New Mexico, Land of Unexpected Beauty
I can’t say that I have ever thought much about New Mexico until this year. And after spending about two weeks there, I’m pleasantly surprised about its wild beauty. Yes, it is very dry and some places look like unbearable desert, but there is also incredible beauty.
I started at Santa Rosa Lake State Park at the recommendation of my new friend Becca in AR. My campsite overlooked the large rock-edged lake, and the altitude of the park gives you views in just about all directions, handy when keeping your eye out for oncoming storms in monsoon season which happens to be while I was there (more about that later). Each of these campsites came with a solid cement shelter over a solid cement picnic table. I set up camp as the first winds started to pick up. I had seen rain off in the distance when I drove in, so I wondered if this was coming my way. Instead it was just wild and crazy wind that blew off anything light enough or not tacked down. When I went into my tent for something I discovered a layer of sand on my sleeping bag and everything else. I irritatedly shook it out and brushed stuff off thinking it had gotten in through an open rain flap. I closed it all up and started to take a wet-nap bath (its basically what it sounds like, cleaning off entirely with wet wipes). Then more wind whipped through blowing sand/grit up under the rain flaps and through the screens and coated me and everything else with the grit. I was so not happy about it, to say the least!
Santa Rosa State park claimed to have showers, but I never did find them. I could have swam in the lake, but something always got in the way, like storms or the temperature dipping down in the evening.
My second day there I went to the Blue Hole in the city of Santa Rosa. Its a crisp 61 degree spring that is so shockingly cold, it is literally hard to breathe while treading water, it was amazing! And in the afternoon I sat contently on the picnic bench sketching away while facing away from the lake. I was happy to think that I would be able to just hang out there without moving camp again until the next day. A little bit of time passed and a park ranger pulled up at my site. He warned me about a storm rolling in, that forecasters were claiming hail and 40-50 mph winds. When I turned around, I saw the ominous dark monster creeping up over the lake behind me. I thanked him for the warning and immediately became a stress ball of activity and broke camp. I took my tent down and threw it in a bundle into my car, along with all the lighter stuff that couldn’t get wet or may have blown away. Then I sat in my car parked under a meager juniper tree and waited. I read the psalms to ease my fearful mind. It was hot and steamy in coco and the rain came at a 45 degree angle, and the wind blew around fiercely. Thankfully I saw no sign of hail, and it wasn’t long before the storm was over. My nerves were a bit shattered, but I was thankful I had enough time to seek shelter. Then I set up camp yet again. It gets old setting up camp and breaking it down so much, but I am becoming a pro at it. I met a fellow camper (from Houston) who also made it through the storm. He shared tips for bear safety and general wilderness pointers that I could find useful. You can never be too prepared for bears!
The following day I went on to Albuquerque to pick up Jef and then north to Taos. We camped one night in Black Canyon National Forest and backpacked the next day up to Williams Lake above the Taos Ski Valley for the 4th of July. It was breath-taking! I couldn’t have imagined such beauty outside of the Swiss Alps. Then we got some nice R&R in Taos making good use of their Saturday farmers market. We tried morchella mushrooms for the first time, dill sauerkraut, pea sprouts and tea blends that are basically perfection (tea.o.graphy)
Then Sunday morning we drove back to Albuquerque so Jef could catch his outgoing flight, and I spent the night in a very cool and rustic tree fort camp outside of Santa Fe and on the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest. I met some really cool ladies (from Texas and New York) also staying there and we shared some of our many adventures in New Mexico. And they shared some of their most excellent coffee the next morning. I am always amazed at all the great peeps I meet when I’m traveling. Then I returned north through Taos and I spent the afternoon at Wild Rivers a park nearby that overlooks the Rio Grande trying to both rest and hike my fatigue away before I went to Questa, my first WWOOF spot, Luna Madre.
When I talked to Jenny before arriving, she asked if I wanted to go with her to help her friend build an adobe structure. I was thrilled! I had been admiring all the adobe houses in Taos and Santa Fe, and I was intensely curious about how they are built. So we joined her friend and their kiddos in playing with mud aka building an adobe kitchen with a giant window facing the beautiful Rocky Mountains still holding a tiny bit of snow.
Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw is an award winning children’s book author illustrator. Be sure to look up her work on Amazon! Her stories are heart-warmingly sweet and her illustration style is unlike anything I’ve seen. She and her husband Patrick have a 3 acre farm which includes goats, chickens, vegetables and herbs. Patrick has an ayurvedic practice in town, he is also a thai massage therapist and chai master. I mean they literally wrote a book on chai! It will soon to be available as an interactive e-book. Okay so I’m not totally trying to sound like an advertising stand for these folks, I just wanted to brag a tiny bit about how awesome they are, and why I feel honored that they let me wwoof at their place.
My time at the Luna Madre included learning to milk a goat, weaving a willow garden gate, feeding the chickens, weeding the beds, watering the plants and learning lots of good gardening points from Jenny. Their youngest Narayan Blue (age 4) was amazingly helpful at identifying plants and making sure that I weeded out the right ones. He hopes to be a plumber, fire fighter, and or astronaut. Tulsi (their daughter age 10) entertained us with a game of saying only words that start with the letter of our names to talk about who we are and what we like. She then produced a drawing of each of us according to our letters. We also worked heavily on a 1000+ piece puzzle in our down time, because puzzles are pretty awesome in my humble opinion. I didn’t get to see it completed, but I hope to see a snap shot once it is 🙂
Learning the importance of water (especially when without)
Perfect hair texture (even a week without a shower)
All the cools peeps
Taos farmers market
Caramelized walnuts – coconut oil, walnuts, maple syrup, salt
Bees wax to the rescue for dryed-out-ness
Narayan blue said he likes me so far
Gardening with Jenny
Hunt for willow in the perfect meadow along the creek
Making sage bundles with Tulsi
All the great recipes and home cooked food
The kids don’t watch TV and are never plugged-in to any device
The affects of the desert, dry cuticles, eyes, easily dehydrated, tired, high altitude heavy breathing
Freezing fingers in the mountains