old West

I’m moving in here

Now see, back then they didn’t need to call them man caves. (I hate that term, even though I’ve turned everywhere I’ve ever lived into exactly that.) No, they just had all kinds of manly things and had to put them somewhere. Dozens of rifles behind that door, for example, just in case, I guess. The windows in this room have laced buckskin drapes, by the way.

I don’t think I’ll tell anybody where this is just yet. Feeling kind of frisky.

New Mexico Oh My

bull near Cimarron, NM

New Mexico bull outside of Cimarron

What an incredible Tuesday. Pronghorns, elk, deer, wild burros, a ninety-year-old 28,000 square-foot villa, and lunch at a picnic table under tall cottonwoods in a sea of dark green grass. There was a thirty degree temperature drop coming back from Cimarron over the mountains into Taos in the rain.

I’d planned this trip for a long time. Besides wanting to visit the mansion Waite Phillips built and gave away, I love the relative purity of the landscape, the peace of wide open spaces, the wildlife, and the sky. Taos without Taos, in a way, only greener. We drove for miles on almost empty two-lane roads in perfect ease. One of them follows the original Santa Fe Trail, over hills and grasslands that show little sign of all that’s passed since teams of oxen pulled the traders’ heavy wagons from St. Louis. The connection always staggers me. This time I heard the creaking of the wagons and the grunting of the beasts. Where the highway turned and dropped down to Rayado Creek, I felt the wagon masters letting go.

We needed this, at any rate.

It’s been rough this year in Taos. We haven’t known if we would even stay. I still don’t, for that matter, but most regrets and guilt are gone. If after eighteen years I count real friends only on the fingers of one hand, that’s mostly down to me. People surface and disappear again so often here, unlike the little college town we came from. But driving out to Cimarron (and Philmont Scout Ranch) was a kind of affirmation. It also made me wonder why I’ve always found so much to criticize, no matter where I am, and then it came to me (again)…

Thank you to New Mexico for being so damn beautiful and vital to my spiritual health that I haven’t thrown it all away for no good reason. Thank you Jesus for the nails.

The Best Life

Rio Pueblo gorge

Something of Indiana Jones here that I can’t quite put my finger on

Ssuddenly the sun came out—this is New Mexico—and the last few raindrops glistened and were gone. Massive rain shafts still swept the ground on three sides. One was just behind, the others distant. All bore watching but there wasn’t any lightning yet. To the west, the sky was open, and the warmth streamed down.

We’d been sitting in the car in the trailhead parking lot, waiting for the rain to stop. At least I was. My wife was waiting for me to cancel the mission.

“We can go now, I’m sure we can,” I said. “What do you say?”

“I don’t have any choice,” she muttered…

“Of course you do! But I think we’ll be all right.”


Two groans later she was striding down the trail the way she always does, exulting in the glory of the gorges and the rain-chilled breeze. I love that she goes hiking with me now. I’m sorry her exercise gym closed down, but that’s what freed her up, and look where we can go. I took this shot from the rim of the Rio Pueblo gorge with the river seven hundred feet below:

The trail that cuts across the sunny slope is actually old County Road 570 that runs all the way to the Taos Junction Bridge, where the Rio Pueblo joins the Rio Grande. After 57,000 pounds of basalt rock cut the road in two in ’93, the state decided to close it off. It’s now a hiking trail, however, and another place I haven’t been. “May not be appropriate for those with fear of heights,” I read. Those cliffs in shadow are Pueblo land. In brighter light around the bend, you can see what looks like a precarious trail that runs across the cliff face. It may just be erosion or an animal path, but there’s a section that looks reinforced. Our eyes and brains make their own stories, so I need to come back with my Pentax and the telephoto lens. I’ll never really know, though, will I? (Pueblo land…) If it is a trail, it has a purpose far beyond my own experience.

On the way back, there was thunder overhead. “I hear you, we’re leaving!” I yelled into the wind. There was lightning to the east and north, but far away, athough I’d felt a few drops on my arms. We’d seen no one else the whole two miles. Daring the clouds to open up, I stopped to take a final picture. When I looked up the trail again, she was out of sight but I was calm and we were both connected, and the air was damp and fresh…

This is how I would live if I were rich, I told myself, which needs to be digested, because here we are.

Dead Thing

dead lizard

Sensing a theme here if I have the gumption

There was an awful story here but now there’s not. On the other hand, this has got to be the best dead lizard photo I have ever taken.


Rio Pueblo gorge

iPhone 6s Plus shot, tweaked in Photoshop

Maybe I can do this after all. It only took me eighteen years of living in Taos, most of them spent less than ten miles from this spot, but I did find it. It’s a stupefying place. The scale and closeness of the cliffs are shocking. The open space between them is too much to process right away. The views are beautiful and very dangerous. Ravens and buzzards sweep screaming fast along the wind.

A nearby side canyon widens out at one point, dense with trees. There could be water in there, who knows. Animals, a cave, something deadly strange. (There almost always is.) It’s reachable. To get there, I’d leave the trail where it crosses the arroyo and hike carefully along the bottom until I was in between the basalt walls. Out of cell phone range as well, I expect.

Step carefully, my son, but go.

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