Saturday, January 9, 2016

High Road to Taos: December 26

The day after Christmas we left Santa Fe and took the High Road to Taos, a scenic drive through the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  A snowstorm was moving in to the area later in the day, so this was our only real chance to drive the more treacherous mountain route of the High Road—we’d head back to Albuquerque in a few days via the Low Road.  We took a small detour off of the High Road to see the Santuario de Chimayó, a lovely little church built in the early 1800’s.  Tens of thousands make a pilgrimage here during Holy Week every year to take a sample of the dirt from a hole in the ground inside the chapel that is thought to have healing powers.  The pilgrims leave behind the crosses, rosaries, photos of loved ones, and other items that they have brought on their journey.  Exploring the grounds of Santuario de Chimayó, we honestly felt like we were back in Spain.  Between the American Indian culture we experienced the previous day and the idea of so many pilgrims coming to this site in hopes of healing, it truly did feel like we were in another country.  I love that this trip provided our kids the opportunity to learn more about the diverse experience within America.  We studied the history, stories, food, and culture of New Mexico over the several months leading up to our trip.  And, learning so much about Spain’s history the previous year helped us all understand their part in New Mexico’s past and present, too. 

We continued on our way to Taos, up through the foothills with some spectacular views of the Rio Grande valley.  The closer we got to Taos, the more snow and ice was on the roads.  It was slow going in our little rental car.  Through the mountains, you could see where families had just pulled off to the side of the road to find a sledding hill in Carson National Forest.  We were wishing we had some sleds in our trunk, too.  I think we were all a little relieved, though, when we made it back onto the main roads when we arrived in Taos.  The roads still had some snow on them, but it was slushy and full of red dirt making the driving easier.  For lunch we decided to try a famous green chile cheeseburger from Blake’s Lotaburger (when in New Mexico, right?) and boy are those green chiles spicy!

After lunch we headed to Ranchos de Taos to see the San Francisco de Asis church, a large adobe church built in the 1770s that we had seen before our trip in paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and in photographs by Ansel Adams.  Those artists both loved the large curved buttresses at the back of the church, but I don’t think in their day the parking lot went within three feet of the church’s walls.  But regardless, it was beautiful to see although the setting at Chimayó was so much lovelier.

That afternoon we headed just west of Taos to see the Rio Grande Gorge—a 500ft cantilever truss bridge that spans the 650ft drop to the Rio Grande below.  There are sidewalks on both sides of the bridge and an observation deck in the middle, but just as we arrived to the Rio Grande Gorge a snowstorm rolled in.  You can’t tell from my pictures of us at the gorge—it just looks like fog—but the wind was blowing so hard and loud and the snow was blowing into our eyes.  I can’t believe people were actually walking on the bridge in that weather.  We took a short walk to look over the edge a bit, from a safe distance, but quickly headed back to the car.  Luckily, right down the road was what Travel & Leisure called one of “America’s Coolest Breweries” so we headed there for shelter, dinner, local beers, and some of the best root beer we’ve ever had that was made at a New Mexican pueblo.  Taos Mesa Brewing had some of the best food we had while in Taos. 

Our second day in Taos, December 27th, we spent skiing in Taos Ski Valley.  Ella and Jack had never gone skiing before so they spent their day learning how to ski in Taos’s ski school.  How’s that for a first-time ski experience!  Jonathan and I, not having gone skiing ourselves since before kids, explored the “mountain green” slopes which are more like high intermediates of the East Coast if you ask me.  Taos Ski Valley is the southern Rockies and conditions were beautiful.  The kids enjoyed every minute of their skiing experience and can’t wait to hit the slopes again.  Jonathan and I enjoyed our day to ourselves skiing together, having lunch and beers at their Bavarian restaurant, and then enjoying beers in the Taos Mesa taproom in the ski village before picking the kids up.  Ever since visiting New Mexico with my mom in my early 20s, skiing in Taos had been on my “bucket list”—don’t ask me why it had originally gotten on my list, but a day of skiing was a wonderful addition to our winter vacation.          

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