On Saturday, November 20 , I departed Taos, headed ultimately home to Chicago. By the time I reached home the following Tuesday (two days before Thanksgiving), I had passed through Denver and Kansas City. But before that, I couldn’t resist stopping for a short hike at Great Sand Dunes National Park. After all, it was only an hour and forty-five minutes from Taos. And it was on the way. Sort of. It would be the first time I ever visited a National Park by myself.Continue reading
Tag Archives: New Mexico
As soon as Sean and I knew we weren’t going to be having company for Thanksgiving, I knew I wanted to extend my time in the west by working remotely in Taos for the second half of the week after my birthday. I even knew where I wanted to stay. Sean flew home from Albuquerque on Tuesday, November 16. I spent November 17-20  up on the Taos Plateau.Continue reading
Detour: Petroglyph National Monument
Established in 1990 and co-administered by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument protects 7,236 acres of West Mesa west of Albuquerque, New Mexico and the Rio Grande. One of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in North America, more than 20,000 petroglyphs dating as far back as 5,000 years are found in the Monument.
On Tuesday, November 16 , Sean and I visited the Monument’s Boca Negra Canyon area for a morning of exploration before he flew home to Chicago.Continue reading
Interlude: Santa Fe
Sunday and Monday, November 14 and 15 , Sean and I spent exploring Santa Fe, New Mexico, a city that I had long wanted to visit and that he remembered fondly from when he had traveled there for a deposition in 2008. It was forty-eight hours of art, food, exploration, and even seeing old friends.Continue reading
Detour: Valles Caldera National Preserve
Valles Caldera National Preserve protects 89,766 acres of the volcanic Jemez mountains west of Santa Fe and the Rio Grande in north central New Mexico. It encompasses most of the gigantic caldera at the heart of the massive volcano that is the Jemez Mountains. The Preserve was established by Congress in 2000 with an experimental structure that created a trust to purchase a 95,000-acre privately held ranch. Small portions were incorporated into Bandelier National Monument and Santa Clara Pueblo. The rest was held by the trust until 2015 when it was transferred to the National Park Service.
Late in the afternoon of November 13 , Sean and I drove the twisting, somewhat frightening road from Bandelier National Monument’s Frijoles Canyon to the heart of the volcano.Continue reading
Detour: Bandelier National Monument
Established in 1916, Bandelier National Monument protects 33,677 acres of the Pajarito Plateau on the southern slopes of the volcanic Jemez mountains, located west of the Rio Grande Valley and Santa Fe in northern New Mexico. Over twenty-three thousand acres of the Monument are federally protected wilderness. But the heart of Bandelier is the thousands of Ancestral Puebloan sites scattered across the plateau and its steep canyons. Among these, the many sites in Frijoles Canyon are the most famous and dramatic. The hub of visitation in Bandalier, this canyon was where Sean and I headed for our all-too-short visit to the Monument on November 13 .Continue reading
Detour: Pecos National Historical Park
Established as a National Monument in 1965 and then expanded and reestablished as a National Historical Park in 1990, Pecos National Historical Park protects roughly 6,700 acres in three parcels at the very southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. The Park’s primary focus is protecting and interpreting the remains of Pecos Pueblo, perched above Glorieta Pass in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Glorieta Pass it the primary gateway between the Great Plains to the east and the Rio Grande Valley to the west. The Park also preserves the site of a crucial 1862 battle in the Civil War, when American troops rebuffed a Confederate attempt to expand beyond Texas into the Southwest.
On Saturday, November 13 , Pecos was the first of three National Park units near Santa Fe that Sean and I visited.Continue reading
White Sands National Park: Sunset Hike
We rounded out my birthday visit to White Sands National Park on November 12  with the 4pm Ranger-led sunset hike. It was a chance to see what this special place had to show us in terms of light, shadow, and texture. And it capped the first day of a long weekend together enjoying New Mexico.Continue reading
White Sands National Park: Dune Life Nature Trail
On the afternoon of November 12 , my birthday, Sean and I continued to explore White Sands National Park. After our hike on the Park’s longest marked trail, we wanted to see two of its other, much shorter interpretive hikes/walks in the transition areas between desert, grassland, and dunes.Continue reading
White Sands National Park: Alkali Flat Trail
White Sands National Park protects 145,762 acres of soft gypsum sand dunes and adjacent Chihuahuan Desert transition zones in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico. It was first protected as a National Monument in January 1933 in the waning days of the Hoover administration. On December 20, 2019, congress upgraded it to a National Park, increasing its total area by some 2,000 acres and making it the sixty-second of sixty-three National Parks.
Earlier plans to consider expanding the monument were ultimately subsumed into the Tularosa Basin’s military use and legacy. The Park is surrounded by White Sands Missile Range and is adjacent to Holloman Air Force Base. The Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, is about sixty miles from White Sands National Park in the northern part of the Tularosa Basin.
The deep time legacy of the place was underscored in September 2021 when researchers announced the discovery of 23,000-year-old human footprints in the Park, hard evidence that not only had humans arrived in the Americas earlier than standard textbooks claim, but they had pushed far into the interior of North America some 10,000 years earlier than the 13,000-years-ago date that had until recently been accepted by mainstream archaeology.
Truly, White Sands is a special place.
For my forty-third birthday on November 12, 2021, Sean and I spent the whole day exploring the Park, the third birthday I’ve now spent in the Chihuahuan Desert.Continue reading