I’m not sure what it is but the desert speaks to me. It has this energy that I am oddly attracted towards. I find myself going out here all too often. This time, the trip was filled with some odd experiences that were hard to describe and gave more meaning to the slogan “The Land of Enchantment.” We spent most of the trip in New Mexico. I think it’s one of those places that many people don’t necessarily plan on visiting. Some people may not even like to live there. I thoroughly enjoy it. Part of it is the diverse landscape but more so, it’s the culture and unique history that surrounds the state. It’s kind of magical and sometimes you need to listen to the silence and open your mind in order to understand it. Being in the exposed sun all day, dehydrated, in the middle of the desert allows you to connect to the Earth on a deeper level and appreciate the little things that we all take for granted.
The destination that we entered into our GPS was not going to be a short drive by any means. It was actually going to be quite the journey but we decided to make the longest part of the trek first and not get caught up at other spots until the way back. My buddy Rob and I hit the road south from Denver with a pin close to the Mexican border. Multiple hours into the night on Highway 54, we experienced something that literally made us both say, “Did you just see that?” Still not quite sure what it was but it was either a comet super close to earth or a some kind of extraterrestrial occurrence. This light took off into the sky with a massive chemtrail behind it and then two sparks blew off the side and the middle portion vanished. It was so low to ground and that’s why we were unsure about what it was. Roswell is a city close by that is known for the first UFO crash back in 1947 and there have been tons of occurrences and sightings all over the state. Did we just witness another one? We kept our eyes peeled, hoping to find some rubbish but had no luck. I guess the rest just has to get left to the imagination.
We made it pretty close to our destination but figured we would stop and sleep for a while because we weren’t planning on hitting sand dunes until the next evening. We made camp, cooked breakfast in the morning and got back on the road. It’s so hot during the middle of the day so we found some attractions nearby that were super unique and made for a decently shaded afternoon. We found this old Trestle, or part of a railroad track that was elevated over the canyon. It was pretty amazing to look at and think that a train used to be in operation here. There was a nice overlook as well as a trail just down the road, if you are feeling a little bit more adventurous. We did the 2 mile hike down and then headed onward. We were hoping to hang out at a lake for a while and cool off. We looked up a couple lakes while we were driving and one looked particularly nice. So we headed over to Lake Canyon. We passed this other lake that we contemplated going to but decided to continue up the canyon to the better spot. We soon realized that there was not a lake anywhere in the vicinity of where we went. We had no idea where these directions were even taking us. Maybe this was another one of the tricks New Mexico was playing on us. Maybe it was just our lack of research. Sometimes, things don’t always work out and that is okay. Happy to be on a trip with my great homie- Rob (@rob.biswhoibe), exploring and laughing along the way.
We ended up heading to White Sands to hang out at the picnic area, have some lunch and relax a bit before sunset. We had more fun skating and riding the bike around the parking lot than anything. The ground reminded me of this old Loaded Boards skate video. We just happened to be riding the same board. It was pretty sandy but super smooth and was perfect for some barefoot cruising. Rob and I are both wearing the Coalatree Trailhead Pants through out this post. These pants are super versatile and perfect for road trips. Honestly, was surprised how well they even felt in the heat. I love pants that are stretchy and breathable and these are exactly that. They are also anti-microbial and water resistant which is big plus for camping, hiking and whatever adventure you throw at them.
Coalatree also came out with this rad new backpack that is absolutely amazing. I think what I love most about it is that it’s made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s also super spacious for gear. I can fit my laptop, camera, hydroflask, some treats for Nakota (my furry companion) and maybe a jacket in there. It has a bunch of pockets and a built in lock as well. Everything by this company is eco friendly and I will always stand behind a company that takes care of our environment. We wandered through the sands and it looked like it was going to be an amazing sunset. However, once the sun got low, it fell into the clouds and the colors didn’t quite pop as much as we hoped. It was still incredible and we had such a great time exploring the area.
After sunset, we took a couple more runs on the bike and headed out to find camp. Rob was hammock camping and believe it or not, there aren’t a ton of trees to anchor to in the desert. He just needed a single mount because he was able to connect to my rack on my 4Runner. However, we didn’t have many options. We found a fence post in the ground that was fairly thick and he gave that a try. It was kinda wobbly but it held through the night and I was honestly pretty surprised.
Sometimes when I’m camping, my internal clock will go off when the sun is coming up. Luckily, that happened this morning and it was a pretty incredible view to wake up to. I passed back out after a few sunrise pics and later woke up to the smell of bacon and french press coffee. We chilled out for a bit and enjoyed breakfast until the shade from the car was about gone. I had plans to head to these cliff dwellings but did not realize how far away they still were from us. Also, this other spot I wanted to check out around that area was closed due to Covid-19. So, it didn’t make sense to head out of the way just for one stop. We reached out to some of the lakes near Las Cruces because we were still craving to chill by some water. The lakes are state parks and my research told me that they were all closed to Non-Residents. That was indeed the case so once again we were unable to get by a lake. This desert was getting hot and we needed some shade and water ASAP.
This one spot up in Taos stuck out in my mind and I knew that if we just made the drive back up that way, it would be worth it. So we headed north on 25 and made a pit stop in Albuquerque at one of my favorite breweries, Bow & Arrow. They have this incredible beer I was craving called Cosmic Arrow. It’s a Sour Belgian Saison and since we were going to be passing the brewery, a stop was kind of mandatory. We had a couple beers and continued on the journey. When we got to Taos, the spot we were craving was open! This place is so amazing. I was so stoked to hang here and have a chill evening on the water. We relaxed for a bit and hiked around the bridge before we decided to get out the camp stove and make dinner. Chicken and veggies was on the menu for this evening. We sat down and got about half way through our meal before we felt a couple drops of rain fall. Seconds later, a complete downpour followed. This massive storm blew through the canyon, lightning like mad and soaking everything that we had out. It didn’t last long but I was more upset that my chair was all wet. Luckily, I always bring a tarp with me, so I was able to lay that down and still have somewhere to sit around camp once it passed.
Since the storm dropped the temperature substantially, we made some tea and sat in some semi wet chairs. I mean we asked for water, I guess we got what we wanted. Anyways, it was a nice cool down after the last few days in the exposed sun. I was just glad that the storm passed fairly quick and that we were still able to chill outside for the remainder of the night. We packed up a backpack and decided to go explore the canyon in the dark. First off, we headed over to the bridge which looked like something off of a movie set. This whole area did. We overlooked the Rio Grande as the moon started rising over the canyon. It illuminated the massive walls that have been formed by millions of years of erosion. As we ventured up, we were mesmerized looking at these jagged walls but one spot in particular caught our attention. I couldn’t figure out what was going on here but it sounded like a waterfall was inside of the canyon. I couldn’t see a waterfall but I sure could hear one. These walls were massive and playing tricks on my mind. I am not sure if that was the sound of the river reflecting in the perfect spot or what but it sure was captivating. We kept exploring the canyon up to this overlook. It was a really nice viewpoint and we decided to hang out there for a while and take in the view. It was pretty rad not needing a headlamp throughout this journey and wandering through this mysterious canyon by moonlight.
Woke up in the morning, made breakfast and hung out at camp for a while. We went for a swim in the Rio and hit up the hot springs. Always love when there are activities near camp. I really give this spot a 10/10. It was time to hit the road and make our way back. That doesn’t mean that we were done. Quick stop at the Rio Grande Bridge in town and then headed up towards Colorado. We decided that The Great Sand Dunes was not much of a detour and that it would be the perfect way to wrap up this desert weekend.
Even if it was a detour, it would 100% be worth it. It’s probably one of my favorite places in the world. It feels like you are in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Yet here we are, just 3 hours from Denver. I just love how this place was formed. It comes from the Ute word “Saa waap maa nache” which means sand that moves. Erosion from the mountains are carried by the streams and have formed these dunes over the last few thousand years. It is an ever changing landscape and truly unique. Believe it or not, they are actually the largest sand dunes in North America!
On the way up to High Dune, we got stuck in a sandstorm and it felt like thousands of needles were piercing our skin. We pressed on to the summit because we were already so close and needless to say, we didn’t feel like setting up a picnic at the top. So, we quickly ran down which took a fraction of the time than it did to hike up. Once we got part of the way down the dune, the wind finally started to subside. We took our time on the last bit of the hike, taking in this beautiful scenery. When we got back to the parking area, we filled up the water bottles, shook the sand out of our hair and decided that was enough desert for one weekend. I will definitely be coming back soon. Maybe next time will be in the fall, when it’s not as scorching hot.