When we first decided to come down to Taos, it was the town itself that drew me. I have always loved the town in the impression it imprinted upon me on those brief meetings I'd had with the place when passing through. I don't think I ever stayed the night or spent more than a couple of hours wandering the streets and taking in the vibe. I identified with the town's free-spirited nature, embodied in the hippy artists walking the streets, the art galleries, and the shops selling New Age spiritual goods. I liked the looks of the old town. The adobe buildings with their rounded edges, flat roofs, and a low center of gravity against the backdrop of wide blue skies and soft mountain peaks. Taos held a bit of the exotic for me. I envied the artists and their hippy ways. Envied their talent and the idea that they could live doing something creative. I occasionally like to dabble in creativity in the form of drawing, but I do not have the patience for sticking with it beyond a sketched drawing in a book that then gets stuffed away for several months or years. It's the same way for all things having to do with sewing or knitting. Or cross-stitch. I tried those things. They were supposed to be relaxing. I found that once I got past the parts where images take shape and colors change frequently, I got bored. And then anxious. I could not stick with the tedious background for the life of me, and there were many an unfinished project tossed aside for something more interesting. I guess that says something about how I live my life, too. Though out here I am growing more patience, while also having the benefits of changing shapes and colors at the same time. I still don't see me knitting any time soon, but I may pull out those sketchbooks more often now.
When we arrived, the plan was to stay as long as the weather allowed. There is now snow on the peak outside my window. The weather has allowed until now, but we will push through some below freezing nights for the next several days while a friend comes to visit. There is a big reluctance in running the rig's heater all night. It uses a lot of propane for one. For another, it uses a lot of propane. And with that, there comes the visions of the RV going up in flames in the middle of the night that does not compel me to tempting that possibility unless I have to. Prior to this RV becoming the place I call home, it was used almost entirely during the summer months. Since 1993. Imagine the dust buildup inside the furnace. I had cleaned up the outside when remodeling, but for all I know, the inside is a jungle of the accumulations of time. We did test the heater. It turned on. It smelled (yes, they always do upon first use, even in a stationary home). It set off the fire alarm, which happens to be located on the ceiling just above the location of the furnace. That was the end of our test of the heat. I am sure we will brave it again, taking it in small doses, to see if we can clear out the cobwebs without disaster striking. For now, though, the ceramic space heaters work just fine. On Tuesday night, when the low goes down to the mid-20s, if all six of us wake up as popsicles, we might have to revise our plan.
I am glad to be staying for a little while longer. The daytime temperatures are going to be good fall temperatures. And I am not finished yet with this area. I had assumed that Taos would be the big draw for being here, and that I would hope to find some good hikes to go along with forays into town, but, as with other places we've been so far, the natural spaces are where I am drawn. The town is secondary. Thus far, it has primarily been the place to go to run errands. I will be glad for the opportunity to wander the streets with a visiting friend, without the distractions of feeling like it is necessary, since I am there, to get some shopping done, and thereby foregoing the wandering through the old town to peek into galleries and admire the history of the place.
I have wished for that sketchbook on a couple of occasions as I have explored a place I never knew existed. Taos is in the mountains. It was the place where I breathed more freely again when passing from the even drier areas south of here to this transition zone where desert meets alpine on my way into Colorado from Texas. But the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument is something different still. And I never knew it existed. It was only named a National Monument in 2013. Prior to that, it was a state park and BLM land. It is wild. It has a sense of age around it, seemingly almost unmolested because it does not get the traffic seen in other, more popular canyons. This time of year is perfect for hikes into and above the canyon. There are even fewer visitors. The company you keep is more likely to be lizards, tarantulas, and big horn sheep than it is to be another human being. And maybe a rattlesnake because, apparently, this is the time of year when they are most active, with feeding frenzies in the morning to prepare for winter when they don't hibernate, but they do become nearly inactive. So far, I have not seen any rattlesnakes. Or heard them. Which is fine by me. I am okay knowing they are there, and I would even be okay seeing one, as long as it was stretched out (they can only strike when they are coiled), sunning itself, at a nice and safe distance. Safe enough that it would not feel threatened by my passing. I have seen tarantulas. Several of them. I don't fear them in the open, out on trails. They are in their place, and they are not likely to decide that my leg is something they want to crawl up. So I have the freedom to be fascinated by their big, furry bodies. They still creep me out a little when they scamper off.
Walking along the rim of the Rio Grande Del Norte is quite the experience. The steep canyon walls and the river below invoke a sense of grandeur. But to go down into the canyon and sit by the river, watching the flow of the water as it tumbles over rocks and glides southward to form the border between Mexico and the US, while often not quite making it to the Gulf of Mexico these days because of drought conditions and water usage upstream, and looking up at the canyon walls above, gives a person a feeling of timelessness. The Chislo trail was a short, but steep, hike from the rim down to the banks of the Rio Grande. Each round of the bend in a switchback brought with it a new perspective on views below and above. The rocks above give texture to the space rising above your head, and the precariousness with which some are perched give pause for the thought of how they continue to hang on. They could come crashing down at any moment, adding to the din of river and wind and landing below to provide another obstacle for the river to flow around as it passes through. The river itself gets larger and louder. Louder isn't really the correct word. It isn't all that loud, as the rapids along this stretch are not that big. The water actually flows quite gently through much of this section.
It is the wind that is loud, and it doesn't let up during the entire hike and the time I am out there. I used to love the wind. I found it invigorating. Except when I am on my bike. The wind would make me feel alive. Somewhere along the line, in the stressors of day-to-day living, the wind became something whose presence only served as another force pushing against me in my goal to reach a destination or to move freely about my day, making my way more difficult than I felt it needed to be. As I've shed those stressors, I find that the wind is my friend again. I admire its strength when it gusts through canyons or across grasslands, or its gentle presence as it passes softly through the leaves on trees. Even when I am driving Knight and it feels the wind will surely blow us all over, I am nervous as hell and scared, but I still admire this force of nature.
I am going to be sad to leave this rugged wilderness before I've had a chance to explore more of the mountains around it. There is so much to see here. I know I will be back. I will find my way again to the banks of the Rio Grande, and hopefully have the opportunity to sleep on the rim, falling asleep to nature' music. I still have several days left to take in this place, to do a few things I have yet to get to. And, now, it's time to head off, to make my way to a new trail.