011 – the land of enchantment
Updated: Sep 27, 2018
Although this was not my first time in New Mexico, I can honestly say I really saw it for the first time this time around.
We spent almost a month here, and therefore the most time in one state so far. And it's definitely one of my favorite states, but then again we also saw so much of it, compared to the others. From ancient cliff dwellings, to caves so deep it took almost an hour just to walk down, to cities out of this world (some quite literally) and forest and deserts that leave you speechless.
Writing a day to day itinerary sure would be possible, but probably end up super long. So for now, a summary will have to capture the beauty of this state and all the incredible things we saw, experienced, and felt while we were here.
Let's start off with our first, but very impressive impression. Carlsbad Caverns National Park. You can look at pictures of these immense caves, but you will never quite believe how deep, how mysterious, and especially how grand these caves are. We had no idea what we were in for. When we first arrived at the visitor center, we saw a very simple mock-up model showing the depth of the different caves. We were already amazed there. But when you actually take the time to walk down (do not take the elevator unless you have to) you keep thinking, okay the end is coming soon, but you just keep walking down deeper and deeper, the air getting more humid and cold the further down you go, the natural light, vanishing from your eyes. When you get to that first open space, about 80 stories down (it takes 58 seconds with the elevator), you're just left gawking. From there you can basically choose how much further in/down you want to go. We did the whole lot, and it was worth every step. The vastness of something that seems so confined in our minds is incredible. All the different formations created over time just breathtaking.
Now, if you have an open mind, visit Roswell. We explored the UFO museum that tells the story of the 1947 UFO crash quite extensively and believable. But it was not until we spoke to an army veteran at a local army shop, that told us his side of the story that left us convinced. Of which side? We'll leave you to decide. But we can say, it's worth a google. Roswell without all the UFO and alien attractions is, unfortunately, not much on it's own. Nonetheless we enjoyed a few, very hot, days at the Bottomless Lakes State Park and were spoiled with hook-ups and long showers.
We had the pleasure of our first free overnight on BLM land the night before exploring White Sands National Monument. Though very windy, the spot was quite nice. White Sands is exactly what the name says, a very large area of nothing but white sand. But what the name doesn't include, is how astounding this place is. I have, quite honestly, never seen anything like it. The feeling, when you stare out into the white, sunbeam lit, hills of sand all around you, is remarkable. Something between pure freedom and content. This feeling, mixed with the perfect temperature, a really nice nap in between exploring, ice cream bars for less than a dollar, we can say, we really had a perfect day.
As far as campgrounds go, we really lucked out at Aguirre Springs, which lies right at the base of the Organ Mountains and costs only 8 dollars. We spent a few nights there, hiking the area, relaxing, and enjoying the myriad black beetles everywhere that would stick up their bums every time you came remotely close to them. We spent two nights at the City of Rocks State Park, another great campground in the middle and in between all the actual rocks. It's like a massive playground for adults. Here we had very strong winds, but had the luck of seeing a skunk and what turned out to be a feral cat at night. Another favorite was definitely Datil Wells, which we continued towards only because I did not feel comfortable at the spot we had planned to stay at. iOverlander suggested it cost 15 dollars, but when we arrived it turned out that because they reduced on amenities, it only cost 5 bucks per night, which we gladly accepted and even stayed a night longer. Here we really took it easy, enjoyed the sun, listened to music, and read a lot.
We spent quite some time in the Gila National Forrest, which is very very beautiful and definitely worth the long drive out. We overnighted at the free Upper Scorpion campground, explored the ancient Gila Cliff Dwellings, and hiked to the natural hot springs, where we soaked for a while without any other tourists even passing by. After not having showered for four days, this was an excellent hot tub. We both enjoyed our own pool, mixed with a little cold river water to make the temperature perfect. For dinner we ate the most delicious chili con carne cooked in our lodge oven over our campfire, and while waiting, I finished my third book. By the time we were ready to leave we had to skip on the shower once more, because our house battery was drained, and we had to save our quarter tank of gas for the 38 mile drive over the mountainous pass to Silver City rather than use it for the generator.
Now before I continue I have to catch up on something else. The world can be incredibly small sometimes. When we were searching for the perfect spot at the City of Rocks State Park, I was pinged with a bit of envy when I saw another RV couple. They really had it good. They had scored a nice spot that they had all to themselves, and while we were driving by, they just pulled up their camping chairs to the other side of a rock, sheltered from the insane winds, but right in the sun (it was quite cold out), with a huge mug of coffee. When we pulled into the lot at the Gila National Forrest, Mattia noticed a Swiss licence plate on the camper next to us. Well, funny enough, it turns out, our fellow campers, a little older than us, from Zug, Switzerland, were the same campers I had envied at the City of Rocks. We spent some time chatting, really enjoying having a full conversation with someone else than each other. A week later we arrived at the Bandelier National Monument and who do we see right when we pull into the campground: our fellow Swiss RVers. So, of course we had a great night of good conversations over a few drinks with them and are now looking forward to the next time we run in to them. Like us, they are taking the year to travel the States, but unlike us, they shipped their camper from Switzerland.
Albuquerque unfortunately was not one of our favorite cities. Though we liked the stroll through Old Town, our successful Goodwill haul, and the delicious Pizza in the upcoming Nob Hill, we can't deny the many homeless on every intersection and the uneasy feeling we had the entire time we were there (crime and drug rates are extremely high). We spent half a fortune at a campground just outside of town for one night and spent our second night at a Boondocker's where we did not sleep well. Not to mention the creepy incident I had in the very public parking lot right behind Old Town. As I was walking up to Henry Ford, I noticed a white truck pulling up extremely close to our camper. I stopped, looking for Mattia who had detoured to the trashcan. I look again, and notice the guy had his hood up, gloves on, and was trying to peek inside our windows through the tiny slot between the shades. He must have noticed me, because a second later, he drove off very quickly, tires screeching, almost hitting Henry in the back as he turned around him. Luckily, nothing happened and we seemed to have arrived just in time. Albuquerque did inspire us to start watching Breaking Bad however, and having binge watched through Season 2, we have to say, we really enjoy it.
At Bandelier we explored some more cliff dwellings, I had a few Deja-Vu's (I had already been here back when I was 14), and really enjoyed our time outside of the city again. We also explored the Tent Rocks National Monument, where we took a really nice hike through the canyon and up the hill for some stunning views. Though we shared the experience with many other tourists, it was definitely all worth it. We also took a detour through Los Cerrillos and Madrid and were surprised by the small gems.
And last but in no way least, we spent four incredible and much needed days in Santa Fe. Here we had the privilege to meet up with my parents who were spending a few days in the city with some friends. They treated us to four nights in the hotel, let us tag along on all their excursions, and most importantly gave us a really nice break from our own adventure, refreshing us in every way possible. We ate good food (not home cooked for once), had good conversations, were able to explore Abiquiu, Taos, and more of Santa Fe than we would have on our own. We were able to do our taxes, shower regularly, sleep without any distractions, watch TV, fully charge all our electronics, and enjoy every second of it all. It's amazing how different you perceive things after having spent more than a month on the road, where not everything is for granted.
Although it was hard to get back into our life on the road after such a nice break, we are rolling along just fine and are gladly roaming in Utah now. A special thanks to my Mom and Dad, for everything. To Erika and Dieter of course. And to Manuela and Mike, our fellow Swiss campers, for the good company.