Taos and Earthships


The drive to Taos was two hours, but not because of distance. The speed limits were only 50MPH and once we got to the ski-town, the two-lane roads moved at the pace of molasses.

Taos is an adorable city though. In fact, most of the New Mexico cities are. I’m quite fond of Spanish architecture. It has character. Plus, it’s so different from the French style I’m accustomed to.

Our reason for going this way was to meet up with our friend Ben Harper (not the music star — but he is a star in his own way). Ben was finishing up his internship with Earthships, houses built out of natural and recycled materials.

I guess here is a good time to explain how I know both Nick and Ben. Four years ago, I was the assistant manager for University House apartments, a student housing complex. Basically, I was a mom for 500 college students two years in a row.

You know, the whole reason I am writing for Project Path Unknown is because of UH. The founder, Shaun, lived there too. And when he would come into the office to “discuss” apartment issues, I was the one who helped him.

Anyways, Nick and Ben had special roommate situations and I ended up befriending both of them. It was through their encouragement, that I ended up quitting my role in corporate America to finish my bachelor’s degree.

Both were originally architecture majors and we all often discussed how to make the world and Lafayette a better place. Ben was a connossier of documentaries and Youtube. This is how we were introduced to Earthships.

If you would have told any of us two years ago that we would actually be sitting in one of those things together, we wouldn’t have believed you. But alas, there we were.

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The community has been underway for over 15 years and was started by Mike Reynolds. He began the biotecture design to provide self-sufficient, low-impact buildings locally and around the world. It is located 1.5 miles past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on US Highway 64 West.

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According to their brochure, The Greater World Earthship Community is the world’s largest self-sufficient residential development. It comprises 650 acres of rolling mesa and features expansive views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and 347 acres of commonly owned park land.

We were awe-struck when we saw the ships across the horizon. They are bright and colorful and seem cozy. But it’s literally in the middle of the desert. The view is amazing though–pure beauty at its finest.

We drove up to a building site to find the happiest hard-labor workers I’ve ever encountered. They literally beat tires and cement things all day, but are completely satisfied at the day’s end.

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There were interns from England, Scotland, New York, Chile and beyond. The four-week program doesn’t pay anything, but you would never guess from their attitudes they made no money.

Ben took us on a tour of a single-room ship. I couldn’t get over how efficient it was. There is a green area of plants right when you walk in, a dome living room, an adorable kitchen and then a round bedroom with the closet built behind the bed, and a bathroom.

Each ship has water harvesting, a contained sewage treatment, solar/thermal heating and cooling, solar and wind electric power and food production.

In Ben’s words, “If something went down, you wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.”

After touring a few more of the homes, we headed back to the hostel in Arreyo Seco, a tiny mountain town. We met a guy from Mississippi who turned out to be one of the next set of interns. He was so excited to be there. I really can’t describe how enthusiastic these interns are; it’s inspiring.

We decide to head back to the hostel but stop at a gas station to fill up before we venture on back roads in the desert. It was Nick’s turn to pay and when he went to grab his debit card, he realized it was missing. Before complete panic ensued, he remembered the last time he had used it was at the ATM in Santa Fe.

Calls were made to banks and online statements were checked and it didn’t seem like anyone had stolen the card because there were no charges made. I guessed the machine had sucked it back in, but we had to wait until morning to reach a clerk. The only thing we had left to do was head back to the hostel and hope for the best.

We only had to pay $8 to join in the guys’ room…I’ll write more about that experience later.

We woke up early and went to the Taos Cow for breakfast. I had a Greek bagel on a sundried-tomato bagel. It was topped with hummus, cucumber, red onion, and tomato. YUM!

Nick and I were going to try to find this waterfall that the guys were telling us about, but a local told us we should head up to William’s lake instead. So we drove 10 miles up the mountain through the ski valley and prepared for the hike.

I had on tights, a dress, a PKE sweatshirt and my Vibram-5 fingers. My mind was set to make it though.

As we started the trek up the rocky path, we noticed snow. That’s right, snow. To the right of us was a roaring creek. There is something about the air in New Mexico that makes me feel like I’m breathing for the first time.

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Halfway up, we stopped to catch our breath. The altitude here plays chess with your mind. You never know when the Queen is going to sneak up on you and take your Rook.

While we sat, we did some pranayama yogic breathing, which charged us to keep going.

It wasn’t the fatigue that ended up stopping us, but the snow we had to trek through. My feet got wet on the top of my sandal and my toes started to go numb. Nick actually talked me into turning around and after hearing what hypothermia was, I didn’t argue.

As we marched down the mountain, we came across two older women and their dogs hiking the trail (they were appropriately dressed). The woman noticed my shoes and then we made the association that she was in fact the same woman I saw in Santa Fe the day before–while Nick was using the ATM.

When we reached Louis, my cell phone had service again and there was a message from the bank in Santa Fe–they had his card.

We went back to the Earthships to relay Ben the news. We stopped by the Rio Grande Gorge to take pics on our way out of Taos. If this is a taste of what the Grand Canyon will be like, I’m not sure my nerves can handle it. I may spontaneously combust.

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The gorge is so deep, you don’t even realize the Rio Grande runs through it. The raft floating down the river looked like a spec on the floor.

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We strolled through the vendors in the parking lot–we discovered people sell jewelry and crafts on the side of, well everything, in New Mexico.

We hopped in Louis and headed back to Santa Fe. There was something strange about how that city hooked us to return. We went with it like a bass bites the bait and two hours later found ourselves back at the Plaza Cafe.

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