From Santa Fe to Taos – New Mexico
On a cloudy Sunday morning, we drove out of Santa Fe heading North on route 285/84. Destination: Breakfast at the Tesuque Village Market.
Tesuque is just a twenty minute drive from Santa Fe but feels a world apart. It has the feel of a small rural village which draws tourists and locals who are attracted by the reliably generous portions, tasty food, and ambience of the Village Market Restaurant; the Tesuque Glassworks where one can watch glassblowers create lyrical ornaments (open every day including Sunday); and the Shidoni Art Galleries and sculpture gardens that represent over one hundred artists from across the USA (open Tuesday through Saturday).
Continuing North on route 285, we took the scenic High Road that winds its way to Taos along the 503/ to the 98/ to the 76/ to the 518.
Our next stop was the Santuario de Chimayo – a highlight of our road trip. Chimayo has been considered holy by American Indians since the 12th Century. The Tewa Indians named it ‘Tsi-Mayoh’ after a sacred hill which forms the backdrop for the Spanish Colonial style Catholic Church constructed in 1813. The church has a long tradition of attracting thousands of pilgrims from across New Mexico and beyond its borders who believe that its holy soil has healing properties.
On the cold, late autumn Sunday of our visit, the air was crisp, golden leaves carpeted the ground, and inside the rustic wood and adobe church, the congregation’s voice was raised in song. No matter what one’s beliefs one could not but feel an inexplicable, palpable aura of spirituality radiating from the Santuario. No photos of the interior were allowed. Nevertheless, I have an indelible picture of that scene imprinted in my memory book.
A short walk from the Santuario lies the enchanting Chapel of Santo Niño de Atocha – The Holy Infant of Atocha. Pilgrims journey to the chapel to pay homage to the child saint and pray that their infants be blessed with good health and long life. They leave behind tiny pairs of infants’ shoes which fill the niches and decorate the walls of the chapel.
On the road again, we passed the little town of Truchas perched on the edge of a valley and continued to Penasco where we made a stop at the Sugar Nymphs Bistro, a rustic roadside eatery that serves the most scrumptious carrot cake and home style food. You just never know where you’ll come across an inconspicuous treasure on a road trip.
We drove into Taos in time for a late lunch at Lambert’s Restaurant on Bent Street, a five minute walk from the Taos Plaza – the historical center of the town. Ensconced in the warmth of one of several intimate rooms with textured adobe walls that give Lambert’s its unique vibe, we ordered elegant lobster bisque and a hearty, hot brisket sandwich and watched the snowflakes begin to fall gently to the ground while we lingered over lunch.
By the time we set out for our final destination of the day – Goji Farm and Eco Retreat – the trees were laden with virgin clumps of snow, the landscape was a winter wonderland, and the narrow country road that snaked uphill from the highway was thickly carpeted in pure white powder. It was a breathtaking sight and a nerve-wracking drive without snow tires or snow chains.
Goji Farm and Eco Retreat is a bucolic gem. Cabins are scattered around the property, and each one has a unique charm: The Writer’s Cabin, the Aldous Huxley Cabin, Poet’s View, Pond’s Casita, and the smaller cabins which have every convenience including private bathrooms, a full kitchen, bedroom, heating, air conditioning, and front porch.
In the winter skiers flock to Taos Ski Valley; in the summer the Rio Grande is a mecca for river rafting; Wheeler Peak attracts mountain bikers, and hikers enjoy Taos pretty much all year round except of course the heavy snow months.
Taos gained attention in the early 19th Century as home to the colorful legendary figure ‘Kit Carson’ and in the 1960s as the location of the movie ‘Easy Rider’ starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, two Harley Davidson motor bike riders who travel cross country in search of spiritual truth.
In the town, there is no shortage of galleries, boutiques, and gift shops housed in adobe dwellings that carry Native American turquoise and silver jewelry, beaded buckskin moccasins, gorgeous horse-hair pottery, deerskin drums, Kachina dolls, rattles, peace pipes, woven patterned rugs, and beaded leather handbags.
The Taos Pueblo, where ancient traditions endure, has a mystical allure, especially as we experienced it the day after the first major snowfall of the year. Carpeted in white, bathed in sunshine, under a clear blue sky, the partially frozen creek glinting in the bright sunshine, the earthy contrast of the brown adobe structures with their bright-blue doorways mimicking the blue sky.
The dwellings were constructed in the mid 14th Century and have been continuously inhabited since that time making it the oldest inhabited community in the USA. Approximately one hundred and fifty Native Americans still live in the Pueblo and preserve the traditions of their ancestors. There is no electricity; no running water – water comes from the crystal clear Red Willow Creek; there are no indoor steps – wooden ladders are used to reach the upper floors – and traditional Indian ‘fry bread’ is baked in adobe ovens.
After a heavy snowfall, all members of the community pitch in to sweep the thick virgin snow off the flat rooftops, lest it melts and seeps into the adobe dwellings. An unforgettable atmosphere of camaraderie, serenity, and earthy beauty enveloped the Pueblo on that exquisite, early winter’s day.