Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Land of Enchantment: New Mexico.

When we planned our drive through New Mexico en route to Colorado, we decided to skip the big cities and head straight for the large northern patch of green on the map - Carson National Forest, including Wheeler Peak (the highest point in the state) and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.

seeking less of this...

... and more of this

After a month of flat plains, rolling hills and fluffy oak trees, we hit rugged mountains and forests of gorgeous pines. After a month of hot, humid weather, we dragged our wool caps and sweatshirts back out of our packs. After a month of Romney-supported states, we were back in Obama territory.

After a month of feeling like tourists, we felt at home.

It was lovely.

We didn't drive more than a few hours at a time over those four days, which was also lovely, and we got in about 18 miles of trails. Highlights included...

Wheeler Peak from Oeste Vista hike near Angel Fire

Clear Creek hike near Cimmaron Canyon State Park
(loved the aspens at the top of the creek)

views from the Clear Creek hike

snow on the Italianos Canyon hike near Taos

Wheeler Peak from the Italianos Canyon hike

creek along the Italianos Canyon hike

Yep, the Italianos Canyon trail was still snowed in about three miles into the hike - we did not expect to see snow in May in New Mexico, especially after a month of hot weather! Our visit may have been a bit early but we did see a few signs of spring...

coming soon

columbine everywhere

name that flower -
creeping grape or goldenrod?

asters were going crazy too

Lots of familiar and not-so-familiar wildlife, too...


warblers, I believe? ('lil help?)

crazy rock-like moth on the Italianos Canyon hike

another warbler?

chubby chipmunks

airing out

When we weren't hiking we were driving the 86-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway that loops around the mountain range. In addition to scenery there were some randomly interesting things too...

Palisades Sill, formed 40 million years ago
(technically not on the loop but close enough)

keeping the Enchanted Circle weird (part one)

keeping the Enchanted Circle weird (part two)

highest elevation on the drive

Along the way there's also Elizabethtown ghost town (New Mexico's first incorporated town with a sordid history, closed when we tried to visit) and a UNESCO pueblo (which we skipped due to time, we hoped there were many of these in our future). Oh, and Taos, of course, but we didn't spend much time there. The drive was definitely pretty but we probably wouldn't go out of our way to do the whole loop again. We'd rather find more trails!

New Mexico's state parks with camping facilities deserve their own post - they're awesome. But we also stopped by Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park on our way to Carson National Forest. Originally a monument to honor a family's fallen son, this site later became the first and only state park dedicated to Vietnam vets. The visitor center is very well done and offers glimpses into army life as well as fairly honest and unbiased (in our opinion) perspectives on the war.

just after Memorial Day

We really loved this part of New Mexico, and there are lots (and lots) more pictures to that effect here... Definitely wish we could've spent two more weeks exploring the area.

happy campers

Oh. We did stop by Roswell briefly on the way north.

do aliens really like pie?
inquiring minds want to know

we didn't go here

Their McDonald's (where we stopped for wifi) was shaped like a UFO. And that's about all we saw of Roswell. We're okay with that.

At this point we were a month in and had a month to go, and we needed three more years! I really don't know how - or why - people drive cross-country in three or four days. There is just too much to see. I suppose it's just that 2-week-vacation nonsense. America, you're doing it wrong...