Five Taos Firsts

The Río Grande Gorge from the Taos Overlook, off State Road 68 near the "horseshoe." 

Any Taos resident, and many longtime visitors, will tell you there are a series of events that help reveal Taos' true character. These are experiences that you only get once, but that stay with you a lifetime. These are life-changing events like the first time you drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, or see Mount Rushmore. I'm sure the French have a word for it, that feeling of seeing something so special for the first time. Here, we just call it Taos.

Here are five of those moments you can keep to yourself, or share with others.

Seeing the Gorge from the “horseshoe”

Anyone who's ever travelled to Taos from the south on State Road 68, along the Río Grande, knows what I am talking about. When you come out of the canyon north of Pilar, you are briefly treated to one of the most amazing sights on earth, an almost aerial view of the Río Grande Gorge cutting deep through the earth. If it's your first time, pull over and savor the moment. If you're in a hurry, don't worry, you'll get another glimpse after you pass through the stretch of road known as the horseshoe. Both views are amazing. At the south end of the horseshoe, you have the “lone tree,” another mythical figure in local lore. Around the bend, you can find a stand selling piñon nuts and other local delicacies.

Cresting Wheeler Peak

At 13,167 feet above sea level, Wheeler Peak is the highest peak in New Mexico. It lies just southeast of Taos Ski Valley. There are three main routes to the top of Wheeler Peak. The old standby (trail 90) begins at the TSV and reaches the peak, via Bull of the Woods Pasture, after 7.3 miles and more than 4,000 feet in elevation gained.

The shorter route is to take the trail to Williams Lake trail. Park in the lot before you get to The Bavarian and then ascend a series of switchbacks the remaining two miles to the top of the peak. and take the Williams Lake trail. This route shaves about 6 miles and several hours off the trip to the summit, but is less scenic. There is also a 7-mile route on Trail 91, out of Red River.

And while the journey is important, reaching the peak is the goal. Along the way, you may see big-horn sheep and other wildlife, but on top you'll be able to see a panorama of Northern New Mexico to the east, west, north and south.

First sunset

This one is a little easier to obtain than climbing Wheeler Peak, and most folks will get to experience their first Taos sunset on their first day in town. All you've got to do is wait until the sun is going down and find a vantage point with an unimpeded view west (not that hard to do in Taos valley). The wide open horizon to the west, along with our clear skies creates sunsets that are hard to beat.

Taos Pueblo Powwow

If you've never been to powwow, you'll never forget the first time you go. The sights and sounds are amazing, as drums beat in unison with a group of dancers in beautiful regalia. The atmosphere is dynamic as the smells of fry bread and other delicacies fill the air. The spirit is familial as people from all over the country come to Taos Pueblo powwow, to compete as dancers, and to celebrate Native culture. Early July (this year's powwow is July 11-13) is usually when the monsoons show up, so the air is usually cooler after an afternoon shower.

Breakfast burrito

If you're visiting from in-state, no biggie, you've had breakfast burritos before. However, if you're joining us from somewhere outside the great Southwest, chances are this is new to you. Taos is a great place to have your first breakfast burrito. The common choices are bacon, sausage or chorizo. They are usually served with scrambled eggs and sometimes beans or potatoes.

The most important part of the equation, however, is the chile. Here's where you get to answer the state question: red, or green? Reds are traditionally smokier in flavor while greens often possess a tangy sweetness, along with some real kick. The great thing about the question? Either way, you're right!

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