The Desert Called (Again)

Thanks, as always, for following along! Our apologies for the long delays between posts. Each mesmerizing sunset, invigorating hike, and curvy road puts us one moment closer to the end of this summer and the end of this adventure. Thus, “what’s next?” inevitably creeps into our conversations, and we’ve been focusing more time on planning for the future.

 

But blame also lies with the pinon, sage, juniper, and red rock canyons of the desert southwest—a place that’s come to feel like a rough equivalent of a home on the road this past year, and where we spent most of April. It’s a place where my camera seems to point itself, possessed by the picture-perfect light and county-wide vistas. So part of the delay is a result of wading through thousands of photos during our evenings in the van.

 

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When we get the chance to talk with someone at length about our adventure, after answering the most common questions--“Where do you shower?” (About once a week under a bag of water suspended from Madge’s rear hatch), “What kind of fuel mileage does the van get?” (18ish mpg), and “Do you guys still like each other?” (Most of the time!)--we’re often cautiously asked “So… what do you guys do all day?” If you’re wondering the same, this post is devoted to simply sharing what we did on a few days in late March and early April in New Mexico. Enjoy!

 

March 28: Rita Blanca National Grassland, Texas, to Eagle Nest, New Mexico

  • Alarms at first light. Up early for sunrise near an abandoned old farm truck spotted the previous evening. (You can see these photos in the last post!)

  • Obligatory morning stop at a gas station. Life on the road without a bathroom means finding one first thing…

  • Beautiful drive along US Route 87 west, watching the southern reaches of the Rocky Mountains grow out of the horizon.

  • Mid-day exploration of Capulin Volcano National Monument, a cinder cone volcano that stands sentry fifty miles east of the Rocky Mountain foothills. The previous day’s rain solidified as wind-swept ice along the rim of the volcano—an unplannable, unpredictable delight.

  • Lunch in the van: this week’s menu featured turkey wraps with locally-made tortillas.

  • Drove west into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains through the time-forgotten ranching towns on Route 64.

  • Arrived at our target campsite in the Carson National Forest earlier than expected, setting us up for a relaxing evening in the wilderness. I wandered the surrounding forest taking photos, while Angie tossed together some Asian noodles.

  • As we pulled out our blankets and dug into dinner, a storm front rolled through, dropping the temperature by the minute. Snow started falling just after dark.

 

March 29: Eagle Nest, New Mexico, to Taos, New Mexico

  • Heavy, wet snow fell into the night.

  • Alarms at sunrise, again, to see Eagle Nest Valley blanketed with snow. I snapped photos and Angie made us warm oatmeal and tea in the van.

  • Drove to Taos, snow disappearing as we descended in elevation.

  • Sought out bathrooms and water fountains at a grocery store.

  • Hiked to Devisadero Peak, overlooking Taos.

  • Drove to Taos Ski Valley resort, back into the lingering late-spring snow.

  • Hiked—big hiking day!—through deep powdery snow to Williams Lake at the base of Mount Wheeler, a stunning alpine lake, nestled amongst the highest peaks in New Mexico.

  • Made camp along a stream just off the road to Taos ski resort as darkness fell.

  • After dinner—apple and goat cheese salad—we called it a night, ready to relax our tired muscles and hide from the chill in the air.

 

March 30: Taos, New Mexico, to Cuba, New Mexico

  • Sought out some green chili breakfast burritos in downtown Taos. We rarely eat out, but when we do, we try to track down something with a unique, local flare.

  • Settled into a day of work on our computers at a coffee shop. Photo editing for me, copywriting for Angie.

  • In early evening, we explored the adobe boutiques and art galleries in downtown Taos. Angie’s goal was to discover a Native America remedy for her chronic chapped lips—life spent mostly outside it not easy on your skin. 

  • Hit the road west, crossing the Rio Grande river and the towering San Juan Mountains—gateways to the desert beyond.

  • Settled into a campsite in the Santa Fe National Forest at sunset. Surprised to find that we had data service (far from a given when you’re boondocking), we dove into a late evening of computer work (and a bit of Netflix).

 

**a few days later**

 

 

April 4: Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Morning laundry and grocery shopping in Santa Fe. We usually plan about a week’s worth of meals at a time—that’s about all we can fit in our fridge and pantry.

  • Explored a scenic slot canyon that lead to a mesa summit in Kasha-Katuwe National Monument.

  • As we passed through a Pueblo reservation community on our way to Albuquerque, a festival caught our eye and we pulled over. We arrived just in time to watch a Native American dancing ceremony, the tail end of the town’s multi-day Easter celebration. Unprompted, a man standing next to us invited us to join him and his family for dinner. Accepting his invitation, we enjoyed a barbecue in the family matriarch’s adobe home: dirt floors, rugs decorating the walls, light conversation about life in the tribal community. The afternoon was a gesture of hospitality neither Angie nor I will ever forget. And a reminder to always take the back roads.

  • After continuing our drive to Albuquerque, we made camp in an empty industrial lot near the Albuquerque airport. Not a pristine forest campsite under the stars, but a comfortable place with a surprisingly nice view of the city skyline.

 

In the past year, there has been no such thing as a typical day—each has its own surprises and flair—but we’ve settled into a routine of sorts: exploring our surroundings, stretching our legs, logging backroad miles, and working on personal projects and passions. This delicate balance of work and play is the beauty of life on the road.

 

-Avery, writing from the public library in Kalispell, Montana

 

 

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