We had a bit of a rough night because of worries about Mark’s dad, who had been transferred to assisted living yesterday, but was taken back to the hospital in the middle of the night, but eventually things calmed down and we did get some sleep. We then got up around 7:30, had a profoundly unexciting hotel breakfast, and took off for what we just only learned was “the Enchanted Circle,” a scenic drive around Wheeler Mountain’s base, about 84 miles all around, from Taos via various ski resort towns and hiking areas and back to Taos. We went about half-way around, until we were near Red River, since we did want to go for a hike, and I had picked out a promising one, Middle Fork Lake Trail, 4.3 miles, plus the hike to the trail head, a 1.2 mile dirt road that we thought the Prius might not manage. The trail had a lot of elevation gain (over 1,200 feet) but with many switchbacks, so that worked well for us. About half-way to the top, there was a lovely waterfall and we had to cross the stream on rocks and tree trunks, and the Middle Fork Lake at the top was a beautiful, clear little mountain lake. We had pines and aspens shade the trail almost the whole time, so even though we walked for three + hours total, we never got blazingly hot.
After the hike, we drove to the center of Red River and used their picnic facilities for our lunch, and finished our drive around the Enchanted Circle. It was unfortunately not so very enchanting that after Red River and before the next little town, there was a hideous superfund site, strip mining for something called molybdenum that basically turned an entire mountainside into tailings. Reading up on it on line at the EPA site made it even more depressing to contemplate what people are willing to do to their natural environment in the name of profit. After that, the rest of the scenic drive was scenic again; unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop at D.H. Lawrence’s ranch in nearby San Cristobal (we saw the sign for it, but I knew it would close at 2 pm and it was 1:50 at that time). It’s always weird to me to imagine that Lawrence spend time in the southwest and hung out with O’Keefe etc., especially since I saw his birth house in Nottingham years and years ago (in my teens).
Once we got back to Taos, we parked near the courthouse and checked out most of the historic district–the Taos plaza and the street with several museums on it. I love the look of the adobe houses, but the place is simultaneously overrun with tourists and knick knack shops AND rundown with a lot of closed shops in the side streets etc. I also find it frustrating that I cannot easily tell old, historic adobe buildings and modern imitations, since the style is so uniform. And I have to admit that I simply do not know a whole lot about the art of the Southwest (only about O’Keefe), so I am not sure what I am seeing or who the artists are that keep being mentioned in connection with Taos. So the walk around was a bit perfunctory, and the through traffic is annoying enough that I was glad when we left.
It’s about 1 hour 30 minutes from Taos to Santa Fe, and I have to say that the landscape between the two is fascinating. The Rio Grande and its canyon walls accompanied us for a good portion of the drive, and the canyons and sandstone formations, mixed with the green sagebrush and shrubs, is really beautiful. The nearby buildings, especially on top of cliffs, blend in really well because of the sandstone-colored adobe, and in the distance, the mountains with a bit of milky air to blur the lines really DO look like they belong in a Georgia O’Keefe painting! On the way into Santa Fe, we picked up some groceries, and then found our way to the rental casita that we are sharing with our friends Randy and Laurie, who are here for a conference. They were already here; we have a nice space with bedrooms at opposite ends of the little adobe house (which we decided was probably once two houses, and someone built a connecting bit which is now the kitchen), a nice big dining room and an outdoor area with many places to sit and chat and eat–which is what we did after we unpacked our stuff. Laurie and Randy had ordered a platter of cheeses and cold cuts from a local store they knew about, and we had that with olives and baguette and–best of all–bread that Randy had baked earlier and brought from their home in Las Cruces. Since we have never spent time together outside of conference encounters and Facebook chats, we all had a lot of stories to tell and things to talk about, and we already gathered many many tips as to what to do in our 3 days here. We sat on the patio until about 9 pm, by which time it had cooled down a bit from the 90s earlier (important because no air conditioning!), and then got ourselves ready for bed. Excited for tomorrow!