Filed under: Family Camping, Historic Places & Landmarks, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, The Road Less Traveled
Picuris Peak 2: The Royal Road!
In my last post, I described a hike I took with my husband Terry and son Ryan shortly after their arrival in New Mexico this summer. They drove out to join me after a long six weeks here alone. We chose to hike the Picuris Peak Trail, near Taos, NM. We had hiked for several hours and were not sure how far to continue, but curious to see what was around each new bend in the road. Our persistence and curiosity was rewarded when, after about three hours, we came upon a large sign proclaiming “El Camino Real.” Here, in the middle of the forest, we had come upon the oldest road in the country. I had seen an obscure reference to the road in the description of this hike, but not being familiar with it at that point, it meant nothing to me. Also, as we had hiked for quite a time by then, I had forgotten the reference in my research.
Officially known as El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (which is Spanish for “The Royal Road of the Interior Land”) it is part of the United States Historic Trail system. It was unofficially used for trade among native tribes since the earliest of times and became an official trade route in 1598 when Onate followed the trail while leading a group of settlers during the era of Spanish conquest. A 1600 mile long trade route between Mexico City and the San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico, the road was used extensively from 1598 to 1882. In 2000, the 404 mile section of the trail within the United States was proclaimed a National Historic Trail and is maintained by both the National Park Service and the U.S Bureau of Land Management.
According to journals kept by settlers, the duration of the trip from the Rio Grande to the San Juan Pueblo was said to take, by wagon and by foot, approximately six months, including two to three weeks of rest throughout the journey. The trail greatly improved trade among Spanish villages and helped the Spanish spread Christianity throughout the lands they conquered. In 1882, the railroad replaced the rutted trail and over time, it faded from sight and memory.
None-the-less, it was quite a pleasant surprise for us to come upon this trail in the middle of the Carson National Forest. And a treat to imagine some of the travelers and the adventures they must have encountered along the way, adding a bit of history and mystery to a pleasant outdoor afternoon. It was an incredible enjoyable way to spend a sunny afternoon with my two favorite men.
To find a place to stay on your next visit to the Land of Enchantment, browse RV and campground directories at Woodall’s online bookstore.