Heading from Santa Fe to Taos, via Bandelier National Monument, we had the choice between the scenic High Road to Taos and the less scenic but 1/2 hour faster Low Road. Sadly, I was outvoted and we ended up taking the faster route. I guess since we have logged more than 35 hours in the car, I can’t blame them. But now that you know what could have been, my pictures of the scenery on the way can be nothing but disappointing! Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. It wasn’t bad scenery, but it just wasn’t a sweeping view from the top of the mountain. Oh well, maybe next time.
We planned two nights at a campground about 40 minutes north of Taos. It was a nice drive up in the mountains, and we just kept climbing up, up up. We arrived at Columbine Campground in Carson National Forest and found our campsite, but there was no where to put our tent! It was the smallest little campsite jammed between another site and a rock wall. It honestly didn’t make any sense. We talked to the campground manager, and they said we could put our tent anywhere there wasn’t another campsite, so we ended up right outside the woods, a little walk from our assigned site.
Other than the “where to put the tent” drama, the campground was nice, though quite rustic (no bathroom with showers or even a sink – just a pit toilet). It was high in the mountains and had a nice view. We had a campfire and made s’mores, while the boys had fun playing.
However, before bed, our (very close by) neighbors stopped by to chat with us and let us know how cold the weather was overnight (they were in a pop-up camper but had a broken heater). It was nice to be forewarned about the weather, so we all bundled up as much as we could, wearing layers of pajamas, sweatshirts and hats to bed, and using all the extra blankets and beach towels we had to cover up.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to stay warm, it was COLD! C and I kept waking up to adjust blankets and hats on the kids so they didn’t freeze, and we both spent an uncomfortable night freezing ourselves. C’s sleeping bag didn’t zip, and he says he didn’t sleep at all. So, the next morning, as we were sitting in our tent zipped in our sleeping bags, waiting for it to be warm enough to leave the tent, we went ahead and booked ourselves a hotel for that night :/. Tent camping fail!
We took our time packing up the tent the next morning, having one last campfire and letting the boys play outside. Then we headed down to Taos, where we visited the Taos Pueblo, believed to be the longest continuously inhabited residence in the Americas.
We had been to a few sites around the Southwest between this trip and spring break that had featured historic homes for the native americans that lived in this area before the Europeans came and screwed everything up for them. It is neat to go to these sites and learn a new little piece of history at each one. We had been talking so much about Native Americans and they were gone from all the sites, so L asked if they were extinct. I explained that they were still alive (as descendants of the people we were learning about – not the actual 700 year old people, of course, L verified with me). I think he was expecting them to look somehow different, and not be just like a normal modern person.
We took a tour and it was fascinating to learn how the people lived and continue to live (no electricity, internet, plumbing, etc). Most of the Taos Pueblo people live in more modern houses nearby, and use their properties in the Pueblo for celebrations, though I think some do live there permanently (usually for a period of time – not their whole lives). The buildings are so neat!
Our tour guide also told us a fascinating story about a lake located in the mountains behind the Pueblo. This lake was taken from the Pueblo people by the US government, but it was a very sacred place to the Pueblo. They petitioned for years and were finally granted the land and lake back to them by then-president Richard Nixon. She said he was a hero among her people. They were also the ONLY Native American tribe to be granted land back from the government.
We finished our visit by supporting the local people through our purchase of frybread, cookies and brownies. A also bought a cool handmade bow and arrow, but unfortunately, it did not survive his extensive bow and arrow training.
That night, after our tent camping fail, we booked a room at Taos Ski Valley, and had a nice comfortable room (with an upstairs!) in a nearly deserted ski resort, with a babbling brook running in front of our room. Way better than freezing in a tent, I have to admit!
We were up early the next morning for a fun adventure. I will tell you the details in the next post, but in the meantime, here is a sneak peek….