Vail travel: A taste of Taos |

Vail travel: A taste of Taos

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
THE KESSLER COLLECTION | Special to the DailyVail travel: The Sangre de Cristo mountain range provides a spectacular backdrop to the Taos countryside.

SANTA FE – Our second day in Santa Fe dawned clear and beautiful. We headed straight to Tesuque Village Market (138 Tesuque Village Road, Santa Fe; 505-988-8848), just five minutes from our hotel, for a hearty breakfast – a tamale and two eggs over easy, Christmas-style (with equal parts red and green chile). The food was tasty, which is likely why the eatery’s airy patio was near-ly filled to capacity. At more than one table, diners sipped steaming mugs of coffee while they lingered over copies of the Sunday New York Times.

After breakfast, we headed to the Tesuque Flea Market (U.S. Highway 85, 505-995-8626). The market, which is less a flea mar-ket and more an outdoor market with vendors, had about half of the vendors (and visitors) than what I remember it having when I visited as a kid. But there were still some interesting finds – everything from Western art and clothing (not my bag) to beads from Africa and Afghanistan and fresh-ground spices (much more my bag.) I bought some ground hot red chili powder and a small bag of red chili flakes in hopes of making my own reli-giously hot red chili back at home. There seemed to be more looky-lous at the market than buying cus-tomers, and I overheard one silver jewelry vendor venting about that very problem into her cell phone, blaming the economy for her lack of sales. The relentless sun soon got the best of us and we got back in the car, ready to head for Taos.

here are two ways to get to Taos from Santa Fe, a “High Road” and a “Low Road.” If you want to see how many New Mexican people real-ly live, take the High Road, the extra-helpful concierge at Encantado rec-ommended. We took his advice and followed the signs for the High Road, which takes slightly longer but weaves through a myriad of small towns teem-ing with galleries and artist studios. We stopped at the High Road Marketplace (866-343-5381) in Truchas. The gallery is a nonprofit artists’ co-op and carries everything from jewelry to landscape paintings. I fell in love with (and bought) a matted 8-by-10-inch photo-graph ($30). It would be fun to return and make a day out of the High Road Art Tour (visit http://www.highroadnew for all the details).

We pulled into Taos in time for a late lunch at Graham’s Grille (106 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, 575-751-1350), a modern restaurant downtown that offers comfort food with Southwestern flair. We were sipping on our new favorite beer – Santa Fe Pale Ale – and homemade sangria at our patio-side table when a girl with thick dread-locks and and a large bag slung over her shoulder approached us and politely asked if we were interested in “ganja chocolate.” We politely declined, and our food – thick posole soup for me and the Big Peter burger with roast-ed green chilies and cheese for my boyfriend – arrived moments later.

With the afternoon stretched out before us, we asked our waitress for advice on what to do. She recom-mended a stop at the Rio Grande Gorge, just 15 minutes outside of town, followed by a trek to Arroyo Hondo Hot Springs (also called Black Rock Hot Springs). When a guide at the fly-fishing shop down the street recommended fishing in the Rio Grande near the hot springs, our after-noon adventure was sealed.

First, we checked in at our hotel for the night, El Monte Sagrado (, 800-828-8267), where the reception smelled like lilies thanks to giant fresh flower arrangements. We got a restaurant recommendation for “real New Mexi-can food” for dinner and dropped our luggage in the spacious room, located in the original part of the resort (there’s been a few additions). The room, which had a beautiful granite shower/tub and a separate sitting room with a big leather couch, was ground level and looked out onto a beautiful series of ponds and water-falls on the hotel property. We put on our hiking shoes, grabbed our bathing suits and left, hoping for adventure.

The gorge, our first stop, had stun-ning views. Visitors can walk across the bridge and peer at the depths of the gorge and the Rio Grande flowing below. There’s also a handful of ven-dors set up, selling everything from ice cream out of an old school bus to rugs and jewelry out of the back of a van. After a quick stop, we headed for the hot springs. We got lost a few times and asked kind local folks for direc-tions twice, but eventually we found the small parking area and hiked along a black-rock-strewn hillside down to the two steaming, riverside pools. I recommend you ask locals for driving directions if you want to find the hot springs.

There were a few other people sit-ting in the water – two nice older women in one pool and two hippies in the other, smaller pool. I sat in the first pool for awhile, until the semi-stoned (and naked) hippie folk annoyed me enough to towel off and walk the rocky shore in search of my boyfriend, who was fishing. While he cast his line into the reddish-brown water, I laid on a tiny sandy beach and read for a few hours. He caught two fish, which kept him from being grouchy on the ride back to town.

Soak sans hippies

Back in Taos, we drove straight to the restaurant the concierge had rec-ommended – Orlando’s New Mexi-can Cafe (1114 Don Juan Valdez Lane, 575-751-1450).

The food there was affordable, the service quite good and the ambiance hard to beat. We sat on the patio under trees strung with twinkling white Christmas lights. If you go, try the tasty tres colores blue corn enchiladas, which are doused in smoky red chili slightly reminiscent of mole sauce.

After a quick soak in the hotel’s indoor hot tub (no hippies this time), we sank into the comfy bed, a little sad that our New Mexico vacation was quickly coming to an end.

The next morning, we had omelets and coffee at Michael’s Kitchen (304 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte # C, 575-758-4178), a semi-greasy spoon (in a good way) diner and bakery. Afterwards, we strolled through the plaza and ducked into half a dozen galleries before we decided to head north for Colorado.

On the ride home, we talked about the places we wanted to visit on our next New Mexico adventure, already plotting about our next southern getaway.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.c

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