A day spent a mile high or more

Set out before dawn from Castle Rock, CO and headed south on I-25. Watched the sun rise on the snow capped mountains around Colorado Springs.

The border between Colorado and New Mexico is smack dab at the top of a mountain pass. That is usual up north, where the continental divide often forms the border between states, but the border between CO and NM is a straight line, drawn on one of the latitudinal lines--so, its an odd geographical coincidence that the highway should cross the border right at the mountain pass.

Left the freeway just inside New Mexico to take the mountain route over to Taos, a resort town I have always wanted to see.

After about 70 miles of plains, the road snaked up a mountain canyon. For forty miles, it was nothing but hairpin turns with a little ice in the shaded areas. Emerged from the forest at a town called Eagle’s Nest, at 8,500 elevation. Eagle’s nest sits at the edge of a 17,000 acre lake known for its excellent trout fishing.

Signs advised not picking up hitchhikers. Eagle’s Nest is home to something called the New Mexico Reintegration Center, which I suspect means “prison” in English.

Snaked down another wooded canyon and approached Taos. I expected a little ski village, tucked in the forest, and that’s what it looked like Taos would be until a few yards past the city limits, when the road opened up into an enormous plateau surrounded by snowcapped mountains.

Taos has a reputation as a sort of mystical destination for artists. Understandable, given the spectacular surroundings. However, the snowcover made is seem less than mystical to me, and I headed straight to Santa Fe.

My pickup looked like a frosted flake due to the salt on the roads yesterday, so I washed it at a casino between Taos and Santa Fe. I have previously spent some time in Santa Fe, so was familiar there, and decided to get as far south as I could before sunset.

Ended up in Soccoro, NM, in the middle of the state. The Holiday Inn, the only hotel that looked decent, was full, so I ended up with a stinky room at a lesser chain. My nose is slowly getting used to the disinfectant.

But what fun to be in the beautiful Southwest. I love the wide spaces of New Mexico with its mountain ranges spaced about 50 miles apart. Not a cloud in the sky for all nine hours of travel. The sunset was typical of the southwest at high elevations: Bright oranges, deep shadows, cool, clear air.