Excursions: Las Vegas

To invoke an overused phrase, I love to travel. Periodically I need to get out and explore new places, not only for the novelty of the unfamiliar, but also to reevaluate my domestic routines. For one of my more recent excursions, I ventured to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, New Mexico, that is, not the one in Nevada.

Located about 65 miles east of Santa Fe, Las Vegas is a small town with a population of about 14,000. Founded in 1835, Las Vegas was an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail. During its heyday in the railroad era of the late 19th century, it was one of the biggest towns in the Southwest, and had all the modern amenities one could desire, including an opera house and an electric street railway. It also attracted more than its fair share of legendary outlaws and other Old West characters, including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and others. On a more academic note, it is also the site of New Mexico Highlands University, where Elmer Schooley used to teach. Today, Las Vegas is a quaint town that has retained its Western flair, making it a popular area for filming. Movies such as Easy Rider, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and many others have been filmed here, whether in their entirety or in part. There are also some hot springs around that are open to the public, but I didn't have time to check those out.

Las Vegas is distinguished for its downtown plaza, which retains many of its 19th-century buildings:

I stayed in the historic Plaza Hotel, which was constructed in 1881 and is one of the more prominent buildings on the plaza. Apparently it was the site of the first Rough Rider reunion, which occurred in 1899.

Las Vegas is replete with great architecture. I had a grand time walking around and looking at the buildings.

Carnegie Library, 1904, the only surviving one still in use as a library in New Mexico.

There are also plenty of antique shops, where you can find oddities such as these two:

Yep, those are taxidermied frogs playing music.

In addition to walking around the town itself, I also visited a wildlife refuge. The birds by this time had already migrated, but it was still nice to get out and see some different scenery.

There used to be a body of water in the center, but it's evaporated.

And of course, I sketched. I'd forgotten my paintbrush again, so I alternated between fingerpainting and using colored pencils.

Rocky precipice out at the wildlife refuge.

Abandoned dock by the evaporated lake.

Great detail on a Richardsonian Romanesque building.

Out at the wildlife refuge. The branch looked like it was leaning over the fence and waving at me.

All in all, it was a quiet trip filled with walking, sketching, and reflecting, but I had a delightful time, and would recommend Las Vegas to anyone looking for a quaint weekend getaway.