Trippin’ through Taos

Mysterious Taos

Taos, New Mexico is a high desert arts community in the foothills of the Carson National Forest below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. A four season destination, Taos is the temperate hub to access Rio Grande water sports, Rocky Mountain black diamond ski slopes, historical Indian Pueblos and the future of off-grid sustainable housing at Earthship Biotecture. Taos is a cauldron of creativity where history, art, innovation and recreation collide.

Earthship 2020 in Taos

Off-grid build

We found Taos in June 2019 when daughter Cam enrolled in Earthship Academy to supplement her traditional architecture studies and learn about fully self-sustainable dwellings that incorporate a high level of recyclable materials. On a quick stopover visit, we whitewater rafted the Taos Box on the Rio Grande, shopped through galleries and thrift stores and toured the greater earthship community. This year was her field study to actually build an Earthship, so we put Taos back on the 2020 route.

Rio Grande River

Rio Grandastic

About 30 miles north of Taos is the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument where the Red River meets the Rio Grande. This Wild Rivers recreation area boasted the only open Visitor Center we’d seen since March and killer views of the 800 foot gorge.

Beenie babies, COVID masks, very odd visitor center indeed

As a national monument, there are less restrictions on its use than National Parks. When the Rio is running in the spring, rafters put in at the John Dune Bridge in the middle of the Monument. When the river is slow and the sun is hot, the bridge access point becomes party central, like it was for this Labor Day weekend.

Party-up on Labor Day

It’s a rough ride in and out; bring your SUP, raft, tube, chair, ez-up, grill, radio, dog … heck bring the kitchen sink if you want to cause this is the place to be when the temps soar into the 90s. Entering from the East, it’s 5 miles down a fall off dirt road to become the cream in the Oreo car sandwich. It might be a hidden spot. The road signs may be ‘missing but everyone from Taos knows where it is. Wishing we had a beer, sandwich, bathing suit and chair, we stopped to feel the vibe then exited up the dirt road to the West, where 11 bumpy miles through the sage fields felt like an eternity til Rt 64 well west of Taos finally appeared to take us home.

Road to nowhere

Back at the build …

Blended into the sage covered hills west of Taos is an experiment in green technology that doubles as a residential community and triples as a school house. A team of talented students, instructors, and master craftsman were connecting classroom concepts in renewable energy and water recycling to home construction. From sun up to sun down, the hearty team battled the elements while turning a ridge in the high desert into a modern, self-sufficient, off-grid, luxury dwelling.

Using the ridge for thermal stability in hot or cold climate

The design was high-tech, but the learning was hot, windy, dusty, heavy hard work. We showed up strategically at the end of the day to lend a hand (the clapping kind) just as the team was grabbing a cold one and sitting for the first time that day to observe their progress. Eric geeked out on the half-complete build as Cam used the exposed plumbing to explain how rain catchment eventually grows plants in the atrium while providing all the water related needs of the residents.

Hard work and long days at the earthship homesite

Ski Valley highs

About 30 miles west of Taos is Ski Valley which has become a 4 season destination. We hit the slopes with a 25 minute ride up the lift to hike around and try to figure out how people ski over rocks, between trees and down 80 degree declines, then to figure out why they would want to. In the no-snow seasons, the black diamond course becomes a mountain bikers dream.

Looks fun – if you are 20-something
More our style

Both rider and bike get a lift to the top with a fast wheelin course full of jumps, snakes and hairpins to the bottom. Leaving the downhill runs on ski or bike to the fearless, we found something more our speed, their 18 hole disc golf course.

Found it

Designed in the spirit of verticality, the first hole starts at the base of the mountain, winds its way uphill and back down again to finish on a lift line. They say you can download the map on UDISC, but it wasn’t there when we tried, so we followed the handwritten signs with diagram and inspirational quote and searched the distance for baskets, sometimes just chucking the disc down a path.

Disc golf overlooks an alpine village in Taos Ski Valley

Eric got a lot of scrambles on, like on 10 with a downed branch pull up, on 13 where the Innova Superseed got buried in the thick and on 16, where the basket was conveniently located among the snow blowing equipment. It was our favorite course of the season and inspired us to plan a revisit to Appling, Georgia to replay the official home of the PDGA championship courses.

Not giving up
Perfect form

Here comes the snow

Back down the mountain in the comfort of the Taos Monte Bello RV park, an early winter was moving in. The mountains were shrouded in gray clouds and the temps dropped into the 30s. We blanketed up with the most healthy and delicious eggplant parm dinner from Gimme Some Oven and watched the movie Late Night on Amazon Prime. When we’re camping with amenities like internet, electric and wifi, it’s just like living in our condo at home. When we awoke, snow blanketed the scenery and webcams on our route showed potentially hazardous conditions. But we’re seasoned, black diamond RVrs so we pushed out, with alternative A, B and C toward Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a dark sky National Park 300 miles north of Taos in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Winter in Taos on Sep 9th, 2020

The roads into the Colorado Rockies are famous on RV blogs for descriptions of their shoulder-less, winding, steep grades. We contemplated the forum advice on traversing passes during a winter storm, then left our full-hook up in Taos anyway. After the snow plows cleared the roads of 8-10 inches of fresh snow, we pushed north over the mountain passes on the picturesque and less traveled Colorado route 114 to join Rt 50 into Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Heading out questioning if the mountain pass is a good idea today

The day prior, we had secured a reservation on a last minute weather cancel in the otherwise full south rim campground of the National park. Since our arrival day was the last day of the regular, reservation-only, summer season, we knew that once we parked Roxie, we would be able to extend in place into the first-come, first-serve off-season.

Early winter on scenic Rt 114 in Colorado

Black Canyon ready

With the onset of COVID, the great outdoors that have been hiding in America’s backyard all this time have become very popular vacation destinations. Not having reservations in place anywhere 6 months out, we have had to hone our skills at the art of the camp site scramble. As we wedged Roxie in to a 25 feet spot at Black Canyon, we counted our blessings that we had hit it onto the green, pin high, out of the rough yet again. If the winter weather would move just move out, we have some exploring to do.

Taking whatever reservations we can get

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