The American Southwest, part five

Traveling with The Peacemaker does make for a more exciting trip. For the most part, I drove, my son was my co-pilot, investigating every town we drove through, Yelping restaurants in every city…. with Blue Eyes working (or napping) in the back seat.

Our destination after Moab was all the way to Taos, New Mexico. The drive took us through Durango, Colorado where we stopped for a bathroom break, a snack, and a walk through a pretty park on the Animas River.

Animas River

Next stop on Day 7 was in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The Peacemaker decided we needed a proper hike to break up the day, so we drove up the long and winding Four Mile Road to Four Mile Falls trailhead near the top of Pagosa Peak in the Rio Grande Forest.

The main trail was pretty slushy with melting snow, so we took the reverse horse trail and found our own path to keep from getting too muddy. We didn’t hike all the way to the falls (which are probably pretty sparse this time of year) because we wanted to get back before sunset to a viewpoint we had passed on the road. Blue Eyes stayed in the car.

Four Mile Falls Trail
Not much snow left on this trail. Whereas it had been 25 degrees at 8000+ feet in the Wasatch Mountains just after Sunday’s snow, it was now up to about 45 degrees at about 10000’ at this location. Still gasping for air, but not nearly as cold!
It was a beautiful day in Colorado!
Sunset on the way down the mountain.

We grabbed take away po-boys in town from The Lost Cajun (very good) and hit the road. Little did we know that we were in for a slow drive to Taos. Our route took us up and over a very snowy pass on highway 64 where we didn’t see a single other vehicle, however, we saw dozens and dozens of elk. It was slow going as it was, thankfully, because it was that very special time just after dark, when animals love to cross the road. Although it was really too dark to take decent photos, we ended up stopping numerous times, turning off the car and watching and listening for the male elk bugling (mating calls).

It’s an eerie and beautiful sound that we learned about five years ago in the Grand Tetons. As we turned out the car lights and our eyes adjusted, we could see herds of elk just yards from the road. We definitely felt like the outsiders. Eventually we did have to get back on the road though or we weren’t ever going to make it to Taos.

Taos was the one location where I had chosen an airbnb for our accommodations. Next road trip if I can, I will choose more airbnbs. This 1895 adobe near downtown was really special. There was even a separate one bedroom casita on the property for The Peacemaker. I had informed the property manager of our late arrival and they kindly had the authentic Kiva fireplaces burning for us. We woke to snow on the ground and a view of the Taos Mountains.

The main house
The Casita
The yard
The interior great room with traditional Kiva fireplace
The little neighborhood church. It’s name is Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, but I like to call it the church of many crosses.

The entire time we were in New Mexico, The Peacemaker was in search of green chile everything! Every food we ate had to have green chiles!

Breakfast that first morning in Taos included roasted green chile omelette with hash browns, breakfast enchilada with green chile sauce, and I broke from the rules and ordered red chile sauce on the huevos rancheros. We shared everything in the beautiful eat-in kitchen at the airbnb because New Mexico is serious about their Covid rules. It was all so very good and filling.

Turns out The Peacemaker and I needed that big breakfast to get us through the next few hours of some serious hiking on the big mountain in Taos Ski Valley.

It all sounded so reasonable… he’d researched the trail the weekend before. Beautiful 4.5-5 mile round trip hike up to Williams Lake. The pictures looked so green, and lovely. Even though we would be starting the hike at 10,000 feet (gasp), there was only about 1,000’ elevation gain and the times given seemed do-able for a Friday afternoon. Notes in the All Trails app warned of lack of parking and some crowding on the trail, but we figured with the snowfall they’d had earlier in the week, it would be less crowded than normal.

When we arrived the parking lot for the trailhead (or what we thought was the parking lot, still not quite sure—since we hiked quite some way and past a ski lift, a restaurant, and some other out buildings before it felt like we were actually on a trail), there were exactly two vehicles and one looked like it hadn’t started in many a moon.

The parking lot was plowed, but there was 2-3’ of snow accumulation all around us. We parked, I put on my heavy-duty Danner hiking boots, realizing a little too late that I had ordered the boots a half size larger in order to accommodate some nice heavy duty hiking socks, which I had neglected to bring. All I had with me were my little ankle socks. Prior to this hike, I had been wearing my crossover walking/hiking Merrells which are nicely broken in and worked fine. This time I needed the real thing.

Taos Ski Valley
A cute little creek to the side of the trail
Part of the way there was some semblance of a trail
And in other parts, there really wasn’t much of a trail and we were slogging through about 3’ of snow.
When we finally reached the lake, it was frozen and we were losing the sun. We explored a little bit, took a few photos, and then hightailed it out of there because I was cold, my ankles ached, and I was seriously afraid we were going to be stuck on that mountain in the dark. I shouldn’t have worried, because what took me over 2 hours to hike up to, took me less than 30 minutes to hike down from. I kid you not! I flew down that mountain. No photos, no water breaks, no huffing and puffing. When we reached the car, I ripped off those boots to find bloody gashes on the outsides of both ankles. The boots were simply too loose, taking on snow, and rubbing my skin raw. All in all though, we had a great time and I’m proud of myself for doing it!

We were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset on our way back to town.

Taos, New Mexico 10/30/20

Next stop, Santa Fe! 🚘

10 thoughts on “The American Southwest, part five

  1. Stokes Green Chilli – straight out of Colorado. Serioulsy delicious! You can order it online now days – thats what I do to get my fix since I am not traveling to Colorado anythime soon. If you havent tried it – you should 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such a fun travelogue. Thanks for sharing in such detail and so many parts. In the next five months I’ll likely be helping move my daughter to Arizona and helping my brother move back to Maine from Los Angeles, so I may have two cross-country drives and needed some ideas, so this is helping a lot. If I can get Colorado and Utah, I’ll only have Alaska left for all 50!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Joshua. I hope you get those cross country drives. Colorado and Utah are both gorgeous states (as is Alaska, of course!). I’m missing a whole pocket of states in the middle, WI, IA, IN, AR, MS, AL, KY, TN. It would be one heck of a road trip to get them all, plus I like to stay at least two nights in a state to call it done. More Utah to come. Zion was on our way back up.

      Liked by 1 person

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