Posted by: bunnyterry | January 11, 2011

Salt Mission Trail and Mountainair

Gran Quivera ruins

Here’s another fortune I wrote for a party this past weekend.  Hope you enjoy it.  What I really hope is that you’ll get on the road and discover how much there is to see and do in New Mexico.  (Do I sound like the Tourism Department?  I swear I’m just someone really happy to be living here. . .)

For good fortune in 2011, take a trip down the Salt Mission Trail and spend the night in Mountainair, NM, reminding yourself as you go that beauty and surprise lie around every corner when you keep your eyes open. If you start in Tijeras, stop at the Ranger’s station and explore the 80 room indian ruin behind the building, but do this only after you’ve stopped off at Molly’s and had a beer with the bearded lady.

Pop Shaffer and his kitchy cement fence

If you travel to Mountainair from the east, stop off at the Willard Cantina for the one of the best green chile cheeseburgers in the state.  ( There’s no bearded lady at the Willard Cantina, but you can probably find an equally interesting character with a couple of unbelievable stories. 

Call ahead and reserve a room at the Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair, where you’ll stay in a room over the cafe with the Art Deco/pueblo ceiling painted by the Shaffer family in the 30’s. Admire Pop Shaffer’s amazingly kitchy cement wall complete with his own rendition of gargoyles and goofy figures.


After dinner in the Shaffer Cafe, walk down the street and have a drink at the Rosebud Saloon, stopping along the way to admire the funky and eclectic artwork and antiques in the shop windows. Mountainair was once the Pinto Bean Capital of New Mexico  – promise you’ll have yourself a bean and green chile breakfast burrito before striking out for Gran Quivera and Quarai in the morning.

Quarai interior

Treat yourself to a day of wandering the Salt Mission Trail, starting with the ruins at Quarai. Marvel at the workmanship of the church, constructed in 1300 AD by native workers overseen by Franciscan priests. Walk quietly in the midst of the 40 foot tall, 5 feet thick walls and then walk further, over the little bridge over the creek.  Remember that your own history is important, and that someday someone will sift through what was your’s, marveling at your artifacts and stories.   




After Quarai, head back south past Mountainair and go to the ruins at Gran Quivera, where you’ll be amazed by the size and condition of the structures still standing. Think about faith, the crazy faith that those Franciscans had to have to come to such a strange, frightening and desolate land.  Think about power, and whether using power and fear is ever the best answer. Think about beauty and the fact that in the most austere of conditions, beauty can exist and thrive. 

Head up the road toward Tijeras and stop off at the Ponderosa for a steak and cold beer. Sit near the wood stove if it’s winter, or on the deck if it’s summer. Relax and remember you pilgrimage among the ancients. Toast your new discovery of unexpected beauty. Remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Though we travel the world over to find beauty, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”



  1. love the Willard Cantina…more adventures in NM!

  2. I am all in…..great stuff.

  3. unbelieveable! You do have the eye and the words to make New Mexico the place to love love your blog!

  4. This tour you recommend has long been one of my favorite things to when I bring my kids from Houston, TX. A real hidden gem….the reason I never tell anyone about it!

    Great story. However a technical/typo correction:

    “Marvel at the workmanship of the church, constructed in 1300 AD by native workers overseen by Franciscan priests.”


    In 1492,
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
    He slid down the mast,
    And busted is A$$,
    In 1492.

    According to the poem, the Franciscans couldn’t have been there in 1300.

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