Tag Archives: Taos County

Free Camping Along the Rio Hondo

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The best free camping in the Taos, New Mexico area is tucked between the Rio Hondo and the Ski Valley Road.

Turn east at the stop light locals call “the Old Blinking Light.” Follow Highway 150 to the village of Arroyo Seco. Pass the Taos Cow (http://www.taoscow.com/) on the right or stop for coffee, sandwiches, or locally made ice cream. Right past Francesca’s Clothing Boutique, follow the road as it curves to the left. Pass the Holy Trinity Catholic Church (http://www.visitseco.com/arroyo_seco_catholic_church.php), then the road will curve to the right. After the post office, the road straightens out. When the choice becomes left, right, or off the mountain, go right. When you start seeing water flowing on the right, you’ll know you’re close.

There are three official campgrounds along the Rio Hondo: Lower Hondo, Cuchilla de Medio, and Italianos. Lower Hondo and Italianos have pit toilets, but I’m not sure about Cuchilla de Medio. When we stayed at Italianos Campground in June 2017, the inside of the toilet was filthy, and no toilet paper was provided. All of thes campgrounds are free, but offer no amenities other than pit toilets and the occassional picnic table. There are no trashcans and no water other than what’s in the river/stream/creek. The stay limit is 14 days within a 45 day period. The camping spots aren’t designated, so don’t look for numbered poles or timbers separating campsites. Just find a place to snug in a vehicle and/or a tent or a camper and leave the roadway open.

Campers who don’t need the pit toilets don’t need to limit themselves to the signed campgrounds. There are camping spots all along the water. Look for driveways going off into the trees and firerings constructed from stones by previous campers.

It’s amazing to me that I can be up in the desert, surrounded by sage and precious little shade, then drive 15 miles and find myself surrounded by tall pines and cottonwoods. Even on the hottest summer day, the Rio Hondo is icy cold. When I’m hot, I tell myself I”m going to strip down to my underwear and stretch out in the water, but in reality, I’ve only ever managed to go in ankle deep. In less than thirty seconds, my bones ache from the cold water, and the rest of me feels cool and refreshed. If I get hot again while I’m there, my feet go back in.

On Saturday afternoon in June, The Man and I were looking for a camping spot along the Rio Hondo. As we drove up toward the Ski Valley, we saw spot after spot taken both in the official campgrounds and in the boondocking areas. I was beginning to lose hope when we saw a poorly maintained dirt driveway leading down to the river. I pulled the van off the road, and we peered through the trees. No one was down there!

I slowly nosed the van down the rutted, potholed driveway. At the bottom of the driveway, we found two stone firerings and a nice, flat area to park the van. We had our own lovely, secluded waterfront campsite.

I took all these photos of the Rio Hondo and my feet in the Rio Hondo.

 

 

The Ten Best Things About Taos, NM

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The town of Taos is a rather small place, but there’s so much to see and do throughout the county. I really fell in love with New Mexico as I explored Taos County, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Today I’ll share my favorite things about the Taos area.

The Ten Best Things About Taos

#1 I love the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge! At somewhere between 565 and 680 feet above the Rio Grande Gorge, the bridge is high. In 1966 the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the bridge “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category. (Read more about the Gorge Bridge here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/25/rio-grande-gorge-bridge/.)

#2 A community of vendors sells on the side of the highway just off the west end of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At various times since 2012, I’ve been a vendor there. I sell hemp jewelry and warm, colorful yarn hats that I make with my own two hands, as well as shiny rocks. (I can’t take credit for the shiny rocks; Mother Nature does all that work.) The vendors at the bridge are like an extended family in many ways; sometimes we argue and get mad at each other, but overall, there is a lot of love and generosity flowing among us.

#3 At almost 7,000 feet, Taos is cooler in the summer than a lot of other places. The

relative humidity typically ranges from 17% (dry) to 88% (very humid) over the course of the year (https://weatherspark.com/averages/31627/Taos-New-Mexico-United-States),

which helps too. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop 30 degrees overnight, even in the summer, at least giving folks respite from the heat of the day. If day time heat gets too bad, I drive fifteen or so miles to the Rio Hondo, sit among tall pine trees, and put my feet in the icy snowmelt river water.

#4 Someone has added UFOs to many of the the cow crossing signs in Taos County! Sometimes the Department of Transportation removes the stickers or puts up new signs, but the UFOs always seem to reappear.

#5 I’ve never encountered a goathead in Taos County. I’d never even heard of a goathead until I traveled to Sierra County in southern New Mexico. If you’ve never heard of a goathead, here’s a description from http://www.sdc.org/fattire/goatheads.html:

A mature goathead is a solid lump of wood a quarter inch or more in diameter, with several very hard, very sharp, quarter inch spikes arrayed around it…Goatheads are basically tetrahedral in shape, meaning that–no matter how they fall to the ground, no matter how they get kicked around–they will always have a spike pointing straight up…

As you may have guessed, if a goathead goes into a foot, it HURTS! They are a nuisance at best and a REAL PAIN at worst. Oh, how glad I am to be away from them when I leave Truth or Consequences and return to the Taos area.

#6 Taos (and especially the Gorge Bridge area) is known for its sunsets. Unfortunately, the camera on my phone does no justice to a Taos sunset, but believe me when I say I’ve seen some gorgeous ones.

#7 I’m also seen fantastic rainbows in the rural parts of the county. During my first summer and fall in the area, I saw more rainbows than I had seen in the previous forty years of my life.  Some of those rainbows were absolutely vivid too! One afternoon I saw a rainbow so bright, I imagined someone had given a second grader a box of crayons and instructed the kid the draw a rainbow across the sky.

#8 There are natural, free, clothing-optional hot springs on public land in Taos county. My favorite is Blackrock Hot Spring near the John Dunn Bridge, but there’s also Namby (also known as Stagecoach) Hot Spring. I’ve never been to Namby, but you can read about my experiences at Blackrock here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/25/john-dunn-bridge/. I’ve heard rumors of other hot and warm springs, so I may have new Taos County explorations ahead of me.

#9 The mountains around the town of Taos are fantastic! I grew up in the flatlands, and I didn’t even know I was missing the mountains, but now that I’ve met them, I love them! I especially enjoy the mountains when there’s a little snow on the top, but I could look at them all day, any day of the year.

#10 Most people around Taos don’t think it’s too strange when they hear someone is living in his or her van or car or an old school bus or even just camping out in the sage. Folks in Taos have seen a lot of people living in a lot of different ways and have maybe even lived in some unconventional housing themselves. There’s not a lot of judgment placed on people getting by without electricity or running water or even a permanent place to call home.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Any questions about the town of Taos or Taos County can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

More Love Locks

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These love locks hang on a heart sculpture on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson, AZ.

These love locks hang on a heart sculpture on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson, AZ.

In a previous post (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/07/love-locks/), I wrote about love locks I’ve seen in a couple of locations in California; at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos County, NM; and on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson, AZ. In this post I want to share more of the photos I took of love locks in various locations.

This lock was at South Creek Falls in California.

This love lock was at South Creek Falls in California.

Most of the locks I saw at South Creek Falls were rather plain and didn’t excited me enough to take a photo. (It was also a cloudy day, so the light was uninspiring.) The only lock that caught my eye was one with an allover coat of pink paint and bright blue the writing.

Helping Hand

This love lock was on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015.

When I walked across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge–for the first time in over a year–in the fall of 2015 , I saw more love locks than I had ever seen before. I guess love locks are a thing now. I wonder if the NMDOT (New Mexico Department of Transportation, the government organization which maintains the Gorge Bridge) comes along periodically and removes the locks.

Possibilities

This love lock, seen on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015, is unusual because it has no names on it.

Anita Loves Nolan Nolan Loves AnitaThis lock (seen at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015 ) is so sweet. I hope Nolan and Anita love each other forever.

These love locks were attached to a heart sculpture on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson, AZ. The old-school locks made me really happy.

These love locks were attached to a heart sculpture on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson, AZ. The old-school locks made me really happy.

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A twenty year anniversary love lock seen in Tucson, AZ.

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More love locks seen on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson, AZ.

I saw so many love locks on the heart sculptures in Tucson! I took a lot of photos of love locks there. It’s difficult to pick out just a few photos to share.

Where have you seen love locks? Please leave a comment telling about your love locks sightings. Have you and your sweetie ever left a love lock somewhere? When? Where? Why? Please share those stories too.

I think it's a little weird to use a "Master" lock for anything other than a BDSM relationship where there really is a master involved, but I do like the sentiment of "a love that will last for always." This love lock was also seen in Tucson.

I think it’s a little weird to use a “Master” lock for anything other than a BDSM relationship where there really is a master involved, but I do like the sentiment of “a love that will last for always.” Heck, for all I know, this love lock represents a loving master/slave relationship which will last for always. It’s none of my business what consenting adults do behind closed doors. In any case, this love lock was seen on North Fourth Avenue in Tucson.

All photos in this post were taken by me.

Love Locks

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Double Heart Lock

I saw this love lock on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015.

I think I must have first become aware of love locks when walking across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos, County, NM some time between 2012 and 2014. I saw a padlock affixed to the bridge’s railing, but I can’t remember if someone explained the lock was there to symbolize everlasting love, or if I figured it out on my own. Later, I heard all about love locks on the 81st episode of the Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase podcast (http://betty.libsyn.com/81st-show-lovelocks); that episode is called “Lovelocks.”

I Love You

This love lock was also on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015. I love the detail on this lock, which was obviously not picked up at a hardware store on a whim.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_lock,

A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love.[1] Typically the sweethearts’ names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love. Since the 2000s, love locks have proliferated at an increasing number of locations worldwide. They are now mostly treated by municipal authorities as litter or vandalism, and there is some cost to their removal. However, there are authorities who embrace them, and who use them as fundraising projects or tourism attractions.

The history of love padlocks dates back at least 100 years to a melancholic Serbian tale of World War I, with an attribution for the bridge Most Ljubavi (lit. the Bridge of Love) in spa town of Vrnjačka Banja.[2] A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet.[3][4]

Lock Trio

I think this is the only trio of locks I’ve ever seen. These were also on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015.

In the rest of Europe, love padlocks started appearing in the early 2000s.[5] The reasons love padlocks started to appear vary between locations and in many instances are unclear. However, in Rome, the ritual of affixing love padlocks to the bridge Ponte Milvio can be attributed to the 2006 book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia, who made a film adaptation in 2007.[6][7]

Tule River 2The next times I saw love locks was during my adventure on the Tule River in California. (You can read about that adventure here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/22/steps-to-the-kern/.) As I walked down the steps to the river, I saw a lock left by Ash & Kate.

South Creek Falls Fence

Many love locks were left on the barrier fence at South Creek Falls.

A few weeks after that, I saw more love locks at South Creek Falls. (Read more about South Creek Falls here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=south+creek+falls.) Quite a few people had left locks on the barrier fence.

Yellow Lock

This yellow combination lock was one of the love locks I saw fastened to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall of 2015.

When I returned to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall, I found many people had affixed love locks to the bridge’s railing.

During a brief visit to Tucson, AZ in late 2015, I spent an hour or so one afternoon wandering around the hip little North Fourth Avenue shopping area. I was excited to see several metal heart sculptures made for people to fasten on their love locks.

A brief announcement from February 2015 on the Arizona Daily Star’s tucson.com (http://tucson.com/put-a-lock-on-it/article_b40d5fb6-b244-11e4-9f1c-5724f278e6a8.html) says,

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This is one of the heart sculptures made for love locks on Tucson’s North Fourth Avenue.

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Here’s another heart sculpture made for love locks on Tucson’s North Fourth Avenue. There are four or five of these hears on North Fourth Avenue.

North Fourth Avenue is going all out for Valentine’s Day — big sales, live music, and all sorts of hustle and bustle. And get this: there will a number of heart sculptures along the avenue. Bring a padlock inscribed with your names, attach it to a sculpture, and lock in your love by throwing away the key…When a sculpture becomes full it will become a display in Haggerty Plaza.

Tomorrow I will share more photos of love locks that I took in California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

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I took all photos in this post.

The John Dunn Bridge and Blackrock Hot Spring

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SDC10006The John Dunn Bridge is located in Arroyo Hondo, Taos County, New Mexico.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dunn_Bridge, The John Dunn Bridge

crosses the Rio Grande near the confluence of the Rio Hondo.

[It] is located about three miles west of Arroyo Hondo on a gravel road that parallels Rio Hondo.[1] The road, off of NM 522, runs through Bureau of Land Management property, [and] is known as John Dunn Bridge Road and County Road B-007.

In or after 1893 John Dunn bought a bridge that crossed the Rio Grande and established a business taking passengers and freight from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad at Tres Piedras to Taos. The bridge burned down and he rebuilt it in 1908.[5]

He operated the bridge until 1912 when he sold it to the Territory of New Mexico who made it a free bridge.[5]

Black Rock Hot Springs are located off of a dirt road on the western side of the Rio Grande after crossing the bridge.[10]

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This is a view of the Rio Grande flowing through the Rio Grande Gorge, taken from the trail to Blackrock Hot Spring.

According to http://www.gorp.com/parks-guide/blackrock-hot-springs-outdoor-pp2-guide-cid402419.html,

Few of northern New Mexico’s bounty of hot springs have escaped the hands of developers and remain in a primitive condition. Blackrock Hot Spring has two characteristics that kept it from development: It has low flow, and it is located on the west bank of the rugged Rio Grande Gorge.

In 1900, John Dunn of Taos purchased the bridge at the Rio Hondo with money he won at the poker table. It turned out that owning a bridge on the Rio Grande was quite a gamble, too, for the next spring, flood took the bridge with it into the rugged gorge below. Dunn was a tireless man who quickly rebuilt the bridge and then expanded his business interests by starting a stage service running over the bridge from Taos to Sevilleta, a whistle stop on the railroad.

Said to be a fugitive from the Texas Rangers, Dunn was full of brilliant if somewhat shady ideas. He built a small hotel at his bridge and made the crossing an overnight stop on his stage line, an arrangement that forced passengers to pay for food and lodging before continuing to Taos the next morning. With the crossing securely his, Dunn eyed the hot springs a half-mile below, wondering how he could exploit them. He probably took a few guests over the rugged walking trail along the river to the springs, but the low flow of hot water, plus the fact that the springs were frequently covered by the runoff-swollen Rio Grande, kept Dunn from taking further advantage of the spring.

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View of the Rio Grande and the eastern gorge wall, taken from Blackrock Hot Spring.

Far from isolated today, Blackrock Hot Spring is New Mexico’s most accessible primitive mineral spring. From the parking area at the hairpin turn above Dunn’s bridge, a well-developed trail dives from the road and heads downstream. The trail descends quickly to the river, reaching the spring in less than a quarter-mile.

The pool is small, and the volume of hot water is low. The mineral water issues from the base of the thick pile of black lava in a narrow drainage in the wall of the gorge. Boulders that have tumbled down the watercourse have completely covered the spot where the water bubbles up from the surface.

I’ve visited the John Dunn Bridge and Blackrock Hot Spring many times. In fact, Blackrock Hot Spring was the first natural hot spring I ever soaked in.

In the summer, visitors and locals alike enjoy swimming or floating in inner tubes in the Rio Grande just below the John Dunn Bridge. Blackrock Hot Spring is popular for soaking year round.

There are actually two pools at Blackrock Hot Spring, one warmer than the other. The cooler one is right next to the Rio Grande, and I’ve seen strong swimmers jump right into the river for a quick cool-down. The less adventuress can achieve a similar effect at a slower rate by taking a dip in the cool pool.

There’s no closing time on the hot spring pools, and although folks are not supposed to stay overnight in the small parking area, I’ve done it with friends a time or two. Because I prefer to soak in the hot water when the air is cool, my favorite time to utilize the pools–especially in the summer–is around 2am. It’s usually (although not always) empty then, and other middle-of-the-night soakers (if they’re not drunk partiers), tend to be quiet and respectful of the sacredness of the spring. A friend and I once sat in the hot water with no one else around and watched a meteor shower. That was a sweet night.

Blackrock is one of my favorite undeveloped soaking spots. Clothing is optional as far as the hippies who soak there are concerned, and I’ve never heard of a ranger hassling anyone for being naked there. The water is full of lithium (so the locals say), and it’s not only relaxing, but mood-lifting as well. The view is fantastic, and if there are no stupid rich people around talking about their real estate investments, it’s a wonderful place to rest and rejuvenate.

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View of the John Dunn Bridge from the trail to Blackrock Hot Spring.

 I took all the photos in this post.