SUBMITTED march 2015
The High Road to Taos
Like many of us Fenn treasure hunters, I can’t wait to get out there again and head to my new primary search area in the mountains north of Santa Fe. However, it seems like the calendar pages are turning in extra slow motion this winter and that spring-time will never arrive. To try to satisfy the desire to search, yesterday I went out to the Battleship Rock/Little Bonita Falls area in the Jemez Mountains to re-search an area I’d been to several times prior…however, I found this to be disappointingly unsatisfying. So upon waking this morning, I decided to drive to my primary search area high in the Sangre de Cristos to check out the snow depth there, with hopes of heading there in a week or two…
Since I had lots of time today, I decided to travel to my destination via the scenic byway called The High Road to Taos, one of the most spectacular routes in the Southwest, winding through the rolling hills of the high desert mesa, through tiny hamlets and villages, and eventually through part of the Carson National Forest, before dropping back down to Taos.
I have driven The High Road to Taos many times, and never tire of its beauty…my eyes can’t seem to absorb the splendor quick enough to fill my brain, just as pictures cannot capture the exquisite uniqueness and enchantment of this high desert landscape. As I was driving along in awe and stopping here and there to take pictures (add another 100 photos from today’s trip to the hundreds I already have), the village of Cundiyo popped into my head…where Eric Sloane had drawn a picture of the church there, and Forrest published that drawing in Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch. I had never been there but after seeing Eric’s drawing, it was on my list of places to see, someday…and today was that day.
As I entered the little village, the road abruptly went from two lanes to one lane, with the buildings built right along the twisting, narrow street…making it seem like a quaint little European hamlet, but not…some of the places probably hadn’t seen new paint for decades, and it was obvious there wasn’t a designated crew for litter pick-up…but, nevertheless, it was worth the visit.
I had parked in a small area across from the church and decided to walk the dogs through this quaint little town to take more photographs, only there was a large dog, unleashed, standing in the middle of the street, intently watching us as we got closer. I stopped to contemplate the situation…my dogs are friendly but …about this time a car began to drive by so I sort of waved…the car stopped, a lady rolled down her window, so I asked her where the road went if I kept going north…she asked where I wanted to go…I explained anywhere, I didn’t care…I had stopped to photograph the church, and oh what a lovely little village this was. She and her adult daughter seemed more than happy to chat…they explained where the road went, if I went left or right at the t-intersection, and that there was another church in Rio Chiquito just before getting back up on the High Road to Taos. I also asked if they knew the dog that was still staring at us from the middle of the street (they obviously don’t have leash laws there)…they didn’t know, and the lady said that even if we got past that dog, there were more unleashed ones to venture past if we went farther. I made the decision right then to forget the walking and do more driving for pictures…so back in the truck we went. Not far from there, we encountered these two places, across the street from each other, both unique in their own way…
Traveling on, we soon came to the village of Cordova…Eric also made a drawing of a church in Cordova so we took the main road through town, only I never saw a church…but we did find a cemetery…one of the most colorful ones I’d ever seen.
Somewhere between this cemetery and Truchas, I noticed a van at an odd angle off the side of the road…a young man leaning against the side eating an apple looked at me and sort of waved…I stopped, rolled my window down, and looked curiously at him. He wondered if I could pull him out of the dirt embankment his front wheels were immersed in…I thought for a moment and said I’d pull off the road to see…happily, I found the heavy duty tow chain I carry beneath the back seat, assuming that some day I would be the truck needing pulled out of a snow drift or mud-hole. Out of all the times and miles I carried this, I never used it, so was delighted to finally be able to rescue some poor soul from his misfortune…and misfortune it was. Seems it was unlucky John Gray’s first day of work as a delivery man, and he wasn’t familiar with the area…he thought he could make a u-turn there in that muddy turnout and soft dirt bank…not. It didn’t take long to attach the chain to his back bumper and my tow-hooks. He asked me to go slow, so as to not pull the bumper off his employer’s van…it made me nervous…he watched as the chain grew taut…hollered when it was good, jumped in the van and put it in neutral, and gave the go-ahead to proceed. I was so pleased when his 4 wheels were on solid ground, and I smiled since the van’s bumper was still attached. He was grateful…I felt like a hero.
Continuing our journey, we soon started the uphill climb to Truchas…made famous in Robert Redford’s movie, The Milagro Beanfield Wars. I love this picturesque-in-its-own-way little village.
We traveled through many other small villages as we made our way to the Carson National Forest stretch of the High Road to Taos. The higher in elevation we went, the more snow we encountered…these kids looked like they were having a blast…
Finally we got to Taos…as I was waiting for the light to change, I decided to take a picture through the windshield of Pueblo Peak aka Taos Mountain.
At this same intersection, I turned here to head over to my route. I noticed an old, skinny, hippie-looking guy standing on the corner, hitchhiking in the direction I was headed. I didn’t give it much thought since I NEVER pick up hitchhikers. Well, I pulled into the Visitor’s Center parking lot to send a text…when I pulled back out onto the street five or so minutes later, he was still standing there holding his plastic grocery bag containing a couple cans of Fosters, smoking his cigarette down to the filter. I rolled my window down and asked him where he was headed…he said one and a half miles up the canyon…I said I was going that way if he’d like a ride…I asked if he minded sitting beside a big dog…he did not mind…I asked him if he minded putting out his cigarette (hell, it had to be burning his fingers and lips by now)…he said no, he didn’t mind and tossed the butt on the ground. I pulled Molly out of the passenger seat beside me so the fellow could get in…despite missing most of his teeth, he was a chatty fellow and wondered where I was from…we chatted, he offered that he is a poet but never published, and wondered if I’d like him to recite a poem to me while I drove..I said that would be nice. He had a pleasant voice and nice delivery…it was a poem about the old days, and buffalo that roamed, and Indian spirits, automobiles and new highways. I wish I would have asked him if I could record it on my phone…it was delightful. I asked him if he had heard of Forrest Fenn, a famous poet and author who lives in Santa Fe who has published several books, mostly about the Taos Society of Artists from a century ago…sorry, Forrest, he did not know you. We reached his destination and I dropped him off…he was the icing-on- the-cake, so to speak, of my pleasant day…his name was John Mason, just in case he ever gets published…and I will always look for him on that corner in case he needs a ride home.
On up the canyon we ventured…my dogs Molly and Emma and me…I was still hopeful of a search next week in this area…the snow was minimal, until I got here……………
I think it might be April until this snow has melted and we can find the blaze…
Until next time…Cynthia (and Emma and Molly)