Earthships and off-the-grid-dwellers, NM.

The high desert around Taos, New Mexico, is a vast and open expanse, intercut by the deep gash of the Rio Grande Gorge. It’s a desolate, volcanic landscape that hides ancient petroglyphs, hot springs and crumbling ruins.

In the last couple of decades, it’s also become the home to communities of off-the-grid-dwellers, sharing a new interpretation of the American Dream. Resembling fantastical sets from a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie, their abodes work in synergy with the land, harnessing the forces of passive solar heating with traditional adobe building techniques, using foraged-for recycled materials, like tyres, bottles and aluminium cans.

At times, these dwellings are barely discernable above the desert sagebrush. Mole-like, their inhabitants have burrowed into the ground; escaping the summer heat, yet coddled by the warmth of the earth in the cold winter months.

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A low and squat earthship, characterised by its series of large windows for passive solar heating. Thick walls provide thermal mass to regulate temperature.

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Handcrafted, Gaudi-like curves, embedded with recycled bottles.

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In harmony with nature, both practically and aesthetically. There’s a sense of belonging to these homes.

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Recycling techniques at the Earthship visitor centre; old tyres and aluminium cans are key materials in earthship construction.

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Gateway to an alternative world.

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This adobe dwelling on the outskirts of Arroyo Hondo looked like it might be home to a family of Jedi Knights.

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Dotted amongst the desert around Tres Piedras were the shells of old school buses, their iconic yellow paintwork fading in the sun. This pickup seemed in good working order – most had their hoods ajar and engines surgically removed.

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Desert junk to some. Earthship-building materials to others.

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A wall built from wine bottles, of which there seemed to be plenty.

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An earthship peeping out above the high desert sagebrush.

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Dobson House earthship, built 17 years ago, also doubled up as a beautiful B&B.

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We’d have splurged and stayed there if we could, but it wasn’t open to guests that night.

In the underground belly of Dobson House.

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Here, scifi-style rooves provide insulation and help circulate air within.

Great setting too, in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

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Dirt roads linked the various communities around Taos. These areas are popular with all kinds: eccentrics, counter-culturalists, artists, creative thinkers, seekers of a more sustainable way of living, or simply those in search of desert solitude.

Yep, no shortage of a little peace and quiet around here.

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Hiking down into the bowels of the gorge to the Rio Grande…

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… where pools of thermal water await.

Early morning on the Taos Plateau. We camped out amongst the sagebrush, watching hot air ballons float up towards the ether. Their slow, gentle form of movement seemed in keeping with the silence of the surroundings. Perhaps one day everyone will travel by bicycle and air balloon, and live in earthships…

Links:

Earthship info.

Plan D has 2-4 week off-grid residencies this summer…

Treat yourself to a night in an earthship B&B, at Dobson House.


14 thoughts on “Earthships and off-the-grid-dwellers, NM.

  1. gyatsola

    Ah, I see you did find the Earthships. I’m embarrassed to say I only saw them entirely by accident, as I hadn’t intended to go in that direction I didn’t do any research, I didn’t even know much about Taos. When I was 15 I had my appendix out and while recuperating I was given a stack of science magazines (mostly the sadly defunct ‘Omni’), and I was fascinated by an article on the then very new Earthship concept. I resolved to go visit one day, and then forgot all about them. So when I cycled past I just thought ‘wow, those look familiar….’ As usual, I was late on the road so I only had a couple of hours to explore before I had to move on, but they are fascinating (although I wished then I had a better lens on my camera so I could zoom in a bit on all the interesting details).

    Reply
  2. jason

    hey

    nice blog, awesome pics, like your style…

    I just emailed steve who has the casa de ciclista in quito, anyway he told me you were heading this way. Im interested to know if you have any cool routes planned for ecuador, right now I have no plan other to head south, and then maybe hop back over to the 45 and enter peru that way. You guys are hardcore! dont know how you do it on the dirt roads, I know ts way better but dude, maybe I have just been on really bad dirt roads, the last one from colombia to ecuador took me 3 long long days to do 100k, a lot of big rocks, well mainly big rocks, I almost kissed the pavement when it came, haha…Also i wa sin bariacha for a green film fest, nice town, also found an amazing bouldering spot there by the river, good times…anyway, let me know, maybe see you on the road…

    cheers,
    jason

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      I don’t know my exact plans right now, but I’ll surely be going by Steve’s place (and I left some kit in the Casa de Ciclistas nearby). Steve is a real mine of information for dirt roads in the area, so I’m hoping to pour over a map with him and figure out an interesting route. You should also check out these two blogs, as there’s loads of cool, off-the-beaten path stories, images and route ideas to be found…
      http://bicyclenomad.wordpress.com/
      http://joecruz.wordpress.com/

      Reply
  3. AskB

    Just out of curiousity since I came across your blog searching for info on the Panasonic GF1 as a travel camera. There are some great shots here (although I wish they were bigger…). Are you still using the GF1?

    Reply
    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Thanks.

      I’ve been alternating the Lumix with my Nikon D300 at different points in the trip. To be honest, I don’t notice a great difference in image quality. I prefer the GF1 for size and weight, but I still find myself drawn to the DSLR for action stuff.

      Reply

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