Taking the High Road From Taos

Muffy Clark Gill “New Mexico Garden” mixed media 5 x 8 in

During our recent week-long stay in Santa Fe I wanted to take a day and visit the town of Taos, New Mexico. I had last visited Taos over twenty years ago on a solo trip to take a workshop in the then new image-editing program known as Adobe Photoshop. During that visit I had stayed in a small motel near the village known as Ranchos de Taos, site of one of the older Spanish style adobe churches in New Mexico. Ranchos was the source of inspiration for a body of artwork in batik and photography—in fact I even sold one of my paintings of the Ranchos de Taos church to Lely Development Corporation, a real estate developer in the Naples area. Who knew a southwest painting would sell in Florida?

Leaving Santa Fe we drove through Española up New Mexico 68, stopping in the little town of Dixon along the way for a cup of coffee. We found one at the grocery/ deli/ town gathering place—you couldn’t miss it for the front end of an old car emerging from the wall of the building OVER the entrance 

Sipping our coffee with Mia, our dog sitting beside us we made new friends with some of the locals, who threw her dog treats (Mia has excellent catching skills). 

We continued on and stopped for a cider at the Blue Heron Brewery and Winery

before driving the rest of the way up and over the cliffs of the Rio Grande Gorge to reach Ranchos de Taos. The drive slowed down before we reached the village with a several mile long traffic jam—I had remembered it getting slower at this point but not this bad. We finally reached the plaza where the church stands using a back road which took us to the front of the San Francisco de Asi mission church. (The view most people see from the highway is of the bulbous looking rear of the church.(artist Georgia O’Keeffe liked it as much as I did to paint.)

The interior of the church is in pristine condition with the beautiful 18th century altar pieces beautifully preserved.

The vigas, or roof trusses shone and highlighted the ceiling of the church. I fell in love this time with some of the houses and buildings facing the plaza. I can see some new paintings coming from these images.

By this point we were hungry for lunch and it proved to be difficult trying to find a dog-friendly place to eat. We took some side roads to again escape the traffic and ended up having a really good pizza at the Taos Mesa Brewing Company. Getting out of downtown Taos proved to be a challenge as we got caught in another traffic jam when we entered Taos Plaza.

As it was starting to get late we abandoned shopping at the Plaza and headed south, this time taking what is known as “the high road to Taos”. The road winds through forests and mountains before reaching several small villages along the way. We stopped at one we had visited several years earlier known as Los Trampas. It features another vinatage adobe
Spanish church, San Jose de Gracia, built in 1776.

The first time we had visited this church, a crew of people were re-mudding the adobe structure-adobe buildings periodically have to be maintained with a stucco made of mud or clay mixed with straw for strength. Sadly, this time the poor little church was in dire need of repair with the adobe finish eroded and the roofs for the little wooden steeples that topped the building in need of serious repair. Hopefully another crew will come back and restore this sweet little church to its former glory.

The road continues south and takes a right turn at the town of Truchas. In recent years Truchas has become an artist colony, with  the town having a large artist studio tour every year. Heading down the mountains we reached our final stop— the village of Chimayo, known for its Spanish church, El Santuario de Chimayo that has become a source for healing. There are many separate chapels and buildings in the complex playing homage to the Nino of Atocha.

Walk through the main part of the church and at the altar take a left to see a little chapel where pilgims take samples of the dirt in hopes of healing a loved one. The walls of the chapel are lined with photographs and crutches of people who have been blessed with the miracle of healing.

Leaving the church we passed several trading posts where you can purchase hot chile peppers and churro wool rugs that have made Chimayo famous as well. It is then another 45 minutes fighting traffic  while driving past the numerous Indian casinos and the Santa Fe Opera to return to Santa Fe.


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