Thursday, June 05, 2003

Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part IV

If you are interested in reading parts I-III of our travel experiences to New Mexico, they appear below in reverse chronological order.

Day Five

We were very well rested after our night's sleep. The area around the Gavilan was very quiet, very dark, and as a result, very peaceful. We awoke with the hope that our day would be filled with hiking. The B&B had two trails. The smaller one was two miles long around the hills that were contained on the property. The larger one was seven miles long, extending beyond the property to that owned by the Philmont Ranch. What choice could we make? We would hike both trails.

We waited for breakfast in the Gavilan's sitting room. It was well decorated with Western-theme art, and the library was stocked with books on the Southwest in wildlife, history, and fiction. Everyone gathered there to wait to be served breakfast. Before that we hadn't met any of the other guests. Four couples stayed that first night: one from Connecticut, one from Ohio, another from Kansas (?), and ourselves. We sat at a table with the elderly couple from Old Lyme, Connecticut. The copious breakfast consisted of a frittata, orange juice, coffee, water, toast, fresh fruit. We felt full.

Off to the hike. We swiped the map of the property and the hiking trails from the room and packed some food in my backpack. All the guests had left the hotel rather quickly. We started to look for the trail, but could not find where it began. The map was confusing as to its direction, and there were no clearly defined trail heads. I looked at the map and decided that at least one end of the trail was somewhere down on the driveway, near to one of the cattle guards (these are a series of pipes or grates that cover a road, allowing cars to pass without having to open a gate but preventing livestock from crossing.) We found what I thought looked like a trail: a wide path through the trees; there was ample evidence on the ground that horses had been using it. We climbed up some steep hills, around past a horse pen, and back up onto the hill.

As I was walking I heard a sound. A sound like a mechanical percussionist playing the maracas. So regular. I kept walking regularly as I processed what I was hearing. Then I stopped. I turned and saw that Karen was staring at an object on the ground; she was shaking. We had disturbed a rattlesnake. My first thought was that the noise of our footfalls had simply disturbed it. In fact, I passed within inches (further examination of a photo would reveal that I may have stepped over the snake.) Karen was nearly crying. I was too stupid to realize what danger I had been in. We walked farther, at least to get some distance from the snake. We stopped for a while. I was willing to go on, Karen was afraid. We decided to stop hiking. We weren't prepared to meet any poisonous snakes. We doubled back. The snake had moved on, although not knowing where it went was not comforting. We found the aforementioned horse pen (empty), which we crossed in order to get back the to B&B more quickly. Our day of hiking was ruined.

Advice for traveling: hiking
As became painfully obvious, not everyone has the same expectations when it comes to the conditions of hiking paths. We take numerous day hikes of various lengths and various difficulties. We were accustomed to well marked paths. It would behoove anyone who expects to do some hiking to inquire into how well these paths are marked and what kind of dangers might be encountered.

We got back into the car, speeding down the dirt road at a reckless 10 mph, and headed back west through the hills. We planned to stop at one of the state parks and hike there. But Karen was still frightened--the paths were not well marked, there were no forest personnel to be seen. So we kept driving on, past Eagle's Nest. We stopped at the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial. Many bikers had used it as a gathering place. They walked around with sullen expressions (how did the Vietnam War become part of the general biker culture?) The chapel and exhibit were erected by Victor Westphall (the historian?) for his son, who died in Vietnam. It was the first monument to commemorate the war. Here is a link to people's experiences of the memorial. We both got teary-eyed.

We tried to find something to do in Angel Fire, but we were at a loss. And then a huge downpour trapped us in the car. So we kept driving west ... all the way back to Taos. Along the way we could see hundreds of bikers who were too foolish to stop; without helmets they covered their heads with their leather jackets and peered just over the handlebars as they rode.

Back at Taos, where the rains had already passed, we ate at Sheva Cafe. The people who ran it were the most laid-back Israelis I had ever met. We ate a hummus plate and a Middle Eastern pizza.

Review of Restaurant: Sheva Cafe in Taos
The cafe serves excellent Middle Eastern food, all of it at least vegetarian (menu), and coffee shop fair. They use organic ingredients when they are available. The food was quite good and not too expensive. We saw flyers around town that the cafe would host a multi-cultural Shabbat dinner along with music for $15/person. I don't know if they do this regularly.

Thereafter we went to the Millicent Rogers Museum and Home. Rogers was a NY socialite who "discovered" Taos and decided to live there. She interacted with the Pueblo and Hispanic artisans as well as the emerging circles of artists in the area, bringing those groups closer together. The museum hosts exhibits of her jewelry (not impressed), a wonderful collection of silver and turquoise jewelry)(both Pueblo and other), Pueblo pottery, and Hispanic folk art. It has excellent examples of pottery by Maria Martinez, the master Pueblo potter.

We tried to see some petroglyphs that were north of the gorge, but alas they were down a 10 mile dirt road. We turned back to Cimarron instead.

It hadn't rained in Cimarron. We were surprised. We took the opportunity to look around. Gavilan has a good view of the mountains, especially the odd-looking Tooth of Time, a rock precipice. We met with two of the other guests, Phyllis and Tim from Ohio. We walked around the property and talked for an hour. They were very friendly people. They had come to Cimarron to deposit their son at Philmont and would return to Ohio at the end of the week.

I will have part V available in two to three days.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?