By Carolyn Patten
A good 50 years since the Summer of Love spawned more than 30 communes and “back to the earth” communities in central and Northern New Mexico, the drive for a sustainable way of life — at least for a few vacation days — is still going strong around Taos. This time around, instead of a drafty school bus or a tattered tepee, think luxury linens, ultra-modern kitchens and WiFi that (almost) always works.
Taos Goji Eco Lodge and Farm
An 11-mile drive from Taos along the gorgeous Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, Taos Goji Eco Lodge and Farm offers an idyllic escape in a countryside dotted with flowers and wild grasses. The 40-acre spread is surrounded by national forest, with excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s the only large-scale goji berry farm in the country, and has managed to find a good balance between working farm and highly rated vacation lodging.
Accommodations include a main lodge, used for events such as weddings, and a variety of self-contained cabins, which range from studios to a three-bedroom adobe and log cabin. Four of the cabins were built at the beginning of the 20th century as seasonal lodging for sheepherders and the three-bedroom unit once served as the general store and post office for the village of San Cristobal.
The land was homesteaded in the 1800s. In the late 1920s, writer Aldous Huxley rented a cabin on the property in which to write one of his books. After buying the farm, current owners Elizabeth and Eric Vom Dorp were told a story about Huxley, a dog and an outhouse.
“There was no plumbing at the time,” Elizabeth Vom Dorp shared. “And Aldous helped the homesteaders build an outhouse. The dog scared him. One day it trapped Aldous in the outhouse for three hours.”
The cabins are named for the notable people who hung around there and the nearby D.H. Lawrence Ranch such as Huxley, Dorothy Brett and Frieda Lawrence.
Now fully updated and furnished in “New Mexico rustic” style, they all are fully self-catering with tidy kitchens, comfy queen beds and lots of natural light. Cabins are heated with wood stoves and air pump units. All cleaning supplies are eco-friendly and the water comes from four deep wells fed by mountain aquifers. For the summer visitors who want an “earthier” experience, there are two modern tepees, which sleep two, and share a composting toilet and outdoor bath/shower house.
There’s WiFi in all rooms, and no restrictions on appliances, though the owners ask guests to be conscious of those with heating elements, which draw an outsize amount of electricity. Don’t look for TVs, as there are none, and cell service can be spotty, though the owners offer a landline to anywhere in the U.S. The property is dog friendly, and offers a quiet, peaceful spot to unwind from city life and enjoy such rare treats as quiet sunrises, walks in the wild and fresh mountain air. In season, guests can enjoy fresh eggs and organic vegetables. Rates are $100-$200/night, plus $45-$65 cleaning fee per stay. Additional charge for dogs. After New Years, and until June, monthly rentals are available at more than 50 percent off the regular per night price, and weekly rentals at 15 percent off the nightly rate.
In addition to regular lodging, the owners offer farm-stay retreats/experiences to individuals and families. Each farm stay is created on a one-off basis and can include such down and dirty activities as livestock care, irrigating, harvesting, adobe brick building and beekeeping. Permanent residents at the farm include chickens, turkeys, a goat and two rescue alpacas. Costs vary depending on the length of stay and number of guests.
1530 and 1528 Old State Road 3, San Cristobal
If you’re in the market for a bit more luxury and would like to find out what this looks like when it’s totally off the grid, The Greater World Community, billed on its website as “the world’s first Earthship subdivision,” (established in 1998 by founder/builder Michael Reynolds) has both. This 684-acre community (364 acres set aside for the housing) north of Taos off State Highway 64 now has 75 residences, some of which are available for overnight rentals through the main community website, or AirBNB, VRBO and other avenues. All the homes here are totally off-grid, and about 90 percent of the energy they generate is renewable.
The largest and most exotic of the rentals available through the main website, Phoenix Earthship, features an outer greenhouse with towering banana trees, grape vines, birds, turtles and a fish pond with fountain. The three-bedroom, two-bath space has 5,300 square feet, an interior “jungle,” outdoor fire pit and chicken coop and run. Nightly rates are $410 for the entire house or $140-$245 for one of the wings.
At the other end of price and extravagance are a couple of tidy and charming little Earthship Studios for rental on AirBnB for $90 a night. Complete with brick floors, adobe walls, full kitchen, small bath and sleeping/working areas, they, like all the Earthship places, have tons of natural light and flourishing flowers in the planters, which are part of the whole recycling setup. Showers are solar-heated, filtered rainwater, and water from the showers and sinks feeds the interior jungle planter. When planter water drains, it’s pumped to flush the toilet. There are no restrictions on electricity, as it’s all provided by the sun.
When you book an Earthship stay, be sure to tour the main visitor center, where you’ll get an in-depth look at how off the grid works and what to expect as this unique community develops. Guided tours are $10 per person; self-guided tours are free.
#2 Earthship Way
(575) 751-0462; firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn Patten began her career as a feature writer for the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Santa Fe Reporter. She is the author of the guidebook, “The Insider’s Guide to Palm Springs,” co-author of “Hidden San Francisco & Northern California” and “Hidden Coast of California,” and update author for DK Eyewitness Travel Guides to California, Northern California, Los Angeles, Seattle and Hawaii.