American Southwest 2007 - Taos and More

Sunday, June 10, 2007

We continued to Taos, where we walked around the Plaza and nearby tourist area, with lunch at Doc Martin's. Then we drove to the Taos Pueblo, a traditional village. This is a real community of about 150 people. One way they earn income is to charge admission (plus a photography surcharge) to tourists. Many of the people also sell arts and crafts. Some old structures here may be as much as 1000 years old, but most appear to have been remodeled or rebuilt in recent times. Nevertheless, the appearance of the village has changed little in the 500 years since the Spanish arrived. It is a great place to take pictures and think about life.

[Steve: Seeing the Native Americans at Taos Pueblo was a bit depressing. Imagine creating artwork just so that you could sit all day in the heat (either outside or in one of the adobe houses) waiting for tourists to buy your work. Maybe it’s middle class guilt, but we didn’t really bargain with any of the Native Americans selling their artwork and crafts anywhere we went (although if you hesitated in the slightest, they offered to lower the price), as we figured they could use the extra $5.00 more than us.]

We made a reservation for a motel in Durango, Colorado, and began our long drive. As the elevation increased, the scenery became increasingly green and fresh. There were farms and lovely pastures with grazing animals. We even saw snow on the ground as we passed through some mountains. It was quite a contrast to the harsh desert conditions we had experienced just a few hours earlier.

Monday, June 11

We got up early and drove to Mesa Verde National Park. It was a 15-mile drive just to get from the park entrance to the visitor center. After studying the maps and literature, we realized that we simply couldn't afford to spend the time it would take to explore this park. We ate lunch there and then left.

We stopped briefly at Four Corners Monument. This is the only place in the U.S. where the borders of four states meet (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona). There is a photo-op plaque on the ground, where people can pose with their bodies in all four states at once while being photographed from the observation platform. The area is circled by small booths where Navajo vendors sell jewelry and crafts. There is nothing else there, or anywhere near there.

[Steve: A recurring theme of the trip was the periodic signs indicating that we were entering an Indian reservation. But even without the signs, you could tell: if there was a desolate, dry, dusty, lifeless, godforsaken piece of land, the next thing you saw was that sign. Man, did those people get screwed!]

From Four Corners, we had a long drive through more desert scenery: mesas, cliffs, mountains, sand, cactus, etc. We stopped for pictures at Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. More red rocks! This is at the southern tip of the vast Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which surrounds Lake Powell (the lake created by the dam). We stopped to eat and then kept on going until, finally, we reached Ruby's Inn, just outside Bryce Canyon National Park.

Although not a town, Ruby's appears on road maps as if it were one. At this location since 1923, it has its own post office, gas stations, Utah state liquor store, car rental agency, shopping, swimming, laundromats, and foreign currency exchange. Hundreds of tourists (many arriving on huge bus tours) are served every day in its restaurants. Other than the lodges inside the park, there is no place to stay closer to Bryce.

[Steve: Ruby’s is quite the place. Their restaurant, where you can either order off the menu or go to the buffet (the overwhelmingly popular choice), feeds 600-700 people per meal. When we were there for dinner, a busload of Germans unloaded and, while their bags were being taken to their rooms, they descended on the buffet like locusts.]

About three miles north of the modern town of Taos is Taos Pueblo, home of the Taos Indians.

Although mostly built in modern times, their buildings are in the traditional style.

The traditional lifestyle is enhanced by modern transportation.

The Spanish mission was established around 1598, burned in 1680,
rebuilt about 1705, and finally destroyed in 1847. A few ruins and
a cemetery remain. This is the current church, a favorite with photographers.

The remains of the original bell tower stand in the old cemetery, which is still in use.

Driving through a small corner of Colorado, we achieved some elevation.

After days of sand and stone, snow was a welcome sight.

This lovely green landscape seemed remarkable after our trek across the desert.

We drove part way into Mesa Verde National Park.

At Four Corners, Steve covers four states: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

We drove across this bridge next to Glen Canyon Dam


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