I first visited this area when I was 10 years old. It was on a family vacation during spring break. We had planned on visiting Colorado, then driving south to New Mexico on our journey of discovery. We headed west from Arkansas, destination Colorado Springs, by way of Kansas. Luckily, for me at that age, we drove through Kansas at night, and I was able to sleep until Dodge City. At that point I woke just long enough to have images of the old TV show “Gunsmoke” flash in my memory before trailing back off to dreams in the back seat of the family Oldsmobile. When I woke up again, my paradigm would shift forever.
We had made it to Colorado and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I was experiencing the West, albeit through the shadowed, veiled hues of a pre-dawn morning before the sun had made enough of an appearance to show the highlights or details of the unexplored landscape surrounding us. My first vision of the mountains in this part of the world came briefly while peering between the front seats while precariously balancing on a knee on the front arm rest. And there they were… the Majestic Rocky Mountains. And I was hooked. Addicted.
A few days later, we were planning on driving south to Northern New Mexico. Our destination: Taos. By this time, I was already enamored by the beauty of Colorado and wondered if this leg of the journey would be able to compare to where we had just been and the landscapes I had experienced. We had seen snow-capped Pikes Peak and driven up as far as possible in the early spring in a rear-wheel drive automobile. We hiked the Garden of the Gods, witnessed the depth and vastness of the Royal Gorge and experienced an early morning snowfall in the capital city of Denver.
Upon arriving in Taos, I knew that this part of the trip was going to give Colorado a run for the money. The adobe architecture was a beautiful surprise to me. The subtle colors, the tranquil setting of the homes and buildings among the mountains was captivating. I loved the shape and design of the coyote fencing that bordered many of the properties and the rugged nature of that form of fencing, using the branches of native trees wired together. We toured the many art galleries on the plaza and those on the adjacent streets and I was introduced for the first time to Contemporary Southwestern Art. The introduction of vivid, expressive colors and textures capturing the landscape that had so recently surprised and intoxicated me was very powerful to me. We journeyed into the mountains near the ski basin, witnessed the awesome expanse of the Rio Grande Gorge carved into the desert outside of town and walked among the sagebrush dotted across the desert floor, as far as the eye could see.
We followed the Rio Grande further southward and towards Santa Fe, passing through small desert towns and witnessing the transformation of scenery in this part of the Enchanted Circle. The desert landscape between Taos and Santa Fe is one of the most magical places I have ever seen. The distant mountains, the desert stretching on seemingly forever with the Piñon and Juniper trees that rule this landscape and create the mesmerizing shapes and shadows that spoke so strongly to me. We drove through Espanola, Pojoaque and Tesuque on our way to Santa Fe. The desert had me fully and completely in its grasp, and does to this day.
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