Taos was next on our list of things to do while visiting this area, and we headed out in excitement to see this town known for its arts community and ski slopes. However, in these parts, it is no small decision on how to get there as you are faced with taking either the High Road or the Low. The High Road promises views of badlands, forests, mountains and villages and the Low winds through the gorge cut by the Rio Grande River. We, being the consummate tourists, decided to do both – the High Road to Taos and the Low Road back to Santa Fe!
These roads are approximately a 120 mile loop but at 2 lanes that are winding in many parts with speed limits of 25mph in the many small communities that dot this path they are not the choice to take if you are in a hurry. In our case, this trip to Taos was as much about the journey as the destination and took us the entire day.
Both roads delivered as promised. The High Road begins with views of a landscape not unlike the Badlands. Climb a bit higher and you find yourself in a pine forest, a bit higher and you see mountains in the distance dotted with snow. It was striking at how quickly the scenery changed before us. Towns along the way are punctuated with adobe homes and Spanish names. Between the actual drive and stopping for pictures it took us a little over 2 hours to arrive in Taos.
Since it was close to lunch time, we found a small restaurant off of the square and enjoyed a meal of Southwestern fare. Chili rellenos for Art and tacos (it was Tuesday, after all) for Caryn and I. Not as good as the meal we had the day before in Albuquerque it was still tasty and we are enjoying sampling this cuisine daily. After lunch, we moseyed about the shops looking for the perfect turquoise jewelry for Caryn. No success in this town but tomorrow we hit Santa Fe!
Leaving Taos we chose a route that would take us over the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge before hitting the Low Road (this required planning a route back to the Low Road on county roads, which I will go into later). The bridge is 565 feet above the Rio Grande and according to Wikipedia is the 7th highest bridge in the United States. Driving through the flatness of the high desert, you really don’t notice the gorge until you are over it – I imagine many a stampeding buffalo must have met an untimely death back-in-the-day coming upon this hole in the earth! There is a rest area on the south side that allows you to get out and walk back over the bridge you just crossed in the car. It’s quite a view and a long way down.
Once satisfied we had captured the experience we headed out toward those aforementioned county roads that would lead us to the Low Road. Driving along on a two lane, straight, flat road we felt like the only people on earth – talk about wide open spaces! After about 5 miles the road suddenly became gravel. Coming to an abrupt halt, we sat in the car debating what to do. The only viable options were to return back to Taos and pick up the Low Road from there (now 20 miles out of our way) or take the road in front of us. Just when we were about to get out and walk down the gravel a bit to see what conditions we were dealing with, a car coming up the gravel road passed us. Flagging them down, we got the scoop that it was a manageable route…no, problem. Well, that was enough for us and off we began down the gravel road. Let me just say, that I was glad that I was driving. Not because Art or Caryn are bad drivers, but because as soon as we turned the first curve on this “manageable” gravel road we saw that it hugged the rim of the gorge we had just been gaping at a few minutes before. Control freak that I am, I would have been panicked if not behind the wheel! I guess we had to get to the Low Road from the High Road somehow, but I didn’t venture on such a dramatic fashion! Fortunately, the road was wide so I could drive down the middle of it and it was only 2 miles long before connecting to a paved road closer to lower ground. For your amusement, I’ve included a short video clip of the hairpin curve at the beginning of this road – you can’t see the gorge but, trust me, it was there! I’ve also dubbed over my voice of panic with pleasant music to make it sound like it was so much fun!
Once on the Low Road which follows the Rio Grande, we stopped for a few pictures and to dip our toes in the water. Despite the “detour” the Low Road is a quicker option than the High and we were back to the campground within 1 ½ hours including our stop at the bridge.
All-in-all, another day of adventure as we make it even closer to the Grand One!