If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Southwestern Desert Getaway

The Journey

After a first quarter to the year that was a bit tumultuous, we decided to take a bit of down time and wanted somewhere that would not be cold and would not be far from home. With Kathleen having some nagging issues with her neck after her January accident, we knew we were not going to be doing any long runs on the trip. So we decided to head to Taos, New Mexico where we could get some sun, some running, and some good relaxation. Turned out, that was a good plan.
We started our drive in wet and spitting snow but by the time we hit the turn at Walsenburg, CO, we had some blue skies breaking out - sweet! Those are the Spanish Peaks - East on the left at 12,683' and West on the right at 13,625'.
Mount Mestas showing off some fresh dusting of snow from the morning cloud cover as we start over La Veta Pass.
We are not much for junk food, however, I have had a weakness for Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies from a very young age - they make great "traveling fuel" !!!
We arrived in Taos to blue sky with some fluffy clouds, much better than the snow that was falling at home! This is the view off the porch of the casita we were renting for the week. Miles and miles of sagebrush and mountains - awesome!
After tooling around the plaza for a bit and making a run to Cid's Natural Food Market for supplies, we put our feet up and started planning our activities (or lack of...) for the next few days. We had a fantastic sunset, as we would each evening.
Sunday's Fun Day
We took a run on Sunday from our base camp on the Taos Mesa, down into the Rio Grande Gorge to the John Dunn Bridge - a local landmark. Kathleen is running high up on the rim above the river, with the Taos mountains in the background.

There it is folks - The John Dunn Bridge, with the Rio Grande River flowing beneath.

Posing for the group photo at the bottom of the Gorge.
Steve starting back up out of the Gorge, with the soothing sounds of the running water to help with the relaxation.

Kathleen makes her way up - notice the switchbacks cut into the western wall of the Gorge.
More great views of the mountains from atop the eastern rim.
Our neighbors for the week - Morningstar Alpaca Ranch. The alpacas were always curious when we went by their pastures and would line up to watch us. We finished with a nice 8 mile run and then kicked back for the afternoon.
Monday on the West Rim
Monday we headed out to the West Rim Trail, which starts at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge northwest of Taos. The bridge is a 1200' span across the gorge formed by the Rio Grande River and sits 650' up from the waters below. The trail roughly follows the western rim of the gorge and travels through mostly sagebrush desert but has incredible mountain vistas for the entire length of the trail. Kathleen runs here with Taos mountain in the distance.
You can see the mouth of the gorge opening on the left of this photo. It was once again a bluebird day - not a single cloud in the sky. Kathleen peeled off a bit early as she was feeling like keeping the runs short to help with her neck discomfort.
This tree seemed like a good spot to turn around. Hard to beat views like that - makes it difficult to concentrate on the run...
... however, this is not the spot to have a lapse of judgement and step off the trail!!! There is the bridge in all it's glory, with the Rio Grande far below.
Kathleen grabbed Sage and headed back out to meet me as I finished the run. It was a nice 8 miler, with a faster than normal pace as the trail is relatively level around 7100' elevation.
We took a little time to visit our curious neighbors in the afternoon.
The chocolate colored gent in the rear is Logan - Kathleen purchased several skeins of yarn from his coat and is knitting a small bag with it. We'll put up a pic when it is finished. Alpaca yarn is highly prized in the knitting world and makes very durable and warm clothing.
My girls catching the afternoon sun on the deck - Kathleen is knitting, but not yet with Logan's coat!
What the heck ???

Kathleen has had some issues with chronic bronchitis but has not had it for 15 months - the longest span in many years - until TODAY. Right in the middle of what was supposed to be a relaxing trip. This is crap. But, alas, under protest, it is here to stay.

So I decided to head out from base camp again and do the R2R2R ...
...but not THAT R2R2R. :-0 This was Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Taos-style. I ran from the east rim of the gorge, down and over the Dunn bridge, and up the switchbacks onto the west rim. The view of the Rio Grande looking south from the third switchback.
On top of the west rim ... in Awe!
Coming back down from the west rim, I had a good view up river to the bridge. Once again it was a fabulous weather day, but I would have preferred to NOT be running alone.
A helpful rock took a photo for me!
Looking down from 3/4 of the way up the eastern wall - you can see the third and fourth switchbacks cut into the western side. It was another great day to run and I got in a nice 10 miler with a couple sharp climbs thrown in.
The girls were basking in the sun when I returned. You can see the start of Logan's wool being crafted into a bag - Kathleen was busy while I was gone! She is hiding the disappointment of not running well - she is not happy with the turn of events for sure!
Lemonade Anyone???

If you get lemons, you just need to make lemonade, right? We knew that, for the most part, Kathleen would just have to "ride out" the bronchitis. Though she did not sleep much Tuesday night, she felt OK Wednesday, so we decided to do at least a couple more tourist type activities.
We cruised down to Ranchos de Taos to visit San Francisco de Asis Chapel, one of the most photographed churches in the southwest.
The thick adobe walls do stand out nicely against the azure blue desert sky - quite a visual combination. Murphy's Law was at work today - there was work being done on the inside of the chapel, so it was an exterior-only visit.
Had to get a family photo at the Taos sign!
If you are in Taos, you need to go to 5 Star Burgers - no questions asked! They serve antibiotic free Angus Beef burgers and tasty sweet potato fries - mmmmm! I personally recommend the Taos Burger - battered green chile, barbecue sauce, and cheddar - just earn it on your run! We finished off the day with some shopping at the plaza, and a vist to Rooster's Coffee - Java Time!
After a sunset like this it is hard to leave, but we headed out Thursday morning to head back to Colorado. It was not the relaxation we had envisioned, but if you are going to have "forced" down time, there are probably not many better places than this. It was off to the doc for neck checkup and antibiotics for Kathleen - yeehaw... But we're not letting it spoil a good time and good memories from the desert!!!
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