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Trapped in Taos

By John Locke - Posted on 28 February 1996

I arrived in Taos mid-morning, and sat in the Main Street Cafe for a while. Outside, the snow fell heavier and heavier. By the time I finished breakfast it was a full blown blizzard. I wandered around the center of town, eventually stumbling into the Tazzo Cafe. "Have a seat," said a grizzled man. He looked weathered, slightly greying, with a mustache.

It turned out that Thomas had spent several years in Alaska, mostly in Homer. He was excited to meet a fellow Alaskan, and since driving on to Colorado didn't seem like a particularly good idea at the time, we headed out to an unmarked hot-springs a 1/4 mile off a tiny road that crossed the Rio Grande. We sat in a comfortably hot pool, right next to the river, in the bottom of the canyon as big flakes of snow drifted over, filling in our tracks.

Taos, besides being one of the centers of the universe (along with Crested Butte), is home to the Earth-ship movement. Thomas showed me the original Earth-ship, and then we drove out into the homestead country, where he had built his earth-ship. Well, to me it seemed a bit more of an earth-raft--it was spacious, with windows facing south, made of adobe, but it somehow didn't quite seem. . . seaworthy. The snow on the roof melted into a rain-gutter that drained into a pvc-pipe to fill his cistern. Soon after we arrived, the snow started melting from the heat inside, but the pipe froze solid, the gutters overflowed, and water dripped all over the windows. . . Good effort, anyway.

The full moon rose over the mountains, and the view wrapped around us several times. Sage brush for miles, the lights of Taos at the base of the mountains on one side, dark shadowy peaks on the other. . . the stars shone brighter than they do everywhere else, seeming to reach out across the light years and grab your soul, not allowing you to think for minutes, days at a time.

Daylight arrived slowly, in a dense fog. 4° F, read my thermometer. I don't think so. I rolled over and snoozed. . . until a beam of sunlight fell upon my eyelids. Suddenly it was warm. White mountains rose above the fog, the sky was bigger than the earth, the sun heating up all. Wow. Taking my leave of Thomas, but not before he gave me a case of hand-painted candles he makes and sells, I drove up to the ski area. No, I can't ski. . . I can't justify spending $37.00 for a lift ticket, when I don't even know anyone to ski with. Besides, I need to drive on up to Colorado, if I'm going to make it there at all. . . No, I can't do it, I can't afford it, besides, can I even remember how to ski?

Soon I was staring down a tight tree run, somewhat tracked up but still great skiing, a double-dimond run for the first run in eleven months. . . Wahoo! I can still ski! Skiing Taos on the best snow day of the season, with great weather, is not optional.

I hooked up with all kinds of people, had one of the best ski days of my life. 18" of fresh powder blanketed the runs--with my late start, I only had one run that was untracked. I hung out with someone who looked familiar all morning, but we never found the connection, and she led me down the steepest, most difficult runs until I was panting for breath. I lost her at lunchtime.

No matter, I hooked up with a group of telemarkers all afternoon, going down mellower runs. By this time I was wheezing and coughing, concentrating solely on trying to breath the 11,000' air. Magically, my skis knew what to do, and seemed to find a line through the nastiest mashed potatos (though the potatos were very fluffy, compared to the NW).

Now, I sit in my van, holding a buddy voucher one of them gave me that lets me get a lift ticket for half-price, still panting, about to go to sleep. In the morning, if it's sunny and I've gotten my wind back, I just might go back up--they're opening the upper ridge. . .

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