Wow, New Mexico is beautiful. Way more than I had initially expected.

On my way out of Texas, I stayed over in Alpine, Texas, and helped myself to some sweets and treats in the morning at Baker’s Dozen Donuts, who sneakily threw some extra donuts in the bag for me. I also got a sausage, cheese, and jalapeno kolache which was just warm and savory and perfect.

On my way Northwest, I traveled through Marfa, a small desert town that is an arts hub and I just passed through because I had a bunch of driving to do but snapped some photos from the car.

My first stop of the day was at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which unfortunately I was not able to hike due to overcrowding; rangers had closed the parking lot and were directing folks away. I got a picture with the mountain, but that was the best I could do.

Next was just a short hop into New Mexico to see the Carlsbad Cavern National Park, but more drama — due to covid restrictions, many parks are implementing reservations needed for entry in order to limit crowd size. I was able to get into Mammoth Cave KY with a same day reservation but Carlsbad was booked out about 4 days in advance! You know I have commitment issues with planning trips so I sadly had to pass on entry to this park.

I drove North and West through the Lincoln National Forest to visit my next destination. Wow! I was very glad that my trip took me this way. Although national forests aren’t as obviously dazzling or as trafficked as national parks, the scenic drive is almost always worth it for the views and vistas — I learned this after travelling through Bighorn National Forest last year.

The drive took me through the small town of Cloudcroft, and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes after braving the Texas desert heat and 90+ degree days — there was snow on the ground! What a sight, after leaving the cold of home. There was a carpet of white underneath these tall pine trees. I took a picture, and then was treated to an actual snowstorm happening while I was still driving around town and down the mountain, which was a little worrisome as I basically just slid down the mountain, but I’m still alive, right?

It was about a thirty minute drive from the time of being snowed on to getting into the New Mexico desert and hitting White Sands National Park, which was a jarring change. I don’t know that my car knows whether it’s going to be blasting heat or air conditioning on a given day! The temperature swings and microclimates I’ve experienced so far have been totally wild.

Anyways, this national park blew me away. I got this intense feeling of excitement when I saw the dunes, and on the drive in at a point they totally eclipse your point of view on either side, making me feel very small and encapsulated. At a point, the road drops off and you drive on compounded sand, with shining white all around you, making the blue sky look even darker and bluer. At a point on the drive in, I just pulled over and got out of the car, realized I didn’t need to wear shoes, and just laughed and laughed. It was so nice, and relaxing, to feel the soft sand between my toes. They said the sand is gypsum because the Tularosa basin used to be full of lakes and streams and the moisture dissolved the gypsum out of the surrounding mountains (an there’s a lot), carrying it to the bottom of the basin.

I enjoyed this park so much that I stayed over in the nearby town — Alamogordo — and visited it again the following morning to see what it was like without the sun setting and a giant storm off in the East. Man, those sand dunes were cold. Way different from Sandy beaches I’m used to.

I was glad to have some slowness to be able to revisit the park, but again traveled a bunch that day — I drove West over the Organ Mountains and visited the National Monument there — and took some time aside to hike the trail up to Dripping Springs. It was a hike with a gradual incline of about five hundred feet, made harder by the elevation of the area, but I made it! Slow and steady.

Funnily, on the way up the mountain, there was just a random Oryx chilling. It was super weird to see an animal from, like Sim Safari, in the wild just hanging out, but hey.

Unfunnily, on the way back down the mountain, the oryx was up walking around — I tried to keep my distance and seem nonthreatening but the thing put its head down with those crazy horns and charged at me! Fastest I’ve ever run.

Dripping springs was cool but a bit underwhelming due to the dry season — so it was really, just, like, dripping. I was glad to have made the hike anyway.

I was pretty far South at this point, so I figured what the hell, and drove back down to Texas to visit El Paso and “get some real Mexican food” as my friend lovingly demanded that I do.

I hit up the Franklin Mountains which divide the city and snapped a pic before heading to the highly-positioned scenic drive and the Tom Lea Upper Park to get a view of the city, the Rio Grande, and Mexico. It was wild to me to be driving and just, like, look over and see Mexico out the window, with random Mexican folks just living their lives. Pretty awesome.

After all this, I got some mole chicken enchiladas at the L & J Cafe, which had been recommended by this dude I met while hiking. Pretty great! Just like, Eating, dude. It’s my religion.

Finally, I made the arduous four-hour drive Northward to Albuquerque, stopping over in Truth or Consequences, NM, because why not, and grabbed a picture of Elephant Butte State Park, a snazzy little vacation spot.

Here I leave you, hanging in a coworking spot in Albuquerque for the workweek. Catch you soon!