Travel USA

On the road: New Mexico

New Mexico impresses with bizarre rock formations, ski slopes, cultural heritage and indigenous pueblos.

North of Santa Fe: Snow, Desert and Pueblo

Behind the red lattice gate on el Salto Road is a little paradise. It belongs to Kevin Whitefeather of the Red Willow people. Kevin says his tribe includes 3,500 people. They live in a pueblo near Taos, in northern New Mexico.

Pueblo means “village” in Spanish. The small village of Red Willow people was hit by Corona as badly as the other pueblos, Kevin tells me. In New Mexico, there are a total of 19 pueblos still inhabited. All are still closed to tourists since Corona. Those residents who have stores and businesses would rather reopen today than tomorrow, Kevin Whitefeather says. He himself has come up with something. Instead of letting the tourists come to him, he now gives talks about the history of the pueblos and their inhabitants at events in Taos, the next largest town, about 5 miles away.

Taos has about 6,000 residents and is located in the Rio Grande Valley north of Santa Fe. The Spanish settlement originated barely two kilometers from Taos Pueblo, which is considered the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the Americas.

It was in June of 1968 that Dennis Hopper was shooting a super low budget little road picture in Taos. The movie started out untitled, had a basic outline instead of a script and included a kilo of marijuana as part of the budget to keep the stars and crew happy. It would end up a phenomenal success called “Easy Rider.”

I stay in Arroyo Seco, about 5 miles from Taos. Famous for its delicious Taos Cow Ice Creme Co. I love the Mercantile shop and the beautiful view on the mountains and fields around. The place with a good 1000 properties lives from tourism. There are many vacation cottages and wonderful hiking trails in the area.

My temporary home is on the left side of El Salto Road. The creek that borders the property to the road is already part of the pueblo that begins on the right side of the road. There, a few hundred meters away, is Kevin Whitefeather’s little paradise. With lots of cottonwood trees, a pond and a log cabin. The Red Willow man has lots of plans for what he wants to do with his property to turn it into money. All in harmony with his indigenous culture. To his lectures on the history of the pueblos, he takes small plastic bags with earrings, bracelets and pendants made of sterling silver and turquoise that residents of his pueblo have made. When the tourists don’t come to the pueblo….

And then, of course, the Alps are not far away. At least that’s what you’d think, because 10 miles from Arroyo Seco you’re in the middle of Taos Ski Valley. Switzerland, Austria and Upper Bavaria send their regards.

If you drive only a good hour west from Taos Ski Valley, you can marvel at the typical desert landscape of New Mexico. Abiquiu, Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch and the Rio Grande Gorge.

Unfortunately, on the way back, I miss taking pictures of the most impressive rock formations near the Ghost Ranch because my smartphone battery had gotten too hot and I had to take a photo break. A good reason to come back.

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