Saturday, September 1, 2012

Day Trip: Santa Fe to Taos

After being in Santa Fe for a few days, we needed to get out of the city and see some scenery. And what better scenery is there than in Taos, NM?

After a bit of research, I decided to take the High Road to Taos and the Low Road on our return trip. This would give us the chance to see a great deal of country and some varied scenery. From Santa Fe, we journeyed north on US 285 to the small town of Pojoaque. This is where the High Road and Low Road split. The High Road is the longer of the two routes, both in distance and in time.

The High Road to the right, Low Road to the left
The High Road is aptly named. It winds its way through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a sub range of the Rocky Mountains reaching elevations of 13,000 feet. The road also passes near or through a number of small pueblo Indian villages and Spanish Land Grant villages. Galleries and other related businesses dot the landscape, especially just outside of Pojoaque (Point E on map above). The High Road is detailed in Wikipedia @,_New_Mexico.

The Badlands of the High Road
Tree-covered mountain of the high country

Lovely little mountain meadow

High country view

The village of Taos is no longer a quiet, remote village. It is now a bustling center of the hordes of tourists who flood northern New Mexico, and it even has a Walmart and other chain businesses. Having said that, though, the historic city center is still quaint, with narrow, winding roads weaving along adobe businesses and dwellings. Art galleries, jewelry outlets, and related businesses dominate the downtown area, along with a scattering of food/beverage establishments and lodging options.

Downtown Taos street scene along the Plaza
The Taos area figures prominently in New Mexico history, and it is filled with names familiar to history buffs, names such as Kit Carson and Charles Bent.  During the past year, I read Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, so I was particularly interested in matters dealing with this historic figure. Most people think of Kit Carson as simply a “mountain man”, but he was so much more, and he played such a prominent role in the history of this area.

Kit Carson Museum and home in Taos
Charles Bent was the elder of the two Bent brothers who played such an influential role in the settling of this area. Along with his younger brother William, they established trading posts along the Santa Fe Trail. Charles was the first governor of the New Mexico Territory. He was killed during the Taos Revolt in early 1847.

Governor Bent Museum in Taos
We intended to visit Taos Pueblo on our trip, but when we arrived at the pueblo a few miles north of Taos, we were directed to turn around since the Pueblo was closed.  

We took the Low Road for our return trip to Santa Fe. The highlight of this route is the Rio Grande River. When first spotted from the highway, the river is in a gorge slicing down from the north towards the road. The highway then parallels the river for a number of miles, with various river outfitting businesses along the way. There are numerous spots along the highway to pull off and admire the river or watch rafters floating downstream. Eventually, the highway veers away from the river, though still roughly paralleling it from a distance.

The Rio Grande cuts a gorge through the high desert near Taos
Donna, with the Rio Grande in the background
This was a great day trip, and it allowed us to see some of the traditional New Mexico. Surprisingly, gas prices were cheaper in Taos than in Sante Fe. While prices in Santa were about $3.50, they were about a dime lower in Taos.

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