Grants, New Mexico
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Surrounded by mountains and located in Cibola County, Grants, New Mexico is the perfect place to unpack the camping gear or raise a family. Grants was named after 3 brothers: Angus, Lewis, and John Grant, who were contracted to build a railroad through this portion of New Mexico. First called “Grant’s Camp”, then “Grant’s Station” (which is now a local restaurant); it finally became known simply as “Grants”. The heart of American Indian country, Grants is about 70 miles west of Albuquerque and 80 miles east of the New Mexico/Arizona border. As of July 2002, Grants had a population of 8,921 residents and growing. Once a small farming community until 1950 when a Navajo rancher discovered uranium on Haystack Mountain, this town has now become a growing tourist destination.
For those like me who enjoy mild and dry weather, Grants is perfect. While I enjoy snow, especially around Christmas, it is a real treat to enjoy the beauty of snow one day and then throw on shorts and a tee-shirt the next day. The average summer high and low is 80/50. The average winter high and low is 40/10. During the winter months, it is not uncommon to see one group of people playing a round of golf at the Coyote del Malpais Golf Course located at the foot of Mt. Taylor, while another group are surrounded by snow high on the mountain itself.
One of the first things you will notice in Grants is the majestic mountains. Rising 11,
3001 feet, Mt. Taylor displays scattered rows of gorgeous Ponderosa Pine trees. Blazing a trail through these Pines one can find beautiful nature trails, delightful picnic spots, and scenic vistas which make you feel as if you have stepped right into a mythical painting. I have spent many a day loosing myself in nature in those mountains only to find myself going back the next day for another area to explore. Mt. Taylor stays occupied all year round with hikers, bike riders, skiers, and those inclined towards snowshoeing. One of the biggest events that Mt. Taylor boasts is the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon. Occurring annually on the Saturday of President’s Day Weekend, this event includes a 43 Kilometer bike ride, a 3.5 Kilometer snowshoe trek, an 8 Kilometer cross-country skiing leg, and a 17.5 Kilometer run.
While the mountains may be beautiful and innocent during the day, they take on a whole other personality during the evening.
At night, these mountains become alive with the sounds of the animals and the laughter of teenagers. Driving along “homemade” roads throughout the mountains, teenagers can be seen around bonfires living life to its fullest. However, because these areas are often out of the way and considered an inconvenience to travel by local law enforcement, the rules around the fire are made by those surrounding it. While at the time it seems like innocent fun, driving home along the twisted roads can prove perilous to those who have a few drinks too many. Any victims of these roads are now at the mercy of time itself, in hope that an ambulance crew can get to them soon enough.
Besides the dynamic scenery, Grants holds an intricately woven heritage shown in the pride of the Pueblo people. The Pueblos are not a particular tribe; rather, they are an Indian culture all on their own. They are distinguished primarily by their enchanting art, jewelry, carvings, weavings, pottery, and drums. There are two Pueblos located near Grants, each having an independent government with its own social order and religious practices. Pueblo Indians can be traced back to the 12th century Anasazi Indians, or “Ancient Ones”. It is hard to be in Grants and not pick up on this rich and mysterious heritage, harder yet not to visit one of their shops for a trinket or two to treasure later. If you choose to visit the “Chaco Culture National Historic Park”, you will be privileged to explore the archeological ruins of the Anasazi Indians. One of the best field trips that I ever remember taking was here. We visited both the underground ceremonial kivas as well as the communal living quarters. I have yet to find pottery that can match in beauty and detail as that which I had seen there.
After shopping some of the specialty shops around Grants, there are around 42 restaurants in Grants to choose from. For anyone liking authentic Mexican food, I would highly recommend a little family-owned business named “Jaramillo’s”. Everyone here dresses casual with friendly attitudes but the food is anything but ordinary. The sopapillas there literally melt in your mouth and the real green or red chili that they put in their burritos make them the most delicious burritos on earth. Years later, during the pregnancy of each of my children, those burritos and sopapillas were the one food that I craved the most often, often leading me to call my father who resides in Grants and beg him to send a “care package”. For the older generations, “Grants Station” is a favorite among early morning coffee-seekers where they can discuss current events and harass the waitresses, all in fun, of course. I spent some time working here as a hostess and still remember names and faces of the regulars, as well as the common banter between us. It was always the same, usually starting with something along the lines of, “if my wife weren’t so mean…”, and going on from there. Another place in town where there seems to be a certain amount of regulars would be “Grants Restaurant” where the juke-box seems to always be playing the current as well as ancient country music and a handful of people can be found in the back room shooting pool and drinking.
While Grants is continually growing, it still has some small town traditions such as “cruising”. Every night, but especially on Friday and Saturday, you can see the
procession of cars going up the 1st street one-way and back down the 2nd street one-way. Along this trek cars can be seen pulling into some of the local store parking lots as well as the eateries. One of the most common is “Sonic”, a place where vehicles can pull into their designated spots, order their food from an intercom, and talk to other vehicles also waiting until the waitress brings out their order. With around 30 spots to pull into and order, Sonic stays pretty busy until closing. This is also where you will see many of the teenagers jumping out of their cars only to jump into another vehicle before taking off to cruise once more. Living there as a teenager I have to admit that at the time it did provide a lot of entertainment.
A more recent attraction in Grants is the “Dinamation’s Dinosaur Discovery Museum”. This hands-on learning center is equipped with moving robotic reconstructions of dinosaurs, displays of cast dinosaur skeletons, dinosaur sculptures and artwork, and interactive exhibits. This museum focuses on dinosaur excavations done around the world giving visitors a real feel to the life and work of paleontology. For those without a science mind for dinosaurs, Grants also offers the “New Mexico Museum of Mining”. This is the only underground uranium mining museum in the world. Visitors are able to travel through “Section 26” and see, touch, hear, and explore the mine through a self-guided tour. During this tour you will descend into a mine shaft and learn how workers, materials, and mine ore leave and enter the mine. You also are able to learn about the day-to-day operations that keep the mining process running smoothly. Other interesting things in the museum are the ancient Indian artifacts and the geology exhibits.
Rich in heritage and history, Grants, New Mexico is an awesome place to visit or live. No matter what time of year, Grants has plenty to offer anyone of all ages and interests.