Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Weekend Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Taos and Surroundings

Throughout our one-month house sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mark and I were extremely busy. During the week with work and over the weekends with excursions. There is so much to do and see in the Santa Fe area (we barely even set foot in the town itself), that four weekends do not suffice. That being said, we did our best, and hope to return. While our previous weekends of explorations are doable as day trips, our last weekend required a longer drive. Still, people do visit Taos on a day excursion from Santa Fe. We decided to take the long way there and not rush. The focus was more on driving than on hiking this time.

We planned to take the “high road” to Taos. This is a scenic drive of about 2.5 hours, without stopping. It brought us through some amazing New Mexico scenery and a few spiritual places.

Our first stop was El Santuario de Chimayo. This National Historic Landmark is a Roman Catholic adobe church, visited by 30,000 pilgrims a year, mostly during Holy Week.

The shrine is famous for its “holy dirt”, of which there seems to be an unending supply. The “dirt” found at the room known as the “pocito” (well) is considered holy, because in this spot the crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas was found by Bernardo Abeyta in 1810. Many visitors to the church take a small amount of it home, often in hopes of a miraculous cure for themselves or someone who could not make the trip. Upon entering these secret chambers, people are warned not to eat or drink the dirt. In order for a cure or a miracle to happen, there is a certain procedure required, involving rubbing the “holy dirt”, but also communicating with God. No photography was allowed inside the church.

Unlike the tour groups present, we mostly enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the grounds and buildings and happily strolled around, taking in the atmosphere.

In Las Trampas, established in 1751, we parked at the Church of San José de la Gracia. Also a National Historic Landmark, with adobe walls up to six feet thick, it is considered one of the best preserved examples of Spanish Colonial Architecture in New Mexico. Unfortunately, the door was locked, so we could not glimpse inside.

Before we made the right turn towards the cute and artsy town of Taos, we went left and stopped at another adobe building, the Church of San Francisco de Asis. The walls must have been re-mudded recently, since its particles were visible everywhere. The interior was colorful (no photography allowed) , yet modest and peaceful, just like at the sanctuary. I have to admit I like the style of these churches.

Taos is a small town that reminded us a bit of Santa Fe, especially the historic town square. The plaza and surrounding blocks are quieter, but also offer art galleries, shops and restaurants. Since we are on a tight budget these days and nothing struck our fancy, we just walked around for a bit, before hopping back into our camper and reaching an attractive, quiet and free camping spot in the mountains, half an hour away.

The temperature dropped a lot at night, but we still slept comfortably, before setting out again on Sunday. After a wonderful egg breakfast, of course.

Campsite for the night

We did not have a lot of plans this day, unlike the week prior. We wanted to drive by Taos Pueblo, a town made entirely of adobe (earth mixed with water and straw), and continuously inhabited for over 1000 years by indigenous people. The pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.

We did not get very far, as, upon approaching the village, we were stopped and asked whether we wanted to visit the pueblo. We knew the cost would be a steep $16 a person and simultaneously answered: “No.” “This is the only entrance into Taos Pueblo (a lie), so you have to turn around and head back the way you came,” the boy told us. We obliged and headed to the Rio Grande gorge instead.

Talk about a deep canyon! We had to cross it, before being able to park and look around in amazement. Walking over the bridge, Mark only ventured a few glimpses. I hung over the edge to stare down. The gap was impressive; the sliver of river narrow. Usually not one to swallow when looking down into the abyss from high up, I did get a tiny bit queasy here. And, apparently, my brains were not working either. “Why would they put a call box up here?” I wondered out loud. Mark had to enlighten me with the answer. I’d never think about jumping down from this height, except with a bungee cord. Hum… I guess these phones are strategically placed.

Mark and I finished our excursion with a walk in the desert and along the canyon, part of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. It was the heat of the day, so we did not venture far, but it was about time we had some exercise this weekend.

On the way back to Santa Fe, we took the “low road”, which mainly followed the Rio Grande and offered nice places to rest and have a late lunch. Finishing our Santa Fe time off with a somewhat relaxing weekend was exactly what we needed, to start another stressful work week and wrap up this sit in order to move onto the next house (and dog), in Colorado.

Peaceful surroundings of the Rio Grande, along the “low road”

Do you have a fear of heights? Have you ever bungee jumped?


  1. I’m afraid of heights and have never had the urge to go bungee jumping, but I’d really like to take a trip up the mast. David won’t help me, though. I pretend I’m indignant about the whole thing but, the truth is, I’d probably freak out from an overdose of adrenaline and get stuck half way up. Happy trails! 🙂

    • Mark’s fear of heights used to be worse than it is now, so a trip up the mast, tied into a snug boysun chair and with David holding the lines and cranking you up, little by little, might be a good way to overcome it. If you freak out halfway up, he can let you back down.
      When we had our first boat, I was the one needing to go up the mast, but once we had Irie, Mark was OK being hauled up by me – I didn’t mind the exercise, as long as it was not too hot out. 🙂

  2. I love that gorge and the bridge! It is amazing to think of the engineering that goes into designing a bridge like that (not to mention the people who actually built it). Wow.

    I’m glad that you resisted eating or drinking the dirt 🙂 .

    • The whole “dirt” story is quite intriguing, Janis. I do love the adobe architecture, though. As for the bridge, yep… quite the feat over such a narrow and deep gap!!

  3. Not a fan of heights at all, Liesbet. It’s not so much the height, but the looking down and feeling as if I could tip forward and fall at any second. It makes me shudder to think of it, and shudder to look at your photos.
    But I do love the adobe churches. When in Taos, I stayed in an adobe bed and breakfast. It was great – a bit like being inside a cave, I imagine.

    • I had a feeling from comments to other posts that quite a few of my readers have a fear of heights. After peering down this gorge, I got an inkling of an understanding now. I have the same sentiments as you about the adobe structures – so nice you stayed in an adobe B&B to get the feeling of living in one of these buildings.

  4. What an amazing area this is Liesbet and I can understand why you would want to return here and explore some more! 😉💖 xxx

  5. I’m not a big fan of heights and there are times when I haven’t done something because of it. That call box is a good idea. Sad that it’s needed, but great that it’s there in case anyone is thinking of jumping.

    • Knowing your own “restrictions” is a good trait to have, Ellen. I sometimes push myself too much, especially when it comes to sea or altitude sickness. I guess Scott is the one climbing the mast on Tickety Boo? 🙂

  6. If I am in a building, a plane or on a bridge with railings, I do not fear heights. I do get very nervous in the mountains or places where the barricades are too low. Also, I would never, ever bungee. El Santuario de Chimayo looked amazing!

    • Sounds a bit like my husband, Ryan. I can surely understand that a barrier gives you a feeling of protection/security and less fear of falling down. Looking down from heights seems to either be exhilarating or scary. I understand that now. 🙂

  7. Gorgeous photos, Liesbet! First the face that there was a paper telling people not to ingest the dirt was rather amusing, but I guess you can’t trust anyone to have common sense! Secondly, that span over the deep gorge reminds me of the one on Foresthill off the Hwy 49 going out from Auburn. Sad, too that crisis phone have to be available for potential leapers! I had a work colleague whose brother jumped from that bridge. So sad! I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling from one 😉

    • Haha. I’m with you about common sense these days, Terri. Not too many people seem to possess that anymore, based on our observations on the phone, online, in the media or in the real world.

      I don’t remember whether we crossed that bridge you mention on Hwy 49 when we were there. I think we might have, since we visited Auburn one day as well. Then again, maybe we approached from a different direction, since I would remember another one of these!

      Falling off high things is a fear that I sometimes have as well, when climbing on trees or rocks.

  8. As I get older, I have a few more fears about heights, mainly because I’m afraid I’ll make some stupid mistake and accidentally fall. I don’t know why I now think this way because I have great balance and can walk a skinny tree trunk over a river! I’d also LOVE to bungee jump! I really wanted to try it in New Zealand when the kids were younger but my husband thought they’d be traumatized watching their mother hurl herself off a bridge! So I never have. Maybe in the future?

    Glad you had a nice time on the high and low roads. I’ve never been to Taos but have visited Santa Fe and Albuquerque and a stretch north of El Paso, TX. Interesting state. Not my kind of topography but fascinating to at least see. Hope your weather in Colorado is good; my son says it’s been rainier than usual lately. It’s bound to turn around soon, just in time for your stay!

    P.S. Saw a comment about Italian greyhounds – I am in love with those dogs! That’ll be a great gig – pretty dogs in a pretty city!

    • Lexie, I recognize this heightened level of fear as we get older. I, for one, am happy to have bungee jumped in New Zealand when I was there the first time, in my twenties. I don’t think I’d do it again now, though. Maybe… if I really want my heart to beat faster than it has ever beaten. 🙂 Unlike you, I am not a good balancer and HATE having to cross rivers on a narrow tree trunk. I had to do this multiple times, way back, when hiking with an indigenous group on a remote island in Indonesia. I was the slowest poke around.

      Unfortunately, we are in Colorado now (and have been for almost two weeks) and the weather truly has been awful for a whole week. Rain, mist, snow and freezing cold. Your son is right! We did not expect this at all this time of the year, but, at 8000+ ft it is bound to happen apparently. We mostly hate it because of the wet, muddy (we live on and are surrounded by dirt roads) and cold circumstances to walk our current pup, three times a day. Next week should be better. Hopefully, we can explore the area a bit more then.

      Yes, we are looking forward to that San Diego sit for a few reasons. 🙂

      • Oh, bummer … Colorado is usually magnificent tin September and October. That’s when we often try to visit our son. Fingers crossed for next week!

        • So we’ve heard… 🙁 I wish I could post a photo here, Lexie. Five inches of snow as we speak!! Our last hope is a beautiful weekend in a few days. We don’t seem to get very luck with the weather wherever we choose to house sit these months.

  9. I’m not scared of heights but I have decided no bunjee jumping I have some compressed vertebrae in my neck and I’m not certain they would be amused by a bungee jump. looks like an amazing area to explore. Best wishes as you head off to Colorado.

    • That would be a good reason not to bungee jump, Sue! We all have these “little” ailments that prevent us from doing certain things, unfortunately. For me, it is the sea sickness, the bad knees, and the headaches in hot and humid situations when exerting myself that should make me think twice going on certain adventures. 🙂 Colorado has been beautiful, but cold, rainy and snowy. Not what we expected this time of the year!

  10. Definitely no bungee jumping for me! But I would love to do that hike….and visit the churches– your photographs of them are stunning!

    • Thanks, Donna. The desert and the communities in New Mexico are quite special. As we are walking the dog in snow, we sure are missing the sun of Santa Fe and Taos!

  11. A little bit, and no 🙂 🙂 Much more laid back this week, Liesbet.

  12. The scenery is stunning! I might well go for the bungee jump off the bridge. I’ve also done it just once, in New Zealand, in my 20s – maybe off the same bridge you went off? Definitely an experience unlike any other. I also think the adobe churches look lovely.

    • Hi Nick and welcome to Roaming About! I jumped off the “pipeline” in NZ. The year was 2001 and I was young and fearless. 🙂 Where did you brave the depths? I just love the architecture and atmosphere of the adobe churches. It makes me feel like I am abroad…

  13. Liesbet, your photos are excellent! I have never been to New Mexico, but now I would really like to go there. Very interesting adobe construction — the thick walls must help to keep it a bit cooler inside. The Rio Grande looks amazing.


    • You might be right about the reason for those thick walls. New Mexico really has a lot to offer and is quite diverse. Culture, nature, history, and – in our opinion – pretty perfect weather most of the time we were there! I hope you get to visit that state in the future! We can’t wait to go back one day, maybe in the spring.

  14. What a fabulous tour once again, thanks Liesbet. And no, you wouldn’t catch me bungee jumping. How long is the drive from Santa Fe to Taos?

    • The length of the drive depends, Debby. There are a three different ways to get there. The scenic route High Road), how we drove up, is much longer (I believe 2.5 hours without stopping), than the other routes. I think the quickest way (Low Road) takes about 1.5 hours to drive from Santa Fe to Taos. It is a nice and beautiful drive on all routes. Mark actually preferred the scenery of the Low Road, which we did on the way back, with a stop for lunch at the river.

  15. Perfect photographs, Liesbet!..The view is staggering!

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