Above: Postcard-perfect views abound at the Río Grande Gorge. Photography by Alamy/Sean Pavone.
I PARK IN THE REST AREA by the Río Grande Gorge Bridge and stride along the West Rim Trail through sagebrush fragrant with morning dew. In the early light, the bridge throws long shadows as it arcs over the river, 650 feet below. Far across the chasm sits Taos Mountain, a breathtaking beauty beneath the rising sun. To the west lies a great flat expanse, punctured by a few distant peaks. If ever there was an invitation to go west and find whatever we deeply seek in our hearts, that impossibly long view across the mesa is it.
About 15 minutes along the flat trail, I see no one and nothing, aside from a jackrabbit that bounces away at my approach. I rest on a bench facing the bridge and slow my breath to meditate. As my stillness embodies the silence around me, I become one with the land. Birds stop noticing me. Ravens and swallows soar up above the cliff edge, wheel over me, and almost skim my shoulder. Hands in my lap, I breathe in harmony with everything around me—the tiny bug in the dirt, the birds riding thermals.
A spark of yellow catches the corner of my eye as a butterfly draws near, its wings flicking up and down as if a creator is pulling its strings. It hovers for a second before ever so gently shivering to a stop on my arm. Out here, beneath the huge blue dome of nature’s church, the troubles of the world feel very far away, and all creatures are family.
The West Rim Trail is on US 64, about 12 miles northwest of the Taos Plaza. Cross the bridge to the rest area. Park on the left and walk only on the trail. (The gorge edge can crumble.)