Hi again everyone,
Thanks for the comments on last weeks post on the family reunion. I enjoyed sharing it with you and the members of my family. This week, I’m back on track, at least back on the High Road to Taos. This scenic route from Santa Fe to Taos runs about 56 miles through the Sangre de Christo Mountains, a sub range of the Rockies. I drove it twice, once on my way to Taos and again when I left a few days later. As I’ve learned on many other driving trips that when taking the same route, you see different things coming and going. While there were definite familiar landmarks along the way, I kept wondering on the return trip, if I’d seen that site before. It’s nice having both those perspectives on the same road, the same landscape.
It was in the early afternoon when I left Santa Fe and soon turned onto Highway 503 that would start me on the meandering High Road through some spectacular scenery and small towns with picturesque pueblo churches. I missed the turn to Nambe so decided to stop there on my return trip. My first main stop was at the Santuario de Chimayo that was built between 1811-1816. This shrine is a National Historic Landmark and is considered one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in the US. Here’s a few photos then more on it’s founding and attraction to over 300,000 visitors a year.
The land where the Santuario is located was owned by one of the first adherents to the Penitentes sect, a practitioner of ritual penance (self flagellation) common in New Mexico at the time. They built a small chapel then the larger church pictured above as more and more people arrived after cures were reported and the healing power of the dirt became legendary. Many modern day visitors take a small amount of “holy dirt” in the hopes of cures for themselves or others. So much dirt goes out of this Santuario that more has to be trucked in to replenish what is taken! I talked with one person in Taos who took his ailing mother to Chimayo and she got better but later died. You decide! The Church has no position on the validity of the miracles said to have happened at Chimayo but then again they don’t discourage visitors either. Anyway lots of people seeking cures and redemption visit these grounds. Here are some photos from around the shrine.
As you can see, visitors leave mementos such as crosses, crucifixes, and rosaries asking blessings for living, sick and deceased family members. There were shrines located everywhere on the small grounds. As I walked around the little village that surrounds the shrine, I observed this scene, virtually out of the 60’s!
After scoring a late lunch at a nearby restaurant, I continued my journey on the High Road. My next stop was in the village of Truchas located on a high ridge overlooking the Truchas River. There is an old mission church located in the center of the village. I missed it the first time I drove by as it’s hidden by some other run down buildings. I understand the church contains two large reredos by a renowned artist. Unfortunately, the doors were locked and unavailable for viewing. Apparently, this church is still used and is open on weekends.
On the way out of town, I passed this seemingly abandoned building on the lifeless main street of this village. Note the old pay telephone station on the lower left.
The next stop was Las Trampas also home to a centuries old pueblo church, San José de Gracia considered to be one of the finest surviving examples of Spanish Colonial church architecture in the US. As I was photographing the church and the small town square, a few people stopped for a photo or two and moved on very quickly. I, on the other hand, took my time and absorbed what the Spanish settlers had to endure to live in the high desert that surrounds Las Trampas.
Just after leaving Las Trampas, I noticed this aqueduct with a wooden flume that crossed a ravine and carried irrigation water from a reservoir up in the mountains to the other side of the road. I’m told that this has been in use for many years and operates without fail when needed.
Because it was getting late in the afternoon and I had to get to Taos to meet up with the photography group, I made tracks down the High Road promising my self to return later in the week.
Next up, The High Road to Taos, Part 2.
Until next week, travel safe,