Trip Through New Mexico's Red Rock Country
Where else but in charmingly offbeat New Mexico can you find people living in 'earthship' homes or a Wild West town where outlaws -- and ghosts -- are said to have roamed?
When we get to Taos, we wander around admiring the coffeehouses, jewelry shops, and bungalows with signs offering Reiki and massage. I'm already smitten with the quirky little ski town, and then I see theAdobe & Pines Inn, which pushes me over the edge: The 1830s former hacienda is truly gorgeous, with cayenne-red walls, carved wooden doors, wood-beamed ceilings, and rawhide chairs in the rooms. The three-acre property also has a stream and a lawn filled with wildflowers; Dustin promptly jumps in a hammock for a nap under a towering pine tree.
After dinner, our drive back to the inn is hair-raising, with rain pelting the car and lightning bolts flashing across the sky. The power is out at the hotel, so we use the light from my cell phone to find our room. Huddled under the covers, we fall asleep to the crackling of our fireplace.
Adobe & Pines Inn
4107 Rd. 68, Taos, 800/723-8267, adobepines.com, from $98 per night (two-night minimum stay)
Native American jewelry vendors
Santa Fe Plaza, in front of Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe
Santa Fe Boot Co.
60 E. San Francisco St., Santa Fe, 505/989-1168, santafebootco.com
82 Rte. 75, Truchas, 866/692-5070, cardonahinegallery.com
I've already snacked on several chocolate and raspberry croissants before breakfast, so I'm glad Tina, the innkeeper's terrier, is there to help when my omelet and sausages arrive. The dog has a huge stomach—apparently owing to her deep love of sausages—and she stands on her hind legs until I feed her.
After Tina finishes off my breakfast, we're off to seeTaos Pueblo, one of the longest-continuously-inhabited communities in the U.S. The most prominent structures in the adobe village, believed to have been built sometime between 1000 and 1450, are two giant mud-brick complexes that look like toy blocks stacked on top of one another. Only about 50 Pueblo Indians still live in the ancient apartment buildings and the single-story homes around them—the rest of the tribe live in modern homes in an adjacent community. During our tour of the village, the guide explains how the buildings are maintained: They're layered year after year with straw and mud, and some of the walls are now up to two feet thick. To retain the authenticity of the village, the tribe doesn't permit running water or electricity in the homes.
TheEarthship World Headquarters, a 10-mile drive away, couldn't be more starkly different. The space-age community, which looks like something straight out of Star Wars, has dozens of curvaceous "earthship" houses made of stacked tires, glass bottles, and packed dirt. While the homes aren't open to the public, visitors can stay the night in an earthship inn or tour a museum that tells the story of how Mike Reynolds, a local architect devoted to sustainable building techniques, formed the community. My guidebook paints a slightly different picture of Reynolds, calling him a cult leader. I show the book to Hannah, the dreadlocked intern in the visitors center, and she exclaims, "Am I in a cult? Maybe I'm being brainwashed!" If she is, she doesn't seem to mind.
Back in the car, Dustin and I drive into the pine-covered mountains once more, heading south through the Carson National Forest and across a vast expanse of plains toward Las Vegas—the New Mexico city, not the one in Nevada. We're starving by the time we get to thePlaza Hotel, a red-brick 19th-century inn with two grand staircases in the lobby, so we drop off our stuff and head straight to the hotel'sLandmark Grillfor steaks. A few Jamesons later, we're ready to brave the third floor of the hotel, where the ghost of Byron T. Mills, one of the past owners of the property, is said to roam. We creep down the hallway as quietly as we can, but the apparition must be shy because he doesn't make an appearance. When we return to our room, Dustin tries to scare me by jumping out of the dark bathroom as I walk by. I scream, then start to giggle. "Very mature," I tell him.
230 Plaza, Las Vegas, 800/328-1882, plazahotel-nm.com, from $69
230 Plaza, Las Vegas, 800/328-1882, plazahotel-nm.com, steak $18
Veterans Hwy., 2.5 miles north of Taos, 575/758-1028, taospueblo.com, $10