Where: a few weeks of vacation before we start our summer job. Current stop: New Mexico
New Mexico has been on my radar for years as a place I really wanted to explore in depth, because I just kept seeing awesome places to go all over the state. But, over and over, folks who were actually from the state seem to try to discourage visitors. First, I worked with a guy at Amazon in Texas who warned me away from the area where he had grown up– Las Cruces, NM– because it was such an armpit. And when we were getting our repair work done recently, (in Las Cruces, by the way) the owner asked where we were headed to wait for our parts to arrive. When we mentioned the critically acclaimed Oliver Lee State Park, only 50 miles east, he said, “Hmmm….never been there.” And we talked with a guy today at another wonderful campground where we are staying, with only 3 of the 55 sites filled, who was warned away from the area this time of year because “it’s just too busy.” Here’s my take on the whole mess: Like some kind of state-level Da Vinci Code, New Mexico is so dang great that everyone wants to keep it their personal secret!
Our week at Oliver Lee State Park was amazing. It was always quiet and never filled up, even over the Easter weekend, which is practically a Christmas miracle in this part of the world. The best part is its central location to about a million fun things to do; so many things that we didn’t even do half of what we were interested in seeing!
There is a wonderful hiking trail that leaves from the campground, and leads through scenic Dog Canyon. We did it part way once and about 3/4 through another day. Didn’t quite have the stamina to do the full 10.5 miles!
We loved our daytrip into the Sacramento mountains, the range that’s right behind the campground. Cloudcroft, NM, at 8700 feet, was a cool vacation from the heat of the high desert. Plus, we ate some of the best BBQ we’ve ever had, and enjoyed a hike in the pines along a former railroad that led to a wooden train trestle.
The otherworldly White Sands National Monument was a really unique Parks experience, especially because we got there early enough to beat the crowds, and took the backcountry hike that snakes through brilliant white sand dunes. We felt like we were on another planet, and had a blast playing in the fluffy sand.
The wind carves beautiful shapes:
The wind also eats vegetation that can’t move along with the dunes:
The hike was just a little bit too long. With no reference points to follow, we didn’t know how much longer we had to go, and I got very very tired of going up dunes! :
We even went on a farm tour at a Pistachio farm…and ate our body weight in the free samples.
In order to be closer to the repair place in Las Cruces (whenever our parts come in) we relocated to a
lovely campground in the shadow of the gorgeous Organ Mountains, I mean a terrible, horrible no-good campground near Las Cruces. Now that I’m in on the secret of yicky New Mexico, I guess I’m honor-bound to guard it, too. I mean, look at what a god-forsaken place we’re in now: