We wanted to get an earlier start for our visit to Taos and to see the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge today. One of the things we came to do while in Questa is to drive the Enchanted Circle. The Enchanted Circle is the most popular tour in the area.
It is an 84 mile circle drive on the National Forest Scenic Byway circling Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico, at an elevation of 13,161 ft. Questa is located at the top of the circle and Taos is at the bottom of the circle. Highway 38/522 and 64 complete the entire circle. Taos Ski Valley is also located a short distance in the center of the circle drive. We plan to do 1/2 of the circle drive today from Questa to Taos on the western side of the circle with a stop at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We left the campground at 10:30 on Highway 38/522 heading north out of Questa. We climbed up and up into the hills outside of town.
Off in the distance, the skies seemed hazy or smoky. There are wildfires burning near Albuquerque and Santa Fe and we thought the poor visibility might have come from that.
We entered into the Carson National Forest in the mountains. There were signs warning us about watching out for elk and bighorn sheep.
Coming out of the mountains, we passed through the Hondo Valley.
The highway made some twists and turns.
We turned onto Highway 64 and drove 7 miles down towards the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
We got down to the bridge and parked along the roadside. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is 1,280 ft. across and has 650 ft. clearance above the Rio Grande River. It is the 5th highest bridge in the United States and was dedicated in 1965. It was awarded the title, “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the long span category.
I was determined to walk out onto the bridge at least 1/2 way. It was kind of scary, but I made up my mind I was going to do it. I didn’t quite make it halfway, but it was close enough. Bob stayed behind to take my picture as proof. You can see me walking on the bridge.
Looking down into the canyon from the bridge, this is what I saw.
I walked across the road to the other side to look into the canyon there.
I walked back across the bridge and went down to view the bridge from the side.
Bob wanted to push the “panic button” on the bridge to call for help. You know how much he likes heights!
Instead, I talked him into taking 2 steps onto the actual bridge just to say he did it.
Looking across the canyon to the other side, we could see people standing near the canyon rim.
I decided I wanted to drive across the bridge, so I got into the driver’s seat and took us both across the bridge.
It really was a piece of cake, but I felt very accomplished. Across the bridge on the other end was a Rest Area where we stopped to turn around. It was also a good place to get another look at the bridge and canyon.
Looking at the bridge from the side, we could see what a beautiful bridge it was.
I talked Bob into coming out on the overlook to see for himself.
He could finally look down into the canyon and see the river.
At the Rest Area, there were people selling their wares.
This was also the western boundary of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. It has very narrow boundaries along the river.
I drove us back across the bridge and Bob took this picture without any problem.
Bob also took what pictures he could without looking at the camera lens or into the canyon while I drove over the bridge. Hmmm! Nice pictures, Bob! At least he tried!
Honestly, I have to say that the photographs we’ve seen in magazines of the bridge made it look more scary that it really is.
From there, we drove into downtown Taos looking for the Plaza and the historic district.
On our drive in, we saw many interesting-looking adobe buildings.
There were some very interesting looking shops and businesses.
This was a cool-looking piece of whimsical artwork in front of one of the stores. Many artists make their home in and around Taos.
This was a beautiful Baptist church and just down the road was a great looking Methodist church.
I really loved the stonework on this home in the traditional Southwest style.
We found the Plaza area and a place to park. The spaces were metered and as luck would have it, we found the only parking meter that wasn’t working. It was flashing “failed” and we were told that it means that we didn’t have to pay to park. What luck!
The Plaza had stores and a hotel around the perimeter with a beautiful square in the middle.
We checked out a few of the shops as we walked around the Plaza. Bob had the urge to eat a pickle, so he bought one at this store and gave it a taste.
We came upon The Alley Cantina and decided to have some lunch.
I was tempted to order a Horny Gramma Marqarita, but instead I had a delicious glass of Sangria. Yummmm!
We ordered, you guessed it, nachos! Just call us the “nacho chasers”! These were some of the best nachos we’ve ever had. (They have a red tint due to the red umbrella we were sitting under.)
The Alley Cantina is the oldest building in Taos. It was built in the 16th century by the Pueblo Indians and served as an outpost. Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill are reported to have visited here frequently. It became a restaurant in 1944 and has continuously operated since then. The area in the alley was decorated with beautiful flowers and so was the main Plaza.
The Coronado Expedition arrived on the site of the Taos Plaza in 1540. The Tewa Indians settled in this valley in 1350. The name Taos is an adaptation of the Tewa Indian word “Towih” meaning “red willows”. Taos was 1st colonized by Spain in 1645.
As we finished our walk around the square and the historic district, we noticed the skies darkening and that it was raining over the mountains. We had wanted to go up into the mountains to Taos Valley Ski Village, but with the rain we decided not to.
As we headed back to the campground, it began to rain a little off and on. We got back around 2:30 and the rain had stopped. The sun eventually came out, but we heard thunder off and on nearby for awhile. We relaxed before dinner and had leftovers since we had a big lunch. Auggie and I went out for our evening walk after a fun day in Taos! We went to visit the geese and ducks in the pond. The geese made a huge racket while Auggie and I walked around the pond. Tomorrow we’ll do the other half of the Enchanted Circle.