This post is all about going over the edge. This is something that you definitely do not want to do at this place, even if you are in a wooden barrel.
In this current election cycle, “going over the edge” seems to have become the norm. Perhaps, if some of the major candidates would cross the border and consider going over the edge from this viewpoint, they might think twice. And then again they might not, for sometimes they appear to be in a self destructive mode.
This white dinosaur (brontosaurus, I think) was spotted while touring through Quebec on a 15-speed Univega bicycle. I do believe that this creature is quite rare, because I have not seen one since, not even at Jurassic Park.
Yesterday, I had to travel from Santa Fe to Taos in order to pick up some mail and paperwork from my former place of residence. I rode the bus and since my errand only took a few minutes, I ended up with several hours to kill. I decided I would spend this time at this historic landmark located on the highway that heads back to Santa Fe. Funny thing that as a resident, I seldom went here, but now that I live out of town, I decided to go here, take pictures and make a few sketches of this iconic place of worship.
Where Is It?
The church is officially called the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church and it is located in Ranchos de Taos in Taos County of Northern New Mexico. Ranchos de Taos is a small Hispanic community situated just south of Taos at the western edge of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. This structure is in many ways similar to other Spanish missions situated across Northern New Mexico.
The Sculptural Properties of Adobe
Adobe is simply a mixture of mud and straw. Together the two materials combine for added strength. The elixir is easy to make and it used worldwide to create amorphous-shaped buildings, especially in dry climates such as the southwestern U.S. Most adobe buildings have to be re-coated every 5 to 7 years and as a result these structures can develop exterior walls that are quite thick and rounded in their appearance. This might help explain why the church at Ranchos de Taos has taken on its unusual appearance that makes the place so endeared by visual artists and curious travelers.
Approach From The Highway
As you approach the church from NM Highway 68, the first thing you will see is the large buttress form that still resembles the O’Keefe painting. To view the front side of the church that bears the twin bell towers and front entrance, it is necessary to exit the two-lane road and drive through the gravel and dirt parking lot until you reach the opposite end. This view, which is pictured below, looks very different from the part of the building that is adjacent to the highway. Perhaps, this arrangement has occurred because the church was built way back in the late 1700s, when local residents used different pathways to get where they were going.
Back at the end of January I was standing outside my place-to-stay in Arroyo Seco, NM. Immediately the vivid violent panorama of the snow-covered mountains caught my eye, so I rushed indoors, grabbed my point-and-shoot digital camera and snapped off several photos of the towering peaks, just as the sun was setting in the west. The above picture features a mountain range called the Sangre de Christo mountains. For those of you, who do not understand Spanish, Sangre de Christo literally means “Blood of Christ”. The colorful handle was first applied by the Spanish explorers, who visited this part of New Mexico during the 16th century and took special notice of the intense color of the mountains, displayed as the sun set in the west and cast its rays eastward, illuminating the towering summits in the process. This natural phenomena is very similar to the “alpenglow” found in Switzerland.
Coronado On the Upper Rio Grande
Francisco Vásquez De Coronado was a Spanish explorer, who ventured into the southwestern portions of the United States in 1540, 1541 and 1542. His adventures took him to the Colorado River, many Native settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Reportedly, he and his party of explorers traveled as far east and north as Kansas. The above mural can be found in the mountain town of Taos, NM and documents Coronado’s journey north along the Rio Grande, where he encountered many of the Pueblo villages. In 1542 Coronado returned to Mexico, but his footsteps were followed several decades later by other Spanish explorers.
The Sangre de Christo Range
The Sangre de Christo Range in the southern Rockies is quite extensive, for it extends from Glorietta Pass near Las Vegas, NM in the south all the way north to the Colorado Springs area, where the mighty Pikes Peak can be found. The above photo was also taken in the Taos area, but features a different group of peaks located slightly to the north.
Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday, though many Latin countries know the popular holiday as Carnival. No matter how you look at it, Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. It is usually looked on as a time of celebration and revelry that occurs just before the Lenten season commences.
Mardi Gras Remembered
During the 80’s I resided in New Orleans and enjoyed every Carnival season, while I was there. Mardi Gras Day in the French Quarter was definitely a lot of fun, but celebrations occurred all over the metropolitan area. Except for the downtown madness, most of the celebration consisted of families coming out to view the parades. In fact, some of the best parades, such as Bacchus occurred at night on the weekends preceding the popular holiday. And of course the best way to view the festivities was with a group of friends, where you could form your own Krewe similar to the one pictured above.
Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico
The religious holiday of Ash Wednesday follows Mardi Gras. In many places, it is time of sober reflection and attending church services. The first carnival season that I ever experienced was on a Caribbean island located along the Yucatan coast of Mexico. I have put my rather bizarre experiences into a novella, titled Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico. Just click on the title and you will be redirected to the Amazon page, where it will be offered free for tomorrow, which is also Ash Wednesday.
I hope you like this photographic image of the serene beauty of winter. It was not put together by me, but instead the surreal landscape comes from the image bank of Hartwick Koppdelaney, who most graciously allows general non-commercial use of his photographic artwork. Even though the figure in this picture is not wearing snowshoes and the image is a composite of several pictures, the snowy scene accurately conveys the solitude and beauty of snowshoeing.
Road to A Wilderness Trailhead
Last week on a free day, I grabbed a pair of aluminum frame snowshoes (hardly anybody makes wooden shoes anymore), took a shuttle bus to the Taos Ski Valley and followed this snow-covered road to the Williams Lake trailhead near the Wheeler Peak wilderness in northern New Mexico. Just a walk along the graded route was a joy of discovery, because of the remarkable view of the mountains, which towered just over 13,000 feet. Williams Lake my final destination has an elevation of 11,040 feet and sits in a glacial cirque at the base of these mountains.
In January, Williams Lake is frozen solid as a rock and covered with several feet of snow. Because of the ring of lofty summits that surround the small body of water, it is a wonderful spot to sit and ponder the mysteries of life. Winter adds a special kind of beauty and peacefulness to place, as does the hike in, which passes through a beautiful spruce forest. Another advantage of winter is the lack of a crowded hiking trail, for the alpine lake is a popular hiking destination, especially in the autumn, when the leaves turn a golden yellow.
Clouds From the Bottomside
Since the walk out was just about all downhill, I had a much better chance to take in the stunning mountain landscape. As sunset quickly approached, the overhead clouds took on strange shapes, accented by the sun that was located low in the western sky. The high ridge line of the ring of mountains, which circled Williams Lake, made me feel very small as I continued my descent back to civilization.
Reflections On the Walk Out
Overall, I felt very fortunate to be able to access such a place by public transportation. I don’t own a car, so traveling to Nature’s most spectacular locales is often not a viable option. Furthermore I enjoyed my view of the sky as day slowly faded away and turned into night. By the time I made it back to the base of the ski resort (located some 1700 feet below the lake) the sun had set and the first evening stars were visible in the night sky.