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How to Deal With Food’s Side-Effects
Got the morning munchies? In Taos, locals and visitors alike beeline for Michael’s Kitchen, where you can enjoy French toast, pancakes and other breakfast delicacies. Drown with butter and syrup, and you have an outstanding taste treat that’s unfortunately highly calorific.

Viva La French Toast and pancakes at Michael's Kitchen, Taos, NM

Viva La French Toast and pancakes at Michael’s Kitchen

My next question is always, “Where can I go to burn it off afterward?”

Lucky for all of us, there are several spots near Taos where your eyes can feast while your body shreds it.

Going Down
When the Rio Grande Rift pulled things apart between Colorado and Mexico, it created a chasm for the river to flow south. In places, that chasm is 800 feet deep, cutting through layers of hardened lava. Just off New Mexico Highway 68 south of Pilar, you can find a visitor center for Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and a trail leading down to the river. When I first visited Taos in 1991, you could still drive down on Highway 570.

Rio Grande Del Norte Slide Trail

Into the gorge, Rio Grande Del Norte Slide Trail

But frequent rockslides kept 570 closed, and today it’s a gently-graded trail to the river. You may still smell intense sage in early winter or spring – that hasn’t changed, depending on the weather. I’m always amazed at the effects of planetary plate motion and water slowly carving the rock away. Geologists love the cuts into the layer cake of old lava flows.

The bridge at the bottom, Rio Grande Del Norte Slide Trail

The bridge at the bottom, Rio Grande Del Norte Slide Trail

At the bottom, you can continue across the Rio Grande, or retrace your steps back up. It’s a good burn either way.

Climbing Up
Locals take the Devisadero Loop Trail for a quick escape. Head east about three miles from Taos on New Mexico Highway 64 and watch for the signed trailhead. Outside the popular summer season you’ll see fewer hikers, but on any weekend, you’ll still find dogs and their people walking the switchbacks to enjoy views of the Taos Valley.

Taos Valley from the Devisadero Loop Trail

Taos Valley from the Devisadero Loop Trail

After the first couple hundred feet, I saw the obvious steep, cleared area underneath the power lines and wondered, “I have to walk up THAT?” Just keep looking for the gentler switchbacks – you don’t have to follow the footsteps of the utility crews. You’ll get views of the entire Taos Valley with its smoothly-rounded contours. The whole thing was once a molten lava field, not too unusual for New Mexico.

Remote east view from the Devisadero Loop Trail 108 Taos

Remote east view from the Devisadero Loop Trail

On the Level
If you’d prefer something flat, head north towards Questa on NM 522 to Rio Grande Del Norte’s Wild Rivers visitor center. The trails follow gently-rolling terrain through pinon, juniper and gambel oak. You’ll also have views of hulking Cerro Montoso to the west and the Guadalupe Mountains east of you. It’s another dog-friendly route, featuring more solitude than most trails this close to Taos. This one can be better with canine and human companions to talk to, though I sometimes prefer a walk with my own thoughts.

Guadalupe Mountains from Wild Rivers section, Rio Grande Del Norte

Guadalupe Mountains from Wild Rivers Recreation Area, Rio Grande Del Norte

Any of these hikes are better for shooting early or late in the day. Towards mid-day, I use blue sky shooting techniques to show the story of scrub, old lava flows, and unlikely desert forests.