My plan after leaving Kevin’s after forever was to head south into New Mexico or west into Utah, but looking at the 100 degree temps in parts of Utah I wanted to see made the decision easy. I must have made it sound so fun that Kevin decided to come with after my few days away in Leadville- way to be a draw, Land of Enchantment or my wonderful company!
We retraced our path south through Pueblo and Sand Dunes into the forest land around Taos in central northern New Mexico, where we camped in a spot that was obviously a campsite thanks to the picnic table and brick fire pit, but was also in the middle of a logging area and everyone else camped further in (side note- there was def something weird going on back there like maybe one of the groups was dealing or had young ladies dropped off for who knows what? Just odd comings and goings…. but they were far away and who knows, we were all good where we were). Oddly in the morning when we went to leave there was a wire gate blocking off the entrance, so maybe the area was really closed and one of those other groups had taken down the gate… Easily re-removed and off we went with this mystery as a souvenir.
Before arriving in town proper, I made us stop at the Earthship complex and visitor center. I read about Earthships before, which are these super cool and oddball totally off the grid homes made of things like old tires packed with soil, walls of adobe laid over bottles and cans, and with lots of plant life to cycle water and regulate temperature. While not as many of the structures were open to tour thanks to pandemic, the tour was pretty amazing and I now want to build one. Well, I want someone to build one for me and I help in all ways with only a portion of the manual labor because that stuff is hard! Way to go, all you people who have done this. Impressive! There are some on the complex that you can rent out for the night and I will one day come back and stay in one.
Taos is a charming, artsy town full of fun shops I wanted to buy all the kitschy everything, and where we had our first real green chili-filled meal. Mmmmmmmm. I also had some melted chocolate with Mexican spices that was delicious. Most of the shops were open but not all, and it was super quiet compared to what I expected.
We had hoped to hit up some roadside hike-in hot springs outside town in the mountains, but the trails were all closed according to what we saw online, and driving by a few it looked like all of humanity decided to go there anyway despite the closed gates at some that meant instead of driving to a trailhead for a shortish walk, you had to triple the distance by walking the normally open road. Long walk plus already hot day temps plus many gross people shoved together in hot water? Nope. Hard pass.
Next stop was the Bandelier National Monument, which was only partially accessible- not due to Covid but instead because they’re taking advantage of lower attendance to do repairs on some roads and areas. Very smart, but a bummer for us. We did get to walk out along a trail to the Long House, a Pueblo cliff dwelling which was up to 4 stories tall, and also has petroglyphs visible. Normally in the park and even on this loop you can see a bunch more homes and even climb ladders and peek in, but alas. On the way there we did see a mule deer chilling in the shade, and on the way back a snake which might be a rattlesnake or might be one that pretends to be a rattlesnake as camo. Any snake experts who know?
Onward we went to Los Alamos, which was cool because we had to go through the government doing secrety things area, and the town of Los Alamos has a cool self guided walking tour through town of historic sights we were able to do and learn a lot of things despite the historic park being closed. The town park is super pretty with a bunch of fun sculptures and children running amok happily which I miss. Even the statues of Oppenheimer and Groves, Manhattan Project bigwigs, were masked up, but I guess if anyone knows the benefits of safety precautions it’s these guys.
The next day we headed out of town and through a huge ancient volcano crater now called, appropriately, Valle Grande since it’s… a big valley.
Finally, on our way toward Albuquerque we passed through a Pueblo that online said it was open, which apparently meant just the visitor center while all the tribal areas and amazing structures usually avaiable to tour were still locked down. I totally get this and with the amount of systemic oppression and repression tribal nations have experienced since we immigrants arrives a few hundred years ago creating a vast gap in healthcare, wellness, and to this day being caught in red tape to get pandemic funding every other community and state received with no issues due to some BS unrelated to any of this (okay, rant over- but there’s so much more!) I wouldn’t let anyone on my land either. What we could see was wonderful, though- a small exhibit of the history and culture, a model home and oven, and the gorgeous red rocks all around. We went by some tent rocks, too, but the main park to these cool hills was (can you guess yet?) closed. We had little better luck as time went on- and a good reason to come back again!