About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

New Mexico Chapter 3: Taos & Ojo Caliente

San Jose de Gracia
Monday, July 25th
At around 5pm I left Santa Fe and headed up to Taos, taking the "High Road - a scenic, snaking route along 5 different byways, passing through several small mountain villages, each rich in culture and history."  The drive was an adventure indeed, with plenty to see along the way, which included a stop in tiny Las Trampas, home to San Jose de Gracia, "a mission church dating back to 1760, with impressive Spanish Mission design elements."

I arrived at The Abominable Snow Mansion in the funky, little village of Arroyo Seco, about 7 miles or so north of Taos, at about 7:30pm.  It was a pretty drive with majestic Wheeler's Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, in the distance.  I was delightfully surprised to find that the hostel allowed tenting, saving me 4 bucks, and I was able to get my tent up just before dark.

Tuesday, July 26th
This morning I took my time getting ready, had a big bowl of cereal (mixed three kinds, because I'm a rebel like that, lol) and toast with pb&j (compliments of the hostel), and was out the door.  I walked around the little village of Arroyo Seco, stopping at charming Holy Trinity Church - historic mission church dating from 1830, the quirky "Mercantile" General Store, and "Taos Cow" (named a "top 10 U.S ice cream shop" by Bon Appetit magazine) for a couple of their "famous" scoops, including Fresh Peach and their ever-popular PiƱon Caramel - YUM!

Along the Main Drag in Taos

I drove south to touristy Taos, through the beautiful green valley of horse ranches, surrounded by the tallest mountain peaks in the state, and visited Taos Pueblo - "The only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. The multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years!"  The brown walls of earth, the turquoise-colored front doors, the beautiful church, outdoor drying racks and hornos (outdoor adobe ovens used for baking bread and pastries) the villagers selling their wares from inside their modest, apartment-sized homes complete with small adobe stove and the scent of burning fresh sage,  the ruins of San Geronimo Church and the graveyard so rich with history, the little river bisecting the north and south living complexes, a language unwritten/unrecorded,  passed down from the grandmother to the children - these memories will stay with me.  I felt a sense of peace strolling through the village where life moves slow.  How I'd love to return in the winter when the roofs of the cozy adobe homes are dusted with snow.  *Note: No photography was allowed.

I explored more of Taos, including The Plaza (which "has the distinction of being the first place in the United States, by tradition, to fly the United States Flag both day and night"), and nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, followed by the immaculate San Francisco de Asis Church - "one of the best known and most photographed churches in New Mexico," and what Georgia O'Keeffe described as "one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards."

 San Francisco de Asis

Then I started heading over to Ojo Caliente, about an hour's drive west of Taos, making a couple of stops in between, one being the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge - "the fifth highest bridge in the United States" and spanning 1,280 feet.  Then I stopped for a walk around "Greater World Earthship Community," which a guy at the Abominable Snow Mansion told me about over breakfast this morning (he's going to do a month-long internship here).  "The Greater World project is designed to create an ideal condition from which a sustainable community can grow and flourish.  Using recycled materials from Taos County; the homes make their own electricity from solar panels; catch their own water from rain and snow melt; contain and reuse their own waste water; and provide their own heating and cooling without the use of fossil fuels via passive solar and thermal mass architecture.  I've never seen anything like it - with walls of recycled bottles, cans and car tires, the place kind of looked like a post-apocalyptic dump, or the movie "Waterworld" (only on land, lol).  Very interesting indeed.  I love their mission and I hope it sees much success.

I arrived in Ojo Caliente around 5pm, and blogged a while, before heading about 20 miles away to pitch my tent (just before complete darkness fell!) at El Rito Campground in Carson National Forest.  Other than a few occurrences of passing trucks in the night, I had the whole place to myself, and oh, how I loved the drive there, especially the tiny town of El Rito, with its farms and old buildings lining the road near the ranger's office.

At Greater World Earthship Community

Wednesday, July 27th
This morning I enjoyed a quiet morning and fruit & granola breakfast in solitude within the Carson National Forest, before heading over to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs for a day of rest and relaxation.  "Deemed sacred by indigenous Native Americans of Northern New Mexico, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs has been a gathering place and a source of healing for hundreds, even thousands of years, and is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of mineral water including lithia, iron, soda and arsenic. Our ten pools are filled with different types and combinations of these waters with temperatures ranging from 80-109 degrees."  From 8:30am-3, I let 6-1/2 hours slip away, wandering between the different pools, lounging in the steam room, having a little picnic (bbq wild salmon on triscuits, lol), basking in mud (loved it so much I had seconds, lol), and talking with a very kind, friendly woman from Pennsylvania (also traveling solo).  The hours went fast make no mistake.

I left the springs around 3:15, taking a long, scenic drive to Las Vegas (not the one in Nevada, lol) on the 518, touted by my friend and favorite author Ron Donaghe as "one of the most beautiful drives in all of NM."  He was right!  I took 518 up into the mountains, through national forest, down to the meadows and ranches and little towns that dot the side of the road, stopping for photos of the beautiful scenery and old buildings along the way.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs Resort

Upon reaching Las Vegas, a charming old town, I hopped onto Interstate 25 to Sante Fe, arriving at the Opera House at 8:30pm, in time for the production of Menotti's "Mad Men"-era piece called "The Last Savage," an over-the-top, cheesy comedic opera that "follows an ambitious young Vassar anthropologist on her journey to capture the last savage. She succeeds, they fall in love, and both discover that American 1960s suburbia is far more savage than life in the jungle."  

Oh, and by the way, it's an interesting contrast, watching the opera one hour, and sleeping in a car the next, lol.


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