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Taos Plateau, Towards The Headwaters of the Rio Grande

snow capped mountains - sagebrush plateau

snow capped mountains – sagebrush plateau

We write today from the Taos plateau, in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

The National Monument was designated in 2013 by President Obama (read the Presidential Proclamation, which so wonderfully describes this harsh and beautiful landscape, but please don’t tell Trump!)

Like Trump’s pursuit of a border wall, his shrinking of monuments is not merely about enforcing the boundaries of a physical landscape. It’s also about controlling the narrative of that landscape — about determining who is included and who is excluded. By reducing and eliminating monuments, he is erasing artifacts and people from our national story. In this case, nonwhite people.

In his memo to the White House, Zinke recommended shrinking the boundaries of four national monuments: Gold Butte in Nevada, Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, and Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. Reducing the protected acreage, Zinke argued, would restore “traditional uses,” such as grazing, mining, hunting and timber production.

We reluctantly left lovely Taos early this morning. I’ve been in the mountains on outskirts of Taos for the last 4 days. Camped at about 10,000 feet elevation and I’m still not used to it. I can’t seem to marshal the energy and stamina and wind for a real hike and all the trails seem like they go straight up, so I’ve been basically been limited to wandering the base of the ski slopes and narrow valleys.

The weather pattern is gorgeous but crisp and cold in morning, gradually warming, and then afternoon winds and clouds and thunderstorms. We got a new air mass this morning – the air is not crystal clear like it was. I hope it’s natural pollen, and not smoke from Alberta wildfires.

A few miles out of town, we crossed the Rio Grande gorge:



As the Sagebrush scrub vegetation heated up this afternoon, it gave off this incredibly pleasant and distinct smell, kind of like buttered popcorn. I’ve noticed it before. Very nice. But the wind is constant and the sun is hot, making for harsh conditions (clouds formed over and shaded the mountain range, but the plateau is sun drenched).

Think we’ll hang here for a few days – I’ve got plenty of food, water and good reading (picked up a copy of Library of America’s volume on Jack London in a Taos bookstore) – and then head into Colorado.

It’s a shame I sold my canon L lenses and camera – the small mirrorless camera I have does not do justice to these landscapes!


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