Places I Never Thought I’d Go

Does this ever happen to you? You’re traveling and you end up somewhere you never in a million years thought you’d go? I’m not talking about planned destinations. Like Prince Edward Island, for example. Or Nova Scotia. Those were definitely places that weren’t even on our radar before I moved out east, but when we did visit them, it was entirely planned. (More on those at a later date.)

What I’m talking about is when you end up in random places that you never planned to visit. It definitely happens to my family and me from time to time. We usually pause, look at each other, and say something along the lines of, “who’d have thought we’d ever be in [this location]?”

For example: Roswell, New Mexico. We didn’t stop here; we merely drove through on our way from Four Corners to Carlsbad Caverns. Nevertheless, it’s a place I never thought I’d see.  Continue reading

Fit for the Gods – Garden of the Gods, Colorado

After waving goodbye to the beauty of Great Sand Dunes, my mom and I continued making our way north back towards Montana.

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A very pretty, quaint town somewhere in Colorado. I can’t remember what it was called.

Our next stop was just outside Colorado Springs at the Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods is a large public park that is home to towering red rock formations. Its beauty is said to be “fit for the Gods,” thus how the park got its name. The geological features at Garden of the Gods are millions of years old; the shapes are a result of erosion while the color can be mostly attributed to the presence of iron in the rock. Continue reading

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado

When I say sand dunes, you probably think of a beach somewhere with mounds of sand in one direction and the vastness of the ocean in the other. But what if I said the sand dunes were in Colorado?

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located northeast of Alamosa, CO in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There’s no ocean to be found. Instead, the dunes are the result of opposing forces: erosion of the mountains due to water and weather, and the prevailing winds that blow back towards the mountains, keeping the 30-square-mile field of dunes in place. In fact, these forces are so strong that Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest dunes in North America! Continue reading

Close Encounters of the Rattlesnake Kind – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas (part II)

After the beautiful sunset the night before, we were treated to a similar splash of color upon waking. Just one of the many reasons I love the wide open spaces and big skies of the west.

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Sunrise from Pine Springs Campground – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX
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Rays of sun peek through the clouds – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

Continue reading

Everything is Bigger in Texas – Guadalupe Mountains National Park (part I)

When I think of Texas, mountains certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But there are in fact mountains there, and they’re decently large.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in west Texas, just south of the border with New Mexico and 2 hours east of El Paso. From Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, it was only about an hour drive to the easternmost entrance to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park is relatively small, and most of the land is accessible on foot or horseback only. There are more than 80 miles of trails in the park, most of which travel quite a distance into the backcountry. We stopped first at McKittrick Canyon, located in the northeast corner of the park. The entrance road ends just inside the park, and from here three trails depart. One is a short nature trail, one follows McKittrick Canyon, and the last leads to a backcountry campsite at the northern border of the park.

We hiked up McKittrick Canyon a ways, I don’t remember exactly how far. Maybe 2.5 miles? Far enough to get a good idea of what to expect in the Texas desert. I hadn’t spent any time in a desert before, so I promptly found myself surrounded by unfamiliar plants and keeping an eye out for animals I’d never encountered. Turns out everything really is bigger in Texas – the sky, the plants, the centipedes. Continue reading

A World Underground – Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns is a depiction of two very different worlds: the one above the ground, and the one down below. Up above, the sun is hot, the air is dry, and every plant and animal has to be very resilient and adaptable to survive in this niche where the Guadalupe Mountains meet the Chihuahuan Desert. And yet, plenty do. Cacti, succulents, and even a few flowers. Deer, birds, reptiles, and rodents. These species and many more call Carlsbad Caverns National Park their home. Continue reading

Left Foot New Mexico – Four Corners Monument

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember our failed attempt to visit Four Corners Monument (and if not, you can read about it here). Well as it happened, we found ourselves in the area once again the very next summer, on our way from Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. And so this time – after calling ahead to confirm that they would be open – we set off once again for Four Corners.

And lo and behold, when we arrived this time the gates were open!

Four Corners Monument is probably exactly what you’d expect. There’s a geographic marker, flags of all the states (as well as flags of the Native American Reservations between which the monument is located), and informative signs. And, of course, there’s the place where you put one limb in each state so you’re in all four at once. Or, in my case, put each hand in two states simultaneously and do a handstand in four states at the same time. It’s not my most extreme handstand ever but it might qualify as the most unique. Continue reading