A Field Guide To Taos

Taos is back on the map!

Last week, the Matador Network listed their 25 Coolest Towns in America for 2018.

Taos is way up there in the running at number 8!

Matador explains their decision to choose towns over cities by noting that “as cities become prohibitively expensive and vacations get shorter, smaller towns have become appealing options. Talented chefs and creative entrepreneurs are going where the cost of doing business is cheaper, and what results are towns across America where the food, drinks, and general good times are often better than in major metropolitan areas. And, in many cases, these towns have way better access to nature than the big cities.”

They kept their criteria to  towns with populations under 100,000. These days, Taos (the town),boasts a growing population of 5,763.

For locals, Taos is a thriving community of like-minded souls pressing forward in a collective mindset of sustainability in an unsustainable political landscape. Having mastered the art of living at an altitude of 7,000 feet, is just one of the ways that make us a little different, in that we never take for granted the challenges that living in the high desert brings: Droughts, water restrictions, seasonal fires and even the occasional avalanche, keep us here in spite of the fact it takes a day to get here from anywhere, although that’s about to change, big time.

For interested parties who would like to visit, but are not certain of what they’ll find, drop all expectations, and come with an open mind, is the best advice I can pass along.Taos is first and foremost, an artist community with excellent art museums, including the venerable, Harwood Museum of Art, along with dozens of galleries and studios that are spread around town.

Taos’ artists take inspiration from the mythic and magical light, the sweeping vistas of ochre and sage to the snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance. The mountains turn red in the evening light, hence their name, which translates to “blood of Christ.”

In the winter, Taos can on occasion be covered with snow, and  Taos Ski Valley resort is a mere 30-minute drive away for the avid skiers among you, but winter temperatures rarely plunge too low; sunny, warm days are the norm most of the year even when it snows, which means plenty of time to enjoy being outdoors besides on the slopes.

As the temperatures drop and Autumn’s leaves begin to carpet the ground, I thought it a perfect opportunity to suggest a few things to do in Taos during the colder months, besides ski! An abbreviated Field Guide, if you will.

Taos Pueblo

Number one on my list would be a visit to Taos Pueblo, the symbol most closely associated with Taos. This multi-story adobe village that has been continuously inhabited since pre-Columbian times, continues to house families who have been there since the beginning, even though many of the living spaces have been converted into shops, showcasing the Pueblo’s talented artists and artisans.

Don’t assume this is a kitschy tourist trap; the Pueblo Natives have diligently protected and preserved their culture. Parts of the pueblo are off-limits to visitors, with strict visiting hours for those that are open. The tribe licenses images of the Pueblo for commercial photography though you can snap pictures for personal use, and it’s a photographers dream; a step back in time, with the little Rio Pueblo running through it.

Hike

Don’t forget this is where Georgia O’Keeffe was first inspired to create her iconic Southwest paintings. Here, where the shifting light and colors startle one out of one’s comfort zone, where the lavender and yellow mesas appear to vibrate against the electric sapphire sky, as the red and ochre rock face, appears translucent in the late afternoon sun.

You can do your own thing, or check in with Heritage Inspirations for a custom tour that suits you and your schedule. Their tours will guide you through the area’s O’Keeffe heritage, into even more ancient history: the Land of Enchantment is the site of a rich and deep quarry.

Soak

After a day of hiking, the area’s natural hot springs beckon. Ojo Caliente, a spa resort at the foot of a mesa, has outdoor mineral pools of various temperatures open to the day tripper as well as guests who book multi-day stays. It has all the modern amenities you could hope for, though the hot springs have drawn fans for centuries before bathrobes and lockers were provided. An easy hiking trail takes you to the ruins of an ancient pueblo, with countless pottery shards scattered about in mute testimony to the departed population.

For a more authentic experience, you’ll find the Stagecoach Hot Springs down in the Rio Grande gorge near Arroyo Hondo, a couple of miles north of the Town of Taos. At the end of a trail, a few clothing-optional sand-bottomed rock pools in the river are as close to nature as you can get. Ask locals for directions and conditions – if water levels are low, it’s a no go. Otherwise it’s hippie paradise –  this is Easy Rider territory after all.

Spectacular Vernacular

Neither Mad Max nor Star Wars were filmed at the Earthship community outside Taos, but they could have been. A visiting European architect once described this collection of buildings as environmentally friendly but ugly.

An inspiring example of creative recycling and upcycling, in its edifices of bottles, cans and old tires reminds me of one of my late grandmother’s favourite sayings. “If you have lemons make lemonade.” In this case, if you have a pile of junk, make a house. It is actually a major tourist attraction – bringing people here from all over the world. Founder Mike Reynolds, in turn, exports Earthship Biotecture far and wide!

For Taos’ more traditional architecture, don’t miss the adobe masterpiece, the San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos, and do visit the ancient, surrounding buildings housing some of our finest shops and galleries while there.

Eat

Whether your palate craves the chile we are famous for, fine dining or both, you won’t go hungry in Taos, and if the hot stuff is new to you, start mild and work your way up. You’ll soon be addicted to the green chile, and you can’t beat it for breakfast, with eggs at the (northside), Taos Diner.

If you can’t make up your mind between the red and green, order Christmas and you’ll get both.

Serious Mexican food aficionados can head to either one of the Guadalajara Grill(s) for seafood (yes, seafood), including oysters on the half shell, ceviche and yummy fish tacos.

For fine dining, the choices are myriad but the Love Apple is tried and tested and is right up there with what you’ll find on either coast, with a seasonal farm to table menu featuring local ingredients, and a northern New Mexico spin on classic bistro food. The ambiance (the restaurant is located in a former chapel), doesn’t hurt either.

Jam

Live music every night in several different venues makes Taos a hip hangout for those who live here as well as those just passing through. From the historic Taos Inn where live music is as much of a tradition as the Margaritas, to Eskes, the Alley Cantina and the Mothership on the Mesa, with more to boot, Taos rocks. Pun intended.

Naturally along with the artists and writers who call Taos home, musicians make up our numbers as well, and these days Taos is earning a reputation as an event destination thanks to the Paseo, the Music Festivals in Kit Carson Park and on the Mesa.

Speaking of the Mesa, our airport is located just across from the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, and now, flights to Austin/Dallas put us on route from the middle of nowhere to everywhere, right on time for you to discover for yourself, why Taos is one of the coolest towns to visit in America.

For much more on what to do in Taos, please visit the official site for the Town of Taos, linked below

Taos.org

 

All images Stock Files

 

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