Great Road Trips From Donna Vissing - Taos NM


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Adobe dwelling units located in the Pueblo

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B&B The Cottonwood

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Horno, a Spanish word describing the outdoor adobe oven used for baking by women in the Pueblo

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Big Al

By Donna Vissing
Travel Editor
The Auto Channel

Taos, New Mexico was a relatively unknown destination until approximately 10 years ago.  Over the years, the area has been a backdrop for numerous films such as Easy Rider (1969), All the Pretty Horses (1999) and Twins (1988) with the Rio Grande Gorge often playing the starring role; yet Taos remained a well-kept secret.  That was until it became known as “Solar Capital of the World”.

 

“Due to the combination of nearly 300 days of sunshine annually and the high desert altitude of over 7,000 feet, it makes Taos a perfect place to practice sustainable living”, explained Steve Fuhlendorf, Taos Chamber of Commerce, and Public Relations & Marketing.  “In 1997, then Governor Gary Johnson proclaimed Taos the Solar Capital of the World.”  In addition to the world’s most powerful solar powered 50,000 watts station, there are other examples of sustainable living such as the Solar Tree, a solar-paneled sculpture outside the Taos Visitor Center; and the El Monte Sagrado Living Resort, utilizing a natural water treatment technology called Living Machine System.  The Earthship community is built to exist entirely “off the grid”; showcasing solar dwelling units made from natural and recycled materials.

 

Taos is rich in both their present and past.  Some destinations live in their history, where Taos uses their history to move time forward, yet preserving the history that defines who they are.  Visiting the Taos Pueblo is a step back into history and current home to the Taos-Tiwa Indians.  One of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the United States, it is presently the permanent home to 25 families (60-80 people); approximately 3,000 tribal members live in the surrounding areas including the Pueblo.  There are structures in the Pueblo dating back to 1818 including church remnants where women and children hid during the 1847 U.S. attack on New Mexico.  In 1970 President Richard Nixon authorized the land to be returned back to the tribe.

 

Electricity is not available in the Pueblo and their homes are made from adobe brick.  The annual “remudding” of the house keeps the inside temperature consistently around 60-70 degrees.  The main source of water is retrieved from a stream flowing down from the mountains.  Tourists are welcomed and guided tours are provided.  The tribal members greet visitors eagerly showcasing their jewelry, arts & crafts, and food specialty items to be purchased.  For more information you can visit www.taospueblo.com.

 

Taos history can personally be visited in five historic homes that are now museums.

  • La Hacienda De Los Martinez – build in 1804, the hacienda was the childhood home to a social reformer responsible for bringing the first printing press to Taos – Padre Antonio Severino Martinez (1793-1867).  It also served as a trade center for Mexico City and the northern frontier of the Spanish Empire.
  • Harwood Museum of Art – was founded by Elizabeth Harwood (1867-1938) in 1923 in memory of her husband, Burt (1857-1922).  Works of art from the 19th century to the present, including paintings by world-renowned artist Agnes Martin, are showcased across seven galleries.
  • E.L. Blumenschein Home & Museum – was the home of Ernest L. Blumenschein (1874-1960) and his family.  The home, family furnishings and possessions have been preserved for tourists to enjoy today.
  • Taos Art Museum & Fechin House – was the home of Russian-born, internationally famous artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) who moved to Taos to join the growing artist community.  His woodcarvings, paintings and drawings are on display, along with other artists’ works.
  • Millicent Rogers Museum – is in memory of fashion and jewelry designer Millicent Rogers (1902-1953).  She was a woman of style, grace and strength with her influence still evident in the world of fashion today and her legacy memorialized in Taos.  Her collection is also showcased in other museums across the country including The Brooklyn Museum of Art.  Her collection of art, pottery, silver, Native American jewelry, clothing, and her renowned collection of exceptional Native American and Hispanic textiles and weavings can be viewed by tourists visiting Taos, the community she loved until her passing January 1, 1953.

For more information on the museums highlighted above and to discover other museums of interest, please visit www.TaosMuseums.org.

 

A very eclectic town, Taos embraces a creative energy that keeps this destination vibrant and engaging for both visitors and residents.  For art gallery enthusiasts, there are over 90 art galleries in the Taos area.  With over 1,000 artists living locally, Taos is a gallery showcase for new artwork, fine art collections and historically preserved artwork.  Textiles, Navajo weavings, Pueblo pottery, paintings, print and photography, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and other native arts are some of the treasures art enthusiasts will seek.  These can be found whether your taste is contemporary, traditional, Southwestern or Native American.  For more information please visit www.exploretaos.com.

 

Taos can be an adventure-land for the experienced and beginner adventurers!  Outdoor options are as varied as the terrains found in the Taos area.  If the mountains are appealing to you, snow skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, rock climbing, trout fishing, whitewater rafting, and hiking are a few of the thrilling activities to experience. 

 

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Taos Ski Valley Resort is considered to be one of the premier ski resorts in the country.  With an average of 305” of snowfall and 110 trails to discover, Taos Ski Valley can easily accommodate all skiing skill levels.  And what you do not know about skiing when you arrive, you can learn while attending one of the best ski schools in the country – the Ernie Blake Ski School.  Lessons can be individualized or by joining a class of six where you can learn basic skiing skills or the latest in skiing techniques.  For more information, please visit the Taos Ski Valley Resort website at www.skitaos.org.

  

Horseback riding with Al Johnson, also known as Big Al, is like slipping back into the 1930’s and the good ole’ cowboy days.  Big Al has been taking visitors to heights they may have never been to before.  Beginners or experienced riders – Big Al doesn’t mind because he makes certain you are secure in your horseback riding skills and matched to the right horse for your skills levels. 

 

When asked why he chose to stay in the mountains and teach tourists how to ride horses, his answer is very poetic, in a cowboy-sort-of-way.  Big Al simply stated “Pretty horses on a pretty day with pretty people in a pretty place earning a pretty nickel – well that’s a pretty good way of life.”  To schedule a horseback ride, contact Big Al through email at bigaltsv@taosnet.com.

 

Lodging

Taos has a variety of lodging options.  A unique Bed & Breakfast community, with 25 properties highlights different scenic views; properties showcase the Taos Mountains while others highlight the Rio Grande Gorge.  In downtown Taos there are numerous hotels, inns and resorts fitting anyone’s budget and preference.  The Taos Ski Valley offers year-around lodging choices in the mountains including inns, lodges and condominiums.

 

Dining

Dining out in Taos, New Mexico is an experience all its own.  For an evening with a spectacular view of the gorge and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, dine at Stakeout Grille and Bar (www.stakeoutrestaurant.com).  A local favorite is the Trading Post Café (www.taoswebb.com/menu/tradingpost) offering both indoor and outdoor seating and a menu with selection variety.  Another favorite is Doc Martin’s at the Historic Taos Inn (www.taosinn.com) located in downtown Taos.  The restaurant serves American cuisine and is very proud of the award-winning wine selection they can offer customers.  When you have finished dining, entertainment is close by in the Adobe Bar making the evening complete. 

 

Transportation

Most commercial airlines fly into the Albuquerque International, including Southwest Airlines.  Once you have arrived in Albuquerque, it is 135 miles to reach Taos.  There are several choices for transportation between the two destinations; you can either rent a vehicle for the length of your stay or purchase transportation, to and from, through Chile Line – Town of Taos Transit; they can be reached by calling 505-737-2606.

 

For additional information please visit the Taos Chamber of Commerce at www.taoschamber.com or contact Gayle Martinez, Executive Director at gmart@taoschamber.com or call 505-758-3873.

 

SEE ALSO: Other Great Road Trips

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