Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - Turquoise Trail

September 13, 1999

The Clearing Storm 

A thunderstorm passed over us as we drove north from Albuquerque on the storied Turquoise Trail. Clouds were so low they blocked the countryside. As suddenly as it came, it went. Here, the sun re-appears as the storm moves on.
From the earliest days, turquoise was important to the Indians of New Mexico. It was a medium of exchange among the Ancient Ones. The Apache believed it helped warriors and hunters to aim accurately. The Zuni believed that it protected them from demons. For the Navajos, turquoise was a symbol of hope and peace.

The Turquoise Trail

New Mexico highway 14, which runs through the eastern foothills of the Sandia Mountains, is the back country scenic route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It is named for the turquoise for which New Mexican jewelry is famous and which has been mined for centuries at Los Cerrillos, one of the towns along the way. Cedar Crest and Tijeras have developed in recent years as skiing has become popular in the Sandias.

Madrid is a former coal mining town that shut down after World War II. By the 1950s, it had become a ghost town. One report says. "The whole town was advertised for sale, but no one bought it." In the 1970s' artists and artisans began converting the original buildings into studios and shops. Today, Madrid is a small art colony, a tourist stop and wide spot on the Turquoise Trail.

  San Francisco Catholic Church and Cemetery, Golden, New Mexico

In 1880, the gold mining town of Golden, New Mexico had grown to the point that it got its own post office. By 1928, the mines had run out, Golden had almost disappeared and the post office was closed. 

The church was constructed in the early 1830's. A few buildings are still standing today, and one report says the post office has been reinstated, although I did not see it on September 13, 1999, and as of July 2005 the USPS does have a listing for one there.

Photographer Unknown
No Pity Cafe
Madrid, New Mexico

Madrid was once known around the world for its Christmas decorations and festivities. At one time it had 50,000 Christmas lights and an illuminated "City of Jerusalem." Cross country airlines rerouted their flights over the town at night. And sometimes traffic backed up over 25 miles to the state highway (now Interstate 25) as people drove to Madrid to see the displays.

We had lunch here at the No Pity Cafe because I could not resist the restaurant's name.


September 13, 1999
  Rest Rooms in Madrid

After lunch at the Ghost Town Kitchen, we asked about rest rooms. They said they had none but they had an arrangement with the Madrid Company Store across the road. Brian found them.

I bought a hat at Maya Jones. The owner told me she got started by importing clothing from Guatemala. She has obviously expanded her supply source. My hat came from Bali, Indonesia.

September 13, 1999

The Church in Cerrillos

Twenty three miles south of Santa Fe, on a dirt road a few minutes from highway 14, is the tiny town of Los Cerrillos ("little hills"). Turquoise is still mined there today, as it was in the days of the ancient Anasazi. At its peak, Los Cerrillos allegedly had 21 saloons and 4 hotels. 


September 13, 1999

September 13, 1999

 Email: Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten