Yesterday’s drive was epic but rather long, so traveling from Durango to Taos seemed like a 200-mile walk in the park.
Before bidding farewell to Durango, we strolled along the currently wild Animas River. Originating in the majestic San Juan mountains and flowing through the picturesque town of Silverton, it stretches for 126 miles, passes through Colorado and New Mexico before finally joining the San Juan River in Farmington, NM.
We took the US-160 and arrived in Pagosa Springs after driving for approximately 70 minutes. The town has an elevation of 7,126 feet and a population of 1,631. It is known for its hot springs, hot air balloon rides, and vast National Forest and wilderness spanning over 2.5 million acres. These attractions lure about 375,000 visitors to the area annually.
We continued our journey by taking the 84 South route and crossed over into New Mexico. We followed the road until we reached Tierra Amarilla, which means “Yellow Earth” in Spanish. The place is located approximately 70 minutes out of Pagosa Springs and has a population of 455 at an elevation of 7,530 feet.
Continuing on the 84 would have been a shortcut to Santa Fe. However, the road less traveled was the way to go here (isn’t it ever?) We turned left onto US-64 E. The highway passes through the Carson National Forest before crossing via the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and heading into Taos.
So far, today’s drive had winding roads through wooded areas, but it was about to get more challenging. We ascended to Brazos Summit, a high mountain pass at 10,528 feet elevation and lost cell signal for the next hour.
Up there, we meet two guys from Durango, taking pictures with a Porsche. An Iranian-born immigrant from India made a playful remark about the car being stolen earlier that day.
Hmm, Colorado has the highest motor vehicle theft rate per capita in the country. To combat this problem, the Durango Police Department began distributing car-wheel locks three months ago.
The beautiful winding drive through Carson National Forest took anouther hour, before we reached Tres Piedra, about 8000 feet above sea level and 30 miles northwest of Taos. We continued for another 20 minutes until we arrived at Earthship Biotecture.
The Earthship architecture was developed in the 1970s as passive solar earth shelters made from natural and upcycled materials. It all started near the Rio Grande, but this unique style has spread to small pockets of communities wordwide. Despite legal opposition to its construction and adoption in some cases, Earthship communities have continued to grow.
Looking at the structures and surroundings, it felt like stepping into a scene from a post-apocalyptic dystopian action film, like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. However, some structures appeared inhabited, which made me wonder if it was more like the Heaven’s Gate cult led by Marshall Applewhite had come back and discovered a new home.
Just 3 minutes later, we reached the Gorge Bridge also known as High Bridge. This steel deck arch bridge spans the Rio Grande Gorge, about 10 miles northwest of Taos. Standing at approximately 600 feet above the Rio Grande, it is the tenth-highest bridge in the United States. When the bridge was built in the 1960s, there was no funding available to extend the road to the other side, earning it the nickname “Bridge to Nowhere.”
The weather was quite fitting for taking pictures of the Earthships but wasn’t kind to the impressive Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. After 15 more minutes of driving, we arrived in Taos, which unfortunately felt a little run down since we saw it last in 2012.