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A Unique Day in Northern New Mexico

[Ojo Caliente / Abiquiu / Taos, Sep 1, 2018]

We got up early the next day to travel about an hour to Ojo Caliente, where we’d made arrangements to tour the Ra Paulette cave at the Origin resort. This was a very unique experience I have to thank B for finding and arranging.

I wasn’t familiar with Ra Paulette, but this 39-minute documentary describes his work pretty well. He started hand-carving caves in Northern New Mexico after he returned to the US after the Vietnam war. His first cave was on public land. The Bureau of Land Management found out about the cave and told him that they would destroy his cave, so he did it himself. Afterwards, he decided to work on private land by commission, and that’s how his Window of the Earth cave ended up at the Origin resort at Rancho de San Juan. The cave was supposed to take 4 months to build at $1,000 per month – instead, it took 2 years and $25,000.

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Originally a 400-acre property, the original resort was a luxury bed and breakfast owned by an architect and a chef. Stories of $12,000 bottles of wine and a complete chef’s kitchen still survive. Then, the financial crisis of 2008 hit, business took a nose dive and the owners could not keep the property. Some of it was sectioned off and sold as private lots. Today, there is a 140-acre retreat here that focuses on meditation and yoga.

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A short trail (1/3 of a mile) leads to the cave. Along the way, our guide shared interesting tid bits about the native people and the region as a whole.

The inside of the cave was beautiful. It was hard to believe it was all done by hand with primitive tools. There were nooks and crannies and scallops and molded curves. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so that we can immerse ourselves in the experience. Our guide treated us to a sound bath with crystal singing bowls. On a ledge in a nook inside the cave, there was a journal where guests could share their thoughts and prayers.

This was my first time experiencing a sound bath, and it was lovely – so meditative! The whole experience was really unique. I thought the tour would be even better without the lengthy preamble, which took more than half the time. In addition, the price of $87 per person seemed a little steep. We did enjoy the opportunity to chat with the other guests while munching on snacks and cold drinks in the lobby of the resort at the end.

Since we had already ventured out so far from Taos, I thought we could check the nearby town of Abiquiu, where renowned artist Georgia O’Keefe spent the second half of her life. Our first stop was the historic Abiquiu Inn, where we enjoyed a nice lunch on the patio of the cafe.

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One of the things I love most about New Mexico is blue corn, so I ordered the blue corn trout tacos for me while B enjoyed an enchilada. Blue corn was originally developed by the Hopi and the Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande, which is why it’s so popular in New Mexico. It has a distinct sweet flavor.

Right next to Abiquiu Inn is the Georgia O’Keeffe welcome center. Tours of her home depart from this location, but we did not have the time nor the interest to spend $35 a person for it.

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We did stop by Ghost Ranch, where she maintained a studio. Ghost Ranch is an education and retreat center. There is a conference center and lodging run by the Presbyterian church, as well as a museum where one can learn about the dinosaur fossils the area is known for.

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I thought the drive between Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch was one of the most scenic in the area. The storm clouds added a lot of drama to our surroundings.

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On our way back to Taos, we decided to take the High Road, which passes through some of the smallest villages I’ve ever been in. They were all founded by the Spanish and have remained largely untouched by modern times.

Our first stop was Santuario de Chimayo. It’s a Roman Catholic church built in 1816. Every year, anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 people make the pilgrimage to this church during Easter, some as far away as Albuquerque.

Miracles are thought to have occurred at the Sanctuario, and many people bring pictures of family members in need. There were so many photos everywhere, filled with prayers for safe return from a war zone or for a cure for disease. It was really heart-breaking to see evidence of so much suffering in one place. Many visitors also take a small amount of holy dirt from a pocito on site.

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The wall in the background is full of pictures family members have brought, hoping for a miracle

We also stopped in the small town of Cordova. This little place couldn’t have more than a few hundred people living there, high in the mountains on the way to Taos. And still, it had an aptly named gallery.

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In the evening, we finally spent some time in Taos proper. We walked by the Taos plaza on the way to dinner. Taos was established in 1616 by the Spanish. Initially, relations with the native Taos pueblo were amicable, but that didn’t last long. In 1680, Taos Pueblo joined a widespread pueblo revolt, one of the few organized acts of resistance against the Spanish. The natives were defeated in 1696, but the Taos pueblo survived and is still inhabited by native people today. Most of the Spanish families in the area came in the late 18th century when they received a land grant. A fortified plaza was built that is now home to art galleries, museums, restaurants and the historic La Fonda hotel.

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We had a really nice dinner at Lambert’s, a restaurant near the plaza. Their patio was amazing, and the crisp evening was perfect for al fresco dining.

The food was amazing too. We shared a delicious mozzarella appetizer, followed by zucchini pasta for me and steak for B. The waiter made sure I understood there is no regular pasta in the zucchini pasta, which I found funny because such a remark would be completely unnecessary in health-conscious California.

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