Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Deep Place in the Earth II

Continued from the preceding post.

The lower end of the Rio Grande Gorge near Pilar, NM. (Photo by Tom Baugh
We also had the opportunity to visit the river at the lower end of the Gorge, near the community of Pilar, New Mexico.  This is a different river, more gentle and much less dramatic.  A road winds along the east bank of the river through the small community of Pilar and up river past Bureau of Land Management campsites until it ends at the confluence of the Rio Grande with the Rio Pueblo de Taos.
The Rio Pueblo de Taos is the same stream that passes through the Pueblo community of Taos on the north side of the present day tourist community of Taos. From Pilar the river flows south through increasingly open and arid land, exits New Mexico, enters the US state of Texas, and eventually joins with the Gulf of Mexico.  Although this lower end of the Gorge is beautiful, it is for some reason here that one becomes increasingly aware of the aridity of this region of North America. During the days that we spent in the Taos area we never purchased a local or regional newspaper that failed to mention the declining water resources of the region.  It is difficult to conceive of anything that will, over the long run, increase the amount of water available to New Mexico.  And yet growth continues to outstrip the sparse water resources.  The situation here is no different than that facing many other parts of the world.  Our populations continue to grow, our needs for natural and processed resources continue to expand but water, the most essential resource of all and the most limiting next to air, continues to decline.
A very small seep from a volcanic hillside above the Rio Grande (Photo by  Tom Baugh)

Continued in the next post.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Deep Place in the Earth I

Rio Grande River hundreds of feet below the bridge. (Photo by Tom Baugh)
My wife Penny ( and I recently had the opportunity to visit the Rio Grande Gorge in the northwestern part of the US state of New Mexico.  Although not as deep and nowhere near as wide as the Grand Canyon, the Rio Grande Gorge is a very impressive rift, a very deep place in the Earth.  The Taos Mesa is an immense extent of sagebrush covered land, dotted here and there with the signs of humanity,  that stretches for miles. Even on a sunny day there is a brooding aspect to this place.  The frequent patchy clouds sail across the sky, pushed by the ever present winds, and darken the earth below in great shifting patches of a natural melancholy.

Dwarf yucca among the lava boulders. (Photo by Tom Baugh)
You can visit the Gorge in several different ways.  For example, you can drive across the Gorge on a bridge located a little north and west of the community of Taos.  The Gorge isn’t obvious until you are right upon it.  One moment you are driving on a hard asphalt surface with high desert seemingly on all sides and in the next moment you are suspended in space on a thin ribbon of concrete and steel with the Rio Grande winding far below and nothing but very empty space under you. It can be a breath-taking experience to come upon  the Gorge and its namesake river in this way.  This is an incredibly fractured lava land with great chucks of black rock descending from the rims of the Gorge deep into the river itself.  

Continued in the next post.