April 21 – 24
Taos is a free-spirited kind of town. Lots of artsy folks, some good restaurants, and surrounded by stunning views. We drove through years ago, but finally we have the chance to explore the area.
We took the low road to Taos and Lisa & Al took the high road in their rental car. Their route was supposed to be more scenic, but less RV friendly. Turns out our route was more scenic and more direct. Oh well. Here’s the view as we neared Taos.
Lisa found some good restaurants for us here and we started out with a grand Mexican lunch upon arrival. Pat had a delicious chicken quesadilla and was pleasantly surprised to find that he could actually eat it. Not spicy at all! We also had a pretty good bar-b-q meal for dinner on another day with yummy ribs.
The old downtown area had art galleries and shops for tourists. We did some strolling so Lisa & Al could finish their souvenir shopping. I found a necklace and earrings with the New Mexico state symbol that I really liked. Not quite in budget, so I had to pass. The shopkeeper was a wealth of knowledge, however, and gave me a handout that explained the Zia Sun symbol.
Of course we had the most fun with one of the street musicians. This gal strummed her guitar and sang, while her young son blocked the way of passersby demanding the password. When we went by the first time, he pointed to the yellow flowers beside the path and asked me what they were. “Dandelions”, I answered. “That’s the password”, he says. On the way back to our car, mom was still strumming and little man blocked our path and that of a family of four, asking for the password. “Dandelion”, I said again. “You can go”, he tells us, and continues to block the other family. Funny kid.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
We saw lots of great stuff in this area, but this was my favorite outing. I love bridges and this one is pretty spectacular. In fact, it won “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge – Long Span” in 1966, presented by the American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc. Who knew?
Can’t beat this place. Rio Grande gorge, most beautiful steel span, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a backdrop.
Lisa & Al, the Bridge, and that Zia Sun. The four rays left signify the day – Dawn, Daylight, Dusk, Dark. The four rays up are the seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. The four rays right are for life – Infancy, Youth, Adulthood, Old Age. And finally, the four rays down are for direction – North, East, South, West. I always liked the New Mexico license plates and now I do even more knowing the significance.
On the day of our visit, their were artisans with their wares set up on tables by the gorge picnic area. We came armed with sub sandwiches, more pop-in-your-mouth potato chips courtesy of Lisa, and cold drinks. A great place to sit and soak in the scenery. And we managed to buy a few souvenirs, too.
At the edge of the gorge. Photo credit goes to Lisa. We’re happy to have quite a few pictures of the two of us at this stop without resorting to handing our camera to random strangers.
A trail led off from the picnic area running along the edge of the gorge. One of the vendors told us that the bighorn sheep were out and about, so we went to investigate.
We went all the way to Alaska and never saw one this close up. An unexpected bonus for the day.
One more with a better river view. There are teeny tiny kayakers going through the rapids below.
The gorge bridge wasn’t the main event this day. Our final destination was Wild Rivers Recreation Area residing within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. (National monument courtesy of President Obama in 2013). We were all looking for a good hike and to see the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River. The La Junta point overlook was touted as “one of the most dramatic views in the state” according to the Bureau of Land Management. With a description like, we just couldn’t resist.
The steep La Junta trail complete with ladders, yes, ladders, to descend to the rivers below. We got past the first ladder on our 800 foot descent and decided we’d rather find something a little less punishing. So back up we went.
The ‘Little Arsenic’ trail seems more like it and the “moderate” one I had originally chosen. Me and my cousin Al. Lisa and I always joked that we were like sisters, but there was no actual family relationship anywhere in our past. That is, until she married Al. We figured out the surprising connection years ago talking about a place in Tallahassee that I used to visit with my parents. “You mean Mary Maud’s place”, Al says to me? Why yes. Seems he is related to my Aunt Maudie and we’ve referred to each other as “cuz” ever since.
You know those picture within a picture scenes that have no end? Well here’s my photo of Al taking a photo of Lisa taking a photo of Pat. I’m already lagging behind on this hike.
Stopping for a water break when we finally reach the bottom on the gorge. I wish I had some of this cold water on the way back up the steep switchbacks. This particular trail kicked my butt and I got overheated on the way back. A lot of rest and water breaks later, we all made it back to the top.
Chiflo Trailhead viewpoint. I actually liked this spot better than the point where the rivers converged. Our Little Arsenic hike took us all the way down to that water below.
Park of the rock wall pulled away from the rest of the cliff forming a window to the Rio Grande below. After one more view point, Sheep’s Crossing, we’re headed back to Taos for that BBQ dinner I mentioned before. Definitely got our exercise for the day.
Taos Ski Valley
Lisa wanted to see the Taos Ski Valley, so we took one more road trip. After the very hot day at Wild Rivers, we weren’t quite prepared for the weather we got at the end of this drive.
As we drove, we went from a light rain, to sleet, to magical snow!
Always the naughty one, Pat is threatening to pelt our friends with a snowball.
Snow machines parked for the season, the big lift and Pat attempting to get on the lift chair. He and I both were foiled by water puddles and deep sucking mud from the melting snow. What a day to wear open-toed shoes.
But the fun isn’t done….
Lisa rounds a corner and we come face to face with about six bighorn sheep. I swear that big daddy was posing for me.
Al and I both jump out of the car for photos, much to Lisa’s dismay. Fortunately these guys seemed pretty laid back and just kept grazing and moving along.
San Fransico de Asis & Other Views
I give Lisa credit for finding this next gem of a stop. Just down the road from our campground and their hotel, is the San Francisco de Asis Church. According to the church’s literature it’s “an 18th century adobe National Historic Landmark… constructed of mud and straw sun-dried adobe bricks” with unique beehive shaped buttresses. The Taos Chamber of Commerce touts this church as “one of the most photographed and painted churches in the world”. Georgia O’Keeffe painted it and Ansel Adams photographed it. You don’t get much better than that.
San Francisco de Asis in all its glory.
The weathered welcome sign, Holy Family statue, a peek into a back window and the patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi from the courtyard.
My artsy attempt. Rosaries swinging in the breeze from the gift shop across the way.
A few other sights I found appealing…
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Lisa & Al have to fly back to Florida and we’re moving on to our final stop in New Mexico. What fun it was to have old friends to help us explore two great New Mexico cities. We’re lobbying hard for them to join us in Seattle in the Fall. If not then, hopefully we’ll figure out another rendezvous before too long.
Next up – Abiquiu Lake and my VERY favorite stop in the state of New Mexico. See you on the way!