The perfect birthday: a day in Taos NM

It was going to be a perfect birthday. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had a plan: a day-trip to Taos NM. There were two things I really wanted to do. The first was to revisit the Ponce de Leon Hot Springs, a spot I’d been to on my first trip to Taos NM in 1973. The second was to check out the John Dunn Bridge, something we’ve wanted to do for a while. We were finally getting around to it. This legendary bridge over Rio Grande, at the bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge northwest of Taos. was the only road crossing

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos NM is the 6ht highest suspension bridge in the USA. photo Steve Collins

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos, photo/Steve Collins

Here’s the first problem. Things just don’t stay the same. I’d figured out where the hot springs were on a slow day at work about 6 years ago. But with one thing and another, we never got there. In March 2012, we almost made it, but the day had gotten too long and we thought, “Next time.” You know all those adages about doing things when you can? Listen!  In July 2012, the sacred lands the springs are on were returned to the Taos Pueblo. Too many people were abusing the site and there’s now a fence across the

The Ponce de Leon Hot Spring in Taos NM belongs to the Tais Pueblo and is now closed to the public photo Robert Cafazzo

Ponce de Leon Hot Springs, Taos, photo/Robert Cafazzo Two Graces Gallery, Taos

We couldn’t find directions to the John Dunn Bridge online. When we asked people who’d been there, they were pretty discouraging. They told us how bad the road was, about the scary switchbacks and hinted that we might have issues in a two-wheel drive car. We could handle a couple of switchbacks; we’d been driving mountain roads for years. We were a bit wary, but were going to go.

Once in Taos, we wanted to grab fast sandwiches to go, figuring we’d eat at the John Dunn Bridge, but we didn’t factor in how busy the town gets in summer. We tried a few places, but nothing was working out for us. Frustrated and a bit hungry, we headed off to Arroyo Hondo where the turn-off we needed was. We knew we weren’t going to run into any food on our route but we wanted to get on our way. And then I saw it: a sandwich board sign on the side of the road that read “Farm Café”.

Farm Cafe Taos NM

The Farm Cafe, photo/Steve Collins

We missed it and had to make a U-turn. It was in the quaint area of shops belonging to the Overland Trading Company on the northern outskirts of Taos. We parked and went to the door. Locked!  This day definitely wasn’t going our way.  And then we spied three women sitting at a table on the patio. We asked them if the restaurant was open and  indeed it was.  Here’s where the day turned lucky. They’d opened a mere two days before. While not fully up to speed, they had a few offerings. I tasted the vegetarian squash, corn, and chard soup and was sold. A cup of that, a shared curried chicken salad accompanied by a few of the crusty, house-baked rosemary rolls and we had a feast..

The best thing about the Farm Café? The food is, as much as possible, organic and directly from the farm to the table.  Owner Michah Roseberry, who owns and runs Cerro Vista, an organic farm in the area, says she’s committed 100 per cent, to serving organic food. Her son Kiah, runs the café.. We got to chat with Micah as we ate. When lunch was over, it was later than we thought and we said we’d bag our planned trip to the bridge. “Oh, no, go,” she urged. We said it was too far for that day.  “It’s only about 20 minutes,” she said. When we expressed our concerns about the road she assured us it was fine and off we went.

Tables set out on the beautifully landscaped patio at  the Farm Cafe Taos NM photo Steve Collins

Tables on the beautifully landscaped patio at the Farm Cafe, photo Steve Collins

The drive down to the John Dunn Bridge after the turn-off from NM 522 was an ooh and aah experience. There were panoramic views before starting the descending into the gorge, then great rock formations and then the rushing waters of the Arroyo Hondo Creek.

Rock formation on the winding dirt road down to theJohn Dunn Bridge  in Arroyo Hondo north of Taos photo Steve Collins

Rock formation near John Dunn Bridge, photo Steve Collins

We reached the bottom of the road, looked at each other and said, “Wow!”

The John Dunn Bridge crosses the Rio Grande in the Rio Grande Gorge nothe of Taos in Arroyo Hondo NM photo Steve Collins

The John Dunn Bridge, photo/Steve Collins

People were swimming in the very muddy waters north of the bridge and south of the crossing, others were fishing on the grassy east bank. We crossed the bridge and started up the road on the other side.

We got as far as a small parking area, overlooking the Rio Grande, just before the first switchback. This was clearly a road for a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. Hopefully, we’d be back with our intrepid friend Georges of Santa Fe Walkabouts to check this out.

Rio Grande Arroyo Hondo NM

Fishing and relaxing on the south bank of the Rio Grande at the John Dunn Bridge, photo/Steve Collins

We shot some photos, enjoyed the view and took in the wonder of being in the deep gorge. Then we decided it was time to head back to Santa Fe. Our timing was great! A storm was rolling in and as we headed up the dirt road, we gave thanks that we were getting out before the deluge when the dirt roads might turn to mud.

The mountains to t he east of Arroyo Hondo seen comiing out of the road to  the Rio Grande Gorge at the John Dunn Bridge photo Steve Collins

Arroyo Hondo vista as we came up the road out of the gorge, photo/Steve Collins

As we climbed the steep road out of the gorge, I sent a mental thank you to Micah Roseberry for telling us we had to go. She was right. Our so-so day had become a perfect one.

Read more about Taos on Santa Fe Travelers
Things to do in Taos part one
and Part two
Off the beaten path in Taos NM
Taos restaurant round-up
Taos lodging: where to stay on your Taos NM getaway

6 Responses to “The perfect birthday: a day in Taos NM”

  1. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    July 28, 2019 at 11:26 pm #

    I was just looking at the New Mexico folder I’ve created for our trip this fall. (BTW, a real Boomeresque manila folder!) We have one day and night set aside for Taos. Hopefully, we’ll have better luck finding somewhere we can eat!

    • Billie Frank
      July 29, 2019 at 4:37 pm #

      You can find things you’ll enjoy eating all over NM. You just have to pick the places that are flexible and will work with diner preferences- many will. You’ll even find things you can eat in the spicy New Mexican restaurants. And it must b e an age thing- I use manila folders, too.

    • areta newland
      November 14, 2019 at 10:31 pm #

      i lived in Taos for many years most of the restaurants are not very good organic or not as best i know if it is still there is The Trading Post it is in Rancho de Taos a few miles before you hit the town of Taos and we are talking just a few miles…..anyplace else i would suggest you bring a picnic lunch from Santa Fe. No matter have a good trip.

      • Billie Frank
        November 16, 2019 at 10:10 am #

        I think, as with any town, you have to be selective when it comes to dining. There are places that we link and feel comfortable recommending in Taos. Some are in our Taos dining post. The Farm Cafe was great- all fresh and organic food. We also love the Trading Post, still in Rancho and Ranchos Plaza Grill.

  2. Leonard Waks
    March 28, 2019 at 8:08 pm #

    Well, it is probably beginners luck. We drove out of Taos with a picnic lunch we prepared on the george Foreman Grill in our motel room on the Taos strip south of town. We bought the Foreman for $5 at a thrift shop and it saved our lives. Veronica and I prefer doing a bit of shopping and cooking for ourselves so we always have exactly what we want. Unlike dining, shopping in Taos is a snap. Many excellent markets.

    We set out to find the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The map we had was far from adequate, so we stumbled around without knowing where we were going. Finally we found an open general store near Arroyo Hondo and the storekeeper and one of his regular clients directed us to what turned out to be the Dunn Bridge.

    We parked, crossed the bridge and ate our picnic lunch, and watched some guy fish a bit while his dog persistently dug a deep hole. The we crossed back over the bridge and walked onto a low ridge and hiked along the River for a ways.

    Beautiful day.

    • Billie Frank
      March 29, 2019 at 7:24 am #

      Thanks for sharing your John Dunn Bridge experience with us Leonard. We had trouble finding it too and had to ask for help. It doesn’t show up on Google Maps for some reason which may be a good thing as it’s relatively quiet down there. It was well-worth all the trouble to get there. Glad you had a beautiful day, too.

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