State Sign Challenge: New Mexico
I already posted a pic of me and Annie in front of the New Mexico State Sign as that was my first border crossing in VANgo six months ago. My excitement got the best of me since I wasn’t even spending any length of time in New Mexico on my way to Arizona. Regardless, here it is again now that I’m writing my summary of my time spent here. In case you didn’t know, the roadrunner is New Mexico’s state bird. If you have a fun state sign photo (taken responsibly), I’d love to see it!
Before I start talking about New Mexico, for the holidays this year GPSMyCity, the company who uses my posts for walks around cities, is letting me give away 10 free “memberships.” If you are interested, comment below, and you can use the app for free (a $19.99) for a year. I have found their maps very useful for my travels, and despite being approached by many companies to promote, this is one of the few that I do. Check them out. There’s no catch, and I don’t get anything in return. I will tell them you are one of my ten that want it.
Visiting New Mexico
October rolled around, and it was time for me to head south. As a result, after a fun girls’ weekend in Coeur d’Alene, I spent the next two weeks in New Mexico. My time in New Mexico was very fluid. Only Chaco Culture National Historical Park needed campsite reservations, so aside from those four days, I wasn’t sure where I was going to be.
I let the weather and my friend Tina who lives in Albuquerque guide me as I waited for my studio garage apartment to be ready in Texas where I planned to winter. As a result, I drove a lot, (2,500 miles exactly), and didn’t remain in any place very long. I would have liked a more leisurely experience, but I hadn’t done much research, so I did what I did.
Campsites in New Mexico
Because I was so fluid, I didn’t have any long-term campsites except at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Given the park is surrounded by Navajo land, there isn’t much of an opportunity to boondock, so I had to settle on a real site. It would have been fine if I didn’t end up next to a field trip of 4th graders!
Otherwise, I stayed in a Walmart parking lot three times, my friend Tina’s driveway a couple times, and in the national forest near Questa, Truth or Consequences, and Ruidoso a day each. My spot near Questa was small and close to the dirt road, but it had a nice view, so that was my favorite location. I expected to enjoy my spot near Truth or Consequences as well, but a herd of cattle joined me, and cows make my dog Annie go bonkers! Anyway, I found all three of my national forest/BLM sites on the iOverlander app.
Hikes in New Mexico
Remarkably, I didn’t do too many hikes in New Mexico. Perhaps I was hiked out after basically hiking all summer. I did manage about eight. Three hikes near Taos and three in Chaco Culture National Historical Park as well as a jaunt through Cerillos Hills State Park and a short stroll in the Organ Mountains.
Near Taos, I really liked the El Salto del Agua Canoncito Trail and the nearby town of Arroyo Seco, but there is a fee to hike in this beautiful canyon with lovely fall colors. The hikes in Chaco Canyon took some effort to follow at times but climbing up to the mesa for views of the ruins below was quite rewarding. The Organ Mountains near Mesilla were also very pretty.
Towns I Visited in New Mexico
When I wasn’t hiking, I was strolling through towns. I visited several towns in New Mexico including Taos, Arroyo Seco, Santa Fe, Madrid, Truth or Consequences, the Salinas Pueblo Missions which are old ruins in National Monument but used to be towns, Cloudcroft, Ruidoso, Alamogordo, Mesilla, the old mining towns of Hillsboro and Kingston, and Silver City.
I really enjoyed seeing the Salinas Pueblo Missions, PistachioLand and New Mexico Museum of Space History near Alamogordo, the Sunspot Solar Observatory near Cloudcroft, and the Organ Mountains near Mesilla.
I needed to allot more time to go to Silver City to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings and hike in the surrounding forest out there. If I had that day to do over, I would not have done all the driving that way as Hillsboro, Kingston, and Truth or Consequences (despite being named after the radio quiz show) did not knock my socks off. I would have added a day to the Ruidoso area and saved Silver City for another time.
I would also make a separate trip to Truth or Consequences when I could get a reservation for Spaceport America, as that place would likely be cool to see. The tours, however, are limited and weren’t scheduled on the day I there.
Wildlife Spottings in New Mexico
While I spotted deer and antelope while driving, I only snapped photos of the herd of elk in Chaco Canyon. I spotted them twice which was quite fun and an added bonus since I expected only to see ruins and maybe a snake! I heard lots of coyotes too!
Food in New Mexico
I managed one meal with chilis, for which New Mexico is known. It was breakfast tacos at Sol Food Café in Arroyo Seco, and it was delicious. I also got a piece of the famous Buttermilk Pie from the Village Buttery in Ruidoso. It reminded me of the Chess Pie we used to get out our high school. It was delicious!!
Trials and Tribulations
I worked out almost all the trials and tribulations with VANgo. I’m glad those headaches are behind me. I just need to test it in humid weather this winter and see if I’m good to go with my air ventilation system that I would do over if I could.
I jinxed myself with Annie by commenting in a previous post that I have almost made it a month without her getting sick. Dang it! At this point, I’ve accepted it is a monthly occurrence. Poor thing. And it just adds to the difficulty of keeping weight on her!!
Unique Sightings and Musings from the Road
I’ve seen a few copper mines in the past, but the Chino Mine near Santa Rita, 15 miles east of Silver City, is enormous. The open-pit copper mine was started in 1909. In the early days, it was subject to many Apache Raids. But it has withstood many challenges including a brief closing with a change of ownership.
The mine is 1.75 miles across and 1,350 feet deep. It makes trucks with tires six feet in diameter look small. The roadside overlook includes a historical interpretive display and is worth a quick visit.
Fort Stanton State Monument
Though not necessarily unique, Fort Stanton State Monument was also an interesting stop as the fort was used for so many things from a fort, to a POW camp and Japanese American internment camp, a tuberculosis hospital and more.
Also not unique, but nice to see is San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the USA. I made a brief stop here after when I met my friend Tina for lunch at Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe. It is not too far off the square
In New Mexico, my musings were recurring.
- Does the wind ever stop blowing here? While I’d welcome a cold breeze in the summer, the wind was relentless in October.
- Why isn’t there an Indian’s lives matter movement? In my opinion, the US government really screwed them.
- How do the reservations work? It seems the reservations are like their own sovereign nation and the Native Americans hardly assimilate into the surrounding community. I’d really like to know more about what they choose to do and what they have to do as it relates to schools, businesses, the communities, and the laws which supersede the state’s.
- New Mexico has more PhD holders per capita than any other state in the country. In ways this is very surprising as there are many uneducated people, but at the same time, it is not surprising at all. The state is not very populated, and it hosts major research centers like Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. There is also a substantial space program.
- Standing at 7,199 feet, Santa Fe in the Nation’s highest state capital. Established 10 years prior to the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, it is also one of the oldest cities, dating back to 1610.
- The first atomic bomb was exploded in New Mexico at what is now the White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo.
- New Mexico hosts the world’s largest hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. Over 500 balloons gather at the International Fiesta every October. I missed it this year but have seen it previously.
- Smokey the Bear came from New Mexico
- The dunes in White Sands National Park are actually gypsum.
Thanks for following along with me through New Mexico. I’m taking a winter break in Texas, but will still makes some posts before hitting the road again. ETB