The Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously occupied city in North America.
Now that’s heritage!
The Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously occupied city in North America.
Now that’s heritage!
As I am about to go on another trip, I realized I never told you about the last one so, here goes…
New Mexico Oct 2016
We got the camper up a week early and started prepping. Turns out the refrigerator cooled well for about a day and then gave up the ghost. One tire was ready to blow before we got out of town but we found that out after new tires were ordered. That disaster was averted. The Co2 detector kept squalling and it might have been refrigerant leaking from the fridge. It finally quit.
After a rough night and rough start, we finally get on the road at 8 after breakfasting at Taco Cabana. It’s a long way from Arlington to Tucumcari and a lot of the road is uninteresting. We got to the campground in one piece and got set up. The weather was much warmer than anticipated. 93 and sunny. But by 8, it’s starting to cool down. And now the electrical system is having issues. A breaker keeps throwing and we don’t know why. And if you lean on the sink, the lights go out. Not good. But at this point, I just want to try to sleep and deal with it in the morning.
A big full Hunter’s Moon shines on me for a while as I try to sleep.
This RV park is about a mile off the interstate with nothing between it and us except a truck stop. So we got to listen to trucks all night. But after a while it just becomes background noise.
In the morning, we get up and get packed up and head in to find breakfast. The place we ate last night is closed this morning so we go a block further down and find Kix open for breakfast. I order chorizo and egg with hash browns and Brian gets biscuits with gravy and some sausage. O.M.G. That was the best chorizo and eggs I have ever had!!! (Sorry,Velma). Brian got three biscuits and a soup bowl full of gravy. Even the coffee was outstanding.
Properly fueled, we set out sights on Taos. We took the scenic route and it was very scenic. At first the usual mesas, sagebrush and junipers. After a while, we got onto the high plains. Rolling land with not a tree or scrub bush in sight with the Sangre de Christo Mountains in the background. Once in a while, there’s a cottonwood in a draw. Some of them are turning yellow and some are long dead with the bark peeled off and the wood turned silver. Just like in the movies. The grass was already dun colored with black Angus cattle dotted around. Then you come over a rise and find the town of Las Vegas in a low place. We will definitely have to come back and visit this town sometime.
After Las Vegas, we head up and across the mountains. The trees are yellow and gold and glow against the dark greens of juniper then pine then firs.
We come into Taos and I ask Siri to get us to the campground and she takes us out of town again on highway 64. Here, it’s a winding two lane road following a creek up the mountains. The campground is one that has been here for a long time, as evidenced by the age of some of the clutter in various places. But it’s beautiful! The old man who runs it is nearly blind and spends the winters in the Honduras and he’s getting ready to shut things down and head south. There are three other campsites with people. We’re in the middle, there’s a tent at the west end and a big RV at the east end. It’s a beautiful drive into town and the road takes us right to the plaza and pueblo.
There’s a mystery going with my Apple Watch…my phone has no cell service and we have not gotten the wifi password, yet the watch is connecting somehow and keeping up with the weather and temperature. And I got a Words with Friends notice.
We slept a solid 10 hours and woke up refreshed. Nothing but eggs for breakfast and Brian wanted some meat so we drove into town to eat. After breakfast we went to the Taos Pueblo. We got an interesting tour from one of the young men who lives there. Taos Pueblo is the longest continually lived in city in America. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site and on the National Register of Historic places. I got several good photos and then we drove back to the town and parked. Visited the Kit Carson home and museum and then walked the art galleries. There was so much I saw that I was inspired by and want to try something similar that I reached overload and have forgotten many of them. I need to come stay a while and pursue several different avenues. I will say our favorite gallery was David Anthony Fine Art or DAFA. But there were so many cool and interesting and beautiful pieces of art and I wanted to take many of them home, some to study and emulate and some just to enjoy looking at. This state seems to be a place where old cars come to rest and some of the photographic art reflected that.
The next morning, we’re up and it’s time to pack up and move again. Destination Santa Fe. We take the high road scenic route and the county is beautiful. We stop to visit the Santuario de Chimayo and it has changed since I saw it a long time ago, much more commercialized. There are home made crosses on the fences surrounding the buildings and several grottoes with hundreds of plastic rosaries hanging on them.
Next morning is our 25th anniversary and we get up and have breakfast at Harry’s Roadhouse and drive toward town. We visit two museums and have lunch then head to the Plaza and hit the shops. For my anniversary present, I picked out a silver and turquoise ring. Dinner and returned to the camper.
Then, the Co2 alarm decides to start going off again. Neither of us is going to put up with that, so Brian cuts the wire. Now the heater doesn’t work. There’s a blown fuse and we have to go find a Walmart and get a new fuse or sleep cold.
We get back, plug in the new fuse and things work great, untill….
About 2:30-ish we wake up cold. The propane has run out. Neither of us is willing to get up, get dressed and go to Walmart again for a fresh tank. So we hunker down and endure. The mattresses in this camper have heaters in them so we pile all the available layers on, turn the dial up all the way and try to sleep again. I even got my fleece beanie hat to keep the top of my head warm. It worked. But waking up with the inside of the camper at 35 degrees is not conducive to getting out of bed. Even if the campground sells propane. About 7 something, Brian goes to get propane. It’s taking forever so I finally preheat some clothes by putting them under the covers with me and manage to get fit for the bathrooms.
Long story short, we get started two hours later than planned so the rest of the day feels rushed.
We drive south on the Turquoise trail from Santa Fe and go through the town of Madrid where part of the movie “Wild Hogs” was filmed. This is one of Brian’s favorite movies so of course we stopped and I found some places to shop in. We drive on south and then west and I found a piece of dirt road to cross. If you’ve read enough of my travel stories, it’s not truly vacation till Brian drops it into four wheel drive on a rocky road. We found the road but never had to drop it into four wheel drive but it’ll do.
When we come onto pavement, it’s to start a loop that takes us by the Jemez pueblo and hot springs and on around by Bandolier National Monument. Beautiful drive, the colors of the eroded mountainsides are amazing in red and brown and tan and gray, and there are still many trees in their fall colors of gold and yellow.
We get to Bandolier a few minutes after the visitor center closes and so we manage not to have to pay an entrance fee but the trails are still open. The cliff faces here are made of tuff which is volcanic ash compacted into an easily carved yet solid stone. The Indians here carved their rooms into the tuff and used the creek that flows down the center of the valley for water. The sun is getting low and it’s getting cool again.
After this, it’s time to head to the camper. Home and cook some pasta on the outdoor stove. It’s placed so when you are cooking, you get to enjoy the exhaust warmth from the heater. Nice to notice. Also nice to notice is the heater actually working. While I’m cooking dinner, I hear something small, probably cat sized, running behind me. A minute later, coyotes start singing in the direction the critter was running from. Smart critter.
Decision is made for traveling home that we will drive through Fort Sumner and stay at Caprock Canyons state park in Texas. A lot of this part of the trip is in the high plains again. Miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. We saw two small herds of pronghorn antelope, only about a dozen in each herd. Not the many big herds I remember from crossing the north east part of the state decades ago. A few cows scattered here and there. The most interesting thing to see was the graffiti on the trains where the track parallels the road. This seems to be a very heavily used train corridor. They’re not that long each but there are many of them. Most carrying shipping containers.
Fort Sumner’s only reason for existence was to be a prisoner camp for the Navaho and Mescalero Apache and its location many miles from nothing was part of the plan, there was nowhere to leave to. Many Navaho died on the long walk to the camp and many more died at the camp. After several years, the project was considered a failure and the Navaho were given back part of their lands and released to go home. The park ranger who greeted us and told us about the site was very knowledgable and enthusiastic about the history. He even showed us a brass ration token that was found nearby.
In New Mexico, the plains seems to be mostly empty or have a few herds of cows on them, entering Texas, the aquifer has been tapped and it’s nearly all farmed with cotton, corn and milo being the main crops this time of year with a few cattle feedlots and dairy farms here and there. The only difference I can see between the feedlots and dairy farms is the dairy cattle have a few metal roofs for shade and hay for feed instead of some kind of grain mixture. No fresh grass and no place to walk around much. I don’t think I would want milk from those cows.
After visiting there, we drove on to Caprock Canyons which is on the eastern end of the high plains. We get there late and find the place full. After asking someone with an official looking logo on his truck door about camping, he leads us to an overflow camping which is level and only two other people there, one of which is his RV. Turns out, he’s a professor from one of the local colleges and does some of his studies and photography here. He’s got a cute young female student here with him and she’s doing the photography with a really nice camera setup.
There are buffalo roaming loose in the park and when we wake up, there’s a herd a little ways away from us. As we had breakfast and packed things up, they kept getting closer. They finally drift through the campground 30 feet or so away. As we drive out, we slowly move by them in the car and they just look at us.
Then we finally get home and it’s time to empty things, do laundry and change the cat boxes. The cats are happy to see us and Lucky can’t decide if he wants to be inside or outside and keeps meowing to go through the door only to move 6 inches from it and sit for two minutes before begging to go through again.
We have to go to the store for a couple of things and I felt the whole week go fizzing away like it never happened. All I have is pictures and a few souvenirs to prove it happened.
I was schooled a couple of weeks ago by a young man from the Taos Pueblo on how long it takes to get sacred lands back from the US government.
Now, keep in mind, the Taoseños were never actually evicted from their home, the Taos Pueblo is the longest continually occupied city in North America. So they had a strong bargaining position.
Teddy Roosevelt was laying claim to land to be part of his National Forest program and claimed their sacred Blue Lake as part of the national forest. This is the source of the river that runs through their pueblo and provides their water.
This young man said every year, from two to four times a year, the Elders sent a delegation to Washington to petition for the return of their Blue Lake and sacred lands. For sixty four years. Things about that a moment. Sixty four years before the land and lake was returned to them. That is determination. That is persistence.
Now think if they, like so many other First Peoples, had also lost their homeland. At some point, you would realize there was no reclaiming all that had once been yours. All you could hope for was some small part of what had once been, barely enough to live on. And considering, all the broken promises and all the land stolen, you would decide to live in the small parcel you were allotted. And if what you had considered sacred land, where ancestors were buried, was part of a tract of undeveloped land, with no fences around it, and no guards, wouldn’t you still consider it at least partly yours? After all, you kept the stories and legends alive and visited the land sometimes and still felt the bond. You didn’t need scientists and archaeologists to tell you it was sacred, you knew it in your heart.
And this is where the oil company has decided the pipeline is going. And US Army Corp of engineers has agreed. It was rerouted from a route that would have brought it too close to the river that supplies Bismarck with its water. So the city is more important than the Indians who live in the way of the alternate route.
Like all people are not equal.
Like Indians don’t count.
Like sacred ground only exists in the minds of the ones who remember.
Like oil pipelines never leak.