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.”

“Uhhhhh…”

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.

  • Marti Fenton July 18, 2017, 2:23 PM

    Ah! Memories. County Road 570 was one of my first surprises. Long ago, I was headed back to Denver from Ojo Calienti and decided to take a shortcut over to Taos and go home that way. I drove along as the beautiful landscape unfolded and then suddenly there was the gorge. People were far below fishing in the river and I drove down that winding road and up the other side completely awestruck by both the gorge and the road out of it. Only a few months after I moved to Taos the landslide closed that road.

    • JHF July 19, 2017, 12:44 AM

      People who haven’t been here need to know that the way you came that day was (and is) a narrow gravel road along the side of a cliff, basically. I never got to drive up from the bridge on this side of the river, but I’m going to hike down from the top in a day or two, as one can.

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