the wandering chick
There is a series of highways that circles Taos called the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. It's a wonderful trip (and I've dedicated a separate page of photos to it), but one doesn't have to hit the highways to be 100 percent completely enchanted with Taos. Her frontyard is filled with enchantment from its Old Town Plaza to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House to the Ranchos de Taos and its famous church.
And in her backyard are such interesting sights as the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Earthship Biotecture and the marvelous Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
For sure, take the scenic drive. But visit Taos well. She will keep you happy and ...yes, enchanted.
One of the highlights of Taos' old section is the Kit Carson home and museum. The courtyard is a delight, simple but picturesque in the Spanish Territorial architecture.
Kit Carson lived from 1809 to 1868. Most of his adult life was spent as a frontiersman, leading Americans westward. Of all his accomplishments, experiences and roles, he has come to symbolize the American West. In the 1840s, he bought the house that stands today very near the Taos Plaza and where he lived with his wife Maria Josefa and children. They are buried in the Kit Carson Cemetery located in the nearby Kit Carson State Park. The home is a National Historic Landmark.
Probably one of the most photographed churches in the state is the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church at the Ranchos de Taos. Its unique structure has been painted and photographed by such world-renown artists as Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams, among others. It was built by Franciscan Fathers between 1772 and 1816. Not only was it the center of the Ranchos de Taos, itself fortified, but it served as additional protection against the Comanches. The church is one of the oldest in the nation and is considered a National Historical Landmark. More pictures of the church as well as the Ranchos de Taos follow.
Patchwork is an annual job on anything adobe. Each year, citizens gather to repair the church with mud and straw.
The Ranchos de Taos surrounds the church in a square pattern. There is a restaurant, a couple of boutiques and this residential home. Much of the rest has fallen to ill-repair.
Once a part of the two-acre Ranchos de Taos, the Old Martinez Hall has been saved from total destruction under the hands of its new owner, a German cosmetics guru, Martina Gebhardt. She changed the name of the building to Old Martina's Hall, but fortunately kept the main structure of the building which include enormous vigas that span the equally large dance hall and the deep, thick adobe walls.
A lot went on within those walls. Community dances, classical performances and parties given by Dennis Hopper all were a part of the rich musical history for which it's remembered. Today, the building holds a first-class restaurant, weddings and special events. It sits in its original location across the main street of the town's south side from the Ranchos de Taos.
Shops that line the Taos Plaza and their exterior decor don't seem to distract from the wonderful adobe architecture.
I guess you can call it shadow art. I think it says "What we find."
Ok, so we're driving around the outskirts of town looking for a particular something which we never find because our attention is drawn to an old turquoise pickup truck in an overgrown lot dotted with wooden geese. It sits off a one-lane-also-overgrown-dirt road that is partially lined with life-size pieces of metal art. Letting our curiosity get the best of us, we drive a few hundred feet down the road that dead ends into a somewhat shaded area with a very nice art-filled adobe house on one side and a row of shanties-slash-cottages on the other. We inquire with the one person who happens to be there doing some minor construction work. He tells us the shanties, as well as a tree house and an Airstream RV "out back," are all rentals owned by a woman named Melissiana who has a boutique in town. This is her shop pictured above. We wanted to meet her, but, sadly, no one seemed to be around. We figured anyone innovative enough to rent out such property and shanties - that have only enough space for a twin bed and an end table for a lamp - had to be worth meeting. The next few pictures are of her shanties which, not surprisingly, were subtly dressed up with plants and splashes of color. Check out the turquoise pickup truck, too!
There's a charming street just a block or two off the plaza called Ledoux Street. It comprises a couple of well-known museums like the Harwood (pictured here) and the Blumenschein as well as some smaller galleries. It couldn't be hardly three blocks long, but it's filled with picturesque nooks and crannies and adobe structures, some of which are pictured below.
On Ledoux Street
The Harwood Museum of Art
The Blumenschein Home and Museum, also on Ledoux Street, has an inviting front yard where one can sit all day and watch the apples fall off the tree. A beautiful garden of flowers captured my interest.
More of Ledoux Street
Chamisa and various types of sagebrush cast a yellow haze across the Taos countryside, always with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background.
Taos Plaza at night, how fun to see how the vigas cast shadows on the buildings.
My travel partner and I took an evening walk to see some of the Taos Art Festival projects and illustrations scattered around Old Town, down the Paseo and in the Kit Carson State Park.
One of them was the mechanical bird (above) called "Fledgling" constructed by a local artist. The giant sculpture is operated by a person climbing a ladder into the torso and pedaling a recumbent-like bicycle causing the wings to flap slowly....very, very slowly.
Another illustration was the 3D geometric sculpture pictured to the right. It was made with a series of neon-lit strings that one can walk through...at least, adults could. The kids kept running into the strings.
The next night we had another spectacular event...the lunar eclipse. We had scouted out an old dirt road that we could park on and have full view of the moon rising over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was an evening we won't forget soon, starting with a pretty decent sunset.
The Casa Benavidas Bed & Breakfast is just another eye-catching adobe structure that seems to be on every street in Taos.
This was our first glimpse of the fall colors, and we both spent several minutes meandering down the road taking pictures of the reds and yellows. Little did we know what was to come when, a few days later, we would take a train ride high into the Rio Grande and Carson National Forests where we would see spectacular panoramic views of autumn foliage.
Somehow I didn't mind the storm clouds that developed over Taos one afternoon. Even they have a speck of beauty in 'em.
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The Inmaculada Concepcion Church in Tres Piedras, west of Taos
The San Antonio Peak is a stand-alone volcanic mountain that rises 10, 908 feet above the Taos Plateau on which it sits. It's an easy landmark as you travel west from Taos onto the State Highway 285.
The entrance gate to a ranch on Highway 64, west of Taos
Off Highway 64 west of Taos are several buildings of the Earthship Biotecture, a community that lives completely off the land, with homes that are built of all and everything recyclable, such as tires, bottles and cans. Somewhere between gaudy and whimsical, you may find yourself taking a second look as you happen upon them. Completely sustainable, their energy comes from the sun and heat from the earth. They collect rainwater and grow their own food. AND they have rentals for those in for a green experience.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains at sunset