New Mexico is fondly called the land of Enchantment. I am unsure what the true meaning behind this is, but for me it describes the ever changing landscapes and history rich in Native American lore. We drove from the southeast to the northwest of the state and hit several points in between. In New Mexico the landscapes seem to change dramatically every 30 miles or so. One minute you are in a dry flat desert and the next climbing up a snow capped mountain surrounded by Ponderosa Pine. We even found ourselves in areas where we were looking at 4 or 5 distinctly different landscapes at one time; desert, shear cliffs and buttes, canyons and Rocky Mountains.
Road between Taos and Colorado
New Mexico is the land of the old west and Native Americans. In fact, many of the best preserved ruins from the Anasazi and Pueblo people are found here. Much of the art and handy crafts, which is plentiful, are either created by or inspired by Native Americans. It is fascinating to explore the pueblos, cliff dwellings, and seek to understand the old cultures. Unfortunately the old ways are in stark contrast to the way many Native Americans live today and an entire essay could focus on this. But it was sad to see so much trash, mainly beer bottles flung everywhere on the reservations and in some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It made me think of Baltimore. I have heard that modern day Native Americans are in poor mental and physical health and suffer from addictions and it shows. While there are a lot of amenities and infrastructure for the people; beautiful modern schools, community centers, housing, parks, playgrounds, and monopoly on the revenue from casinos, there clearly is still a lack of hope and disconnect from their traditional ways.
Cave Dweller – Bandelier National Monument
I expected to be taken by the towns and cities in New Mexico that I have heard so much about; Santa Fe, Taos, and Roswell, but instead I found the land itself to be the star and cities and towns just okay. The highlights for us were Carlsbad Caverns, driving through the old west towns, Valley of Fires, the hike through Tent Rocks and the drive from Taos to Colorado. At times the natural beauty here can be somewhat overwhelming; “OMG” and “Holy S—t!” was said often. *Read our Carlsbad and Valley of Fires post HERE*
Slot Canyons at Tent Rocks National Monument
We did see some unique lifestyles New Mexico. We saw a community of off grid Earth Ships, houses that are kind of half cave and half regular homes designed for zero emissions and recycle nearly everything. We saw communities of hippies living in just about everything from mobile homes, school buses, shacks, geodesic domes and yurts in the middle of nowhere. New Mexico is the 6th largest State in the country and has a population of only a little more than 2 Million, so it is not hard to get miles and miles away from civilization and many people here like to do just that. While we did see much of the State, I believe we only scratched the surface and already it is clear someday we will return for more.
Rio Grande Canyon – Orilla Verde
To view more photos from our journey through New Mexico, click HERE