Raspberry romp

Pick berries and pet alpacas on a day's loop drive from Santa Fe

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Raspberry romp

Fill your own basket (or buy one) with plump, vine-ripe raspberries, then picnic near the old flour mill near the fields at historic Salman Ranch.

Douglas Merriam

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If summer has a taste, it's locked deep inside a fat, juicy red raspberry, plucked straight off the vine. And every year, Salman Ranch, said to be northern New Mexico's one and only U-pick berry farm, welcomes help with harvesting its 5 acres. Late summer is the best time to spend a morning filling a bucket in the green fields flanked by a mesa on one side and an 1863 hacienda on the other.

Head out early from Santa Fe and stop for a coffee and vegetarian picnic items in downtown Las Vegas at Second Tome Around used bookstore and cafe (131 Bridge St.; 505/454-8511).

Continue 25 miles north for berry picking at Salman Ranch; wear long sleeves and pants, plus sunscreen and insect repellent. Picnic next to the hacienda's historic acequia (irrigation ditch) and old flour mill ― former supplier to Fort Union, a garrison on the Santa Fe Trail ― or in the flower-filled, high-walled gardens, once corrals designed to house teams of horses and mules. Salman Ranch Cafe (closed Mon) specializes in homemade tamales if you don't want to picnic. On your way out, stop at the ranch store for fresh produce and Salman's homemade preserves, raspberry vinegar, and our favorite: chocolate-filled raspberry cremes.

Take your time and make your trip a loop drive by heading back to Santa Fe on a scenic section of State 518 toward Taos. At Mora, a short detour brings you to Victory Alpaca Ranch (10-4 daily; $3 to feed alpacas, $2 ages 12 and under; mile marker 1 on State 434; 505/387-2254), where 200 alpacas roam. Feed and pet these furry South American animals, try spinning wool and weaving, or take home hand-spun baby booties.

Stop in Chimayó for a casual meal to end your day. Dine on traditional New Mexican fare ― enchiladas, stuffed sopaipillas, tamales, carne adovada ― at Rancho de Chimayó ($-$$; 300 County Rd. 98; 505/984-2100). In summer, it's hard to find a lovelier spot for an alfresco meal than the parasol-shaded garden terraces of this rambling 1800s hacienda.

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