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
You guys have a gift! I’ve truly been enjoying your blogs and posts and this one has really capped it for me so far. In my years of mapping travels I have really fallen in love with the western third of the country, in just about everything it has to offer. This entry about New Mexico really captured what I love about that state and brought back fond memories. Your writings about the many places I haven’t been and activities I haven’t experienced really struck a chord. I can’t wait to go there with Mary.
I have to share an OMG moment there as well, and I’m revealing my inner geology geek. We had been working out of Santa Fe for a week. We finally had a day off and drove to Bandelier to hike around. While reading the information about Bandelier I was struck by the fact that the park is located on the side of an ancient volcano, the Valles Caldera. I was stunned! I had been flying over it twice a day for a week and NEVER noticed it. Once I saw the topography depicted on a map it totally jumped out at me! The very next day I made us fly around the old rim just to have a look. It’s actually pretty huge! All the various geologic formations found “out West” absolutely fascinate me.
Anyway, your comment about OMG moments brought that memory back and had to share. Thanks for indulging me! I’m looking forward to your future blogs, there is so much in store for you in your travels!
New Mexico draws me in. It has a stillness to it and when I’m there I feel as though I am a different person, more calm, more at peace, just more. From Gila in the south to Angel Fire in the north, I find the topography as you say, stunning and varied. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.