New Mexico is Gorge-ous

Sometimes the best adventures happen as the result of a wrong turn. I was supposed to be heading to the healing waters of Ojo Caliente, but missed a turn along the way and ended up headed toward Taos along a funky stretch of Rt. 68 dotted with junkyards, art galleries and the occasional winery. The atmosphere reminded me very much of the old Taos I remembered from my childhood, you know the one, before they had a casino and a wal-mart. A loose affiliations of artists, beatniks and ski bums all sort of waiting around for something interesting to happen.
When I realized the blue dot of my GPS had strayed many miles from the intended course, I assessed an alternate route to make my way back to the hot springs I was intending to enjoy on this sunny Saturday. I doubled back to the town (using the term loosely, here) of Pilar and found the turn off for Rt. 560. When I sped past Pilar the first time I thought this road was a driveway. After many miles of following the Rio Grande north and south, 560 delighted me by dropping down to the water and following the river along its banks as it snaked through the beginnings of the Rio Grande Gorge.
I was skeptical about how far north I was heading and what sort of river crossing lay ahead, then a single lane suspension bridge appeared and Rt. 560 turned to Rt. 567 I stopped at the bridge to wonder at the river below, and the snowy peaks in the distance. I had 100% by accident, stumbled on a beautiful place on a perfect, sunny fall afternoon.
After I crossed the bridge, the road abruptly turned to gravel and the grade got steep. I was kind of amazed that there was no warning that this would be an unpaved road with steep drop-offs and no shoulder, but hey, that’s New Mexico for ya. Some of the swtichbacks were so narrow, I was half expecting the road to turn to hiking trail and for me to have to return the way I came.
Thankfully, this was not the case. When I reached the top, I stopped to take more photos from the majestic vista, got back in my truck and climbed a few miles higher, then just as abruptly as the road had become gravel, the road was paved again and I was on the top of the mesa, looking at green expanses of land inhabited by very, very few people.
According to my calculations, and those of a few other savvy Nuevo natives, I was due south of the area where the documentary “Life on the Mesa” was filmed. Somewhere to the north, between there and Taos, was the lawless, off-the-grid commune from the movie. I was not headed to “the mesa” today though, I was headed to a spa and was running late, so just like that I was speeding back toward civilization.


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