Pat and I tend to take short, refreshing trips during the summer rather than get out of town for the entire hot weather season. In July we drove to Taos, N.M., to spend a few days at an altitude of 7,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
We traveled east on I-10 to Deming, N.M., then northeast on New Mexico 26 to I-25 at Hatch, the chile capital of the world, north through Socorro and Albuquerque to Santa Fe, and finally northeast on state roads to Taos — about 580 miles in nine hours. Not bad.
From Hatch north, we traveled along the magnificent Rio Grande, which starts in the southern Colorado mountains, rambles right through the middle of New Mexico, then proceeds along the southern border of Texas with Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico.
For several hundred miles between Hatch and Santa Fe we could see irrigated fields and riparian belts in the Rio Grande’s huge watershed — truly an amazing influence on the countryside.
North of Taos in the high desert, the Rio Grande cuts through deep gorges, spanned by spectacular bridges, now protected in places such as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
Taos is a small, pleasant, tourist-friendly town of about 6,000 people, well known as an arts colony and a winter skiing destination. It is especially known for the Taos Pueblo, built between A.D. 1000 and 1450, the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Taos was established as a Spanish town around 1615, suffered native revolts from 1640 to 1696, and was not incorporated as an American town until 1934.
Taos is laid out along its one principal north-south street, Paseo del Pueblo, with the historical plaza at its center. The Taos Pueblo borders the town on its north side, with limited business development south of the plaza. Heavy traffic on Taos’ main drag can be frustrating.
Thankfully, our timeshare was just north of the plaza and within easy walking distance of many museums, galleries and shopping areas.
We found, though, that the plaza shops have declined in quality in recent years. In particular, we were disappointed that a couple of our favorite Native American stores had closed and apparently moved to Santa Fe, leaving behind curio shops. Happily, the studio of well-known Navajo artists R.C. Gorman, is still in place.
In one small, somewhat disorganized shop we saw some dusty pottery on a back-wall shelf and couldn’t believe what we were looking at — three large pots by Margaret Tafoya, famed matriarch of Santa Clara Pueblo potters. There were no price tags on the pots, but the proprietor later told us they were worth about $50,000 apiece. Wow!
The restaurants in Taos were wonderful —– from steaks to hamburgers, with plenty of New Mexico-style meals with green and red chiles. Pat was in heaven!
We drove the 84-mile “Enchanted Circle” loop through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Taos, relishing the breathtaking views and quaint villages. We stopped to visit the awe-inspiring Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the only state park dedicated exclusively to veterans of the Vietnam War.
On another outing we visited the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (for automobiles), completed in 1965 and spanning 1,280 feet and 650 feet above the Rio Grande.
And because of our interest in photography, we visited the photogenic San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, built between 1771 and 1815, and a frequent subject of renowned photographer Ansel Adams.
After four full days in Taos, where the weather was great — with sun, breezes and occasional light showers — we returned to Tucson, arriving in the mid-afternoon of another 100-degree day.