This morning it was up early, as we wanted to see the rest of Arches before we started out on our next segment eventually taking us to Taos, NM. The sun yesterday had been mostly bright with some clouds in the sky, but today it was very much a cloudy day, at least at 7:00 as we started out. We travel our way up to the Sand Arch parking lot (the one above Wolfe Ranch), and walk to the huge sandstone slabs standing vertically side by side with little space between. There is enough to enable easy passage, and the Sand Arch is only a third of a mile inside, so Gwen accompanies me. Actually, she leads me in, navigating the sandy ground without a problem. She is happy to be inside the area without anyone else (indeed there were no other people there while we are) until I show up. I have been noticing the juniper “driftwood” pieces that provide very interesting sculptural counterpoint to the smooth lines of the rocky spires that project into the skies from the sandy ground wherever we stop. So I get a number of pictures, and am able to get Gwen’s picture from a distance as she climbs around near the Sand Arch.
We get back in the car and keep going to Devil’s Garden, enjoying the various rock formations there as well.
That was the end of the trail, however, so we head back out. I take some more pictures where I think the light contrasts with the light from yesterday, but in general, we make our way out fairly quickly.
After a rather disappointing breakfast at Denny’s, we clear out of the hotel and head toward Farmington, NM, about half way to Taos. Along the way, Courtney, Sandy and Kyle and Suzie call to wish Gwen a Happy Mother’s Day, and in general catch us up on their happenings. We thoroughly enjoy the conversations.
We get to Farmington, and the first order of business is to get the laundry done. Oh, happy day! Gwen gets that done in a reasonable amount of time, putting us on fresh footing for the rest of the trip. Our trek out afterwards is to find food, as we hadn’t had any lunch, and it was getting toward 5:30 pm. After some false starts, we ended up at the St Clair Winery and Bistro, which turned out to be quite a find. We are relatively early, but it is Mother’s Day, so the crowd quickly catches up. We share a very nice rib eye with sautéed mushrooms and onions, along with some very nicely done vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes with onion bits mixed in. In the process of introducing us to the winery, Lisa, the waitress brought a couple of white and a couple of red samples for us to try. They are all good enough that we end up ordering six bottles to go. We will join their wine club after we get back to MI. After dinner, we go back to the hotel and have a quiet night in so I can catch up with my log and try to work out the picture workflow.
Monday, May 11
Today, we get up and take our time getting out of Farmington. There is no need to rush as we don’t want to get to the Historic Taos Inn before check-in time (nominally at 3:00 pm). We leave about 9:30, and while we don’t set any land speed records, we get here about 1:30 pm. Along the way there are few things to distract; the scenery is greener than the deserts of Palm Springs area, but not so varied as we were used to seeing in Utah (with the sandstone buttes, towers and ridges all over the place). We pass three times into the Carson National Forest, and out twice, or is it the other way around? I do remember the first “National Forest” sign we called each other’s attention to was a “leaving” sign. We get well above the snow line while in the Carson forest, crossing over the higher elevations of our trip there. The snow is not near the road, nor are the temperatures below 40, but there are many obvious patches of snow below our elevation while we are doing our crossing. As we come into the area of Taos, one thing we do notice are a group of homes, spaced out from each other, and standing a couple of hundred yards off the road. They are each surrounded by their own version of a junk yard, usually with quite a few older cars/trucks, as well as trash cans, wood (broken), metal (rusted), and some kind of covering over all or part of the central area. The houses themselves are some sort of trailer or portable living accommodation (sometimes more than one). There are quite a few of these dwellings spotted along the road. The land in the immediate vicinity has lots of green, but is basically scrub brush.
After checking in, we eat our late lunch in the hotel’s restaurant (named after Doc Martin, who started up his practice in the building where the restaurant is located in the late 1800s). His wife, after his death in the 1920s, turned this lot into a hotel for visitors, and through several revisions and some new owners recently, it remains a staple of the town.
After lunch, we walk to the Kit Carson Museum, just around the corner. This was Kit Carson’s house in Taos. Taos is the place where Kit and his third wife Josefa lived, and were buried after they died in 1868. Josefa died as a result of complications from giving birth to their sixth child. Kit died a month later, finally succumbing to an aneurysm with which he had been suffering for several years. He was 59 years old, and she was 40. The museum is well-presented, bringing out his early days as a trapper, hunter and “mountain man” of no small reputation as the result of his navigating James C. Fremont on his adventures in the western US. Fremont was generous in his praises, assuring for Kit a place in history. His place in lore was secured by the authors of books about mountain men in the old west who claimed for him credit for deeds of daring do in dozens of stories. These claims made the stories more exciting but the reality didn’t match. Between the two, however, Kit Carson was the most well-known mountain man around. He was not proud of this reputation, and in fact did what he could to discourage it.
The other part of his life emphasized by the museum was his family life. He married early to a young Indian woman. She died of complications following the birth of their second child. He married twice more.
The museum gives us both a better understanding of the man and the life he led. We walk next to an old house not far away where Governor Charles Bent was killed by a group of unhappy Indians and Mexicans. He had been appointed as territory Governor in September of 1846. In January of 1847, he was awoken with his family in the house because the Indians and Mexicans were upset about now being governed by the US rather than the Spanish. Bent went out front to talk to them to try to calm them down and to give time for his family to leave. He was not successful. He was wounded by both arrows and bullets, and was finally killed by being scalped alive. As a result of this gruesome episode, the military came in and killed a number of people including hanging those believed to be responsible. The museum included a number of artifacts of the period, including rifles, tools and other implements. There were a number of newspaper articles about the episode as well.
We walk back to the hotel, and have been resting ourselves since. Tomorrow, Steve Bundy meets us out back to take us out on our day around Taos.