There is a place west of Taos, NM that is one of the most special places on the planet. Its a barren place with no amenities save the rocky ground to set up a tent, where the desert abruptly vanishes south, (straight down), into the vast Rio Grande Gorge. It’s a fantastic place, with a steep, rocky trail that descends almost a thousand feet down to a series of hot springs on the banks of the river
located at the bottom of the river, separated from the icy watervby a small shelf of shale.
This type of place attracts a LOT of ‘different’ individuals, with very different ideas as to what constitute types of swimwear, or the lack thereof. The smell of burning sage and sinsemilla fills the air, a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, coalescing from other travelers on their own particular journeys. Traveling with a rambunctious dog like Charlie that just HAS to introduce herself to everyone she meets makes it virtually impossible to keep one’s eyes front and center, especially as the human eye tends to follow movement.
And there always seemed to be a lot of movement.
Charlie and I have camped there many times, and Max had made multiple trips as well. It is favorite spot to get cleaned up after two days of being on the bike enroute from the Casa.
One particular time I waited a bit too long to start the trek back up to the top of the canyon to where we had yet to set up the tent. As it was a full moon that night, I thought it would be an easy climb, despite that rattlesnakes, mountain goats, and scorpions are active as well, but I was very wrong. As we were in the bottom of a deep, rocky canyon, the moon took her own sweet time sharing her light into it’s depths, as in not at all; the stingy heifer. Since Charlie and I were hot and huffy with serverly stumped toes heby the time we reached the tent, we only unpacked the minimal blankets from the bike and even left the tent’s rain fly stowed away in the saddlebags; what could go wrong?
Although hot during the day, temperatures in the desert tend to drop precipitatiosly at night. It wasn’t long until Charlie and I were in a death struggle over the covers, which is a battle that I, to this very day, I have yet to win.
Sleep finally arrived, only to be rudely interrupted some time later by a blinding light shining directly into my face through the screen of the tent. I almost had a heart attack; how could someone have soundlessly approached us though the sagebrush without waking Charlie up? And to what nefarious purpose could they have for shining the devil’s flashlight directly into my tent; was it a game warden? A chupacabra? An alien abductor intent on engaging in a rousing game of hide the pellet?
As it turned out, it was none of those things; it was the brilliant light of the desert moon. She had been lurking juuuuust behind the canyon walls, biding her time until I was fully asleep to play her little joke. I was not amused.
A roaring sound coming from up river caused us away rise and shine the by next morning; a quartet of hot air balloons was preparing for lift off, and one by one the began to break with surly bonds of earth and soar directly over our campsite. How do you top the aroma of brewing coffee over an open campfire at dawn while listening to KTAO out of Taos with Charlie while watching hot air balloons with floating up from the Rio Grande? The simple answer is that you cannot.
While I do hope that you enjoyed a small descriptive taste of camping in New Mexico, I have to admit that this one was really for me. When my time comes to shuffle from this mortal coil, I sincerely hope that it’s memories like these that usher me into whatever new dimensions await. Some places and experiences cannot and even should not be revisited, as they’re absolutely perfect just the way that they are. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming…
We be of one blood, ye and I