Starting this article with a disclaimer : I am super behind on blog articles and I am so sorry! I know a lot of you follow us on Instagram and has been able to come along through each step of the trip. But especially for readers that are exclusively on the blog, I shall give you a little background and context.
After crossing the country through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, we finally made it to New Mexico on the 5th of June. We didn’t mind a fast rhythm while we crossed the country but we were resolutely ready to slow down and start REAL vanlife, which is often associated with slow travel. So when we got to New Mexico, we definitely “took out the airbrakes”. That’s a French expression to convey the idea of slowing down brutally :).
Now that you know everything, let’s dig in!
Between Amarillo and Albuquerque, the Interstate was certainly scenic. On our way to our destination, we had stopped at a State Park to cook a hearty pancake breakfast on our camping stove. Santa Rosa Lake State Park is located just a couple hours east of Albuquerque and is a reservoir right on the plains of New Mexico. We particularly enjoyed the pink sand/rocks contrasting with the deep blue of the water.
One of Bobby’s aunt and uncle live in Albuquerque, so that’s where we spent our first day/night. Thanks Tina and Jim for hosting us so generously! A delicious dinner, wonderful conversation and good night sleep later, we took the road towards the Southside of the State and its surprising Gila National Forest. We streamed past mesmerizing landscapes and were able to check VLA (Very Large Array) on the way. VLA is a radio astronomy observatory that was built in the 70s and allows scientists to investigate all types of astronomical objects. For Bobby and I, who are huge fans of the series COSMOS, it was quite the sight!
We stayed in Gila National Forest for a couple days and nights. Not only did we love our 2 camp spots (because they were secluded and quiet) but we also loved hiking the “Catwalk”. An area that is beloved by locals when the sun hits hard because of its numerous natural fresh pools. We could definitely notice the topography of the region was dry as you would expect in NM but some of the area was really lush and bushy too!
After our second night in the forest, we headed to the southeast side of the State – with Lincoln National Forest in mind as our final destination. The road itself was full of surprises. We drove through Hatch and got ourselves some pepper/chili jelly. As a matter of fact, Hatch considers itself the “Chili Capital of the World”. Well, don’t know about the world but it definitely IS the capital of chili in the USA.
Later, we also navigated through the big arteries of Las Cruces and the wonderful but unfortunately closed White Sands National Park. To this day, this is one of our biggest regrets for doing this roadtrip during COVID. The park was closed to visitors and we only saw the dunes from far. I can say it was impressive to bits and I can only wish to come back and walk on those dunes one day!
Our stay in rugged and rural Lincoln National Forest was tremendous. I would describe the area as affluent and unique. We explored on the “Luca’s Trail” and really loved how fresh the environment was. Almost didn’t feel like we were in New Mexico at all. Nola definitely enjoyed her first encounters with cows. She ran after them and got quite excited to meet “the big brown dogs”!
After spending three days in the South of New Mexico, we headed back up to our family’s home in Albuquerque. That day, we took a small detour through Roswell. According to me, Roswell is one of those places you see once in your life and never go back to. So tacky but worth it. I took tons of pictures of alien related “evidence”. For those of you who don’t know, Roswell is well-known because of a presumed UFO incident that happened in 1947.
According to History.com,
In the summer of 1947, a rancher discovered unidentifiable debris in his sheep pasture outside Roswell, New Mexico. Although officials from the local Air Force base asserted that it was a crashed weather balloon, many people believed it was the remains of an extraterrestrial flying saucer; a series of secret “dummy drops” in New Mexico during the 1950s heightened their suspicions. Nearly 50 years after the story of the mysterious debris broke, the U.S. military issued a report linking the incident to a top-secret atomic espionage project called Project Mogul. Still, many people continue to embrace the UFO theory, and hundreds of curiosity seekers visit Roswell and the crash site every year.
All I have to say, is even the McDonald’s is in the shape of a UFO. It’s a big tourist trap in which I was happy to partake ;).
Back in Albuquerque, we spent another delightful evening with Tina and Jim. The following day we toured the very quiet Santa Fe. Another city that lost a little bit of life due to COVID-19. I am sure people never associate the words “Santa Fe” and “quiet” together. But it didn’t prevent me from realizing, I would probably love this place even more in normal times. The architecture is so unique and warm.
After sightseeing around Santa Fe, we rejoined Carson National Forest. One of the 5 National Forest in NM, Carson is 1,5m acres and is home to the highest Peak of NM (Wheeler Peak) and to Taos, a greatly appreciated ski station. Carson is found a couple hours North of Santa Fe only, making it super accessible for some nature time. We didn’t see a lot of wildlife but we did sleep surrounded by cows – which made for a pretty eerie morning and a very active sunset run for Nola, who was trying to nibble at their tails…
On the next morning, we concluded our exploration of New Mexico with a loop called “Deer, Coyote, Bear, Bobcat” in Angel Fire, which took us amongst pretty and fragrant pine forest. The hike was easy and beautiful and we spotted a couple deer.
That’s about it for New Mexico. Overall, I have to say I fell in love with the State. I found it was extremely diverse, wild and absolutely not overcrowded. The cityscapes were so unique and the forest were tranquil and relaxing. If you’re planning to visit the Land of Enchantment yourself, I would suggest to stay there at least a week, if not more. We didn’t really explore Farmington and the northwest and I’d like to come back for it. But mostly, distances are quite short and you’ll go through a myriad of wide-ranging landscapes in just a couple hours.
I’ll soon post about our next leg of the trip : Colorado!
Coco, Bobby, Nola and Vanito!
PS : Here’s the map of our explorations! I’ll try to do that for every state we’ve done 🙂