• Monica Smit

5th June - New beginnings in New Mexico

I was finally ready to leave Florida. After 3 months and plenty of projects, it’s time to actually road-trip and get some hikes in JMy plan was to go inland from Florida through Missouri, Arkansas and up to Yellowstone park and then back down towards Grand Canyon, Utah and Arizona.

I heard about the bad weather in Kansas and surrounding states, so I decided to turn West instead of going North. One turn could literally change my whole life. I really had no expectations when I decided to make a ‘b-line’ to New Mexico. A lady I met 4 months ago who lives in New Mexico had been emailing me regularly, wanting me to be her guest in Albuquerque. She seemed really excited for me to come visit, it’s always nice to have a place to go where I am really welcomed.

I drove straight through Texas and didn’t do any sightseeing, which I might regret. When I get an idea in my head that I want to be somewhere, I get ‘tunnel-vision’. I wish I had gone to a rodeo LOh well, maybe next time.

This was the first time in months I was alone and road-tripping like I did in Canada last year. I was anxious to have time to think and enjoy nature properly. My no.1 favourite thing to do while traveling is to hike. Florida is basically flat so I’ve been yearning for some mountains to conquer. I didn’t have any hikes planned, but I knew I’d find plenty along the way.

During my travels, I’d randomly written down suggestions people had made about where to go and what to see. Somewhere in the middle of Texas, I decided to look through my notes and see if there were any about New Mexico. One place stood out to me and that was the ‘Carlsbad Caverns’, which is a deep cave with awesome rock formations. Somewhere near there was also a place called ‘White Sands’ which is a place with bright, white sand as far as the eye can see.

The drive up to Carlsbad Caverns was fun in itself. It was the first glimpse of the desert terrain I was anxious to see. The Caverns themselves were spectacular. I’d never actually been in a cave anything like this before, I enjoyed every minute of it. It was also a decent walk down and back up, which gave me the exercise I was looking for. At sunset, thousands of bats fly out of the Cave, so I decided to wait around for that. The bats are really small so for me, it was kind of a letdown, but I don’t regret waiting for it nevertheless.

That evening I made my way towards El Paso, it was dark and windy on the roads. I saw a sign for ‘Guadalupe Peak’, pulled over and googled the hikes there and saw a full day one that was pretty challenging. I decided to sleep there and do the hike the next day. It was a great workout and the view was ok, but I wouldn’t do it again

Next day was White Sands. I almost didn’t go to be honest. It was 1 hour each way to get there. I thought to myself ‘it’s just a lot of white sand, who cares’ but I went anyway and I’m so glad I did. I was still sore from yesterday’s hike so I forethought to only do a section of the longest walk which was 4-miles.

I started walking with hardly any water and no food, thinking I’d only be 20 minutes or so. Well, once I was out there, I couldn’t help myself and just kept walking. My favourite thing about this place was being able to do a hike without shoes and not having to watch where you’re going. However, the sun was brutal, and I didn’t have a hat…stupid! I have bought a hat since that experience. The sand felt so lovely on my bare feet. To top it off there was NO ONE else around which made the experience even more enjoyable and peaceful for me.

That night I made it to Albuquerque to visit Claire who had been emailing me. They live in a magical place in Placitas which is about 40 minutes North of Albuquerque. Their house is up high, and the views are amazing. All the houses are made from natural colours which reminds me of Morocco.

I found out a day or two before I arrived that Rick loves to hike, so he planned out so many activities that I absolutely loved. I decided to stay for about a week. They took me to some great places which I’d never have seen if I was here alone. That’s the great thing about making friends with locals, you get to see the hidden places most tourists wouldn’t know about.

My next blog will outline the activities I've done close to Albuquerque.

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