La Senda del Medio
Trailhead: Pilar Campground (Rio Grande del Norte National Monument)
Distance: 5.0 miles (easy to moderate)
Logan and I spent the weekend in Taos, New Mexico. I knew that I wanted to get out and explore while we were there, and all the signs were leading me to this National Monument. Truth be told, I couldn't find much information on the hikes here at all...I had a few trails written down on a sticky note that I put in my phone case, but all I had was distance and a general idea of where the trailhead was located. No information about the conditions or the difficulty or anything. Thankfully, the trailer we stayed at had the Taos Hiking Guide and I took lots of pictures of the details on my phone (I was also really glad that this hike was actually legit? I was beginning to question the reality of it until I saw it in that book). We made breakfast Saturday morning and then hit the road to Walmart for sunscreen and eventually to the southern side of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
When we turned off the main road and into the Monument area, we again started to question it's legitimacy (if you're from Botetourt, the road was like the one that takes you underneath Springwood Bridge). We just kept driving, though, trusting that the hiking guide would get us there...eventually we passed the sign for Pilar Campground, backed up in the middle of the road, and pulled in. There were a few other cars in the lot, plus a group returning from what looked like a hike, so we lathered up in our sunscreen and got going.
The trail starts with a little uphill section - as soon as we crested that first hill our mouths dropped open. This was so unlike any other hike we've done. The trail follows the Rio Grande heading north and you're in the gorge itself the whole time. It's kind of hard to explain the magical beauty of this area unless you see it for yourself...you might just have to take my word for it. We were slow getting started because everything was so new and different than what we were used to. Even the rocks amazed me.
I stopped so many times to point to different things that I found fascinating. Eventually I had to tell myself to stop doing that because it was already 11:30 and starting to get hot. We followed the trail as it wound it's way north, staying parallel to the river the entire time. I think this was the first time I had ever seen the Rio Grande and I could not get over it's color - it was almost glacial blue. There were tons of fly fishers and rafters and you could just barely hear the sound of their voices as they laughed and talked while on the river.
Eventually we came to a big wash and stopped in the shade to eat a snack. I was so excited to eat my Luna Rica bars (my newest obsession), but was sorely disappointed when I realized that I had bought the wrong bars! I'm still bitter about that... After sitting and chatting for a while, we got back up. There were a few cairns up the wash, so we headed that way. After about 20 minutes of scrambling, I began to feel weird about the direction we were heading. I looked at the picture of the map that I had taken and then compared it with our location on my GPS and realized that we had just spent 20 minutes climbing in the wrong direction. We turned around and eventually found the right trail - DIRECTLY across from where we sat for our snack - and continued onwards.
We had been planning on stopping by the hot springs on our way home. But the sound of a beer and a nap was much more enticing at that point. So with that in mind we turned around and walked the 2.5 miles back to our car, talking about our Oscars picks and how magical everything seemed on this hike. It's hard to explain the magic of the desert unless you experience it for yourself, and something about La Senda de Medio was especially magical this day.
When we got back to the car, we noticed a piece of paper under Logan's wiper. Turns out there was a $3 fee to use the area and we didn't pay it!! We quickly righted that wrong (and gave extra because we felt bad...) so that Logan wouldn't receive a ticket in the mail in a few weeks. All in all, it was such a great hike and truly a magical place. If you ever find yourself in Taos for the weekend, definitely consider the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument as a place to explore.