Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Post 200 (corrected number) More from TAOS

    There were several highlights to our October visit to Taos, but these three standout stories with our Photo Tour with Geraint (see the last post).


     We had tried to visit the Taos Pueblo on Tuesday, but it was closed for a special event not open to the public—the tribal members are very private about ritualistic or religious practices. We were glad to see the Pueblo was open to the public on Thursday when we tried again. We got there midmorning and paid our $14 admission.

      The Taos Pueblo is about a mile north of the city and sits at about 7200 feet elevation. The adobe pueblo (Spanish for “village” or ‘town,” but mostly referring to an adobe group of dwellings used by some Southwest native tribes) was built between 800 and 1200 years ago. The Pueblo is backed by the Taos mountains, 

part of the Sange de Cristo range. The tribe owns about 100,000 acres, but only about 20 families actually live in the pueblo and about 1000 tribe members live in the area. The Taos Pueblo is one of those rare places that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a National Heritage Landmark. One of the main buildings on the site is San Geronimo or St. Jerome Chapel, 

which was built in 1850 on the site of an earlier church destroyed in 1847.

 The Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the US. 
     We arrived just in time for a tour guided by a young (college age) native girl whose family owns one of the adobe dwellings. 

Our guide was very good: concise information and histories, good answers to questions, concern for the tourists (about 25 of us). The tour, lasting about an hour, was free, but most guests tipped $5 to $10. We then wandered around the compound looking for photos of the pueblo while trying to be careful not to include residents (or too many tourists). 

The rule is to always get permission before taking a photo of a native—although I accidentally got one in a couple of photos. 

    We thought our tour was great, the villagers were friendly, the buildings lovely, and the experience amazing. Not everyone felt the same way, though. One well-to-do lady kept asking questions that had already been answered. At one point she asked a quite inappropriate personal question of the guide who responded with an appropriate, if not quite so gentle, response. The lady “hurrumphed” and I noticed later didn’t leave a tip. That’s okay, we thought her response was brilliant and left a larger tip. Tourist O, Taos Guide 1. 


     This high road starts in Taos, circles to the east, and comes back to Taos. We chose to drive the circle clockwise, though locals say either way is good depending upon weather. Starting out of town on Hwy 64 we soon turned onto State 512 through Arroyo Hondo. 

The scenery was lovely with mostly yellow fall tones—cottonwoods and aspens. At Questa (elevation 7481 feet) we turned onto Hwy 38 toward Red River at 8400 feet. 

Mountain goats by the roadside.

On this stretch we found not only fall colors, but rocky cliffs as well. Some of my photos reminded me of those taken by Ansel Adams in Yosemite, although on a much less grand scale and not of that quality. 

On second thought, mine don’t compare at all to Adams’ photos, I don’t know why I mentioned it. 
    At Red River we stopped to find lunch or a snack. The only restaurant near where we parked in the construction filled downtown had strange sandwiches, none very appealing—we walked out. We did visit a nice coffee shop and got lattes to go. 

We found a city park where we could park and eat food bars we had with us and drink our lattes. On the way out of town to continue the Enchanted Circle drive we saw some better restaurant choices, but we went on. Got to remember to look at all our options in a new place.                           
    The terrain changed between Red River and Eagle’s Nest. We drove though high mountain meadow or plateau. Views of snow clad mountains were great. 
Old ranch gate on the high plateau.

We pulled into Angel Fire (8460 feet) and half-heartedly tried to find the country club golf course where a friend used to play. Both Angel Fire and Red River are local ski areas. 
Red River ski lift.

 The final stretch—between Angel Fire and Taos—was very different. It was a windy road along the river. Beautiful, but difficult to photograph. The road went though one small village, Shady Brook. The whole trip was fun with great scenery and good photo ops. The entire circle took five hours and is a do again trip. 


     On our last full day in Taos we had plans to visit our unofficial niece who lives in Truchas, NM, a village at about 8500 feet on the High Road between Santa Fe and Taos. We had planned to see them earlier in the trip but the whole family (Jas, Zach, Zea, and Mays) tested positive for Covid. Because of their lifestyle (you’ll understand in a few more lines) we decided to go ahead with the visit masked up and keeping social distance. 
Church in a small village on our way to Truchas.

    The drive up from Taos was difficult. It was the second day of bad weather and the 9500 foot summit we had to cross was shrouded in clouds. When we got to their property about a half mile out of the village of Truchas, it was grand to see everyone and to meet Mays (almsot 3)

—he’s sharp and cute. Zea (six) has turned shy and cute. 

The kids are great—happy and well-adjusted due to good parenting and a wonderful life-style. Zach and Jas are almost finished with the cob (adobe) house; windows are ready to go in and the roof is waiting for a spell of dry weather to be put up. 

The family is happy—they will be really happy not having to live in the yurt another winter—and healthy—except for the Covid probably picked up at the Hot Air Balloon Festival. It’s not a lifestyle that fits all, but it works well for them. We help them when and how we can.                     

   Jas is the daughter of the debate coaches from Taos HS (Bill and Cat) whom I worked with at Southwest debate camps for about 12 years. We became very good friends and Anne would help take care of Jas while we were teaching and listening to debates. She has become an adopted niece and she and her family part of our family.

NEXT: Final post from Taos and Santa Fe.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

#198 Taos Photo Tour

You know we're in the SW, just look at the driver's hat.

During our trip to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, we had planned to spend half a day on a guided photo tour with a local professional photographer. I had toured with Geraint Smith three years before and knew he was a good guide and instructor. Geraint was born in Wales and lived in the UK before coming to the US in 1978 as a young man. Moving to Taos in 1988 Geraint grew as a photographer and sculptural artist. With a huge and varied list of clients, 

Geraint's recent solo show at the Bareiss Gallery in Taos.

Geraint now shows his works at local galleries, produces photo prints of the beautiful Southwest, has a book on the market (Rio Grande del Norte: an Intimate Portrait), and guides photo tours and workshops year round. 

Our afternoon tour on Sunday, October 19, was to center around fall colors and composition skills. The tour started out by adapting to the only rain in several days; where we had planned to go wouldn’t be good for landscape photography. Geraint instead said, “How about we go to Colorado where the forecast is drier.” My response was, “You’re the guide.”

From Taos we headed north in Geraint’s 4-sheel drive small SUV. Our first stop was in Arroyo Hondo, a small village Anne and I had driven through a couple of days before. I hadn’t seen anything to make me stop and photograph, but he stopped on Hwy 522 and pointed out a spectacular cottonwood in full autumn color—a photographer’s dream. 

Using his iPhone camera Geraint showed me a possible composition and checked my shot with approval. The next stop was a little further up the road for a classic horse in the field photo. 

He reminded me to get the horse in focus while keeping the surrounding bushes softly out of focus. 

After a couple more stops along the highway, Geraint suggested we go to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 

Neither Anne nor I had ever been in this area and we were thrilled with the view of the river and canyon.

The weather was still drippy, but the further north we went the better it was for photography—dry with clouds and sun. Our photo subjects now included abandoned buildings, 

quaint churches in small villages, 

Church in Garcia, Colorado.

local wildlife (especially birds},


Red Tail Hawk

general landscapes, all with a background of either the Sangre de Cristos mountains or the closer 10,000 foot Ute mountain. 

Geraint Smith checking a composition.

I shot dozens and dozens of images trying to follow Geraint’s composition hints as well as throw in a few ideas of my own. 

Anne was all this time a participating member of the tour—watching both Geraint and myself, taking a few pictures, as well as actively taking part in the discussions.

It was a long drive home to Taos from southern Colorado with only a couple of stops. Our last photo opportunity was back in Arroyo Hondo at the grand cottonwood along the highway. 

The light was different—sun and clouds rather than gray overcast. The tree and surroundings were even more dramatic than when we started the tour. It provided a fitting ending to a wonderful day’s adventure. Thanks, Geraint Smith.

For more information about Geraint Smith, his photos and tours, see his website: 

NEXT: More of our trip to the Southwest.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

#197 Journaling


I didn’t start journaling until I retired from teaching and was on my first trip to Scotland. My last student teacher had given me a journal for my trip. I found that I loved making daily notes about my travels. I have now over 40 full journals with notes and stories about the trips I’ve taken since retiring, big or small.

At first I wrote in commercial journals, but I realized I wanted something special. 

For a few trips I used special journals that I had printed and spiral bound. 

These were especially good for notes on golf courses and pubs used in writing my first books about Scotland and Ireland. Later I discovered an even better system. Called “Circa” and produced by Levenger (, the basic system consists of a variety of special pages that fit into plastic-ringed binders. 

This journal system is very adaptable; it’s a create-your-own journal system. Staples sells its own system called ARC which fits with most Levenger Circa products. 

Whatever system you try, I whole heartedly suggest you try journaling even on short trips. Having journals with good notes or narratives are useful in many ways: to answer questions about past travels, to help with future travel planning, to relive past trips, among others.

My latest journaling endeavor I’ve mentioned before in my blog—a set of stories from years before I started journaling, a journal of remembrance. I’ve categorized the journal: stories about growing up, about high school and college, about speech and debate activities, about raising and racing sled dogs, about teaching, and about whatever doesn’t fit in the other categories. This post contains a couple of stories from that journal. I would very much appreciate reactions to these stories and particularly whether this type of story is worth sharing in this blog. A Big Thank You to any who do share their reactions.

Note: most of the photos in this post are just some feel-good pictures from this summer.

My Fifth College Year—What a Way to Live

After four years at Linfield College I didn’t graduate but moved to Oregon College of Education for my Fifth Year and secondary teaching certificate. At summer session I took an extremely heavy class load of 21 credit hours (normal would be 12 credit hours). I also had to survive on practically no money. After tuition and books I had about $200 for the two month term.

First was lodging. I rented a one-room apartment for $25 dollars a month which included electricity, water, and garbage. I paid both months up front so I would have a place to live. The room had a kitchen sink and stove and a separate bathroom with shower. It came furnished with a single bed, small table, two chairs, and one small dresser. The unit fit me well, but I soon realized I needed company. One day with no classes, probably a Saturday, I walked to Salem (12 miles), bought a $20 plastic table radio at Pennys, and walked home. Most likely I hitched rides both ways, but I recall walking a lot of it. That radio was my entertainment for the whole year at OCE.

For food I had several strategies to stretch my meager funds:

(1) Three times a week I would go to the college commons to have a butterhorn ($.15) and a coffee with cream and sugar ($.10 no refill) for breakfast. Tuesday and Thursday I had no early classes so I’d skip breakfast.

(2) Dinners were as cheap as I could make them—$.10 Kraft Mac and Cheese in a box, fried cornmeal mush. For meat I’d buy pork steak or bacon (both cheaper than beef) or Spam. Lunch was almost always PB&J or bologna sandwiches.

(3) Once a week or so I’d go to Shakey’s Pizza and scarf—buy a soda and wait until somebody left and clean up their spot (including eating any leftover pizza). The manager never said anything because I was cleaning up the tables.

(4) For a special treat I’d walk down to Wagon Wheel Burgers and have one of their specials—large and cheap at $1.25.

Between summer and fall terms I lived with Grandpa and Grandma Jones in Salem and worked 32 straight days at the Del Monte Canary dumping beets into a cooker (I still hate the smell of cooked beets). For fall term I shared a new apartment with Mike Harrell (my high school and college debate partner). Money lasted until winter term.

Winter term I moved back into the $25 apartment and went back to my survival living. The only difference was now how to heat the apartment. The electrical system would only accommodate my small heater on low which would take the chill off. When I needed to study in my room (most of my time was spent in the warm library) I would open the door of the electric oven, push the table up to the open stove, and turn the oven on low. When I told an older classmate (probably in her 40s) about my arrangement she gave me an electric blanket, which was a life saver.

A couple of days a week I wouldn’t have to buy coffee or butterhorn—someone would buy for me. Several kind souls helped take care of me in small ways. I got a grant for my last term—my student teaching term—which got me into a nice apartment with enough left over for real food. I have never regretted my decision to give up a college teaching assistantship to get my Fifth Year and teach high school. And I cherish all I learned in my year of survival at OCE.

The Telescope that Could Hear the Bees

On the day of the total solar eclipse visible in Oregon, August 21, 2017, I set up a couple of cameras and a couple of telescopes at Charleen and Dave’s (sister and brother-in-law) in South Salem. Their yard had spectacular view of the eclipse path and was filled with family and friends getting ready to enjoy the spectacle.

Before the eclipse, I set up one of the telescopes to view a neighbor’s cluster of bee hives about a third of a mile away. The scope was near a drop-off filled with flowering bushes. I invited people to test out the scope and as they viewed the hives I told them that if they listened carefully they could hear the bees as well as see them in the special scope.

I got reactions such as, “My God, how can you do that?” “I can really hear them!” and, “That’s Amazing!” Word spread and others came to see and hear the bees. Finally, someone asked how the telescope could do that? 

I explained that all you had to do was…and I pointed to the bank of bee-filled bushes in front of the telescope…set the scope in the correct place. 

Next: maybe a real travel post.