In our final episode on Taos, New Mexico, we find the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, drive out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and tour the Earthship Biotecture Site.
San Francisco de Asís Mission Church Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
Built between 1772 and 1816, the San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is a National Historic Landmark. Located in the heart of the Ranchos de Taos Historic District, the church and plaza continue as the heart of the community.
Shopping, food, and art galleries occupy the historic adobe homes and buildings surrounding the plaza where festivals are held. Some buildings are over 300 years old. Unfortunately, we had arrived way too early to poke around the shops.
A major restoration of the church in 1967 included the application of hard plaster to protect the exterior and prevent future damage. June of each year, parishioners and visitors alike gather at the church for the annual “enjarre,” or re-mud, of the exterior using a mixture of mud and straw. This process continues to protect the church.
Inside the church, visitors will find stairs that lead to the choir loft above the entrance and an altar decorated with original Spanish woodworking and religious iconography. We missed out on the church tour, but I found an article by Teresa Dovalpage in the Taos News, in which she detailed her experience on such a tour.
According to the article, the painting is “a life-size image of Jesus standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.” At the end of the documentary movie on the church’s history, the docent turned out the lights, and the “image of Jesus turned almost three-dimensional.” I wish we had arrived later in the day, caught the tour, and seen the painting.
Before its donation to the church in 1948, the painting hung in the Dore Galleries of London and was on exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.
Ansel Adams photographed the church, Georgia O’Keeffe painted the church, and other artists have used the church as their subject, often depicting the rear of the structure.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
We found parking on the east side of the bridge and walked across to the rest area, where additional parking and facilities were located.
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on US Route 64 spans 1,280 feet (390 m) and rises either 565 feet or 650 feet above the Rio Grande River. The exact height depends on who measured the distance and what gear they used.
Completed in 1965, the bridge received a facelift in September 2012. The renovation comprised structural steelwork, a new concrete deck surface, new sidewalks, ramps, and curbs and gutters. The bridge has served as The National Register of Historic Places listing in Taos County, New Mexico. Natural Born Killers, Twins, Terminator Salvation are but a few of the movies in which the bridge appeared.
The best part of our visit to the bridge was when a bighorn sheep climbed up the hill and ran past us as we stood, taking photos. At one point, the animal charged toward me, and I had to duck behind a wall to get out of its way. I’ve seen bighorn sheep somewhat up close before, just not close enough to fear a collision.
Are you looking for an unusual bed-and-breakfast for your next adventure, complete with Wi-Fi and TV? Rent a Biotecture Designed Earthship for a night or two. In the Greater World Earthship Community in Tres Piedras, New Mexico, are several Earthships to choose from. [insert website]
Built using natural and repurposed materials, the off-grid homes include thermal/solar heating and cooling, solar and wind electricity, water harvesting, a contained sewage treatment system, and food production. These are the six design principles of Earthship Biotecture.
A visitor center includes posters and displays describing the buildings and details of the building methods and materials and continues through the home.
Wrap Up: A hidden Valley and a Surprise Sunrise
Several yards out our back RV window, a parade of cars, trucks, and motorcycles motored along a gravel and dirt road every day. Where were all these people going and coming from? A sign at US Highway 64 and Valley Escondido Rd. advertised the Valle Escondido golf course.
On our last day at Taos Canyon Stop RV, we drove to see what attracted all those vehicles. Sure enough, there was a golf course, a clubhouse, and a bright green valley sparsely populated with a community of residential and vacation homes.
Oh, and I can’t forget the prairie dogs popping their heads up out of their holes to see what was happening over yonder.
The morning before we left Taos Canyon, the sunrise gave me a present. Clouds hung low in front of the mountains, reaching the ground in a few places as the sun rose and poked through the cloud breaks. I pulled on my jeans and jacket, tied my shoes, and grabbed my camera.
There’s nothing more peaceful than walking among nature early in the morning, spying subjects to photograph, and clicking the shutter. It was a perfect ending to a perfect week of exploring Taos and its surrounding area.
Next up: We head to Chama, New Mexico, for a ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, a visit to Ghost Ranch, Heron Lake State Park, and a bit of relaxing.