Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Road to Ojo Sarco

This is the road to Ojo Sarco. It's the road I have to take to see my friend Daniel who lives on that road in that valley. It's inimitable beauty has captured my imagination for years. I think it might well be my favorite road in the world. And I have seen a lot of roads.

I relish any chance to visit Daniel just so I can drive this road and marvel at the rock formations and that endless sky. This road makes up almost half of Daniel's 45 minute commute to Taos five days a week. He grouses about the distance -- I say he is one lucky human to call this valley home. And snow days, unable to navigate the meandering dirt road, would be a bonus getting to stay home, unable to get to work.

The drive to Ojo Sarco from Santa Fe is about an hour following the centuries-old High Road to Taos. I made this drive just last week -- only now I live nine hours away in Oklahoma; the drive is well worth it.

Blogger buddy Julie Zickefoose discovered this road last fall and aptly likens these serrated hills to the spine of a Stegosaurus. Its definitely befitting of the ancient, primordial feel this valley projects. Time stands still. If you look carefully as you walk, a jaunt through those hills will slowly reveal paleozoic fossils from the shallow Permian sea beds that once covered this area. Not quite stegosauri -- but certainly a marvel to any rock hound and I try to remember to wear deep pockets and keen eyes on any outing with Daniel.

Driving back south on the road from Ojo Sarco, toward Santa Fe, offers a different view -- the majestic Sangre de Cristos and Truchas Peak. Its the snow melt and late spring runoff from Truchas Peak that made the Ojo Sarco valley the perfect place for the Spanish to settle 410 years ago. The water-bearing acequia, an engineering feat passed from the Romans to the Spanish, that runs through the valley is treasured beyond human lives, even. Water is the life-blood of these communities.

The village church, sitting just off the road, is quite a legacy to the history of the valley. This area of northern New Mexico and its centuries old struggle with land, water and culture was the inspiration for the 1973 John Nichol's novel and subsequent 1988 movie "The Milagro Beanfield War".

The ultimate in eco-friendly green construction: 14 inch adobe walls made of mud and grass kept the heat in in the winter and the hot air out in the summer. When the houses were no longer desirable - they were left to melt back into the landscape. Hard times in this valley have seen a number of these lovely, efficient earthen homes be replaced by more mobile ones.

The road to Ojo Sarco is a bird-lover's paradise and lined with some quite spectacular birds - mostly unidentifiable to me so far, the novice bird watcher that I am. Quite a few are frequent visitors to Daniel's house and with time and binos and a wireless computer connection -- I am slowly putting the bird-life puzzle pieces together. The summer birds are unbelievable, I will come back just to see the many types of tanagers, flycatchers, phoebes and woodpeckers that make their home here.

Some of the most common birds I have since learned to identify:

The black-billed magpies are one of my favorites. A flock of them rules the roost over the compost pile in Daniel's backyard. I call them Orcas of the air with their stunning black and white coloring.

This black-headed grosbeak, a recent spring arrival, proved to be a lifer for me. I think it might be one of the most beautifully colored and patterned birds I've seen in my seven months of serious bird watching. This photo does no justice whatsoever.

The scrub jay is one of the most common, year-round residents here and flocks of them were everywhere on this spring day "shreeping" throughout the valley and commanding all the feed trays.

This sweet little female mountain bluebird seems none so pleased that St. Francis is pointing right to her nest box.

Oh, if only I could capture the night time sky for you. You have never seen a sky so full of stars -- it's like camping out in a planetarium -- every upward glance takes your breath away. Fitful sleep in the high-desert air is accented by the graceful howling of coyotes. A little night music beyond what even Mozart could muster.

The morning of April 27 dawned bright and....cold. This is what we woke up to - ice has no place in April in my book.

Brrr....it was time to dive back down the mountain to Santa Fe and then eventually onward back east to Oklahoma.

Hey Julie, that Sotheby's sign is still there -- not too late to change your mind. I wouldn't mind having two places to visit on the road to Ojo Sarco.


Anonymous said...

What incredible scenery, so rugged, yet so picturesque. Those birds have stolen my heart!

Doug Taron said...

That scenery reminds me of some of the parts of southeast Arizona that I love so much. It triggers fond memories of collecting, which is excellent in that part of the world. I'll bet it's pretty good around Ojo Sarco, too.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic scenery!
And a very great road to drive along.

Marie Walden said...

Truly inspiring. I need to drive that road.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh thank you thank you Timmo, for the road to Ojo Sarco, for the collared lizard on unprounceable granite, and for your admission of acrophobia--I'd be right there beside you, crawling around like a tarantula. Mountaintops and high winds, noooo thanks. But man, what a view. Outward Bound for TR!
Git us some money, will ya, and we'll ring up Sotheby's.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin