Monday, November 8, 2010

What I do on a day off with friends...

South of Taos the village of Pilar lies along a bend of the Rio Grande, a view from the hillside in Autumn colors. We took a loop drive to Talpa, Penasco, Dixon, Pilar and back to Taos, and here is our adventure...
This past week we had friends visiting from out of town, on Friday we took the day off from our shops to go with them and wander around. Here's what we did, a little tour for Maggie & Alex...
Just up the road from Ranchos de Taos St. Francis Plaza is the intersection of 518, it's here where you'll begin a journey on what is known as the "High Road", which is full of little villages and their respective beautiful Churches, each different each amazing. As usual the Churches are kept locked up, but are wonderful to see nonetheless. This photograph is from a quick visit to a small Church/Capilla in Talpa, sitting back from the road behind a chain link fence.
Before you travel into the mountains from Taos you will pass the Fort Burgwin Archeological site on the left and Southern Methodist University summer school campus on your right.
Above, an assortment of crosses leaning against a Church wall in Trampas. I've included these here to show the extraordinary variety. After you wind your way up into the mountains the road takes you down to an extreme switchback which you'll be turning right at, if you were to go straight this would take you on to Sipapu, Mora where you'll find a wonderful raspberry farm & Las Vegas, NM. At this junction you will be turning onto 75 and heading for Penasco.
We drove through the village of Penasco and headed for the Harding Mine near Dixon. Passing by the Picuris Pueblo, which usually has 2 entrances one of which was closed, causing us to unintentionally miss visiting there. You'll need to download and print a release form before visiting the mine unless you know where the caretaker's house in Dixon is which is tricky to find. The mine has deposits of various rocks and minerals the Lepidolite here is spectacular, a semi-precious violet stone with a similar consistency to Turquoise. The Calcite deposits are some of the best in the world, I'm told during WW2 this was used in bomber plane missile sightings making use of it's purity as a a type of lens and that the largest deposit is in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum. You are allowed to carry out 5 pounds of stone, please keep to this allotment if not much less. Adendum: One of my friends here tells me that Lithium Gas leaches from the mine walls, which he says will cause a person to feel very Happy. Wow!
Wandering around the mine you'll find where miners sat and had their lunches, leaving rusty tin cans behind, perhaps enticing you to bring your own picnic next time. The views of the surrounding mountains are clear allowing you to see all the way to Abiquiu and the Pedernal.
Holly with Maggie & Alex in the mouth of the Lepidolite mine. Looking at how the violet rock walls are reflecting light in my photos here I think this would make an extraordinary place for a photo shoot. Fashion models in Designer gowns or Wedding dresses would be amazing, just a thought.
Out of the mine and on to lunch back in Penasco to "Sugar Nymphs Bistro", one of those places 'off the beaten path' you only hear about and never quite find. Well find it here smack in the middle of this village 505-587-0311, call for hours. Winters they are open Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday for Lunch & Dinner, the proprietors are Ki & Kai who are always busy in the kitchen. These ladies know ho to serve up tasty meals using locally grown product whenever possible.
A couple of refugees from Halloween greet you at the side entrance.
We had soup & sandwiches, here's the BLT on a focaccia roll they bake, nice tasty bacon and fresh farm grown tomato, delicious with a bowl of tasty pumpkin soup, this was $8.95 Maggie enjoyed the Green Chile Cheese Burger which she told Kai was the best she'd tasted. It's a nice idea to tell the chefs how much you enjoyed the dinner they cooked for you, I think chefs are under appreciated, and can use a nice compliment.
Tablecloths are paper for you to draw on with crayons provided, I wonder if I could have traded my drawing here for lunch...
For me it's about dessert which you won't want to miss, Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake, giant Chocolate Chip Cookies and Carrot Cake. Desserts run out quickly so order your choice before you order dinner, or you'll be sorry.

Upon entering Penasco the road turns right, (straight is not an option), yet a left will take you to a tiny village which may or may not be Rodarte. The cemetery surrounding this Church is old and picturesque. My photographs here are of, once again, the variations of crosses and grave markers.

A few years ago, I drove up to this Church in my VW Beetle with friends B & D, only to find myself face to face with a runaway bull, which quickly turned towards my car. As the bull was thinking about charging the car 2 guys came running towards it, seemingly out of nowhere. They told me afterwards they'd been chasing this bull since 7PM the previous evening. As far as I know those guys are still chasing that bull to this day, it makes me laugh just thinking about it!

Concrete Crosses embedded with glass covered photographs, or mini Christos of plastic or pot metal, below a faded Sacred Heart of Christ depiction, perhaps I should print this one for postcards.
Leaving Penasco on 75 we went back through Dixon passing the La Chiripada Winery and the Vivac Winery. These and the Black Mountain Winery which is south to Valerde, are places to stop at, take a break, and a sip of wine. These days we tend to prefer Vivac, my Dad enjoyed the wines of La Chiripada, and Holly's Dad likes the wine at Black Mesa. To each his own preference, reason enough to point out all of these fine wineries in our midst. On to 68 heading north and back to Taos.
In Taos off Kit Carson Road there are a whole lot of side streets, (some of which are worth exploring) a left onto Morada Lane will take you to Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Always a worthwhile part of Taos history, above is an old abandoned house just northwest of the Mabel house, don't try to find it to explore there are many neighborhood dogs that are there to keep the curious away.
What I did want to show my wife and our friends was the old Morada, Morada de Fernando de Taos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, to find this it's about 3 streets east from Morada Lane left onto Las Cruces Road, and a left onto Penitente Lane past the old cemetery. Here's where you'll find the Black Cross which Georgia O'Keeffe captured in paintings a number of times. The cross is still standing, recently adorned with flowers and a crown of thorns. I know what you're thinking that this all sounds backwards and that shouldn't the Morada be on Morada Lane, but trust me and follow my directions to Penitente Lane.
Directly past the cross from O'Keeffe's perspective towards the mountain there is a right of way lane between barbed wire fences. The land on either side of this lane is private Taos Pueblo Land, so please don't try climbing the fence. If you take the time to travel this lane on foot or mountain bike you'll find a few more large crosses on the path, do it, it's beautiful and worthwhile.

After viewing the Morada we headed into Taos visiting the brand new Lenny Foster Living Light Gallery in the former Gallery A space on Kit Carson Road, next door is Greg Moon Fine Art Gallery, both these gallery owners are wonderful human beings who will be happy to show you around their galleries. We headed across the street to Taos' oldest Trading Post El Rincon Trading Post and Museum, this is not to be missed on a visit to Taos. We also shopped a bit at my favorite Taos store Dwellings Revisited owned by Cam Martin for about 30 years on Bent Street where I purchased a very cool Day of the Dead skull t-Shirt, and we made a quick stop into Starr Interiors formerly La Unica Cosa, owned by Susanna Starr for 36 years to look at a collection of Mary Witkop pottery that has just gone on display. There are many shops and galleries worth visiting in the downtown area too many to list here, (we tend to avoid the Plaza, but even the Taos Plaza has some hidden jewels worth visiting) sometimes you've just got to go back...
After all that I know I needed to take a nap...


  1. Robert this is great--how is it that you have become such an amazing source of information--I never knew that the O'Keeffe paintings of the black cross were from here!

    The 3rd photo of Maggie in the purple cave is all sparkly...shows just how it is.

    Forgot to mention the guacamole on the BLT...whew, I ate toooo much that day...


  2. I sit here in my shop day after day and learn more about this wonderful place then I will ever have time to explore. Thankfully we have great friends who visit and entice me to take a day off on occasion and show them my version of Taos.

  3. I am so proud of you!! aday off!! woohoo! and what a day it was! your photos are magnificent and makes me miss Taos so much, love the black cross and all the grave pieces of course, but love all the news too.
    just love Dwellings Revisited and bought a lot from them in the past. wonderful post!!

  4. Robert, That carrot cake photo was unkind! You have to see Jim's infra red photos of the Morado from Oct. They are stunning. Thanks for sharing your wonderful day. You visited many of our favorite haunts. You did forget the italian bread loaves at Dixon Co op and the pottery studio at Oho Sarco. Vicki

  5. thanks for the heads up!! loved this tour, putting sugar nymphs and a few others on the list for next summer! GREAT to see these sites, and know they're being cherished! and the mine! david took me into that years ago, and i keep some of the chunks of lepidolite close by in my home! your photos are beautiful, capturing that lavender glow...thanks, robert...

  6. Robert - thank you for this post. I am a summer visitor to Santa Fe (with Neva). Wonderful to walk with your words on your day off! Feels quite nice. The photos are especially wonderful!