Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Taos, NM July 2012

I thought I'd share a few more links and opinions on places (mostly restaurants) we visited during our trip to Taos, New Mexico this summer.

The second day we were there we went to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. I've been there before and so has the family but we stopped by there once again. Mainly, we stopped there this time because it was on the way to another destination we wanted to visit. This time, however, was a little different than the others. The west side near the rest area was a lot busier than the last visit AND they had one side of the bridge closed due to construction. They were doing something on the east side of the bridge before you cross it as well as painting the bridge white, I think. That's why one half, the sidewalk part anyway, of the bridge was closed. This time there were more vendors selling shit out of the back of trucks, cars, card tables as well as a smoothie bus near the rest area. There were more motorcyclists as well. We were going to walk across the bridge again just for old time's sake but decided it wasn't that big of a necessity. The bridge is still a pretty cool landmark and the scenery on and around the bridge can be breathtaking. Instead of wasting anymore time, we decided to head on to our original destination: Wild Rivers Recreation Area.

The Wild Rivers Recreation Area contains a lot of hiking trails that allow people to hike from designated areas at the top of the Rio Grand Gorge down to the bottom right to the river. That's what we wanted to do, hike, because the last time we visited there were bad wildfires and they would not allow anyone into the Carson Forest or ANY trails because of a burn ban. If you were caught, they'd fine you $5,000. So, this time, we were doing whatever we could before any damn fires decided to jack with our chances to "roam the plains" of New Mexico. Once we entered the Rec Area, we drove for a bit until reaching the first picnic area. We stopped to take some pictures and use the restroom. We moved on down the road to look for a hiking trail. The next area we came to was the first area with a trail down to the river below. I don't recall the exact name of the trail but it said it was a moderate hike at 0.4 miles. We decided this would be a good one to start out on since it was 0.4 miles and we didn't know how much further down the road the next trail was or how long it was or its rating. As always, walking down is always easy. The trail was "maintained" in the sense that it did have large, stacked rocks along the trail to mark it as well as keep it clearer of debris and help keep people from sliding/falling down the side of the Gorge easily. It zigzagged until about 50 feet from the bottom where there were a lot of reed-type plants before reaching the sandy bank of the river. One child said they spotted a snake of some sort black-colored about 3-4 inches in diameter but it slithered away too fast for me to look back and catch a glimpse. Once we got to the bank and then the water, we found a few more snakes about 1/2 inch in diameter and about 6-8 inches long. I guess they were just garden snakes, a kind of grayish color, but I'm not sure. They moved fast on land and water. We decided to trek along the river over large rocks/boulders. Jumping and climbing from rock to rock and occasionally having some "flat" areas to walk along. We walked and climbed about a mile before we realized that we'd have to go back to our original entry trail because there were no others we saw along the way and we didn't know how far the next one was if there was one ahead of us. To add to the strenuous exercise of up and down over rocks and sand, the sun started coming out from behind the originally cloudy sky to make it much hotter than when we started. Luckily, I was carrying 8 20oz water bottles in my backpack along with large bottle of Gatorade and some granola snack bars. I was prepared. The trek back was much harder because we knew where we were going and we were looking forward to getting there as soon as possible because we were getting very tire and hot. I told the kids to take off their shirts and put them in the river to get them wet. It's a fairly fast flowing river in most parts so it's cleaner and way less polluted than more stagnant ones like the nasty Trinity River in Dallas. I told them that the shirt would probably be dry by the time we got back to the start of the trail to go back up the Gorge. We took frequent breaks along the way to make sure we had energy enough t get back up the Gorge. Okay, I wanted to make sure I would have enough energy to make it back up. So after awhile we make it back to the trail to go up. I went through the reedy foliage first because the kids weren't too keen on running into any critters while trekking through it ahead of me. We got through without incidence. The trek up was way harder than down especially after our two mile trek along the river and back. The steepness of the trail was felt (by me mostly) way more going up than down. We made it after 3-4 breaks on the trail where I wanted to be in air conditioning right then and there. We finally made it to the start of the top of the trail where there was this covered picnic table. I took an extended rest here because it was shaded and high enough out of the Gorge where we got a pretty good breeze. It was good times and I wanted to take a nap. Eventually, we got back to the car and decided we'd had enough hiking for the day (it was about 3-4 hours). We originally had grand plans to hike a lot more but we realized we did hike a lot. Not just up and down the Gorge but also the climbing over rocks and boulders along the Rio Grand River and back. So, we got good exercise and the amount of hiking in that we wanted even though it wasn't at multiple locations. Good enough. We drove back to our location in Taos and picked up dinner on the way.

One day we were driving to Santa Fe. We took what they call they high road to Santa Fe. Along this road or a just short jaunt off of it, there is a restaurant called Rancho de Chimayo. I've heard many people brag about this place...the food and the ambiance of it. The restaurant is in what looks like it used to be a residential house that someone expanded as the business grew. It is a nice setting for a restaurant. It reminded me of a southern plantation type house especially on the inside. Not that I've ever really been in one but what I've seen portrayed in TV/movies. There is no air conditioning in the place and it didn't seem to need it at the time we visited which was about 11:30 a.m. They have some quaint outdoor seating that you have to climb stairs to reach. It's like the front parking lot area of the restaurant is on flatland but behind the house there is a big hill that they had to expand into and up. After we were done eating and checked out, we walked up the stairs to an area that I did not know was there. At the very top of this outdoor area of the restaurant, there is a aquaduct (I guess that's what the locals would call it). It's a modern-type aquaduct in the sense that instead of the natural dirt/mud or wooden it was more like a cemented channel. It was only about two feet wide. I was told that this is the same channel that is used by many of the locals to get water. The aquaduct comes down the mountain bringing the water from melted snow or rains to the people below. I noticed it was almost overflowing and they said it was unusually high this year. That's a good thing I guess but I don't know if it is as a local because too much water means too much rain or too much melting...who knows. Anyway, all the food we ordered but one entree was pretty good. I mean nothing made me say, "Damn!" but not many things do. The entree that lacked in taste and goodness was the stuffed sopapilla. The plain sopapillas with honey were good but this entree was not. The inside was fairly tasty, it was like taco fillings inside, but the red sauce on the outside tasted like it was syphoned from a Spaghettios can. Don't get me wrong. I like Spaghettios with its sauce but I expected something more from a "fancy" restaurant entree. We finally left for Santa Fe. I'd talk about Santa Fe and what we did there (really just visited the Indian Museum) but this is a Taos-ish post.

Another popular venue that we were told about is The Old Blinking Light which is now out of business. My wife and kids had eaten at this place a couple of years before with my in-laws but I did not take that trip with them and therefore missed this supposedly "great" place. We happened to stop by this place on the way to somewhere else because it has a liquor store attached to the restaurant building. Well, apparently the liquor store is the only thing left operational. I guess people will always go out to buy liquor no matter how bad the economy is but they won't always go out to eat. So, I can't give any opinions on the restaurant (and wouldn't have anyway if it was still open because we were only stopping by to get wine and not eat at the restaurant) but I can tell you that the entire place looks like s dive. The areas of the restaurant were gutted and the liquor store felt more like a bait and tackle shop.

One area of note is the Taos Ski Resort. We didn't visit it this year but we have previously. It's interesting that a ski resort is open during the summer. It's smart for business, very smart. Seasonal business is good or even great but when there are multiple ski resorts in the general 10-50 mile radius it's good to be able to make some dough during the off-season. So, the Taos Ski Resort is 'open' during the summer. It's mainly for the hiking trails, some restaurants, some shops, and the ski lift. That's right. They run the ski lift during the summer. I've never been on one but I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity. My youngest is scared of heights and was scared shitless to go on the lift but did it. It's kind of freaky. To be on this bench seat hovering and climbing over rugged, mountain terrain below at anywhere from 30 feet to 100 feet or more is kind of nerve racking. I think it's one thing to see snow (not from personal experience) because it shows a uniform, flat surface but to see the jagged rocks and shit is a bit daunting. To know that you could easily slip off the bench or the cable could snap, making you 'splat' on the terrain below is not a pleasant thought. To add to the nerves, whenever someone gets on or off the lift, it slows down a bit which makes the liftchair you are on sway in a teeth-chatter-causing way. After a few times, you get used to it but when it's the 1st one or two, it makes you want to piss yourself! Anyway, the base is at 9,207 feet and the ride up from there was about 10-15 minutes. I say that put us up around 10-11,000 feet. We hung out at the this area for a little bit taking pictures of the landscape and breathtaking views. We started to walk up a trail towards Wheeler Peak but the youngest started feeling light-headed. Part of it was the stress of not wanting to get on the lift in the first place and then adding the altitude probably didn't help. I had the young one rest (lay down on a picnic) bench a little while before we rode the lift back down to get something to eat and drink to help overcome this dizziness feeling. After about half an hour, we rode back up. I didn't want to stress the kids out too much so we didn't try the trail again to Wheeler Peak. I'd say we got up the trail the first time to about 12,000 feet before having to turn around so I'd say we were close enough to the Peak's height of 13,161 feet. How much difference could we see in 1,000 feet of forest and mountains? Not much. We rode around the lift a few more times before getting a little bored. The area was getting a few more guests for the restaurants, shops and lift so we decided we done for the day. We'd been there for at least 3-4 hours. It was a great, beautiful day to enjoy nature and the vast scenery. The family will remember that visit for years to come within our memories as well as actual photos and video.

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