There’s just something about fall in New Mexico that forces you into the car, pack a lunch, a camera and the dog for the road to capture what words can’t express. The only difficulty is deciding where you’re going to drive exploring this Land of Enchantment because the options are endless here with a variety of landscapes at different elevations. Our tours recently this month have been taking me often to visit Georgia O’Keeffe Country out near the quaint little town of Abiquiu and hiking in Ghost Ranch. When I look out at Pedernal guiding a hike up to Chimney Rock in Ghost Ranch, that infamous mountain quoted by Georgia O’Keeffe herself, “God told me if I painted that mountain enough it would be mine” has had me longing to journey even deeper into the Jemez Mountains where she nests. So Sunday morning we got our truck and cooler packed, making sure to bring multiple layers of clothing never knowing what the weather will hold and let me tell you, we needed everything we brought!
We drove out across the Taos Gorge Bridge as the cool September breeze made the temperatures perfect. Heading towards the tiny town of Carson meeting up with Hwy 285 south driving towards Ojo Caliente, and then turning right into Highway 111 just above Ojo to enjoy the scenic route through El Rito. No matter how many times I drive this route
there is always something new I see. Our weather has so much to do with the scenery and adds to the dramatic setting that I’m simply addicted to our poetry of landscape. Driving through Abiquiu we had to stop at Bode’s for a gas fill-up and simply because it’s one of the most unique General Stores connecting so many rural communities in the area and get a green chile bean burrito to add to our picnic menu! The temperatures were much warmer, we shed a layer enjoying the warmth of the sun soaking in the kaleidoscope of colors and textures. Crossing over the Chama River we entered the painted desert and a landscape that was made to inspire artists, poets, musicians and photographers. Turning left towards Abiquiu Dam and north towards Pedernal Mountain in sight we drove up above the lake past the Visitor Center and stopped at the most breathtaking covered picnic area overlooking the breathtaking setting. We were speechless for a few minutes, the view was so tranquil and it felt like we were on the cover of a travel magazine. Lunch was delicious and so were the photos captivating this sacred earth.
We continued southwest towards the town of Cuba. There are a few Forest Service roads options taking you deep into the heart of the Jemez mountains and showing off her fine healthy forests drenched in Ponderosa Pines, Blue Spruce, Hemlocks and Douglas Firs. After putting on another layers as the cool mountain air invited a whole new environment, we turned onto a dirt Forest Service road where we saw only a few cars and were left to each other and the forest. It was tempting to spend the next several hours, or even days deep in the Jemez Mountains that would eventually take us to Fenton Lake, San Antonio Hot Springs, or even Battleship Rock. We left that for another weekend warrior trip when tents and more supplies are packed and there is more time to spend tucked back in the forest.
We parked and hiked for a while on unmarked trails smelling the vanilla aroma of the Ponderosa forest baking in the sun. Willow our puppy was in dog heaven frolicking along the trail finding sticks. There were no sounds, just the fall breeze or the occasional bird or squirrel roaming the forest. I thought to myself we are only a couple hours away from Taos and yet we are in a completely different world out here. I had such a childlike feeling that I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to lay under the stars here and make a campfire.
It’s so important to nurture that sense of wander, to venture to the unknowns and to allow the simplicity of time in nature to offset and bring us back to whole. After coming home later that evening we sat on our porch and admired this majestic place, New Mexico. I’ve spent so many years here and yet it never feels like I will have enough time to explore it all. We are already mapping our next Fall drive, hope to see you out there! If you’d like to join me on a scenic Fall Hike up at Taos Ski Valley or in the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument here in Taos and check out our Day Tour here! contact me direct.