored in our private cabins, we are shown to the observation car to relax while final departure arrangements are made. A selection of hors d’oeuvres awaits us, but not for long. I take a look at the wine list, which includes Pouilly Fume, Domaine des Berthiers, Dagueneau, 1988 and Clos du Bois, Merlot, 1986. My decision to lose eight pounds before taking this trip is confirmed. I only wonder whether I lost enough.

 

The observation car is of Pullman vintage. Sofas and armchairs are strategically placed to allow thirty-two passengers a panoramic view of the Scottish countryside. The open veranda at the rear is a great place to watch Scotland unfold behind you.

 

Guests begin to introduce themselves to one another. Aboard are people from Australia, Holland, England, Germany and the United States. Another sixteen will be picked up a few days into the journey.

 

There is a whistle from the steam engine, and the train begins to pull out from Waverley Station on our six-day tour into historic Scotland and breathtaking scenery. We cross the Lowlands to Glasgow where the Delta Queen Steamboat was built and from there we follow the estuary of the Clyde River.

 

As we continue north, I go out on the veranda of the observation car to smell the freshness of the open countryside. Loch Lomond is to our right and so is a peak called Ben Lomond. Puffy white clouds make their home there and seem to be playing tag with Ben Lomond and other peaks around the loch. Across the loch is Inversnaid, the area once roamed by Rob Roy MacGregor, the legendary warrior, robber and folk hero.

 

The train climbs onto Rannoch Moor. Sunlight glitters on the countless pools, and the heather and grasses are ablaze in color. The moor is hundreds of square miles of peat bogs, lochans (small lakes), boulders and streams. Only the railway roadbed crosses over it, and does so on a floating bed of roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ash.

 

After a delicious lunch of fresh salmon, I return to my cabin to unpack and relax. The cabin is fitted out in rich wood and inlaid marquetry and comes with two beds, a table, a desk, a full-length wardrobe and a private bathroom with a shower.

 

Later in the afternoon, John CoWan calls us together in the observation car. “ I have a wee story to tell you.” He says. This first session is about the history of the sites we will see on this first day of the trip. The wee story lasts as hour; maybe more, and I realize that John doesn’t mean a small story when he says, “wee”. He must have his fingers crossed when he says “wee”.

 

In this wee story we learn that we’ll visit Achnacarry, the home of Sir Donald and Lady Cameron of Lochiel. After John finishes, he announces that he has a wee song to sing. We all join in, singing the old favorite, “Loch Lomond.” We sing enough wee songs to last an hour or more.

 

It’s four o’clock. The train stops at the Village of Spean Bridge, where a bus is waiting to take us to the Cameron estate. At the entrance to the home---more a castle than a home, actually--- Sir Donald himself greets us. He is a tall elderly gentleman, balding, with white hair. A smile is permanently etched on his rosy-cheeked face. We follow him into the house and marvel at the collection of medieval swords, spears and breastplates in the hall.  The walls abound with historic paintings of family members and royalty. Collections of ancient coinage (some from Roman times), family jewelry and Bronze Age gold amulets are also housed on the estate.

 

Sir Donald explains his family association with Bonnie Prince Charlie. Sir Donald’s clan supported the Bonnie Prince in the 1745 uprising against George II. When the prince was defeated, the Cameron clan lost all its ancestral lands and its old castle was destroyed. But during the reign of George III, the lands were returned to the clan, and the work of rebuilding began. Work on this current residence was begun in 1802.

 

After the tour and a walk through the gardens, we return to the dinning room, where wine, tea and a tempting selection of fresh and smoked salmon and venison hors d’oeuvres have been prepared for us. We dig in, appreciatively.

 

Back on the Royal Scot, I change into formal attire for the first of three formal dinners aboard the train during the trip. These dinners are usually three or four-course meals, and you should be ready to partake of the best haggis, watercress soup, and fillet of Aberdeen beef (with Madeira sauce) that you’ve ever tasted.

 

The Royal Scot has two dinning cars, one of which has a teak exterior. Each car seats sixteen, and both are fitted with small overhead lamps that accent the warmth of their wood interiors. Dining tables are set with fine crystal, china and silver. The ambience is exactly what I’ve always associated with the romance of traveling by train.

 

I take my first evening meal with a couple from Florida, the Hamilton’s. I talk mostly with the husband Joe, and am afraid that his wife’s name now escapes me. We rave about the dinner. “I hope the chef takes a day off,” says Joe, “because something is going to give, and I think it’s going to be me.” We laugh, we understand. “Simply perfection,” announces Joe’s wife.

 

After dinner, John CoWan tells us that he has a special treat for us in the observation car. “Would you please follow me?” We do, and the special treat is that of listening to the music of Aonghas Grant, a renowned Scottish fiddler. Grant entertains us with a wonderful selection of Scottish music into the wee hours.

 

It’s the second day of the journey, and we are on the way to Fort William and Mallaig. I see streams that tumble down the hillsides; the water looking like hammered silver glistening in the sun. We pass a loch, and I am surprised to see it studded with tiny islands, each covered with tall silver trees.

 

We stop at Fort William and visit the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, stronghold of the Campbells. The train then takes us to Inverawe for a late afternoon visit to a smokehouse. We see how salmon, trout and other delicacies are smoked. We also check out how they taste. Delicious!

 

On the way again, we pass Loch Shiel and the monument marking where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed to commence his ill-fated rebellion. Each day as we roll along, John recounts the history of Scotland, from the time of James Stuart VI in 1567. We stop at Mallaig, which is on the Atlantic coast, and leave the train to wander around town. I stroll around the harbor and take photographs.

 

The train retraces its route back toward Edinburgh, except to head north up through Stirling, Perth and finally Boat of Garten, where it is stabled for the night. We begin the next day with a visit to the eighteenth-century estate of Sir Fitzroy and Lady Maclean. Sir Fitzroy, the fifteenth hereditary keeper and Captain of Dunconnel, is a former British diplomat, with postings in Paris and Moscow. During World War II he served in the Cameron Highlanders and Special Air Service regiments.

 

He is a former Member of Parliament and has written several books. Some say that Ian Fleming based some of his James Bond novels on Sir Fitzroy’s adventures during the war. To the locals, he is known as the real James Bond. It is said that Joseph Stalin put a price on his head.

 

He is an imposing figure of a man, tall but slightly bent because of age. The cane he uses is nearly as tall as he is. A female guest asks if he really knew all those women as depicted in the 007 films. There is a twinkle in his eye as he looks at his wife nearby, and a hearty laugh pours forth.

 

That evening after dinner, a fellow traveler and I talk about what great fishing there must be in all the lovely lakes and streams of Scotland. He says he has arranged to go trout fishing at nine the next morning. “I wish I had thought of talking to someone about going to one of the grouse hunting estates,” I say.

 

There is a tap on my shoulder. John CoWan has overheard my comments about hunting and says, “If you’d really like to go to Tullchan---it’s a premier hunting estate in all Scotland---I’ll try and arrange it for you.”

 

“It’s nine-thirty,” I say. “Do you think you can arrange it?”

 

“Give me a few minutes,” he says as he walks off to the staff quarters.

 

Twenty minutes later, he returns: “It’s all arranged,” he says. “The Tullchan estate driver will pick you up at eight-thirty tomorrow morning.” I can hardly believe it.

 

The driver arrives promptly at eight-thirty, and we arrive at Tullchan estate in less than an hour. The massive gray stone house sits on the side of a hill, surrounded by tall pines. In the house, wood paneling is everywhere, as are oil paintings that depict hunting scenes. A fine collection of shotguns, said to be worth one million dollars, is especially impressive.

 

One of the staff greets me and asks whether I’d like some breakfast. She shows me to the main dinning room, where Italian and Japanese hunters are having their breakfasts. A few minutes later the general manager arrives and arranges to take an Italian hunter and me to the moors.

 

The heather is in bloom on the rolling hills, and it looks like a scene from a Robert Mitchum film. A shaft of sunlight breaks through the clouds and races across the valley floor below, illuminating Tullchan in the distance. The air is fresh and snappy. The breeze is brisk, just right for walking through the deep heather.

 

The dogs are anxious and in minutes are pointing. About twelve red grouse fly up, and the Italian gets two of them. I shoot, too, but my shooting is confined to taking photographs. Two hours fly by, and suddenly it’s time to return to the train. I promise myself to return someday and to be shooting with a shotgun rather than a camera next time.

 

On Saturday, we travel through the battlefield of Culloden, where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s cause was crushed in 1746. We tour Brodie Castle and then walk through the Strathisla distillery, which dates from 1786 and is the home of Chivas Regal. We spent the evening at the distillery sipping fine whiskey and dancing to the tunes of a piper. It was a grand evening.

 

On our last day, we visit Glamis Castle, the historic home of the Earls of Strathmorre and Kinghorn and the reputed setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. A residence of the royal family since 1372, it is the childhood home of Queen Mother Elizabeth.

 

It’s after dinner, and Joe Hamilton and I have a conversation in the observation car. His mother was from Scotland, from a family of twelve, and his brother was born in Glasgow. All his cousins were born in Scotland as well. He is the only clan member not born in Scotland, though as a young boy, he spent time in St. Cyrus, the site of the family home. This is his first visit since the age of five.

 

I ask him why he chose the Royal Scotsman to visit Scotland. “ It gives you the opportunity to relax and see the countryside with someone like John,” he says, “someone who can narrate what you are going to see before you see it, so you can understand it completely.”

 

Joe prefers travel by train to that by car, at least in Scotland. “Driving a car, you have to worry about if your driving on the proper side of the road,” he says. “You have to watch out for road signs and people, think about where you’re going and where you’re going to have lunch.”

 

Joe and his wife had been planning to see Scotland aboard the Royal Scot for quite a while. I’ve been thinking about this trip for three of four years now, and it’s better than I dreamt it would be. The food and people are fantastic,” says Joe.

 

At Dundee we begin the last leg of the journey. No sooner have we had an afternoon tea than we are passing through the farmlands of Fife.

 

When Edinburgh Castle comes into view, I come to accept that the journey is virtually over. We enter Waverley Station, and I begin my farewells, to the Hamilton’s and to the other guests. I shake the hand of John CoWan and thank the rest of the staff for their hospitality.

 

I hear bagpipes. I expect after today it’ll be a good while before I hear them again. A mournful sound never sounded so good.

 

Words 2330

 

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401208-523-1545

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 

 


 

 

 

 affected by her charm

 

Standing beneath the shadow of the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, I could look down the flights of stairs to the Mississippi River where the Delta Queen was tied up to the wharf. She looked like a floating white wedding cake setting a top a finely etched crystal platter.

 

"Mississippi steamboats were 'magnificent', they were 'floating palaces'...terms which did not over express the admiration with which people viewed them."  "The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book...delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a new book to be read once and thrown aside, for it has a new story to tell every day."

MARK TWAIN

 

It brought back memories of twenty years ago when I first saw the Delta Queen. I was photographing a rendezvous of mountain men and voyagers at Villa Louis, a historical site in Wisconsin. Then, in the distance, from down river, came this unreal sound; like the sound of wailing banshees. It was the Delta Queen with her calliope proclaiming that she was about to arrive. As she pulled up to the dock, throngs of people surged forward to greet her. It was then, I promised myself, that someday I would make a trip aboard the Delta Queen.

 

As I approached the gang plank, a cabin attendant rushed off the Delta Queen and garbed my bags. "Don't worry sir," he said, "your bags will be outside your cabin door after you check in with the purser."  What service and efficiency I thought. On shore, at the end of the gang plank stood this beautiful gray haired lady dressed in a turn of the century bellowing dress. As she greeted me aboard, she placed a faux plastic pearl necklace with a Delta Queen medallion around my neck. As she did I said, "I always thought you received a nice lei when you went aboard ship." She thought I ment something else. With out batting an eye, she replied, "all you'll get from me is a kiss," which she proceeded to give me. The laughter poured out from all those standing around us. It was one of life's most embarrassing moments.

 

After I settled into my comfortable air conditioned cabin, I decided to explore part of the ship. My cabin opened into the elegant Betty Blake Lounge. It has the feeling of a parlor from a well appointed turn of the century estate, with warmth and comfort of prime importance. The walls are covered with richly colored oil paintings of the Greene family members and prior steamboat captains. The dark, highly polished tables and bookcases contrasted with the white, gold trimmed walls and ceiling. The crystal covered lights give the room a soft warm glow. The deep luxurious chairs in floral patterns and soft rose colors seemed to invite you to sit down and relax with a good book. The bookcases are filled with hundreds of books and maps, including many on the history of the Mississippi and steamboating. There is an ample supply of games for the children to while away the hours.

 

I decided to go to the bow, which takes you into the Forward Cabin Lounge. As you pass through the doorway, you come upon the elegant Grand Staircase. With it's gleaming brass, highly polished wood railings and panels, ornate cast grill work and crystal chandelier at the top, it speaks of an era gone by. In the lounge, passengers playing cards and other people making new friends. There was a wonderfully arranged buffet table with fresh fruit salads and bakery. The smell of fresh coffee rolling in the air, along with orange juice and lemonade got my juices flowing. I decided to just have some juice and not ruin my appetite for this evenings dinner, which I was sure would be a dinning experience.

 

Since I had a few hours before we left Saint Louis and had dinner, I decided to go back to the Betty Blake lounge and find a good book or two to enjoy during my river voyage. The first bookcase I came upon was crammed with books and maps on the rivers, steamboating and the Delta Queen. I decided on a book about the Delta Queen. I sunk into a comfortable chair and opened the book.

 

It was interesting.  The Delta Queen Steamboat Company has carried passengers and freight along the rivers of the midwest for over one hundred years. When Captain Gordon Greene purchased his first steamboat in 1890, the sternwheeler H.K. Bedford; Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show starring Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull was playing to full arenas and the massacre of the Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee took place late that year. The Greene Line, which would become The Delta Queen Steamboat Co, flourished over the years. They owned and operated twenty-eight steamboats along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during the early years. Captain Greene was well liked and was known for his business acumen. One of his pilots was known to have said, "Nobody ever treated me better than the Greenes, or paid me less."

 

It was Captain Gordon Greens's son Tom who stepped in to run the company in1944. He was a visionary and a dreamer, and his goal for the Greene Lines was to provide the finest passenger steamboat ever to ply the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. In early 1946, he found it in the steamer Delta Queen, which came a long way around to fulfill her destiny on the Mississippi.

 

The Delta Queen's steel parts were originally fabricated and assembled on the River Clyde at the Isherwood yard in Glasgow, Scotland. The parts were marked, then knocked down and shipped to Stockton, California, where hull and superstructure construction were completed in 1926. The machinery was built in Dumbrton, Scotland; the wheel shafts and cranks were foraged at the Krupp plant in Germany; and the four decks of cabins were built largely of oak, teak, mahogany and Oregon cedar by American shipbuilders.

 

The Delta Queen weathered the Great Depression and traveled the Sacramento River for 14 years. In 1940, during World War II, she was charted by the U.S. Navy. Painted drab gray, the former pleasure craft served gallantly, ferrying troops to and from ocean vessels in San Francisco Bay and taking wounded men from ships to hospitals. In August 1946, the Delta Queen was deactivate by the Navy and turned over to the Maritime Commission for sale. She went to the highest bidder, Captain Tom Greene, for the astonishing sum of $46,250 for this elegant lady.

 

In 1947 and 1948 the Delta Queen was remodeled and refitted for $750,000. Her dark gray paint was stripped to expose shiny brass fittings, polished teak and stained glass windows. She was given new cabins and baths, a new dinning room and an addition to the Promenade Deck. On June 30, 1948, the Delta Queen made her maiden passenger voyage on the Ohio River, roundtrip, from Cincinnati to Cario, Illinois.

 

"Save The Queen," was the rally cry in 1965. It was the year the British cruise liner Yarmouth Castle caught fire, prompting the U.S. Congress to enact the Safety of Life at Sea law that would have forced the Delta Queen,

resplendent with carefully selected and lovingly crafted, but flammable wood into retirement.  Officials from the Greene Line went to Washington to plead their case, and Congress granted a two year extension. In 1968 another two year extension was granted until November 1970. The company officials realized they had to make the public aware of what was about to happen to the ship, and started a campaign to gain public support. More than 250,000 letters were sent to the president, senators and representatives. On June 15th, 1970, the Department of the Interior honored the Delta Queen by placing her on the National Register of Historic Places. In congress, bills were introduced to "Save The Queen," but all these efforts failed to change the November 2, 1970 deadline.

 

On October 20, 1970, the Delta Queen left St. Paul on what was thought to be the vessel's final trip, a two week excursion to New Orleans, ending on November 2nd. This "Farewell Forever" journey attracted thousands of people

along the river who came to the Mississippi's banks to cheer and wave goodbye to the Delta Queen as she passed their communities.

 

Meanwhile, in Washington, the battle to "Save The Queen" was coming to a positive conclusion. An amendment to give the Delta Queen an exemption to the Safety of Life at Sea law was added to an existing congressional bill. The bill passed the house of Representatives on November1st; was approved by the senate on December 7th; and on December 31st, 1970, President Nixon signed the bill into law, giving the Delta Queen another extension until1973.

 

In 1973, the Greene Line was acquired by Overseas National Airways, and plans were made to build an all steel riverboat in case the Delta Queen was forced into retirement. The new riverboat would turn out to be the Mississippi Queen. That same year, the companies name was changed to Delta Queen Steamboat Company, and the Delta Queen got its fourth extension, to 1978.

 

To this day, the Delta Queen continues to operate under congressional exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea laws; with the current exemption good until November 1, 1992. In 1989, the Delta Queen joined an elite list of American treasures, which includes the Statue of Liberty, when she was officially designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark.

 

"The people fasten their eyes upon the coming boat as upon a wonder they are seeing for the first time."

MARK TWAIN

 

The shrill sound of the steam calliope told me that we were under way. I left the lounge and headed to the rear deck where the steam calliope was located. Twenty or thirty people and children were standing around a gentlemen in top hat playing the calliope while a hundred or more people were standing on the starboard side of the vessel waving their goodbyes to friends and family.

 

As soon as I set foot aboard the Delta Queen, I was affected by her charm. Once the gangplank was removed from shore, I lost contact with the present and entered the romantic time of years ago. The Delta Queen truly captures

the spirit of an era gone by.

 

"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do... Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

MARK TWAIN

 

As we got under way, I decided to visit the engine room. The first thing you hear when entering the engine room is the hiss...clickty clack, hiss...clickty clack of the enormous steam engine pushing the vessel through the water. A polished brass panel with a multitude of gauges, switches and colored lights greeted me. A pleasant sweet aromatic smell of fresh oil pervades the room. Little glass oil cups sit atop all the major moving parts keeping equipment functioning. Everything in the room seems to be moving, cams are pushing, gears rotating, levers flipping, arms pushing and pulling and shafts turning. Its from a time when steam was the king of industry, and its a marvel to watch. Its hypnotic, and its amazing that all this has been going on for over the last sixty years without hardly missing a beat.

 

I left the engine room and headed up the Grand Staircase to the Texas Deck and Texas Lounge where it was happy hour. A small band was playing Blues, Dixieland, and Ragtime music. It really set the mood. The smell of fresh

popcorn tempted you. I felt it appropriate to order a Mint Julep. The young couple next to me were from Canada, and they just couldn't get over the charm of the steamboat. They told me they were looking forward to this trip for months, and they weren't disappointed. Jessie, Bill's wife said, "Its like being on a second honeymoon." The lounge has a large expanse of windows, which offered us a grand view of ever changing river vistas. After a few more Mint Juleps disappeared from in front of me, I said goodby to my new friends, and went for a stroll around the vessel on one of the

 four outer decks.

 

It was a hot muggy day when we left Saint Louis, but aboard the steamboat, you always had a cool sweet smelling river breeze as you moved down river. You had the warmth of the sun on one side of the deck, and natures air conditioning on the shady side. There was ample room for relaxing on a chaise lounge acquiring a good tan, or sitting down with a good book or friend.

 

I always stopped at the rear of the vessel to watch and listen to the paddlewheel beat through the water. It's asymmetrical sound had a mesmerizing effect, and it was truly relaxing. As the paddles came up from the water, a necklace of glistening water pearls would fall back to the river. At sunset, they would become pearls of fire as the sun shown through

them.

 

"For man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner."

SAMUEL JOHNSON

 

The chime for dinner broke my trance like state by the paddlewheel. As I headed down to the main dinning room, I wondered who my dinner partners would be. It turned out to be a older fun loving couple. The Brannons were from a small town outside of Saint Louis, where they owned a bar and dance hall. Between all the laughter, we managed to order dinner.

 

We all ordered the Shrimp St. Charles for our appetizer. It's delicate cajun seasonings and spices from New Orleans caught everyone's attention. With out a doubt, it was the most delicious shrimp I'd ever eaten. The soups were a problem for not only me, but for the Brannon's also. They all sounded so delicious, we couldn't make up our mind as to what soup to order. Luckily, we had an understanding waiter. Since we couldn't make up our mind as to which soup to order, he brought us a cup of both. "I'd never had a waiter do that in a restaurant," I remarked. The Brannon's agreed. The Minnesota Wild Rice Soup and Andouille Sausage Gumbo were both unusual and tasty. We decided they should both get gold medals. The three of us ordered the Marinated Artichoke Salad, since none of us ever had it before. It got a thumbs up. I ordered the Veal Oscar, one of my favorites when dinning out. It was cooked to perfection. The tender medallions of sauteed veal were placed over asparagus spears and topped with crabmeat and sauce bearnaise. The Brannon's ordered Salmon en Parchment. The fresh Norwegian Salmon was baked in parchment with fresh vegetables and accented with pernod. For desert I ordered a German Black Forest Cake that was as good as what mom made, or I could get back at Lutz's German Konditorei in Chicago. The Brannon's had the Kahlua Crepes, so we exchanged a little of our desserts to make sure we didn't miss anything. We didn't dare let the waiter know we exchanged some of our deserts in fear of him bringing us each two desserts. We were totally stuffed.

 

The Brannon's and I agreed, dinning aborad the Delta Queen is a unique experience in itself. The preparation, presentation and taste of the food is world class. It was accompanied by a fine selection of wines and champagnes. We had our choice of New Orleans recipes, Continental and good old fashioned American dishes. When the waiter returned, he asked," is there anything else I can get you?" I replied, "only a wheelchair to get me back to my cabin."

 

Later that night, we returned to the dinning room after they had cleared the area to make room for dancing. A band played a great selection of music into the wee hours of the morning. After ten o'clock, another meal was served in the Forward Cabin Lounge. The Brannon's and I decided to go there not to eat, but to sample the many great things they offered. There was Hungarian Goulash with noodles and a large variety of fresh fruit salads and other great tasting pastry. Mrs. Brannon said, "if I leave this trip weighing less than ten pounds more than when I boarded, I'll be doing

 great." I chuckled, and agreed.

 

The next morning we were moving along some dense forest lands and small farms along the Mississippi River. I could smell the sweet fresh cut hay and grass as we passed the farms. Sometimes I could see a deer or other wildlife drinking from the river through the early morning mist. As we came around a bend in the river, there was a small clearing next to where the county road came down to the rivers edge. It was filled with cars and people. The adults and children all had smiles on their faces and were frantically waving their arms in greeting. It was interesting to see, that as the Delta Queen navigates the waterways of Mid America, she is greeted warmly by young and old alike. Its as though the people lining the river banks and the wharfs at the various towns we passed, just received the most wonderful present, and at the same time, are saying good by to an old friend.

 

Our first stop on this trip, St. Geneieve, MO., is one of many great historical sites along the river which give one the opportunity to learn about life in the early days of our growing nation. The buses picked us up at the landing, and we had an pleasant 40 minute drive through rolling green hills and small farms.

 

Strolling through town, which was designated as an historic district, gave me a chance to browse and shop for antique treasures and traditional French delectable treats among the many unique shops. As I walked through this charming town, I discovered many French traditions still exist.

 

St. Geneieve is the oldest permanent settlement in the state, established by the French in 1726. One of the many highlights of the town is the Bolduc House and Herb Garden. Jessie and Bill Turnbull, who I met the night before, joined me in my exploration. As we entered the Bolduc House, we were greeted by the tour guide. She said, "The house, built in 1785, is of a vertical log construction on a rock foundation. The roof trusses are of hand hewn square logs held together with wooden pegs. Some of the furniture in the main room is the original Bolduc furniture." Jessie, Bill and I each took our turn going up the steep stair like ladder to examine the roof supports. Bill said, "I've never seen such good workmanship in such an old house. Jessie remarked, "Not one board in the flooring squeaked anywhere." We all admired

 the Bolduc furniture and silver in the house, but most of the furnishings are French Canadian, created in the same design and spirit as those which were made by the St. Genevieve Creole craftsmen.

 

After a leisurely lunch with the Brannon's, I went for a stroll on the Sundeck. As I approached the rear of the steamboat where the steam calliope was located, I noticed a crowd gathering. Tom Wilson, from North Carolina, who I met this morning on the bus ride, advised me they were going to let anyone who wished, to try and play the calliope. He said, "Every since I was a kid, and went to a circus and heard a steam calliope for the first time, I've wanted to play one."  Everyone was wearing a grand smile. The first passenger sat down and played a few bars of a ragtime song. All that

was needed to get a Vox Callioipus Certificate was to play at least five notes. The shrill sound of the steam calliope evokes memories of childhood from most of the older folks, but brings a look of excitement and joy tothe children aboard. Some of the kids played chopsticks and the adults tried to play their favorite songs. Eventually, Tom had his chance at the calliope. He played the theme from "The Phantom of the Opera." I looked at his certificate, it read in part, "exhibits the required stamina and fortitude to withstand deluges of boiling water, blasts of live steam, precipitations of soot, cinders and blazing embers, and has been known to remain reasonably sober for limited periods while performing without benefit of goggles or asbestos gloves. Even though I don't play a note of music, I had to give it a try. It was the kid in me.

 

I spent another four days aboard the Delta Queen, relaxing and enjoying the rich history along the Mississippi River. Steamboating aboard the DeltaQueen is a unique experience for child or adult. Romantic couples and large families I met aborad the trip, found it a truly relaxing way to vacation and explore America's heartland. Every day brings new vistas, friends, and experiences along with places to explore. Your every care and want is provided for by the ships personnel, which leaves you nothing to do but relax and enjoy yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR

 

JERRY SINKOVEC

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

Word count 3561

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 

I have an excellent selection of photographs to illustrate the article.

 


 

 

NEW MEXICO'S

FALL COLORS

 

Author

JERRY SINKOVEC

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, Id 83401

208-523-1545

 

 

 

Not all of New Mexico's fall colors are attached to trees. Every October, New Mexico's most vibrant fall colors take to the air. Albuquerque hosts the largest balloon fiesta in the world the first full week of the month each year. This past year, a new record was set when over 800 hot air balloons were launched the first day in the mass ascension. Kodak has stated, "it's the most photographed event in the world."

 

Opening day will bring out over 150,000 people from all over the world to see the colorful nine-day spectacle. Over 1,400 RV's, campers and trailers were provided special parking areas by the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It isn't unusual to see 100 or more Airstream trailers or Winnebago RV's camped together. It's a time to relax, make new friends and enjoy the colorful show.

 

The launch takes place around 7:00 AM each morning, depending on the weather. You know they are getting ready to launch when you hear the roar of the fire breathing dragons as the pilots test their burners. As the sun breaks over the spectacular Sandia Mountains to the East, the pilots begin to inflate their balloons. It's amazing that anything happens or even moves, as thousands of people crowd around the various balloons and pilots readying for their departure.

 

As the balloons lift off, the sky becomes a moving kaleidoscope of color. The crowd roars each time another balloon departs earth. There's a certain excitement in the air. There are hundreds of OH's and AH's as a special shape balloon, "The Cow Jumped Over The Moon" floats by. It's hard to tell who is having more fun, the little kids or the big kids.

 

When the weather is just right, the pilots fly what is known as the box. The cooler air, lower to the ground, will carry the balloons southward down the Rio Grande valley. When they get far enough from the field, they go to a higher altitude where the winds aloft carry them back over the launch field and to the North. After they pass the field, they let the balloons go to a lower altitude and catch the cooler southward flowing air to bring them back over the field again. After about an hour, all 650 balloons will be floating lazily through the sky. It's a sight you'll never forget.

 

There are two ways you can get a flight on one of the balloons. One is to volunteer as a crewmember to one of the pilots who needs about four or five people to assist him in take offs and landings. You are briefed by the pilot as to what you're expected to do. During the flight the pilot may touch down once or twice to exchange passengers. He will usually take up as many of his volunteers as possible to show his thanks. It's also a great way to be involved with the fiesta and to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world. The other way to get a flight is to buy a ride from one of the concessionaires.

 

It's a unique experience to float through the air in silence hundreds or thousands of feet above the ground. The occasional roar of the burners is the only thing to disturb the silence. The unique perspective lets you see things you've never noticed before.

 

By noon all the excitement at the field is over except for some entertainment. Many of the booths that serve food are still busy as are the booths that sell pins and other souvenirs. Many of the visitor's head into Albuquerque to shop in Old Town or take in many of the other interesting sights. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has traditional Indian dances at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM on Saturday and Sundays, in addition to a museum, galleries and restaurant that serves New Mexican and Indian dishes. They also have a series of shops that offer Indian made pottery, jewelry, rugs, Kachinas and fetishes, as does Bien Mur, another Indian owned trading post.

You can also be whisked from 6,000 to 10,500 in seventeen minutes aboard the Albuquerque Tram, the longest in the world. You'll pass through seven ecological life zones and view rugged terrain, deep canyons, granite spires

and native wildlife. Once on top of Sandia Peak, you'll have a 360-degree view of New Mexico. There are a variety of things to do and see while you're in Albuquerque.

 

During the week at the fiesta, a competition is held for the pilots where they compete in different events for different prizes that are exciting to watch. There are two other big events during the week that you don't want to miss. One is the special shapes rodeo. You'll see UFO's, pink Elephants, Storks with baby, Polar Bears, witches on broomsticks, cows jumping over the moon, monster trucks, clowns and everyone's favorite, T-Rex the dinosaur, flying through the air. The other event is the Balloon Glow, which is held after sunset. Over a hundred balloons inflate, but are tethered to the ground; on a given signal they all ignite their burners to create a colorful glowing show against the cobalt night sky.

 

A week or two after the Albuquerque Fiesta, Taos holds its own balloon fiesta. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, Taos is what people typically think most of New Mexico looks like. It's also the home of the Taos Indian Pueblo, which has been continually inhabited for over four hundred years. There have been no changes to the Pueblo; it looks the same today as it did four hundred years ago. Indian women still

bake their bread in outdoor ovens called Hurno's. In some ways life has not changed in the Pueblo.

 

In rural surroundings, with fewer balloons and people, the pace is less hectic. People have more time with each other and enjoy the mountain scenery and color to it's fullest. The area is also rich in history and culture and many visitors take in the museums, historical sites and other points of interest in their spare time.

 

Many of the local people come out not only to watch the balloons launch, but to assist the pilots however they can. Everyone enjoys pitching in, even the smallest of children. In the course of assisting the pilots, you’re bound to make some new friends, either locals or other visitors. Two people that met a year earlier at the Taos Balloon Fiesta decided to marry at this Year’s event. The ceremony was conducted while they were aboard the balloons basket, which carried they away when the ceremony was completed.

 

One of the highlights of the Taos Fiesta is an event called, "A Taste Of Taos." All the great chefs from around the area gather in a great hall, and produce their famous dishes for all to sample. Each chef has his own table with his dish or dishes ready for tasting. At each chef’s table, a different New Mexico winery offers samples of their finest wines to complement the chef’s work of art. For the nominal entry fee you can make the rounds as many times as you like. You'll have a difficult time deciding which of the American, New Mexican and Continental dishes is your favorite.

 

In early December, Gallup holds its balloon fiesta. It's located in the western part of the state in beautiful red rock country. The geology of the area is fascinating with all its sculptured forms, high mesas, rock pinnacles and deep narrow canyons. It's in the heart of Navajo land.

 

Headquarters for the balloon fiesta in Gallup is the historic El Rancho Hotel, which is a member of the National Historic Places. It's an enchanting place that was the home to movie stars during the thirties and forties when they made movies in the southwest. The lobby is filled with photos of stars and artifacts from that period. It guaranteed to bring back memories from your childhood.

 

Each morning, the pilot’s head out to Red Rocks State Park, which is the launch site for the fiesta. The park has numerous campsites for RV's and trailers. The red rock cliffs, hundreds of feet high protect the balloons from any adverse winds. After they launch, they have to clear the cliffs, or let the gentle breezes carry them into one of the narrow winding canyons. It's exciting to be winding through one of the canyons a hundred feet off the ground with rock walls enclosing you. With a burst of flame from the burners, your lifted out of the canyon onto the high mesas or amongst towering sandstone pinnacles. The scenery is breathtaking and ever changing. The brightly colored balloons jump out at you from the stark colors of the rock formations. You can be looking and enjoying natures wonderful work among all the formations and canyons, when suddenly the earth seems to give birth to a colorful balloon as it rises up from a canyon.

 

If your interested in Indian art and crafts, Gallup is an excellent place to shop. The Indians from the Zuni Pueblo to the South and the Navajo's to the North all bring their work to Gallup to trade or sell for supplies and other necessities.

 

For information on lodging, RV parking and camping, dates, crewing or other particulars, contact:

 

Albuquerque

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta     505-821-1000

Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau     505-243-3696

 

Taos

Taos Chamber of Commerce                      800-732-8267

                                             505-758-3873

 

Gallup

Gallup Convention & Visitors Bureau         505-722-2227


Before Columbus

 

We have all been taught from an early age that Columbus discovered America, but in fact he never set foot on the North American continent, and only some of his men set foot on the South American coast. In fact there are signs that many other Old World people traveled to and over parts of the North American continent prior to Columbus arriving in the area. It is now believed that the Vikings were here long before Columbus, and some believe the Irish and other cultures were here also.

 

Over the past twelve years, researchers have been exploring parts of America and finding indications of people here long before the Vikings or the Irish. Celtic writing known as Ogam has been found in West Virginia and in the New England states, but only in very isolated cases. Most of the known Ogam writing is found in western and southern Ireland and western Wales. But one of the largest collections of Ogam is found in southeastern Colorado!

 

Ogam is an alphabet that was used by the Celtic peoples and was thought to have developed around the third or fourth century AD. It is a series of parallel grooves, one to five in number, that are vertical or slant across a stemline. Some hash marks will hang below the stemline while others may stand atop the stemline. It was sometimes used by other cultures like the Norse and Arabs. Ogam was a easy form of writing since you only had to carve straight lines in the rock; much easier and faster than trying to carve curved lines. If you think Ogam is a dead form of writing or communication, just look at your UPC code when you go shopping for groceries. It's easier for the scanner to read straight lines of varying thickness and spaces than anything else, just as it was easier for  the Celts to groove a straight line.

 

The Ogam that is found in Colorado and Oklahoma seems to be older and somewhat different than what is considered by most scholars to be Ogam. And that is what has created a controversy amongst researchers and scholars across the country. There have been heated debates on Colorado television by researchers who have found the Ogam and the anti-Ogam archeologists in Colorado. The anti-Ogam scientists claim the Colorado marks are nothing but Indian tool sharpening marks or counts, and that no Old World people were ever in the area. Yet some of them have never even been to the sites in Colorado to see the Ogam, or even seen what takes place at the equinox or solstice. It seems there minds are made up, and they refuse to conduct any digs at any of the sites.

 

The Ogam in Colorado differs from what is considered the standard Ogam in that it has no vowels and the stem-crossing strokes are not oblique to the stemline. The other difference is the inscribed Ogam in Colorado is usually done on a flat surface, whereas most, but not all, Ogam found in the British Isles is along the corner or edge of a vertical piece of rock. The Ogam found here will use a natural horizontal crack as the stemline or  a horizontal line will be inscribed. The Book of Ballymote written in the thirteenth century Ireland describes some of the many styles of Ogam writing. Some people feel the Ogam found in Colorado could be a proto-Ogam since it is used without any vowels. The fact that the writing is much older than 450 AD also leads them to believe this.

 

Living bacteria produce desert varnish or patina by slowly oxidizing iron and manganese and affixing it to the rock surface. Using the latest technology (the Cation dating method which is based upon the carbon dating of the bacteria which formed the initial layer of desert varnish), the researchers found the writing to be 2,000 to 3,000  years old plus or minus 500 years with about 95% accuracy. This puts the Colorado Ogam well before the development of the known Ogam from the British Isles.

 

Of the many sites found, four of the Ogam sites in Colorado relate to archaeoastronomy. The first site found, Crack Cave allows the Equinox sunrise to illuminate the Ogam on the cave walls only twice a year, at the time of the equinox. When the Ogam was first found in the cave, it wasn't known what the writing meant. It was after the writing was deciphered using the Book of Ballymote that the researchers realized that it was an archaeoastronomy site. The writing translated to, "SUN STRIKES ON THE DAY OF BEL".  Bel is short for the Celtic sun god  Belenus. It is rather amazing, to find possibly the oldest written record on the North American continent that explains a phenomenon which astronomy confirms. It is also surprising to think that someone from a few thousand years ago is communicating with us today. Robert Mark, a scientist with the USGS said, "it is one of the most interesting of the rock art archaeoastronomy sites in the United States."

 

Anubis Cave is another archaeoastronomy site that is probably the most unusual and the most exciting at the same time. It contains Egyptian icon, Libyan and Celtic writing that relates to the equinox sunset. The importance of the cave was first discovered by Gloria Farley when she was taken there in 1978. She was able to identify the dog like figure in one of the caves  as the Egyptian god Anubis, the god of death and darkness. There is also a glyph of a sun god, identified as Bel in Libyan writing and of a setting sun. Just before the setting sun passes below the horizon, shadows cast by certain rocks cover the sun god, and at the same time a pointer shadow points to the setting sun. while just before the sun sets the Anubis glyph comes into full sunlight. In its play of light and shadow it tells us that the sun god no longer rules, it is the god of darkness that now rules. The whole drama is explained in Ogam in the adjoining cave. It is how the researchers learned as to what would happen on the equinox sunset.

 

At the Sun Temple there is a Sun petroglyph, a large circle where the viewer is to place their head. As they look East on the cross quarter day sunrise, (midway between the solstice and equinox) they will see the sun rise and fill the notch on the shoulder of a rock buttress. Again, the Ogam instructs the reader with, "The Ring along with the shoulder by means of sun and hill". The cross quarter days were important feast days among the Celts, just as were the solstice and equinox. 

 

At another site, in Picnic Canyon, is some Ogam which has not  been totally read, but apparently is also an archaeoastronomy site. If you place your head between the two groupings of Ogam and look to the East, the sun will rise in a notch comprised of a near vertical wall on the butte where you are standing and  a stepped area on the canyon rim. The sun will rise in the notch only on the winter solstice. And in reverse, the near vertical wall will cast a shadow which will bisect the two groupings of Ogam.

 

The man who lead the group that found the Ogam in Colorado is Bill McGlone, a retired engineer from Albuquerque, NM who has relocated to La Junta, Co. to be nearer to the area under investigation. Bill became interested in Ogam after reading a book written by Dr. Barry Fell titled, "America B.C." published in 1976. After Bill saw his first Ogam site he became hooked. He has been searching for the Ogam sites for twelve years and has been working with scholars around the world to determine the meaning of the many sites and who the people were who made them. Bill is hoping other scholars and archeologists will become interested in the project and help in reaching a definitive answer to the many questions that surround the Ogam writing found in Colorado.

 

There are scholars and archeologists who don't believe Ogam is being found in Colorado.  Yet they don't have an explanation for what is being found. Several Colorado archeologists have been asked to conduct digs at some of the sites and they have refused. They have the ability to prove that early Celtic peoples were here 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, and yet they merely let the controversy continue. If bronze age artifact from the Old World were found, it would settle the matter once and for all.

 

In the course of twelve years of exploring southeastern Colorado for Ogam, Bill McGlone has uncovered other types of writing besides the Ogam that does not seem to be North American Indian petroglyphs. The writing found on some of the rock panels is well organized and very similar to the Thamudic and Safaitic alphabets that were used in Arabian areas, Jordan and Syria 2,000+ years ago. The writing is found in lines that are read from right to left and in columns read from top to bottom, in some cases the writing is jumbled which might indicate several different writers over a period of time overlapping previous writing. In some cases monograms are constructed by assembling two or three glyphs together. This was also done in Arabia and the monograms were used as clan symbols and camel brands. Some of the panels found also contain Ogam and Indian petroglyphs that are intermixed and overlapping, and in some cases the images have been repecked hundreds of years later. The Arabian like glyphs and panels have been reproduced photographically and by sketching. Those reproductions have been sent to the scholars in the  above mentioned countries, and they have been surprised by the material sent them. Even though the glyphs are the same or similar to those used in their country thousands of years ago, none of the scholars have been able to read or make sense of the writings found in Colorado. It's thought the glyphs meaning may have changed or become corrupted due to the traveler's spending time in another area prior to their arrival in America.

 

Some of the Arabian like glyphs that have been found are so old and covered by a deep rich patina that they are hardly visible to the eye, and even harder to photograph. At times it is necessary to use a small battery operated video light to side light the petroglyphs in bright daylight for viewing. In order to photograph them it is sometimes necessary to paint them with a solution of aluminum powder suspended in water. This should only be done by qualified researchers.

 

The dating of the glyphs has shown them to range 1940 to 2290 years from the present. Most of the symbols or glyphs are found near the bottom of the canyons where one would normally walk or traverse a canyon. They are found near the entrance to side canyons and almost always the same glyphs are used over and over again. Two which reoccur more than others are a Phi symbol and a zero with a short arm radiating from it. Its as though they are trying to tell us something, or that something is going on that they want us to know about. Until the writings can be read, they will remain a mystery as will the people that wrote them. Could it be that another culture in America developed the same series of symbols at about the same time as in another part of the world? It seems unlikely, but then the fact that the structured writing hasn't been deciphered yet also creates a problem, which only further research can resolve.

 

Most of the petroglyphs found in that part of the country are on private land and are relatively safe from destruction or vandalism, but in some cases they are located on public lands which are open to the general public. The damage in those areas has been enormous. People have carved their names over glyphs that are thousands of years old, other people have spray painted messages over other glyphs, while hunters have used some for target practice. It's important that the glyphs are never even touched by human hands as the oils from the  skin will contaminate the surface and possibly destroy it over time. If foreign material is put on the glyphs  it would contaminate the surface and make it useless for dating. If you ever see any rock art, enjoy it, but don't touch it or put any other material in contact or over the glyphs.

 

Just as we long to set foot on the distant planets in space to better understand our universe, ancient man must have longed to set foot on unknown shores to gain greater knowledge about his world. We are no different now than we were two or three thousand years ago. The only things that differentiates us from ancient man is time and technology.

 

Were other Old World peoples and cultures here before Columbus? It certainly seems possible, but continuing research and exploration is the only way we will ever learn the truth.

 

 

Further Reading: Ancient Celtic America, LCCCN 86-060767, ISBN 0-914330-90-X: By William R. McGlone and Phillip M Leonard

To be published in 1993; Ancient American Inscriptions: By William R. McGlone and other contributing authors.

The author wishes to thank Bill McGlone for his hospitality and assistance in doing the article.

 

The author, Jerry Sinkovec, has written other articles for the life and culture sections including; The Mysterious Matachine, April, 1990.

 


 

Elk Mountain Resort

Valhalla Gun Club

Like no other Place on Earth

 

Colorado’s newest luxury resort officially opened June 4th and I was the only media person there to enjoy the activities, world-class cuisine and shooting facilities. It is like no other place on earth, tucked away on 275 acres in the mountains and pristine alpine forest between Telluride and Montrose, CO. As Thomas Forman, owner and general manager put it, “Whether planning a romantic escape for two, a family reunion, a fully catered wedding or a corporate retreat, our guests will find their every wish accommodated and their stay at Elk Mountain Resort truly memorable.” I can truly attest to that. The attentive and knowledgeable staff no matter what department I was dealing with overwhelmed me. The resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels and should be a five diamond and five star rated resort by the time you read this.

 

There are two types of lodging available, which consist of 21 luxury lodge rooms and 18 three-bedroom two-story cottages offering an array of floor plans to suit your needs. Modern amenities for all guest rooms include 32” or 20” LCD televisions, radios, CD players, DVD players, dual line cordless telephones, free DSL Internet access, Frette robes and premium-stocked minibars. All the rooms are tastefully appointed in keeping with the 19th century hunting lodge theme and have the most comfortable beds I’ve ever had the chance to experience. The beds have Euro-down pillows, 450-thread count linen and European goose down comforters.

 

The Tarragon dinning room is richly decorated and in keeping with the rest of the lodge and resort; it evokes a feeling of a 19th century hunting lodge. The selection of entrees leaves nothing to be desired with buffalo and elk available and a variety of seafood and other more traditional dishes as well. The presentations are works of art, and show the time and dedication that goes into every meal. The wine list will amaze and delight you; with over 2,500 bottles from four continents to choose from they haven’t overlooked anything. They also have a climate controlled cigar clubroom with a fine selection of cigars from around the globe as well, and members have private humidors. There are three levels of humidity control for the different types of cigars and so you can have your cigars at the humidity you prefer. Across from the cigar lounge is one of two cocktail lounges that offers some of the finest cognacs, tequilas or other delights to accompany the fine cigars. The resort is pure opulence. But that is only half the story.

 

If you like doing things to relax rather than reading a book, this is the place for you as well. On site activities include, rock climbing, hiking, a fitness trail, paintball course, ropes course, tennis, go kart course, fishing, fly- fishing, picnics, mountain biking, horseback riding, and ATV tours. Off site includes canoeing, kayaking, and jeep tours and fly-fishing. In winter you can add cross-country skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling while alpine skiing is available off site at Telluride. There are activities for an individual or a family to participate in and enjoy together. Additional activities will include five-star cooking/wine classes, nature tours, and artist-in-residence seminar series along with Indian and Mountain Man storytelling.

 

But the great focal point at the resort is the Valhalla Shooting Club, which is open to club members and resort guests. It is a two story, 16,000 square foot shooting facility. It was Tom Forman’s dream to “build the world’s largest audio video game.” “We strive to provide a unique shooting experience for those who seek entertainment, education or both.” Inside the Scenario House, guests are able to engage 3-D automated and reactive targets in real-life scenario rooms including a subway station, bedrooms, kitchen, bar, nightclub, industrial area and the first-class section and cockpit of an airliner using live frangible ammunition. There are over 30 scenario rooms with unlimited scenarios. Then can design scenarios that would fit your situation for your group. You can use your weapons or the facility can provide them for you.

 

The lighting, sound and props were created with the assistance of professional Broadway stage designers and are controlled by computers and programs used to operate similar effects at theme parks, live stage shows and concerts. There is no other tactical training facility that has gone to these lengths to create such realistic and adrenaline pumping scenarios in one building that has a 360 degree, live fire, safe Scenario House. It has taken fun shooting and tactical combat training to a whole new level. In addition, they have a twelve lane automated firing range along with a pro shop.

 

While entertainment is the focus of the resort during the summer and winter tourist seasons, the spring and fall schedules feature a variety of courses in pistol shooting.  VSC hosts some of the finest instructors in the field as well as offering a wide array of its own training programs. The facility is also available for rental by training organizations, law enforcement agencies, swat teams and high-risk security teams.

 

Corporate and individual memberships are still currently available. Retired U.S. Army General Norman Shwarzkopf and former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are just two of the many clubs members. Membership will be limited to 550 members with some interesting incentives for the final initial 50 members.

 

The shot-gunning portion of the club offers several skeet and trap fields along with a 5-stand operation that has the capability to throw flurry presentations for some adrenalin pumping action. Several times a year, or by, appointment VSC and Jerry Sinkovec with Instinctive Target Interception will be conducting a series of shotgun shooting courses on wing shooting and sporting clays. Sessions will be available for novice, intermediate and advanced shooters. Classes will be limited to five students where you’ll shoot 250 rounds a day. Private and semi-private instruction will also be available where you’ll shoot up to 500 rounds a day. Instruction is available for children as young as eight years old. For exact dates, times and costs contact the resort or I.T.I.

 

For a memorable personal vacation or a high security corporate conference Elk Mountain Resort offers everything an individual or company would require.

 

For further information, reservations or brochures contact:

 

Elk Mountain Resort

97 Elk Walk

Montrose, CO 81401

970-252-4900  T

970-252-4913   F

www.elkmountainresort.com

 

The Valhalla Shooting Club

9 North Cascade Ave.

Montrose, CO 81401

970-252-4911

www.valhallashootingclub.com

 

Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School

5045 Brennan Bend

Idaho Falls, ID 83401

208-523-1545

itishooting@juno.com

 

Word Count 1090

Author: Jerry Sinkovec

photojournalistjerry@juno.com

208-523-1545


The Ice Of Ouray

 

Technical ice climbing evolved from mountaineering during the sixties. In the early sixties there were no special tools being manufactured for ice climbing, nor were there schools teaching the sport. There were small groups of climbers in Colorado and other areas who were interested in winter climbing and doing more technical routes on the peaks, which were available to them. Neither techniques nor tools were known of by climbers at that time. Gregg Blomberg , who started Colorado Mountain Industries in Denver in the early sixties and was the director of the Winter Mountaineering School at the Colorado Mountain Club, where I learned my love of ice, was one of the early individuals who started designing and manufacturing equipment for the sport. He also started working out technical ice climbing techniques that are still evolving as does the equipment and the sport. Prior to that, the only thing being used for steep snow and ice travel was the French technique, which is still taught, which uses 12-point crampons and the standard ice axes.

 

Today, climbing vertical ice is about as common as rock climbing, although not all rock climbers take up the exhilarating sport of ice climbing. Just north of New Mexico lies one of the premier ice climbing areas in America, Ouray, Co. It’s a sport which anyone can take up as long as they don’t have a fear of heights.

 

From December through March you will find climbers from all over the world testing their skills in the canyon that leads to Governor Basin. There are several areas for climbing in the Ouray area, with the best area for beginners about a mile north of town on the old mining road. The canyon offers the greatest number and variety of routes. You will find everything from moderate single pitch climbs, mixed rock and ice routes to demanding multi-pitch climbs, which will require the utmost in skill.

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a week with an old friend and one of the top ice-climbing instructors in America, Michael Covington, who operates Fantasy Ridge Alpinism out of Telluride, Colorado. He runs one week and weekend ice climbing classes in Ouray most of the winter and will guide clients on special peak climbs. Michael supplies all the necessary equipment to participate in the classes; all you need to bring is your energy and courage.

 

Actually, ice climbing is somewhat easier than rock climbing in that you do not have to search around for tiny rock projections to stand on and hold on to. You just kick your front points on your crampons into the ice wherever it feels comfortable, and plant your ice picks above your head to balance. Moving one foot or arm at a time you move up the ice face in relative security.

 

The ice climbing at Ouray is situated in the rugged San Juan and Uncompahgre Mountains. Many rugged peaks surround the area and provide a dramatic setting for your ice climbing experience. The vistas and ice climbing experience will leave a poignant impression on you.

 

The first day with Michael was spent at the beginner’s area north of town along with two other students who had no ice climbing experience. We practiced the French technique of moving across and up and down steep ice and learning how to maintain balance over your feet with crampons attached to your boots. The ice was not that steep, but there was still plenty of exposure. Rope handling and climbing signals were also covered the first day. Even though the first day was not that strenuous, we were still eager to hit the outdoor hot tubs at the Box Canyon Lodge where Michael had put us up. It’s really the best place to stay in Ouray if your ice climbing. The hot tubs are fantastic and relaxing after a day on the ice.

 

The next few days Michael set up a top rope on some vertical ice where we could practice our technique and gain a little more strength and confidence. Some of the top ropes would be set up on moderate routes, others on mixed rock and ice and still others would have a technical problem like a bulge or overhang. Every day we faced new challenges and had to deal with different technical problems. We had the opportunity to try some different ice climbing tools and learn how to plant protection in the ice. We also practiced glissade and going into a self-arrest. We would start out going down feet first on our backs, then head first on our stomach and then our back. The idea was to come to a complete stop on the steep snow slope before we got to the flats without the ice climbing tool being ripped from our hands or losing control.

 

The last few days were the most exciting, as Michael would lead us up on multi-pitch climbs. The weather the last few days wasn’t the best. Although the sun would be out at times, the wind continued to howl most of the day. Being down near the bottom of a narrow canyon, we did not feel much of the wind, nor did we feel the benefit of the sunshine we could see striking the tops of the ridges. Wind was moving a lot of snow high up on the ridges creating small sluffs of snow to come shooting down the climbing routes.

 

On the first multi-pitch climb one morning, Michael was about one hundred feet up, when we all heard a whoomp. It sounded far off and close at the same time. We looked at each other apprehensively, knowing what the other was thinking. A roaring sound kept getting louder and louder. I looked across the road below us, and from high up on the ridge, on the other side of the canyon, a huge avalanche was roaring down a gully directly across from us. We were stunned and in awe of the event. When the roaring stopped and the snow settled the canyon below the road was filled to the edge of the road with snow. About that time Michael yelled down, “OK, the show is over, on belay.” I followed Michael up and the other two climbers followed me up. The second pitch proved more interesting and challenging, as did the third and fourth. Michael put us through the wringer, and made sure we would be able to handle most situations we would encounter on future climbs.

 

Michael is one of those unique people who is not only a great climber of international reputation, but also a great climbing instructor who has the ability to communicate well with his students. They are plenty of good climbers out there, but very few have the ability to really instruct people in the sport of climbing. Michael also runs guided climbs in South America, Africa, and the Karakorams and on Mt. McKinley in Alaska. If your interested in experiencing the thrill of ice climbing in Ouray or doing a major climb in another part of the world, then I suggest you contact: Fantasy Ridge Alpinism, Attn: Michael Covington, P.O. Box 1679, Telluride, CO 81435  303-728-3546. For information on the Ouray area contact: Ouray Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 145, Ouray, CO 81427, 800-228-1876. For great lodging and relaxing hot tubs in the Ouray area contact: Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, P.O. Box 711, Ouray, CO 81427   1-800-327-5080

 

words 1238

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 


Scenic Mesa Ranch

Colorado’s Premier Sportsman’s Club

 

 

The ranch is the only Orvis endorsed facility in Colorado, and it offers a wide spectrum of activities for the sportsman. The hunting, the sporting clays shooting and fishing opportunities are unlimited.

 

In bird hunting, they offer mixed bag upland hunting (Quail, Pheasant, Chucker, and Hungarian Partridge), European (driven) Pheasant hunts and Flighted (pen raised) Mallard hunts. All hunts include a round of five-stand for a warm up, transportation to and from the field, professional guides, dogs, bird processing and vacuum packaging. You can bring your own dogs if you desire. It’s an ideal bird hunting area. They have a nice complement of dogs. One third being Labs, another being German Short Hairs and the other being English Pointers. You can also bring your own dogs if you’d prefer. The rolling green hills and high grasses of the ranch offer excellent cover for the birds and offer many beautiful vistas of the Gunnison River Valley and the West Elk Mountains.

 

They have over ten miles of Gold Medal Waters of the Gunnison River on property that offers excellent fly fishing in addition to offering 1 to 3 day float trips on various portions of the river. They also have lakes and ponds on the property that offer excellent fly or ultra light fishing as well. You can either walk and wade or do the float trips from the ranch. I can attest to the exciting pond fishing as I caught ten rainbows 13” to 17” in less than an hour. You can’t ask for anything better than that. The guides are armed with digital cameras and are always ready to record your catch and happy expression. In addition, for the more adventurous, they offer white water rafting.

 

Their shotgun shooting facilities leaves nothing to be desired. It’s the most extensive I’ve found in the Rocky Mountain area outside of the Front Range. Their five-stand is spread out over a much larger area than normal and has a nice variety of presentations including a 50 to 60 yard crosser. That’s a shot we all need to have a chance to practice more. The five-stand is also lighted for night shooting, which means more time for shooting. At sunset, with color in the clouds, the orange targets become a real challenge, and it’s fun. It’s the nicest and most enjoyable 5-stand I’ve ever shot at in the Rocky Mountain Area. You can shoot traditional 5-stand or international, where you never know when and where the birds are coming from. They have two complete sporting clay fields, one automated and one manual. One will always be set up of the soft side for new shooters and the other will always be set up for the shooter looking for more of a challenge. They’ll have eleven to twelve stations per field. They also have a wobble trap that offers some hard angle shots as well. They are considering putting in a skeet field as well. The ranch will be holding a wing shooting and clay shooting school the last full week of August 2004. Instinctive Target Interception will conduct it. Call now and make your reservations, as space is limited.

                       

Big game hunting offerings are interesting as well. In addition to trophy deer and elk hunts they offer a modern day buffalo hunt and an 1870’s buffalo hunt. The 150 plus head of buffalo are free to roam the 8,000 plus acre ranch and offer some interesting and exciting hunting. Dan Dueter, a well-known mountain man, guide and historian conducts the 1870’s buffalo hunts on the ranch. It starts with you being outfitted in the proper attire, and being supplied with the proper period weapon, a Sharps or Remington Rolling Block. Then the adventure starts. You then ride out in search of the Buffalo and will probably spend a night or two in a reconstructed 1870’s cabin furnished in period artifacts. It’s a once in a lifetime memorable experience. You can bring your own horse or mule and period weapon if you so desire.

 

The ranch also offers a large variety of buffalo products for sale. The buffalo on the ranch are all certified organic as they are raised on organic grasslands exclusively. The meat has over twice the protein of regular beef and only 2.42 grams of fat versus the 9.28 grams of fat of beef. You can order steaks, roasts, ground meat, different sausages and jerky. They are all delicious as I had the opportunity to try different buffalo products at the ranch. 

 

The ranch offers a variety of comfortable and relaxing accommodations. The new headquarters building now houses the main office, pro shop, kitchen, dinning room, lounge area along with some of the guest rooms. Changing rooms with showers are also located there for cleanup when you return from a float trip. There are other guest rooms located next to the new building and in the main ranch house several miles down the road as well. Where you’re lodged depends on how many people in your group and how busy they are at the time, and the time of the year you plan to be there.

 

Dinning at the ranch is a memorable experience as well. If you have special requirements, they can accommodate you. But the selections are wonderful. The food is expertly prepared and the presentations are a delight to behold. They offer buffalo as mentioned earlier and it’s always my favorite. You’ll never leave the dinning room feeling hungry. You should bring your own wine, beer or hard liquor, as they don’t have a liquor license at the ranch. There is a small liquor store in Hotchkiss, but their selection is not the greatest.

 

The ranch is situated a little SSW of Hotchkiss, CO and is accessible from three area airports, Montrose, Delta and Northfork Valley airports. For a memorable hunting or fishing experience, you have to visit Scenic Mesa Ranch.

 

For further information, pricing and brochures, contact:

 

Scenic Mesa Ranch

POB 370

Hotchkiss, CO 81419

970-872-3078   T

970-921-3378  F

www.scenicmesa.com

smrllc@tds.net

 

 

 

Word Count 1011

Jerry Sinkovec, Author

208-523-1545

photojournalistjerry@juno.com

 

 


 

 

The Best of Taos

 

Taos is the best place for a weekend getaway as there are a variety of things to see and do in a relative small area. Being that it was the end of the Camino Real, it abounds with sites and museums rich in history, most of which can be walked to from the plaza area. The Fechin Institute/Museum, Blumenschein Home & Museum, and Kit Carson Home & Museum all are within easy walking distance. The Martinez Hacienda and Millicent Rogers Museum require a short drive. The plaza area offers a great selection of fine art galleries and other shops that offer local arts and crafts. It’s easy to spend a day or two just shopping in the Taos Plaza area. There are several other museums and sites which are worth a visit. Check them out in the yellow pages under museums or pick up some of the brochures at the Taos Chamber located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Hwy. 68 and Hwy. 64, which takes you to Angel Fire.

 

If you’re a skier, you have the choice of three ski areas to go to from town, Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire and Red River.  Each area has it’s own unique qualities. In Taos, it’s the European flavor that abounds in the ski valley, Red River has the cowboy atmosphere and Angel Fire has the contemporary feel and look. Their slopes also offer different qualities. At Taos, it the steepness and the challenge of the slopes, in Angel Fire it’s the meticulous grooming and lack of icy slopes and at Red River it’s the hoop-de-do- slopes and kids area. Taos is a world-class destination ski area, but it lacks two important things that I hope they rectify. The resort needs and should have high-speed detachable quads to move people up the mountain and they have to improve their grooming equipment to do some tilling of the snow and reduce the amount of icy slopes they tend to have most of the time. I was amazed at how different it was between Taos and A.F. But I’ve experienced the same thing in the past as well. Before noon all the main slopes at Taos are icy and you’re always losing an edge in your turns. Not a comforting feeling if you ski fast like I do. When I went to A.F., I skied there for four days and never hit ice or lost an edge once. That sort of tells you about the difference in grooming.

 

Angel Fire had great snow while I was there and they had all their black diamond runs open for skiing. I was able to make first tracks on Glory Hole and I-25 with one of the employees in the morning and then we made first tracks in Pod C, which can be reached by a snowmobile or a short hike. In the afternoon they opened up Maxwell’s and Quicksilver that we were able to make first tracks on as well. They were awesome steep runs with great snow. It was quite a rush to be able to make so many first tracks on several different black diamond runs. The thing that disappointed me at Angel Fire is that the two high-speed quad lifts are no longer operating at high speed. When the lifts first operated the Chile express would get you to the top of the mountain in nine minutes and now it takes you thirteen minutes which means it now takes more than twenty minutes to make a complete cycle on the front side where it used to take sixteen minutes. And it now takes six minutes to get to the top on the backside where it used to take four minutes. It went from seven minutes for a complete cycle to nine minutes. So much for high speed advertising.

 

For a romantic or relaxing getaway you need a place to stay that offers some atmosphere that fits in with the area as a whole. Such a place is the Sagebrush Inn. It’s located on the main road into town on the left side, and offers a unique setting. It’s like a large old hacienda, with vigas in all the ceilings, hand carved furniture in the guest rooms, lobby and dinning rooms and a real southwestern ambience. The large guest rooms have working fireplaces with plenty of wood, king beds and have a nice atmosphere all their own. The have a nice lounge area with a huge fireplace and offer entertainment in the evenings. There is southwestern art and artifacts everywhere in the facility; it almost has the feel of a gallery or museum. They also have a spa area where you can pamper those aches or sore areas. The Inn also has two restaurants and offers a selection of several free full hot breakfasts.

 

A dinning experience you don’t want to miss is at the Western Sky Café and Marketplace. It’s located off the road to Angel Fire, Highway 64 East. You head east from the main road where the Chamber of Commerce is located, for about a mile and turn right at Weimer Rd., and after about a mile you’ll see it on the right across from the hospital at 1398 Weimer Rd. It’s an unpretentious place that has some great offerings in food and entertainment as well. It’s one of those places where the local’s go, so you know the food is really good, and the prices are reasonable as well. I started with a house salad that had a great variety of greens and an excellent balsamic vinegar and oil dressing. I had the Curried Tiger Shrimp on a bed of noodles with a large variety of fresh veggies all smothered in their great creamy curry sauce. The taste was wonderful with a little complexity.  The dessert I tried was a strawberry rhubarb pie with whipped cream that was the coup de gras. I had some great Czechoslovakian Starpopramen beer with my meal but they also have a wonderful selection of fine wines from around the world as well. Their staff is also excellent. But the food is only half the experience; they have a selection of different entertainment depending on the night. On Monday nights they have some country-western and cowboy music for your enjoyment, which starts at 6:00 PM. On a few Wednesday nights each month they have a great dinner theater, which is only $25.00 per person. Your alcoholic beverages are extra. The dinner theater is always sold out, so plan ahead. They have other entertainment as well so check with the owners to find out what the current nights offering is to be.

 

Another dinning experience you should try at the other end of the spectrum is Lambert’s of Taos. It only keeps getting better and better. Having reviewed the restaurant some years ago, I was anxious to try it out again. I was not disappointed. This time I tried their signature dish, Pepper Crusted Lamb Loin with a red wine demi-glace. It was cooked to perfection for my taste, medium rare and was served on a bed of noodles with vegetables. The red wine demi-glace was as close to perfection as you’ll ever get. The outstanding meal was finished off with an excellent desert and some great espresso. The ambience of the restaurant is warm and cozy and is attended to by some excellent staff that happens to really know their wines. My waiter was a knowledgeable older gentleman who I enjoyed discussing the merits of the different wines I was trying. Their wine list is very extensive representing just about every wine-growing region in the world with over 150 items to choose from. They do offer a children’s menu as well. Lamberts has a very strong following in the Taos area, and I would highly recommend making reservations so as not to miss out on a really great dinning experience.

 

And if it’s Mexican your taste buds are craving then you have to visit Antonio’s north of town in El Prado. It’s one of the newest restaurants in Taos, just seven months old, but already has gained a strong following with the locals and tourists. It’s really a Mexican restaurant but they also serve New Mexican so the locals can get their fix of Green or Red Chile. They have two soups which are truly delicious, but my favorite is their Sopa de Tortilla, heavy with stripped chicken and filled tortilla strips, cotija cheese, diced avocados and pasilla chile. A meal in itself. They have a large variety of enchiladas and Mexican plates, but I went for their special on the night, a marinated beefsteak and a shrimp enchilada smothered in green chile. It was served with black beans, rice and a selection of mixed vegetables. I wasn’t disappointed. I had an opportunity to try several of their wines, which were all excellent, but the Marques de Caceras Crianza Rioja 1998 is one of the most fragrant and delightful wines I’ve had recently. This Spanish wine won an award from The Wine Spectator Magazine, and rightly so. This is a moderately priced restaurant with great food and large plates with large portions covering them. Not one to miss, and it has a warm and cozy atmosphere.

 

If you’re a romantic and enjoy elegant fine dinning, you’ll have to visit  “momentitos de la Vida” restaurant located just south of Arroyo Seco on the Taos ski valley road (Hwy 150), 4.8 miles east from Hwy. 64. It used to be called Rancho Cordova when I last visited it in the seventies. The new Chef and owner, Chris Maher, has done an outstanding job remodeling and decorating the facility. The main dinning room is one of the most romantic places I’ve eaten in since dinning aboard the Shingala Dinning Car of Rovos Rail in South Africa during the late eighties. The lighting, décor, candles on the walls and tables and the warmth giving fireplace all add to a great ambience you don’t often experience. The food is just as wonderful an experience as the atmosphere. I started with a bowl of their puréed mixed mushroom soup, which had a delicate flavor that went well with the Alsace Riesling white wine. I had one of the chef’s specials that evening, which was a wild game selection, New Zealand Venison medallions with organic Peruvian Purple Potatoes on a bed of spinach leaves. There was no wild game taste, as a matter of fact; it was so delicious that a person who doesn’t like wild game would never know what they were eating unless they were told. It was some of the most delicious and tender meat I’ve ever eaten, and would put it on par with the very finest buffalo I’ve ever eaten. No steak can match those dishes. You could cut it with a fork and it would melt in your mouth. The white wine with the soup and the red merlot wines with the entrée were outstanding. Their selection of fine wines is extensive as is the knowledge of their wait staff Alex (a woman) and Willow who did an outstanding job as well. If you want to impress that special other person in your life or want to impress a business associate, this is the place that will show them you do have exceptional taste and knowledge. Check out their web site.

 

The dining in Taos is some of the best not only in New Mexico but also among the best in the United States. I would rate Lambert’s and Momentitos De La Vida among the best top twenty restaurants in the U.S.

 

 

Sagebrush Inn

1508 Paseo del Pueblo Sur

Taos, NM

888-449-8267

www.sagebrushinn.com

sagebrush@newmex.com

 

Western Sky Café

1398 Weimer Rd.

Taos, NM

751-7771

 

Lambert’s of Taos

309 Paseo del Pueblo Sur

Taos, NM

758-1009

 

Antonio’s

1017 Paseo del Pueblo Norte

El Prado, NM 87529

758-9889

 

Momentitos De La Vida

Highway 150

Arroyo Seco, NM 87514

776-3333

www.vidarest.com

 

Angel Fire Ski Area

800-633-7463

 

Red River Ski Area

505-754-2223

 

Taos Ski Valley

505-776-2291

 

 

Word count 2012

 

Author

 

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 

P.S. You can get photos of Momentitos De La Vida off their web site. But none of them show their dining room as great as it really is. I wish I had taken my camera with me for this one.

 

Jerry

 


TAOS

SUMMER

ADVENTURES

 

 

AUTHOR

 

JERRY SINKOVEC

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

 

 

 


 

Taos in summer is an ideal place to rejuvenate yourself. Whether  your from a large city like Chicago or Albuquerque or smaller towns like Moline, you’ll find unique experiences and a tranquillity in Taos which can’t be found anywhere else. There are a variety of things to do and ways to relax in the area.

 

Mountain biking in the Taos area offers riders the chance to explore hundreds of miles of both single track and old dirt road bike trails in Carson National Forest. Some of the best rides start on the East side near Angel Fire and bring you back to Taos. There are also easy and difficult loops where you start and finish in Taos, or at points outside Taos. You’ll find both demanding single track routes and easy going wide old dirt road routes for your enjoyment. The single track routes are more challenging as you wind your way through the tall old growth forest. They require constant attention and proper reading of the terrain to avoid  problems. There are some trails where you’ll be weaving through the trees like a slalom racer, which will leave you wondering how you made the last turn, and others where you’ll be bouncing along, grabbing air, and hopefully not trees as the forest goes by in a vibrating blur. As they take you into the very heart of the forest, you’ll feel a detachment from the world you left behind. As you crest a hill, a meadow will open up grand vistas of the rugged peaks and beautiful scenery in the area. You’ll want to allow enough time to take pictures and absorb the magnificent scenery. The descent into Taos can be as exciting and challenging as you want to make it, depending on whether you take a single track route or dirt road route and how fast you dare let the bike go. You’ll also find routes that aren’t as demanding which the whole family can enjoy at a leisurely pace. You’ll also find routes that don’t require as much climbing as others. If your from a lower altitude, your better off taking an easier route the first day so you can acclimate to the thin air.

 

You can bring your own bike and do your own thing or rent mountain bikes from several outfitters in the area. They offer standard mountain bikes or units with a suspension system which makes the rougher sections of some trails a lot more enjoyable. They will also guide you on half day, full day or overnight trips to the areas your interested in visiting. They’ll supply all the equipment, food and guide for your trip. They’ll take a individual, family or business group on an adventure they’ll never forget. They can also supply you with maps and other information if your going to do it on your own. Two firms with lots of experience, good bikes and great guides are: Native Sons Adventures, Box 6144, Taos, NM 87571, 800-753-7559 and Hot Tracks Cyclery , 729 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur, Taos, NM 87571, 505-751-0949. Two other sources of information and maps in Taos are the BLM at 505-758-8851 and Carson National Forest at 505-758-6200.


 

 

If you feel something not so strenuous is more to your liking, then you have to try Lama trekking. Lama trekking is ideal for the family with small children, older people, or mountaineers and backpackers with bad knees, or anyone you doesn’t feel comfortable with carrying a heavy load on their back, but still likes to get out and explore nature.

 

The Lama is a very tame animal and is not one to be feared as some people think. No, they won’t spit at you, or kick you, and they are much safer than a horse. Children can be around them and lead them in complete safety. Most children enjoy being around the animals and develop an attachment to them. The Lama’s can carry up to 100 pounds depending on their size and do not impact the trails the way a horse can. The trails don’t seem to be as steep or difficult when your not carrying 40 or 50 pounds on your back. The animals will carry all your camping gear and food on overnight trips which allows you to enjoy the country your exploring without really having to exert yourself. It really gives you more time to take photos and absorb the sounds and smells of the mountains and take in the grand scenery. It makes for a very relaxed type of trip where your not exhausted at the end of the day. Usually, each person will lead their Lama carrying all their gear, but it isn’t necessary. The guide can lead up to four or six Lamas himself. You can go on day hikes or overnight trips which can include fishing, nature walks, high alpine treks, or historic tours. You can design your own trip or select one of the many trips the guide service has available. The food served on day trips is made fresh daily and is delicious. In the case of overnight trips, some of the food is prepared prior to the trip and frozen, and then reheated over the campfire. It’s all delicious. The guides take a lot of pride in the food they serve their guests. They are very creative, and only the best is served. It’s great home cooking. For a unique and pleasant experience in the mountains, contact: El Paseo Llama Expeditions, P.O. Box 2672, Taos, NM 87571 or call 800-4-LLAMAS.

 

For the angler who wants to tell an exciting fishing tale and get peoples attention, without it being a tall tale, he has to spend a day or two at the Blackfire Ranch. It’s a fishing experience you’ll never forget. They offer secluded lodging for two to eight people with meals on a private lake high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Only one fishing party at a time can experience this relaxing retreat. They prefer you fish with flyfishing gear with barbless hooks as it is a catch and release program they offer, but you can fish with ultra-lite gear as well as long as you use barbless hooks. If you really have to have one of those monsters you caught frozen, cooked or mounted, you’ll be able to purchase it at the rate of $2.00 per inch. Let me tell you, it could be very expensive.

 

In the early afternoon recently, I stopped by at the ranch and was invited to try my luck at the lake. I grabbed my ultra-lite gear and headed to the lake. Because of the time of day I didn’t think I’d have much luck. On my second cast with a Mepps size O spinner, I had a fighting Snake River Cut Throat on my line. It gave me a great battle, but was only a indication of what was to come.  A few more casts and I had a nice 18” Rainbow that rocketed into the sky and danced upon the turbulent waters. Every few casts and I had another fish. Only three or four managed to escape my bringing them to shore. In two hours I managed to catch all of three different species contained in the lake for a total of twenty four. There were nine Snake River Cut Throats, one German Brown and fourteen Rainbow Trout of two different species, one being more colorful and full of fight. The grand daddy was a little over twenty-four inches that thought it was an undersea tugboat and dragged most of my four pound line out of the reel before I knew what happened. He leaped through the air as though he were trying to achieve orbit. I would work him back to shore only to have him race to the center of the lake again and again. He finally tired and I had a chance to measure him and then release him. It was the largest trout I had ever hooked, and was quite impressed with the fight that he had. All the fish had an abundance of energy and fought well, but the Rainbows were real thrillers. It got me to wondering if that twenty-four incher had a bigger brother. I tend to think he did. And that is my reason for going back someday.

 

If you want to experience the thrill of catching some large trout, contact: Blackfire Ranch, P.O. Box 981, Angel Fire, NM 87710, 505-377-6870.  They also offer hunting, great nature walks and bird watching. They even have a clay bird trap so you can practice your shotgunning skills. For other activities in the area you can contact the Angel Fire Resort at 800-633-7463 or the Angel Fire Chamber at 1-800-446-8117. Something to remember, is the chamber hosts a southwestern wine competition where all the winery’s in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona compete. You’ll have a chance to taste great wine from New Mexico, and sample some of the best southwestern food.

 

If you want an excuse to put on that little used ten gallon hat and say Howdy to the next person you see, there are a few places where you can go horse back riding in the Carson national Forest and on private land.  Shadow Mountain Ranch, just East of Taos has trails  that start at 9,000 ft and take you through spectacular alpine forests. They pride themselves on having gentle horses. They can be reached at 505-754-2941. Rio Grande Stables offer guided horseback trips in Taos Ski Valley, and their corral is located 1/2 mile beyond the Austing Haus on the ski valley road. They can be reached at 505-776-5913. Llano Bonito Ranch in Penaasco offers wilderness adventures via horseback that will take you up to 12,000 ft. They offer many overnight trips. They can be reached at 505-587-2636.

 

Red River Ski Area offers a different way to explore the high country. They offer chairlift rides and 4x4 Jeep trips through the high country which gives you plenty of time to take in the sights and snap photos. They’ll take you past old gold and silver mines and explain some of the local history and color. You can also rent 4 wheel ATV’s in town and explore the high country on your own. Contact the Red River Chamber of Commerce at 800-348-6444.

 

Although the most exciting white water trips are in early spring during the runoff, several outfitters offer a more relaxed atmosphere float trip during the summer months. There are half day and all day trips which include meals when necessary. Fishing is also better when the water is low, so you might try your luck at that while relaxing. You can even book a tranquil Sunset Dinner Float. For information on float trips, contact: Native Sons Adventures, 800-753-7559, Rio Grande Rapid Transit, 800-222-RAFT, and Far-Flung Adventures at 800-359-2627.

 

After all the excitement, exercise and travel, all you want is a place to relax, you might try the new Fechin Inn in Taos. You can even get a massage in your room. The rooms and atmosphere are great. The wood carving is everywhere, which replicates Fechin work in his home and museum which is located next door. Its going to be the showplace of Taos. If you want something a little more remote, but with a unique ambiance and charm, you’ll want to stay at the Little Tree B&B. With it’s adobe floor and foot thick adobe walls and a fire rustling in the adobe fireplace, you’ll never find a reason to leave. You’ll find the breakfast leaves nothing to be desired. You can reach the Fechin Inn at 800-811-2933 and the Little Tree B&B at 800-334-8467. For a list of other B&B’s in the Taos area, contact the Taos B&B Association at 800-876-7857. For information on other activities and lodging in the Taos area, contact the Taos Convention and Visitors Bureau at P.O.D. I, Taos, NM 87571 or 800-732-8267. Why haven’t you left yet?

 

[JS1] 2011 words



 
 

 

Taos The Town For Skiing

 

 

 

The town of Taos offers the best location for skiing northern New Mexico. And it has the greatest variety of food and entertainment as well. If one of you isn’t a skier, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in a great variety of shopping, galleries, and interesting historic sites as well. There is always something to do in Taos during the day or evening. The plaza area offers a great selection of fine art galleries and other shops that offer local arts and crafts. It’s easy to spend a day or two just shopping in the Taos Plaza area. There are several other museums and sites which are worth a visit. Check them out in the yellow pages under museums or pick up some of the brochures at the Taos Chamber located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Hwy. 68 and Hwy. 64, which takes you to Angel Fire.

 

For a skiing or romantic and relaxing getaway you need a place to stay that offers some atmosphere that fits in with the area as a whole. Such a place is the Sagebrush Inn. It’s located on the main road into town on the left side, and offers a unique setting. It’s like a large old hacienda, with vigas in all the ceilings, hand carved furniture in the guest rooms, lobby and dinning rooms and a real southwestern ambience. The large guest rooms have working fireplaces with plenty of wood, king beds and have a nice atmosphere all their own. The have a nice lounge area with a huge fireplace and offer entertainment in the evenings. There is southwestern art and artifacts everywhere in the facility; it almost has the feel of a gallery or museum. They also have a spa area where you can pamper those aches or sore areas. The Inn also has two restaurants and offers a selection of several free full hot breakfasts that are a good start to a day of skiing.

 

You have the choice of three ski areas to go to from town, Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire and Red River.  Each area has it’s own unique qualities. In Taos, it’s the European flavor that abounds in the ski valley, Red River has the cowboy atmosphere and Angel Fire has the contemporary feel and look. Their slopes also offer different qualities. At Taos, it’s the steepness and the challenge of the slopes, in Angel Fire it’s the meticulous corduroy grooming and lack of icy slopes and at Red River it’s the hoop-de-do- slopes and kids area. Taos is a world-class destination ski area, but it lacks two important things that I hope they rectify. The resort needs and should have high-speed detachable quads to move people up the mountain and they have to improve their grooming equipment to do some tilling of the snow and reduce the amount of icy slopes they tend to have most of the time. I was amazed at how different it was between Taos and A.F. But I’ve experienced the same thing in the past as well. Before noon all the main slopes at Taos are icy and you’re always losing an edge in your turns. Not a comforting feeling if you ski fast like I do, or even if you ski slowly. When I went to A.F., I skied there for four days and never hit ice or lost an edge once. That sort of tells you about the difference in grooming at both areas.

 

Angel Fire had great snow while I was there and they had all their black diamond runs open for skiing, except the one that runs under the Chile Express. That looked like it’ll be ready after the next snowfall. I was able to make first tracks on Glory Hole and I-25 with a friend who is one of the employees in the morning and then we made first tracks in Pod C, also black diamond runs, which can be reached by a snowmobile or a short hike. In the afternoon they opened up Maxwell’s and Quicksilver, both steep black diamonds just to the left of the main lift, that we were able to make first tracks on as well. They were awesome steep runs with great snow. It was quite a rush to be able to make so many first tracks on several different black diamond runs. The thing that disappointed me at Angel Fire is that the two high-speed quad lifts are no longer operating at high speed. When they first operated the Chile express, you would get you to the top of the mountain in nine minutes, and they advertised that a lot, and now it takes you thirteen minutes, which means it now takes more than twenty minutes to make a complete cycle on the front side where it used to take sixteen minutes. And it now takes six minutes to get to the top on the backside where it used to take four minutes. It went from seven minutes for a complete cycle to nine minutes. So much for high-speed advertising.

 

If you haven’t skied any of the black diamond runs at Angel Fire now is the time to get over there and enjoy what they have to offer while the snow is good. You won’t be disappointed by the runs or the snow conditions.

 

A friend of mine is thinking of getting some of their Belgian horses from out east and bringing them to Angel Fire and offering sleigh-rides for a price to Pod C for the skiers who would like a little rest and comfort along some nice atmosphere. I’m sure they’ll offer some hot-spiced cider or wine in the ride as well. Not a bad combination.

 

Taos has come a long way in the dining area as well. Never have I had so many good meals in the different restaurants as what they now offer. There are several new offerings in town, but I’ll only tell you about two of them.

 

And if it’s Mexican your taste buds are craving then you have to visit Antonio’s north of town in El Prado. It’s one of the newest restaurants in Taos, just seven months old, but already has gained a strong following with the locals and tourists. It’s really a Mexican restaurant but they also serve New Mexican so the locals can get their fix of Green or Red Chile. They have two soups which are truly delicious, but my favorite is their Sopa de Tortilla, heavy with stripped chicken and filled tortilla strips, cotija cheese, diced avocados and pasilla chile. A meal in itself. They have a large variety of enchiladas and Mexican plates, but I went for their special on the night, a marinated beefsteak and a shrimp enchilada smothered in green chile. It was served with black beans, rice and a selection of mixed vegetables. I wasn’t disappointed. I had an opportunity to try several of their wines, which were all excellent, but the Marques de Caceras Crianza Rioja 1998 is one of the most fragrant and delightful wines I’ve had recently. This Spanish wine won an award from The Wine Spectator Magazine, and rightly so. This is a moderately priced restaurant with great food and large plates with large portions covering them. Not one to miss, and it has a warm and cozy atmosphere.

 

If you’re a romantic and enjoy elegant fine dinning, you’ll have to visit  “momentitos de la Vida” restaurant located just south of Arroyo Seco on the Taos ski valley road (Hwy 150), 4.8 miles east from Hwy. 64. It used to be called Rancho Cordova when I last visited it in the seventies. The new Chef and owner, Chris Maher, has done an outstanding job remodeling and decorating the facility. The main dinning room is one of the most romantic places I’ve eaten in since dinning aboard the Shingala Dinning Car of Rovos Rail in South Africa during the late eighties. The lighting, décor, candles on the walls and tables and the warmth giving fireplace all add to a great ambience you don’t often experience. The food is just as wonderful an experience as the atmosphere. I started with a bowl of their puréed mixed mushroom soup, which had a delicate flavor that went well with the Alsace Riesling white wine. I had one of the chef’s specials that evening, which was a wild game selection, New Zealand Venison medallions with organic Peruvian Purple Potatoes on a bed of spinach leaves. There was no wild game taste, as a matter of fact; it was so delicious that a person who doesn’t like wild game would never know what they were eating unless they were told. It was some of the most delicious and tender meat I’ve ever eaten, and would put it on par with the very finest buffalo I’ve ever eaten. No steak can match those dishes. You could cut it with a fork and it would melt in your mouth. The white wine with the soup and the red merlot wines with the entrée were outstanding. Their selection of fine wines is extensive as is the knowledge of their wait staff Alex (a woman) and Willow who did an outstanding job as well. If you want to impress that special other person in your life or want to impress a business associate, this is the place that will show them you do have exceptional taste and knowledge. Check out their web site.

 

The dining in Taos is some of the best not only in New Mexico but also among the best in the United States. I would rate Momentitos De La Vida among the best top ten restaurants in the U.S.

 

 

Sagebrush Inn

1508 Paseo del Pueblo Sur

Taos, NM

888-449-8267

www.sagebrushinn.com

sagebrush@newmex.com

 

Antonio’s

1017 Paseo del Pueblo Norte

El Prado, NM 87529

758-9889

 

Momentitos De La Vida

Highway 150

Arroyo Seco, NM 87514

776-3333

www.vidarest.com

 

Angel Fire Ski Area

800-633-7463

 

 

Red River Ski Area

505-754-2223

 

Taos Ski Valley

505-776-2291

 

Word Count 1669

 

Author:

 

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

Note: You can get good photos of the Vida restaurant off their web site.


 

Ethnic Wisconsin

 

 

sink/wisc

For hundreds of years, Wisconsin has drawn a diversity of immigrants to its fertile lands. Some came to farm, others came to make fortunes in lumber, trading, industry and mining. The ethnic origin of the many peoples who settled this land is as strong today as they were hundreds of years ago. You can expe­rience this wonderful diversity by taking a short trip across southern Wisconsin. There you'll find the rich legacy  of the Austrians, Germans, Swiss, Finnish,  Swedish, Danish, Check Slovaks, French, English and many other settlers that gave Wisconsin its unique cultural diversity.

 

An excellent place to start your trip is just a little over an hour north of Milwaukee at Kohler, Wisc., which is just west of Sheboygan. In the 1800's, Sheboygan was the main entry point into Wisconsin. After the immigrants arrived in New York, they then traveled up a canal by boat or by train to Buf­falo, NY.  If they arrived in Buffalo in fall or winter, they would remain there until spring, when they could take a ship from Buffalo to Sheboygan. There, they would begin their inland journey to Wisconsin and America.

 

The Kohler family were farmers in Vorarlberg, Austria. When they came to America through Sheboygan, they moved to the Minneapolis St. Paul area and took up farming. There are still Kohler's in the area that are in the dairy business. John Michael Kohler relocated back to the Sheboygan area. He married into a well established family in Sheboygan that was in the steel and iron foundry business. He later bought out his father in law and expanded the business in Sheboygan in 1873. In 1899, when it grew to large for the area, and there was no room for growth in Sheboygan, he relocated the business five miles west into what is now known as the Village of Kohler, Wisc.

 

As his business grew, the stream of immigrant employees grew. He realized the male employees must have a decent place to live, so he conceived the American Club which housed single male employees. The building was dedicated in 1918 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.. It has been elegantly transformed into one of the Midwest's favorite and the nations finest hotels. It's the midwest's only AAA five diamond resort hotel on the national historic register.

 

The village of Kohler was the first planned garden community built in the United States. As you drive down the winding streets, you can see how the taste of the people changed in home design over the years.  The Olmsted Brothers who are well-known  for creating Central Park in New York and the Harvard Uni­versity campus laid out the village plan. There is also an excellent museum near the American Club which traces the development of the club, the Kohler business, the family and the village. The Kohler Design Center is located in the same building. You'll also want to visit the Waelderhaus, which is a re­production of the Kohler home, a Bregenzerwald style of architecture from the Vorarlberg province.

 

From Kohler you can visit the town of Plymouth which is less than ten minutes west and has over forty unique and historic buildings. You shouldn't miss 52 Stafford St., a hotel which is also on the National Register of Historic Places. It's an Irish Guest House built in the Queen Anne style in 1892. A brochure and tour map are available from the Plymouth Historical Society. A few minutes west of Plymouth in the town of Greenbush is the Wade House and Wesley Jung Carriage Museum. The Wade House is a 1850's stagecoach inn built by Sylvanus and Betsey Wade for travelers along the Sheboygan and Fond du Lac plank road. The site also includes a blacksmith shop, a smoke house, a mill site ruins, the Robinson House and the carriage museum which features more than 100 hand and horse drawn vehicles. The re­stored inn represents the architectural influence of Wade's Yankee background transplanted on the Wis­consin frontier.

 

A few  minutes south of Kohler in Sheboygan Falls, is the headquarters of W.E.S.T., Wisconsin Ethnic Settlement Trails. They are in the process of publishing a booklet on tours, sites and cities to visit in Wis­consin. It should be available by the time you read this. They have designed tours to enable you to see the best sites on German areas, Polish areas, etc. They also publish a quarterly newsletter on ethnic and his­toric areas in the state. Their main function is preserve and restore ethnic areas and buildings in the state. Next door to them is the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center. They have some interesting arti­facts on display, but are mainly there to help you trace any relatives that may have lived in or passed through the county to other parts of the state. Both of these buildings are located in the Cole Historic Dis­trict as are several other buildings. They were all built by the Cole brothers between 1837 and 1848, and are listed in the NROHP. Allow yourself a couple of days to see the things in the Kohler area.

 

From Kohler you should head to Waukesha which is the most convenient place to stay when visiting Old World Wisconsin. You may want to get off the interstate to visit the towns of Cedarburg, Germantown and Freistadt which have some excellent German style buildings. Freistadt has the honor of being the site of the first settlement for Wisconsin's largest ethnic group, the Pomeranian Germans. Tour guides and maps are available from the Cedarburg Cultural Center. From Waukesha head west on Hwy. 18 to Dousman, a name you'll hear more of  later on. From there head south on Hwy. 67 to Eagle. The site is just a few miles outside of town.

 

Old World Wisconsin is a outdoor museum of immigrant farm and village life. There are over 50 actual buildings constructed by 19th century immigrants and settlers who tamed the Wisconsin frontier. They were gathered from all over the state and reassembled on over 570 acres of rolling and wooded land in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The log houses, barns, farm buildings, schools, meeting halls, businesses and churches are arranged and furnished to interpret the lifestyles and the ethnic and cultural traditions of people from many countries who came to the state. Interpreters, in period ethnic dress are at each build­ing to explain what your seeing and to discuss what life was like for the people from that structure.  De­pending on the time of year your there, you'll be able to see demonstrations on planting and harvesting of the different crops. You'll also see the women doing their different chores and cooking their traditional dishes, and if your lucky, get a taste. There are German, Polish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Yankee structures along with a 1870's village area on the site. Allow yourself a full day to see the site.

 

From Waukesha, head west on Hwy. 18 past Madison; at Verona head south on Hwy. 69 to New Glarus. The first Swiss settlers established the town in 1845. There is a hotel and restaurant which was built in 1853. You'll find many examples of Swiss style homes and businesses in the town.  There is also a Swiss historic village and museum just west of the center of town. They also have cheese making demonstra­tions during the year, check with the museum for dates and times. A tour guide and a schedule of events is available from the chamber of commerce.

 

From New Glarus head west on Hwy. 39 to Mineral Point your next stop of ethnic Wisconsin.  Welsh and Cornish miners settled in the area shortly after 1827 when lead was discovered in the area. Their homes are small as you'll notice when you pass through the low doorways; they were a small people. You'll want to visit Shake Rag Under the Hill, which has many unique buildings which were used for the making of arts and crafts by the early miners. It contains a log cabin which is believed to be the oldest surviving structure in Mineral Point, being built around 1828. It was lived in until 1958. There are also many inter­esting buildings and shops on the main street of the town.

 

Continue west on Hwy. 39 to Hwy. 18, then go west on 18 to Prairie du Chien.  It is the second oldest city in Wisconsin. The French and the British both controlled the area at one time or another and several battles were fought there in the War of 1812. The Fort Crawford Medical Museum is located here as is an old military cemetery, the Brisbois House and the Astor Fur Trading Museum.  The jewel of the city is Villa Louis, a opulently furnished Victorian country estate. When Hercules Dousman, of German parent­age came to Prairie du Chien in 1826, it was nothing more than a frontier trading hamlet. and a strategic military site. In less than 50 years after his arrival, Dousman's descents would be living in the luxury of a genteel Victorian mansion on the Mississippi River.

 

There are many other interesting ethnic areas throughout the state. It would be best to contact the State Historical Society  or W.E.S.T. to find out what areas you should visit that relate to your ethnic heritage.

 

Word Count 1556

 

 

Author

 

JERRY SINKOVEC

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

 

 


The Mysterious Matachine

 

 

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

For nearly three hundred years, the Matachine dancers of New Mexico have performed their ritual dances in honor of the various saints feast days. No one knows for sure how or where the dances started. The origins have been lost in the mist of time, as have their meaning. There are several theories as to their origin, and some of these will be discussed. In New Mexico, both the Hispanic people and the Pueblo Indians dance the Matachine. There are a few other areas where the Matachine is performed. The Yaqui Indians in Arizona and the Tarahumara in Mexico are some of the other tribes that perform the dance, but no Hispanic groups outside of New Mexico do the dance.

 

The name Matachine is an enigma, and has added to the confusion of the origin of the dances. For some time it was thought it had come from an Arabic word Mudawajjihin, which can mean "those who put on a face" or "those who face each other." Either meaning is

applicable to the Matachines of New Mexico.

 

One theory on the origin of the Matachines dance is that it was the Morisca dance brought to Spain by the Moors during their occupation from the eighth through the fifteenth century. In Paul Nettl's, "Musica En La Danza", Moriscas are described as sword dances found everywhere in Europe where the tradition of the historic struggle between the Saracens and the Christians existed. During the Middle Ages the Matachini of Spain, Matacinio of Italy and Mattachins of France performed similar dances. The dance was also performed in Austria. They were masked buffoons dressed in motley garments, colored ribbons on their shoulders and bells on their legs. They wore a gilded morion on their head. In their left hand they held a buckler to protect their heart and in their right a sword. They enacted battle mimes doing capers and making passes at each other with swords. They were first mentioned in Thoinot Arbeau's "Orchesography Lengres", published in 1588. Some think the Palma used by the Matachines has replaced the buckler and the gourd rattle the sword.

 

Captain Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, the diarist for Cortez, wrote in 1568, "The True History of the Conquest of Mexico". In it he wrote, "One part of the city (Mexico City) was entirely occupied by Montezuma's dancers, of different kinds, some of whom bore a stick on their feet, others flew in the air, and some danced like those in Italy called by us Matachines." If this is a true account, and Diaz was familiar with the Matachine dances, then the theory of the dances coming from Spain to Mexico would be incorrect because the Aztecs were already dancing the Matachines at the time of Cortez's encounter. This would lend credence to the Taos theory. It was a story told by an old Taos Indian. He says that his people learned the dance from Montezuma when he flew up to their pueblo on a eagle, and that they have danced the Matachine for 400 years. It is known that runners did travel from Mexico to the area that is now New Mexico, and that they did wear eagle feathers on their arm to indicate they were official messengers of Montezuma, and were not to be harmed. It could be that hundreds of years of oral history have changed eagle feathered messengers of Montezuma to Montezuma arriving on an eagle. The Taos Pueblo has only one masked dance, and that is the Matachine.

 

It is generally thought the Matachine dances were brought to Mexico by the Spanish, and then to what is now New Mexico by Onate an his colonists in 1595. There are some that believe the Catholic priests used the Matachine dances to teach the Indians the power of good over evil. But there is nothing in the records to document this theory. Frank Waters

writes about the Matachines in his book "Masked Gods", "It is really an adaptation of the old Los Moros y Los Cristianos or morismas introduced into Mexico by the Spaniards, and first danced at the San Juan Pueblo in 1598 by Onate and his men." The Moros y Cristianos is a mock battle between the Moors and the Christians, or good over evil. The only relationship to the Matachine dances is the basic moral of good over evil.

 

On August 10th, 1680 the feast of San Lorenzo, the northern Indian pueblos revolted against the Spanish, killing 21 Friars in the missions and all the people of the Sandia Pueblo area, except those in the village of Bernalillo. They were saved by the militia of the Isleta alcalde. The Spanish that weren't killed,and some of the Indians not involved in the revolt fled to the area of what is now called El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. They

remained there for thirteen years. During that time the Spanish, and Indians that fled with them lived in harmony among other Mexican Indian tribes in the area. The Spanish

and various Indian tribes each lived in there own little villages, but because of

the closeness of the villages its believed there was a great deal of interchange in different customs. Its possible that during this period of interchange, the Spanish and New Mexican Indians in the Juarez area learned the Matachine from the Mexican Indians. In all the written records prior to the revolt, there is no mention of the Matachine being danced by the Spanish or Pueblo Indians in the New Mexico area. The Moros y Los Cristianos dance at the San Juan Pueblo mentioned earlier, would not be considered a Matachine dance since it was more than likely preformed on horseback as was the custom. It is only after the return of the Spanish to the areas which they left in 1680 do we find mention of the Matachine dance.

 

It is in 1693, when Governor Vargas went north to reclaim the lands lost during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 that the first mention of the Matachine being danced was made. The people of Bernalillo, a small hispanic village north of present day Albuquerque, were spared during the revolt. All the people escaped without injury, while all around them villages and estancias were destroyed and people killed. On their return to Bernalillo, the villagers made a vow to celebrate their good fortune. They decided to perform the Matachine dance in honor of San Lorenzo. On August 10th, 1693 the people of Bernalillo first performed the Matachine dance in honor of their saint, and have performed it every year since. The Fiesta De San Lorenzo is celebrated every August 9th, 10th, and 11th regardless of the days of the week in which they fall.

 

It is sad, a dance so important to the people that it is a part of their very fabric, has never been documented or recorded by a historian or the church in 300 years. It's origins becoming clouded by centuries of every day living.

 

The dances have a strong religious and social function, and are a binding force in the community. The people who do the dances make a vow or promise to perform for so many years. They might make the vow in hope that someone in the family who is ill will get

well, or they may wish to make the sacrifice in time to be a Matachine. In Bernalillo, there are activities through out the year which are involved with the Matachines, so it is a time consuming endeavor which culminates in the three day Feast of San Lorenzo. Some of the dancers in Bernalillo have done them for 25 years, and some families are in the third or fourth generation of Matachine dancers. Most often a person will promise to dance for three or five years. In Bernalillo, there is a waiting list of people who would like to become Matachines, but must wait for an opening. It is considered an honor to be accepted as a Matachine dancer. In the Tortugas (Native American Pueblo) Matachine, some of the people have moved away to California and Arizona, but return every year in December to dance the three days for the

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 10th, 11th and 12th. On the last day of the feast, three hundred and fifty pounds of meat balls along with beans and chili and a variety of drinks and deserts is served first to the Danzantes and then to the hundreds of pueblo people and spectators who are there for the event. It is a time when friendships are renewed and the community grows closer together.

 

The dancers do not consider what they do entertainment, as might some of the spectators, but a way to honor their saint, a sacrifice they make to their saint, and pay them respect. They show great devotion during the events which finds its way into the crowds of people attending the dances. The one exception to this would be the El Rancho Matachines who perform on New Years Day. Their performances have a carnival atmosphere, with the spectators becoming involved with the show, to the delight of everyone. They are very dedicated in what they do, and it shows not only by the quality workmanship and the

ornately embellished costumes they wear, which are made by the dancers wives, but by the

intensity of their dancing. The Hispanic communities that perform the Matachine are; Bernalillo, Alcalde, El Rancho, Aroyo Seco and San Antonio, and the pueblos that have performances are Tortugas, Picuris, Taos, Santa Clara, San Juan, San Ildefonso, and Jemez. The Jemez actually has two versions, one Hispanic, and the other Indian. Although they are all Matachines, their music and the feeling and intensity with which they play, along with their instruments vary from group to group, as does their traditional dress and dances. Even the cast of characters is different in some groups, some are omitted in one group while other characters multiply in others. Alcalde, which is within walking distance of the San Juan Pueblo, also performs the Los Moros y Los Cristianos following their Matachine dances. It is now called Los Comancheros and is a battle enactment fought on horseback, with the Spanish fighting the Comancheros (someone who is half Spanish/half Comanche).  The drama lasts about a half a hour and entails charges on horse back against the other group with verbal challanges and skirmishes.

 

The story told in some of the dances, is the power of good overcoming evil. Of Christianity over paganism. La Malinche, the daughter of Montezuma and first Christian convert in Mexico, and the mistress and interpreter of Cortez, tries to convert her people and Montezuma to Christianity. In time, she is triumphant.  In the dance drama, El Toro, representing evil, tries to reach Malinche, but is thwarted by the Matachines and the Abuelo.  El Toro is symbolically defeated and then castrated by the Abuelo, with the

gonads being offered to a woman in the audience.

 

The cast is comprised of EL MONARCA: the king, it is usually portrayed as Montezuma accepting Christianity. It is sometimes played by the oldest member of the dance group, or by the actual leader of the group as is the case of the Tortugas Matachines who dress in red. LOS CAPITANES: the captains, there is usually one at each end of the two files of dancers. They are dressed very similar to El Monarca, and in some cases wear fancy pillowcase leggings on the lower part of the leg trimmed with a variety of lace as do the Bernalillo Matachines. This helps an out of step dancer find the captain and get back into step quickly. LOS MATACHINES: the dancers, ten or twelve men, or in some cases women,

who make up the two files of dancers that protect La Malinche. They are also dressed similar to El Monarca.

 

LA MALINCHE: the princess, played by a little girl usually from age 5 to 12. In two of the Tortugas groups, you may find four or five little girls dancing the La Malinche part at the same time. EL ABUELO, the grandfather/grandmother, or clown. He is the equivalent of the Hopi Koshare. He helps keep the dancers organized and in step. He also tries to scare the children when they get out of line and harasses other people in the audience in

addition to making them laugh, sometimes at their own expense. EL TORO, the bull, usually played by a young boy. He has an ongoing fight with the Abuelo, but is finally defeated.

 

El Monarca, Los Capitanes and Los Matachines are basically dressed the same. The headpiece of El Monarca is a crown with a small cross at the top. In Bernalillo, the crown is made up of red flowers. At the base and back of the crown are attached a multitude of different colored ribbons which can reach as far as the knee. Most often, the front of the crown will have black fringe hanging from the base which covers the eyes. Beneath that, a brightly colored silk scarf covers the lower part of the face. Attached at the shoulders is a silk cape which flows to below the waist. Some are hand decorated with embroidery while others may have the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back. The left hand holds a three pronged palma which is ornately painted in most cases. The right hand holds either a gourd or metal rattle wrapped in a scarf. The clothing worn beneath the Matachine dress varies from group to group and depends on the time of year the dance takes place. The main difference in El Monarca and the Los Capitanes and Matachines dress is in the headdress. The latter two have the same headdress. It resembles a bishops miter, coming

to a point at the top. It has all the multi-colored ribbons coming from the top of the piece. The front has either a picture of a saint as is the case in Bernalillo, or it is hand decorated with silver and turquoise, small pieces of mirror, colored glass, jewels, pearls and other items of interest. The headdress is usually made by the family of the person that wears it, and its handed down to the next generation of dancers as the older person retires from the group.

 

La Malinche is dressed in white from head to toe. It is usually in the form of a communion dress with a veil. The exception is in the Tortugas Matachines where the little girls dress in red like the rest of the group, except for a white veil.

 

El Abuelo differs so much from group to group, one never knows what to expect. Some use store bought masks, others make their mask from old carpet, leather or whatever suits them. They usually wear garage coveralls aside from their mask. They carry a whip which they use to fight the bull and harass the crowd. Some Abuelos will be men dressed up as

old women as at the Picirus Pueblo. They happen to be some of the funniest.

 

El Toro usually has one or two sticks in his hands which represent the bulls front legs. Most often he'll wear a football helmet with small bull horns attached. A calf hide is attached to the top of the helmet and drapes over the child's back. The helmet prevents any head injury since he is always trying to attack the Abuelo. In some Indian Matachine groups there is no El Toro. At Picuris, one of the pueblo elders plays the part of the

bull.

 

In Tortugas, there are four Matachine dance groups and they each dress differently. Two of them prefer to be called Danzantes, (dancers) rather than Matachines. I was given no reason for this, but they felt strongly about it. One of these groups dresses very much like the description given above. Another dresses in what looks like Indian buckskin. The

women have multi-colored ribbons coming out from the back of their headbands. The men wear no headdress, and neither of them wear anything to cover their face. The Tortugas Indians that dress in red is a group that was founded in 1924 by Juan Pacheco, and now has three generations of Pacheco's dancing on feast days. He was from the Chichimeca tribe in Mexico where they performed the Matachine dances before he moved to New Mexico. He brought with him the traditional dress for the Matachine which is vibrantly different from any of the other groups. All the members of the group dress in vivid red with capes and aprons with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe flowing from their shoulders and waist.

 

The dancers wear bright colored traditional Indian feathered bonnets, but no face covering. Los Capitanes headdress is much more ornate. It is made from brightly

colored peacock feathers, and is twice the size of the other dancers. It resembles the traditional Aztec headdress of years ago. They also wear a silk scarf across their lower face with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The dancers all hold a gourd rattle in their right hand and their left holds a red bow and arrow.

 

For the majority of the dances the bow and arrow is used as a noise maker to keep the dancers in step. In one dance it is used symbolically to kill the evil one. This is the largest of the Matachine groups, they have over fifty  dancers performing at one time. It's truly a colorful spectacle. The fourth group is a splinter group that broke away from the Tortugas Matachines that is led by Leonardo Pacheco, the son of Juan. Their dress and

dances are very similar except they dress in bright yellow garb. There is no El Toro in any of the four dance groups in Tortugas.

 

The music is played by a violin and a guitar in most cases. In Bernalillo there are five or six violinists and guitarists. In Tortugas it is a violin and a drum. The music is lyrical, but has a repetitious meter. Both a duple and triple meter are used. The

melody has a narrow compass of not more than an octave. The different pieces are only four to eight measures long, and occasionally twelve.

 

The performances consist of six to twelve dances, depending on the group and the feast day. The following nine are the most often performed: " Marcha," entrance of the cast; "Cruzada,"  joyful aspect of the dance. "Cambiada," first indication of trouble, and

La Monarca leading his people; "Cuadrille de la Malinche," Malinche's mediation between Cortez and her people and the betrayal of her father, Montezume, in favor of Cortes; "Toreada del Toro," the fighting of the bull or the struggle of Christianity over paganism; "Cruzada," celebrating the conquest; "La Tendida," rejoicing; "Bailada de las

promesas," another joyful aspect of the dance; "Marche de La Malinche," triumphant march of Malinche after having accomplished her mission.

 

The dance steps are unlike any Indian movements, except for some of the dances performed by the Tortugas. Most of the dances have simple steps with skips, kicks, turns, and small steps to the side. Some have polka like movements with small hops, and in some dances there is bowing and kneeling. There is a lot of emphasis put on the foot work which is

very repetitive. The dance group is composed of two parallel lines of five to six

dancers. They generally face the direction to where the musicians are seated or each other. La Monarca and La Malinche dance either at the head of the group or between the two files of dancers. At times they will weave in and out between the dancers. The Abuelo

sometimes sets the step for the dancers and quite often dances beside La Malinche. He also dances, clowns, and fights the bull on the perimeter, along with interacting with the crowd. The dance is a kaleidoscope of moving color and forms which excites the eye and soothes the soul.

 

Jim Wright at the University of New Mexico wrote, "The origin of the Matachines in New Mexico may never be found, and their are many who question the need to find it. Whether or not the dance comes from Spain, through the Moorish influence, from Mexico through Catholic priests, or from the Aztec Indian culture, it serves a definite need (whether

religious or social) for both the Hispanic and Indian cultures and provides an excellent opportunity for the amalgamation of cultures while still maintaining their own identity. Polygenesis, migration and amalgamation must all be valid considerations in the search for

the origin of the Matachines in New Mexico."

 

It is true we may never know the origin of the Matachine, since here was no written history of the dance in New Mexico, but that does not detract from the passion, devotion and colorful images one experiences when observing the Matachines. Unless some new

information can be found which can prove one of the theories, they shall remain the

Mysterious Matachine.

 

3544  word count

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Ammon, ID 83401

208-523-1545

photojournalistjerry@msn.com

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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