October 03, 2022
Even if you haven’t visited the old adobe mission in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, you’ll likely recognize it. Ansel Adams photographed the church in 1929, and Georgia O’Keeffe painted it in 1930, making it famous to this day.
San Francisco de Asís church
San Francisco de Asís was built in the early 1800s. “Constructed of mud and straw sun-dried adobe bricks, this church still stands as one of the few original buildings in Taos,” according to its website, and it continues to hold services.
O’Keeffe painted the rear of the church by rendering its blocky form into geometric shapes. When I visited at the end of August, monsoon-watered grasses were stubbling the earthen surface of its buttresses.
Along a side wall, orange globe mallow was flowering.
The front of the church is softly molded too, with two bell towers rising above a central arched door.
Inside, the church feels surprisingly airy, even with the old vigas — hand-carved beams — stretching overhead.
Looking back to the entrance
Behind the altar hangs a colorfully painted reredos, or altar screen.
Another screen hangs on an adjacent wall.
The front plaza of the church…
…contains a statue of its namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Beyond a rose-lined wall…
…sits an adobe home or shop with sky blue doors and windows. Sunflowers and painted hollyhocks add a bit of garden.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Approximately 10 miles northwest of Taos, a spiderwebby steel bridge arches across a deep gorge carved into the Taos Plateau. At its deepest, the gorge plunges 800 feet to the snaking Rio Grande River below. But here the bridge soars approximately 600 feet above the river. Strangely, there isn’t a consensus on the bridge’s height. It’s the 5th, 7th, or 10th highest bridge in the U.S., depending on the source. No matter. It’s high.
The bridge sneaks up on you as you cruise across the plain. Suddenly you’re flying across a stomach-flipping abyss, with nothing but empty air all around you.
We parked on the west side of the gorge in a visitor lot with picnic tables and restrooms and walked over to the bridge. Cars and trucks zipped across the narrow, two-lane span. Note the cantilevered viewing platforms poking out from the bridge rail. I only made it to the first one.
An elevated sidewalk runs along both sides of the bridge, and we joined other scattered visitors venturing out for the epic view.
Pictures can’t convey how semi-terrifying it was to lean out over the railing and peek at the miniaturized river below.
That view though. I took it all in on one side of the bridge, my knees shaking as cars whooshed behind me.
During a lull, I crossed to the other side to admire the gorge with late-afternoon light cutting across it. And then I hightailed it back to solid earth.
If you enjoy a thrill, or a glimpse of eons of geologic time, this is an attraction for you.
Sunflowers and mountains near the Gorge Bridge.
Up next: Santa Fe’s Railyard Park built on old train tracks and the colorful farmers’ market. For a look back at my tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home, click here.
I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox!
The Oct. 20th Garden Spark talk “Black Flora” by author Teresa Speight is on sale now, and you’re invited! Teri will be sharing stories of pioneering Black florists, floral activists, and flower farmers doing incredible work across the U.S. Her profiles of these unstoppable creatives in Black Flora are uplifting and inspiring; check out my book review for more info. Come join us and meet Teri at her talk and book signing. Seating is limited, and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. You can find this year’s speaker lineup here.
All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.