I woke up in Moab and headed home through landscape that looked not-of-this-world. I completed some kind of karmic circle by stopping for gasoline in Brigham City where I spent the first night of this trip. I continued driving until I could drive no more, but this time I stopped not because I was exhausted. I stopped because I could no longer see.
Throughout the trip I was concerned and alert about hitting an animal — a deer, a squirrel, an armadillo, a rabbit — all plausible hits. Unfortunately, I hit and killed no fewer than 2000 bugs.
Today I went on a stunningly gorgeous hike, and I purposefully didn’t bring my camera. I didn’t want to think about the scenery and views in terms of photographs. There’s no way I could have captured the expanse, and some things are just better left to memory.
The wildflowers were in full bloom, and the views were breathtaking. And I made it back to the trailhead before it started raining too hard!
Tomorrow I’m leaving Durango, but I’m sure I’ll be returning someday.
I got in touch with my friend Keith who’s lived in Durango for the past 30-years or so. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to hook up, but he was exceptionally generous with his time. I suggested we meet for dinner, and he one-upped me and suggested we go to his house and throw some steaks on the grill. He understands how nice a home cooked meal is when you’ve been traveling for awhile.
Keith worked with JanSport as a sales rep, and his knowledge of the outdoor industry is formidable. He’s been involved in the industry from all angles — as a designer, as a manufacturer, as a retailer, as a sales rep, and probably in other capacities which I’m forgetting. He was involved in the creation/invention of the first dome tent; he was instrumental in the success of many outdoor companies you’ve all heard of.
I met him at the store he bought a few years ago:
And then I followed him up the hill to his house. It’s a gorgeous, open house with spectacular views and full of amazing history.
He’s a great storyteller, and he talked about his climbs up Everest, Kangchenjunga, Mt. Rainier, etc. He knew Tenzing Norgay, and he knows Sir Edmund Hillary. He has survived a helicopter crash, and he’s an all-around fascinating (and lucky) man.
We ate salami, bread, and cheese (two kinds) to start. We shared red wine, a salad, and grilled jerk steak. He brought out some authentic Gruyere (who knew it wasn’t supposed to be brick hard!?!) and pears for dessert.
The meal was just great, and — even better — it was nice to catch up with an old friend.
Two people have commented, “Your blog seems focused on food.” Well, yes. But I’ve done quite a few things unrelated to food.
A couple days ago I visited the “Earthship Landing Zone” west of Taos. Earthships are (supposedly) completely sustainable structures entirely “off the grid.” They’re constructed primarily from materials which would otherwise go into a landfill. The ones I saw were constructed of tires, cans, bottles, and rammed earth.
They’re heated and powered with solar and wind energy; water is collected from rain, and sewage is handled with “gray water,” “black water,” and a traditional septic system. Used water is first filtered through indoor gardens. I think they called them “jungles,” and there were bananas growing in one of the ones I saw.
There’s an entire development of these houses surrounding the Visitors’ Center. Not all the houses look so “funky,” but all of them look a little different from a “traditional” house. The rest of the subdivision is technically off limits to visitors, because they’re private residences. I know I’d sure get tired of having tourists ogling my house all day.
You can read all about Earthships here:
Yesterday I visited houses of a different sort. I spent about three hours at Taos Pueblo. The houses, for the most part, are remarkebly well-preserved considering they date back to at least the 1400’s.
By taking the 30-minute guided tour I found out that doors and windows weren’t part of the original structure. Access to the inside was through the roof.
The access point in the picture below, however, goes to an underground area off-limits to tourists (there were five such points throughout the structures).
These areas are where traditional ceremonies are often held. The Taos Pueblo religion, language, and much of the history is not spoken about to tourists. The language is not written.
There have been people continually inhabiting most of the structures since they were built. Not the same people, mind you. And even though visitors aren’t allowed to wander around much of the reservation, the parts I could visit seemed very peaceful unlike the adjacent Taos community. The reservation extends to the top of Taos Mountain:
And finally, similar to a lot of reservations I’ve seen, there appear to be a fair number of stray dogs. This one looked different from all the others, and besides…I really like this shot:
I’m in Durango now. More about Durango later.
I had my first not-so-great meal today, and I suppose that’s pretty good considering the number of places I’ve eaten over the past almost two weeks.
I had dinner at El Pueblo (no relation to Taos Pueblo, and not on the reservation). I wanted some more good red chile, and El Pueblo looked to be just the place. I had also read two good reviews of the joint! Unfortunately, the food was closer to Mexican food versus New Mexican food. So perhaps El Pueblo was okay, but yesterday in Espanola I had about the best Mexican food ever.
Yesterday I had — for all of $3.85 — a pork tamale (there were actually two), a “pollo and avacado” taco (that’s how it was listed on the menu board), and a large iced tea.
I sat at a picnic table under the shade of some cottonwood trees (off to the left of the picture below) and enjoyed every bite.
I’m leaving Taos tomorrow AM. Where should I go?
B) Santa Fe
C) Monument Valley
You’re probably thinking the Farmers’ Market in Espanola looks incredibly small. You’d be right. By spending some time with the Market Manager I found out why — it’s the very beginning of their season, and it’s been a very tough one. Farmers usually start with fruit (cherries and apricots), but a freeze destroyed those crops. Since then there’s been very little rain.
She talked a little bit about water rights which Puget Sound area farmers don’t need to concern themselves with. I saw a book about irrigation in New Mexico, and I think I’ll return to the bookstore to buy it.
By September there will be 30-regular farmers selling here. Early October sounds particularly joyous, because everyone puts up (and sells) strands of chiles.
I wasn’t familiar with much of the produce, so I was eager to purchase and try it.
Clockwise from top: Purslane; Red Chile Powder; Fresh Garbanzo Beans; Ronde de Nice Squash; Chokecherry Jam; Roasted Fava Beans with Chile and Lime.
The Market Manager visibly bristled when I asked her how many of the vendors grew organically. She carefully explained the community is very low income (clearly noticeable), and the majority of the farmers can’t afford the certification required to be officially labeled “organic.” She also explained that most of them grew organically anyway, because they were using traditional methods that had been passed down to them. The ones who used pesticides were not shy nor embarrassed to talk about it, so she encourages all shoppers to ask individual farmers about their growing methods. This doesn’t sound so different from the Northwest farms with which I’m familiar.
On the days WIC checks are issued the market can be quite crowded. Today was such a day.
We talked about the cooperative kitchen sponsored by UNM and how the state encourages (or doesn’t encourage) WIC families to buy produce at the Farmers’ Market.
So here was tonight’s dinner:
The fresh garbanzo beans were out of this world, and the roasted fava beans make a very appropriate snack with beer. The chile powder was absolutely fantastic, and the entire bag only cost $4.00. I’m eager to use it when I return home.