A perfect autumn picnic in Santa Fe

Douglas Merriam
Robust sun, falling leaves, and down-home food

A particular alchemy transforms Santa Fe, involving the robust sun, the piñon smoke, and the tang of falling leaves.

It's a compelling invitation to picnic. The garden at Stone Forest, a shop renowned for modern and Japanese-inspired outdoor fountains and sculpture, is the perfect setting, and it encourages visitors.

From the Santa Fe Plaza, you can walk or bike the mile to Stone Forest, a basket of barbecued chicken, coleslaw, and beans from Cowgirl Pickup in tow.

Behind high adobe walls, gentle sounds of the garden's stone fountains cancel road noise from Saint Francis Drive. Choose a granite bench that marries the polished and the rough, perch on a bridge, or spread a blanket next to a Japanese stone lantern. Then enjoy a picnic that trades bugs and cold salad for a cozy sweater and great down-home food.

INFO: Stone Forest (213 S. Saint Francis Dr.; www.stoneforest.com or 505/986-8883); Cowgirl Pickup (picnics for 2 start at $12; 319 S. Guadalupe St.; 505/988-4227)

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