Sunday, July 11, 2010

Taos New Mexico and other stuff

I was lucky enough to travel to Santa Fe at the end of May to attend a science writer's workshop and when the workshop was over, my husband met me in Santa Fe and we drove up to Taos.
I love Taos. I don't know what it is. Well, I do know what it is. The sky is big. You're on a high desert plateau with the most beautiful range of mountains at your back -- the Sangre de Christo. Wheeler Peak is just north of Taos, and at around 13,000 feet above sea level it's the highest mountain in New Mexico.
Back in the day, husband and I climbed Wheeler Peak, not really understanding how long it would take, how tiring it would be, and how severely we'd be impacted by the thinner air this high up. It's considerable. The last bit of the approach, not that far from the peak, took several hours because of the constant stops to regain our breath.
I don't have a photo to show you because the photos from that trip are old enough so that they're not digital, but when you get to the top of Wheeler Peak, you encounter a pristine, and I mean absolutely pristine, alpine lake, where you rest for only a couple of minutes because you're so freaked out by your lack of breath and the knowledge that now, you have to walk back down the mountain and even though you're descending instead of ascending it's still going to be difficult so you barely have the time to appreciate it.
When we finally got back down, we stopped at a ski lodge cafe and ordered a pitcher of iced tea and a pitcher of iced water and drained both of them in about five minutes while we looked up at the mountain and then at each other and laughed our a**es off. We had no idea what we'd taken on when we headed up the path that morning. But we'd prevailed, and we'd done it, and it was something to be proud of.
Maybe that's why I like Taos so much. I did something extraordinary there. When my middle son, who just by chance was also outside of Taos while we were there, heard that we'd climbed Wheeler Peak (something that some of his fellow geology field camp students had been toying with doing) he told us we were "bad ass."
So, in Taos I became a bad ass.
But there is something about Taos that resonates with middle aged women. Millicent Rogers, a Manhattan socialite, went there in her forties and never left. Georgia O'Keefe -- same. Mabel Dodge Luhan not only moved to Taos, but married a Native American in the Taos pueblo and took his name.
Maybe it's because the sky is so big and the terrain is strewn with fragrant sage brush or because the colors are so strong and evocative -- the oranges, purples, and deep greens of the mountains. Clouds that are whiter and puffier than you see here nudging each other along across the big blue sky.
There's a feeling, in the high desert, that your soul has enough space to spread its wings.
I feel this way, but no-one else in my family does. Husband likes Santa Fe better. Middle son says Taos is "grubby and small," which admittedly, the town Plaza is. But if it were only about the Plaza I wouldn't be drawn to it either.
That I can't get anyone else in the family excited about Taos is a source of great frustration to me.
Anyhow, photos above are us -- me, Duncan and Larry -- white water rafting on the Rio Grande in the Taos Box. And a photo of me, on the edge of the Rio Grande Gulch, just a bit north of where we rafted. Sorry about the disposition of the photos, my layout skills are rusty.

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