New Mexico: Santa Fe to Taos and Back Again.

This morning it was sunny in Santa Fe but snow was forecast for later in the day. We headed north toward Espanola and then took the Low Road (Route 68) out toward Taos, skirting the edges of the Rio Grande.  In Pilar we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center. The plan was to drive up 570 to 567 and then to 115 and check out the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and then head east to Taos, hiking at convenient stops along the way.

As we drove down 570 a coyote loped across the road ahead of us. We could see Mallards, Canada Geese, and Loons bobbing along down the Rio Grande. There was also robust black duck with a white neck that I still have yet to identify.

Heading out on the La Vista Verde Trail with fair skies overhead.

Our first stop was off 567: The La Vista Verde Trail is an easy 2.5 mile roundtrip hike out to views of the gorge. When we stopped at the first campground to register and pay for trail access Magpies, Crows, Ravens, Mountain Bluebirds and Canyon Towhees all eyed us suspiciously from the bushes and tops of other vehicles.

Traveler Thirteen out on trail. The white tip of Chena's curled tail can also be seen if you look hard enough.

Further down the trail.

Chena accompanied us. The trail was muddy and stuck to our shoes like glue. We found the relatively fresh tracks of mule deer and a mountain lion near the trail head. Juncos flitted around us through the bushes. A Red-shafted Flicker flew by. Chena ran around us, herding us, keeping us on track. The surroundings were beautiful. It started snowing and in just a few minutes the valley was transformed and made even more beautiful, the soft yellows and greens of the New Mexico landscape juxtaposed against the stark white of snow.

Looking back the way we came. The clouds looking ominous.

The Rio Grande as the snow begins to fall.

We got back to the truck looking like multicolored Abominable Snowmen.

The only tracks on the road. Route 570.

 We made the decision, based on the weather and lack of visibility at the higher altitudes we needed to climb up to, to abandon driving further north to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and drove back down to 68 and then up to Taos.

As we approached Taos from 68 you get the most amazing view of the Rio Grande Gorge off to your left. It is a huge crack in the earth, a giant fracture in geological time, and today obscured by falling white fogged out snow. There is no photo of this. But the image is engraved in my brain. It is one of the most beautifully, truly awesome things I've seen.

We drove through Taos and had lunch at Taos Pizza Outback. The food was good though the service a bit spacey. We drove back through town and paid a short visit to the San Francisco de Asis Church or Ranchos Church. This is a true adobe church. It is 300 years old. Georgia O'Keefe painted it several times and was photographed by Ansel Adams. Every year, in spring, residents reapply the straw and mud mixture to the exterior.

Ranchos Church

Close up of the adobe exterior (straw and mud).

We then headed back to Santa Fe through the High Road (Routes 518, 75 and 76). Usually, this affords you amazing views BUT it was still snowing. Traveler Thirteen did a valiant job of navigating the snowy roads through the mountains. We opted to continue on Route 75, rather than go down the 76, to get onto better cleared roads.

Somewhere on Route 518. This is hardly the worst of the driving conditions. This was when it was relatively okay.

Somewhere off Route 75, going toward Dixon.

No we didn't go kayaking.

Somewhere off Route 75, going toward Dixon.

Driving out of the edge of the storm.

And when we reached Espanola again we drove right through the edge of the front into a magnificent sunset.

The unmistakable Camel Rock, near Espanola, NM

Sunset, near Espanola, NM

Back in Santa Fe, we picked up supplies for the next leg of our journey (Abiquiu and Chaco Canyon) and had dinner at Cowgirl BBQ and listened to some live music. I liked this place a lot.

Back at the Hobbit Hole/Hovel we heard coyotes singing in the night.