Looking north from La Junta Overlook
All right, this is serious. The Upper Gorge, formerly known as Wild Rivers Area, now part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Haven’t been up here for years. This is where we came in ’98 before we moved, when I looked out at pure landscape (not this view) and started to cry. It was my birthday, too. That’s kind of what did it.
There’s such power in this place. As soon as you drive back to the nearest village, it mostly goes away. People just mess things up. I’m sorry, but it’s true. There aren’t many places on the planet where you feel this non-material sustenance. Like your spirit taking a long drink after exile in the desert of culture. I didn’t want to leave today. The open spaces were full of yellow flowers. The air was absolutely perfect. So wholesome, so clean. You can’t have air like this with lots of people! This is Nature. The actual real deal. It’s simply radical. Just come hang out here a while. The peace is overwhelming.
We’re looking north in this view. That’s Ute Mountain in the far distance. The basalt cliffs are four million year old lava flows. You can see the Rio Grande in the distance, far below. What perfect habitat for animals: perpetual water, grasses growing by the banks, trees for shelter, protection from the winds. Caves and hot springs, too. If you climb down to the river from any of the numerous trails, you can hike almost forever. Your cell phone wouldn’t work, but you could disappear and live. There must be bears and mountain lions down there that never come out. Hell, I wouldn’t.
I said I hadn’t been up here in years. What on Earth is wrong with me? This is where it started, this is where the big bells rang. I told my wife I wanted to live right there at Wild Rivers. I could, you know. The hermit in me. There’s a similar feeling south to San Cristobal. I like it because it isn’t Taos. (You’d have to spend a few years in these parts to understand.) It took about an hour to drive up to this spot. A spectacular drive, by the way. We had a picnic lunch of tuna sandwiches. I’ve almost never felt so good.
My wife’s sister and brother-in-law live in Iowa. Whenever we visit, we get to drive this way. From Taos north to Colorado is like another world, whichever way you go. This year their son is getting married in Minnesota. Kasota, Minnesota, no less—I can’t believe we’re going to a wedding in Kasota, Minnesota—but anyway I love the kids, the thing will be a hoot.
The route is similar, once again through omigod country, whap-slap, then over La Veta Pass. A few hours later you’re in a land where people watch cable news and walk around afraid of stuff they never see. I fill up at the Kum & Go like a traveler from another planet—do you know what’s back there where I just came from?—and we motivate on down the road. In my soul I’m branded, though, and no one knows.