|New Mexico, National Parks (Photos By Lindsay Amanda)|
Symbols of the Southwest are draped all around the state of New Mexico. To me, it was a frontier, barely explored in my worldly explorations. We landed in Albuquerque, a city that did not leave any lasting impressions. It was a basic driving day with the big event of passing through Roswell, giving me the opportunity to visit the famed International UFO Museum and "Research" Center. As much as I adored the TV show in junior high, I never imagined I would ever see it live! It was definitely a novelty to check mark off the list.
The next two days fulfilled a few destination dreams of mine. We stayed the night in Carlsbad in anticipation of a long day underground at daybreak. I had always wanted to see the caverns to pay tribute to my grandpa who helped build the roads for visitors like me to walk in the crevices and spacious rooms. He created the pathways when he was very young as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They are the same foot trails that I walk on nearly a century later.
Because I love history and knowing that I am a legacy of a great worker, I want to take a break from this story to mention a little about the CCC. It was introduced by President Teddy Roosevelt and was one of the most popular programs of his New Deal in attempts to revive America from the Great Depression. The Corps enlisted single men, ages 17-25, and paid them a mere $30 a month, $25 of which would go to ensuring their parents survival during the difficult time. I am proud to know that my grandpa's contributions to the world, both in his natural efforts as well as in his national services in WWII.
The Carlsbad Caverns was a new territory that I ventured into with open eyes and an open heart. We decided the large natural entrance was the way to go as we ventured into the depths of the cave. There were large fixtures scattered throughout the early steps that were grandiose, but not particularly extravagant. It was not until we reached the bottom that the ornaments blanketed the ceiling, floors and walls. From the finest soda straws and detailed fields of popcorn rock to the pure clarity of the mineral pools and the towering columns they stream from, it was a blessing to experience the raw, constant evolution in it all. It is a special thought to know that my lineage was represented in its presence and rugged beauty.
When I was in college, I took a class on National Parks and Monuments that showed me how "Magnificent" the world can be. Here is where I learned about a place of fantasy where bright white sand stretched for miles, restlessly sitting in the foothills of the San Andres Mountains. When I learned of the gypsum dunes, White Sands National Monument became such a romantic scene in my mind that I just had to find a way there one day. I finally did on my trip to New Mexico and I can say that it was spectacular. It looked like freshly fallen snow but was as dry as the desert where it lay. The day we arrived, there were wispy clouds on the horizon of a blue sky and it was hard to see where the textured landscape ended and the sky began. There were sporadically placed plants springing up and thriving in the desolate terrain, standing like beacons in the continuously transforming landscape.
Back on the road again, we sketched our map as we trucked on. In a quick decision we landed in a small antique town called Silver City, which was as close as we could get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. We rested in a charming historic hotel before rising with the mission of reaching the ruins. We started to climb through the Gila Forest, but were stopped shortly up the narrow highway and were advise to turn back after a light snow gained momentum. I could not remember the last time I was caught in a comparable flurry of powdery dust.
That day continued on with further road trip challenges. We set forth to Santa Fe, our final tourist destination on the trip, and found ourselves again in a light blizzard as we drove up and over a different portion of the forest. Slowly but surely, and with the help of a few friendly snowplows, we made it through the danger. As frightening as it was at times to see the ice on the frozen pavement ahead and a sheer cliff to the side of us, it was a road less traveled and more rewarding than the longer, more mundane option of winding around the mountain. It was a memory made.
After the rocky road terrain, we finally made it to the icy, yet iconic, Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was told it was an artsy town and I found it to have an old American feeling that epitomized the southwest region. In almost every storefront bushels of chili peppers were found hanging from simple adobe facades. The colors of sand and crisp blue sky were both contrasting and complementing in the day, transforming in the night into a golden glow with fiery illuminations lighting up the darkness. The layers of white snow that sat on the ledges only enhanced city's canvas by adding a touch of elegance.
Historic churches built the culture as they stood tall throughout the city. Their spirit flowed into Santa Fe's inspirational air. It was the perfect place to ring in the New Year. We walked just a few blocks, what seemed to me a mile in -1 degree weather, from our quaint B&B to an American Indian owned restaurant that had a special meal bursting with flavors. We passed a few other withered towns that seemed to be out of an old cowboy movie on our way back to Albuquerque to close out the trip. After hundreds of miles of driving, the flight home was short and sweet, and I was quickly reminded me how diverse and simply pleasant the world outside of the OC can really be.