Winter doldrums got you down?
Nothing a quick hit of the southwest can’t fix.
It was December and we landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rather than shoot north to Santa Fe and Taos – we’ve been and I highly recommend – our wanderlust lead us to the southeast region of the state. A bit more remote and off the beaten trail, yes. But three unexplored treasures awaited. And they would not disappoint.
Though Barbary sheep are considered an invasive species of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, it was a thrill to see a herd grazing just off the road when we pulled in. Myhusband andI soon descended 800 feet into the publicly available cave via foot — an elevator is also available — where we traversed and explored about three miles of paved trail within; to say it was otherworldly would be an understatement. We saw no bats — they fly south for the winter — but we saw stalactites and stalagmites of an enormous scale as we explored the Big Room, described by the National Park Service as the “largest single cave chamber by volume in North America.”
The following day, we dipped into western Texas to spend a day hiking at the glorious Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We didn’t come across any bears but spotted a pack of javelinas rummaging from a relatively short distance — they can be aggressive so we didn’t linger.
We cruised the backcountry roads of N.M. to our third and final destination on day three: White Sands National Monument. En route, we stumbled upon Runyan Ranches, a random find that brought smiles and joy as we proceeded to meet Wallace the water buffalo; a kind farm-hand named Adam; a baby kangaroo and a wallaby, among others.
When hiking five miles at White Sands National Monument, you keep your eye on the markers periodically staked throughout the seemingly endless stretch of dunes; 275 square miles of gypsum sand. And you don’t forget your sunglasses, which my husband did. Fortunately, a kind stranger offered him an extra pair. And if you have a sled, bonus!
Photos and text by Elizabeth Nida Obert
Freelance writer and photographer Elizabeth Nida Obert, a former newspaper staff photographer for 18 years, has degrees in both and is passionate about telling stories in words and pictures. She thrives on travel and adventure and is always looking forward to where the next open road – or door – will lead.