After a warm day learning about desert plants, nothing felt better then dipping our toes in the chilly water of the Rio Grande.

Today was about water, its power to carve the Rio Grande Gorge, how plants have evolved to rely on very little water, and how a homeowner can design a home to be completely off the grid, including water.

We started our morning at the Rio Grande Gorge, a dramatic gorge carved by the Rio Grande River. It is the same age as the Grand Canyon, but it is carved from much harder volcanic rock rather than the sandstone in the Grand Canyon. It is still spectacular and a testament to the power of water.

Dipping my toes into the Rio Grande, a cool 50 degrees

Many of the plants we saw today look like something only a mother could love. They are covered with needles and spikes. But they still offer practical uses. Native Americans use fibers from the roots for weaving, the spikes for needles and other parts of the root for a shampoo known for producing a shiny head of hair. The local Walgreens sells yucca shampoo, and one of my classmates has already tried it. I’ll be bringing some home.

Dipping our toes in the river was nice ... But then we had to hike back to the van.

From looking down at the gorge we traveled to a spot along the river where we could hike down to the shore for a close view of the water. Steaming hot water bubbles out from the side of the gorge to create a hot spring. Most of us opted to soak our feet in the cool river instead.

From the river Dr. Ubelaker took us to the home he designed outside of Taos. In an open and gracious stucco home with a wall of windows overlooking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, he lives completely off the grid. His water comes from a well, power from solar panels and heat from warm water in pipes that run under the tile floor. The local electric company actually owes him money for the surplus electricity his solar panels have created.

Nightlife tonight is an anthropology lecture by SMU anthropologist Christopher Roos. Two of my classmates spotted the beavers at work last night, and my classmate Sandra spotted one just about 30 minutes ago while we were taking the nature trail from the dining hall to the library. He was swimming across the pond with a willow branch in his mouth. Then he disappeared into a hole in the bank.

Classmate Tomasina

Facts of the day

  • Several of us represent the second generation of SMU-in-Taos students. Our daughters were students here before we came.
  • More than 100 Taos residents filled the dining hall tonight for the lecture. SMU-in-Taos hosts weekly lectures or performances for the community during the summer, and the residents come out in droves.
  • Wildlife sightings: Beaver, prairie dogs, quail, magpie, red-winged blackbird, rabbit, ground squirrel.

Lunch on the patio of Dr. Ubelaker's home near Taos. Great view, wonderful conversation, delightful classmates