Tantalizing Taos by Dean & Nancy Hoch

As we figure it, 1.5 million people can’t be wrong, and that’s how many come each year from all corners of the world to visit the tiny, little, tantalizing town of Taos, New Mexico. Speaking of corners, the well-known Four Corners area of the U.S. is not far distant, and many claim an energy vortex in this entire region of Northwestern New Mexico—an area that has drawn artists and painters for centuries. Among those who have visited and/or lived in Taos are such luminaries as D.H. Lawrence from England, Willa Cather from the Midwestern U.S., Aldous Huxley, Tennessee Williams, and more recently movie stars such as Julia Roberts, Dean Stockwell, and now-deceased Dennis Hopper.


Taos (pronounced like house), once located on a 6,000-year old trade route, now has a population of just 5,000 people. Situated in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at a cool 7,000 feet and just 70 miles northeast of Santa Fe, Taos is a legendary community.


Sacred to the Pueblo Indians, snow-capped Taos Mountain rises above the expansive Southwestern landscape, a mountain also held sacred by many tribes of Native Americans and revered by others, as well. The Pueblos claim the longest continuously-inhabited dwellings in America, known as Taos Pueblo, and located just outside the city limits of Taos. The dwellings are the major tourist attraction of the immediate area and a world heritage site.
There’s a legend that if you happen to be compatible with the more mysterious elements at Taos, you will be welcome; if not, you’re likely to be rejected by whatever powers this part of the magnificent Southwest possesses. So, best to get your compatibility powers in sync before you visit. Travelling into Taos from the north, visitors pass by dozens of energy-efficient Earthships that are built into–and scattered over–the desert landscape. Most of these unusual homes are self-contained, and many boast annual utilite costs of only $100 a year. Built of recycled materials, the homes utilize thermal/solar heating and cooling, solar and wind electricity, water harvesting, interior food production capabilities, and contained sewage treatment. They may, perhaps, one day be the houses of the future. The Greater World Earthship Community, centered in Taos, is the world’s largest self-sufficient residential development, and tours of one of the homes at the Visitors Center are inexpensive and enlightening.
Also popular in the area are labyrinths, which to devotees here and elsewhere are a metaphor of life. Each is comprised basically of a simple, circular pattern constructed into a flat piece of land and used for meditation and “centering.” Built for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years in various parts of the world, a walk into and back out of a labyrinth can be as long as a quarter of a mile. A river stone may be picked up and used as a tool to help focus on a prayer or meditation as one walks, and the idea is to leave the world behind, as you advance to the center. You may also ask yourself a question that you hope might be answered or resolved as you go to the half-way point of the circle. Here you may sit or stand as long as you desire. You may leave your river stone at the center or anywhere along your path.
We visited two labyrinths during our stay, one at the Adobe and Pines Bed & Breakfast, built in 1832 (www.adobepines.com), and also one at the home of luminary, Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy and eccentric woman with an artistic bent who moved to Taos in the early part of the 1900’s – this after having lived in New York City where her home was a meeting place for intellectuals and artists of the day. Tiring of the big city, she relocated in Taos where she again welcomed artists and writers from around the world to her secluded “house of silence.” Here she encouraged the renewal of the guests themselves, as well as their Taos-inspired creativity. (www.mabeldodgeluhan.com)


The nation’s most photographed church is in Taos — St. Francis de Asis — is a landmark of the area. Completed in 1815, the simple, austere architecture is enhanced by the adobe construction and simple crosses. Over the years, the structure has been painted or photographed by such artists as Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe, among others.


Kit Carson, famed mountain man and military officer, married a Native American woman and lived, died, and is buried in Taos. Tours are now given of his modest home. Additional draws to this remarkable little city include some fabulous balloon rides by the Pueblo Balloon Company (www.puebloballoon.com), historic Le Doux Street studded with its art galleries and museums (www.taosmuseums.org), as well as world-class skiing, award-winning llama trekking adventures, soaking in the ancient, medicinal waters of Ojo Caliente (www.ojocalientesprings.com), viewing the expansive Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (third highest bridge in the U.S. at 650 feet), and more.


Accommodations are in abundance and range from the 1819 hotel on the town square where D.H. Lawrence once rested his weary head, to the Historic Taos Inn (www.taosinn.com), and the modern Comfort Inn. During our sojourn, we stayed at the colorful, adobe-style Sagebrush Inn, built in 1929 — complete with heavy, hand-carved furniture, Mexican-tiled baths, and a lovely garden area – all reminiscent of a Spanish hacienda (www.sagebrushinn.com).


Recommended places to eat, among a huge variety, are the elegant Taos Country Club with its magnificent view of the Taos valley, as well as award-winning Lambert’s, El Meze, Doc Martin’s, and tiny, little Lula’s Café, well-known for excellent soup and sandwiches — menus of all on the web. At Doc Martin’s upscale restaurant, you can even find rattlesnake/rabbit sausages on the menu. Yum!


Like the millions who travel to this remote part of Northern New Mexico, including the hundreds of artists and painters who still set up shop in and around the old Taos Plaza, you may find your own creativity and energy renewed in what can only be described as the tantalizingly old — but also up-to-date and modern — city of Taos, New Mexico.