Mountain Time in New Mexico
It's hard to believe that Sonia and I have lived in New Mexico for six months.
It's summer here now, with long and extra sunny days. The sun feels different here than it did in Chicago. At 7,000 feet above sea level, we are that much closer to the sun in Santa Fe and the sun is so much stronger. Since we've had hardly any rain (or snow in the winter) most days are cloud-free. I've had to change my wardrobe a bit since moving. I can't get away with wearing navy and black and grey most days, so I've been adding in some summer whites, and HATS! I now wear hats. Some time around April, I finally began to understood why so many folks wear wide brimmed hats in the sun - it's necessary for the daytime walks here.
I've been enjoying getting to know our new home. I like being in a new place, it's inspiring to be surrounded by the beautiful landscapes. Most weekends we've tried to get out and explore a bit. Depending on how much time we have, that has meant either a short trail hike in the Santa Fe National Forest or a longer day trip to the Pecos or to the Carson National Forest near Taos. Our first month here, Sonia bought a great trail guide book for the Santa Fe area, and we've been trying to cross off all the hikes in the book, weekend by weekend! There are so many beautiful places to see here, and I look forward to seeing New Mexico as the seasons change. One trail that we've gone to several times, is the Aspen Vista trail in the Santa Fe National Forest. It's a quick drive for us up towards the ski basin to get there. Before we moved, I saw it show up in Santa Fe based photographer Ja Soon Kim's instagram feed often and knew I wanted to see the aspens too! Her feed is definitely worth a follow: @omjsk. We visited in the winter, early spring, and just before the forest closed due to the fire risks after Memorial Day Weekend. We will definitely be back to see the aspens change color in the fall!
In the winter, we spent more time doing canyon + desert hikes that are too hot to do in the summer. And in late Spring, once some of what little snow we had melted, we went for more forested hikes. I am continually amazed at how different the terrain can be, in just a short drive. We can be in the forested mountains in the Santa Fe ski basin in 20 minutes, and in Georgia O'Keefe's beloved red rocky terrain in Abiquiu in less than an hour. After coming from the density of Chicago, with its propensity for morning fog, I am so struck by how far you can see. When we've been out near White Rock or Abiquiu, we can see mountains and storms miles and miles away.
When we first talked about moving to New Mexico last year, I told Sonia I would move if we could go to White Sands. She kept her word, and after we got settled into our house here, we planned a quick Valentine's Day weekend trip down to see the famed sands. It's about a three and half hour drive there, so we drove down one afternoon and stayed in the White Sands Motel, and then headed to the park first thing in the morning. We drove in early in the morning and there were already a number of people there, but it wasn't too crowded. It had rained the night before, and the whole place had this otherworldly aura. When all you can see is dunes, it feels like you're on the moon.
We did the six mile loop trail at White Sands, beginning at 8am. It was pretty quiet when we were there. Footprints in the sand reminded us that we weren't alone, but for most of the time we were walking, we didn't see anyone else. Towards the end, more and more hikers joined the trail, and when we got back to the parking lot, we could see a few photoshoots in progress on various dunes. If you ever go - go early! It's magical, but it gets pretty jam packed later on in the day. And hot!
Valles Caldera is about an hour drive from here, and has quickly become my favorite place to go. We have done a handful of hikes around there, and we often drive into the park to try to spot some elk or coyotes, and to see the valley. It's possible that I'm especially partial to the view because I'm a fan of the netflix show Longmire. While the show was set in Wyoming, most of it was filmed in Santa Fe and Valles Caldera, with the title character's cabin filmed at one of the old cabins in Valles Caldera. Sadly the show is over, so Sonia and I won't be having any Longmire run-ins when we visit the preserve. But it's truly a special place and worth any visit! One day I would like to see the elk, made famous from this video that a park ranger got of a herd running across the valle grande.
Our mountain hiking is on a bit of a hold right now, as we are now here in June in the middle of a huge drought. Most of the forests have been closed due to fire risk. We finally had a good weekend of rain this week, but it wasn't quite enough. It will probably take a monsoon season for New Mexico to get some of the water that it badly needs. There have been a number of fires already this month and last, here in New Mexico and in Colorado. We're planning some non forest adventures in the meantime, until we get some more rain. Now that it's summertime, I want to find out all about all the swimming holes here. So we'll be looking out for all the good lake swimming spots till the forests open back up again.
If you're looking for info about the fires here in New Mexico updates are posted daily here: https://nmfireinfo.com.