So this past week we took a family trip to exciting New Mexico.
You may wonder what drew us to New Mexico and the answer is simple. There was a condo from the list of those we could choose from that fit eight people there (thanks Mom and Dad for letting us swap your time share week so we could head off on an adventure).
New Mexico here we come!
The drive was about 14 hours total from Salt Lake City, Utah to Ruidoso, New Mexico and my rule of thumb is any drive over 10 hours earns an overnight stop to rest. So, we schlepped along for 7 1/2 hours that first day and then bedded down for the night in Farmington, New Mexico (thanks Hotwire for a great deal on a hotel).
So after 6 more hours in the car we landed at our condo at the peak of a mountain in Ruidoso. It was FABULOUS! We stayed at Crown Point Condominiums and it was a perfect fit for our family.
|Exciting living area.|
|Exciting kitchen/dining area.|
|Nice, big, exciting deck.|
|Incredible view from the deck. The forest was literally just feet away.|
|Aubrey and Ellie's bedroom.|
|Gavin and Logan's bedroom.|
|Master bedroom (someday we HAVE to work an en suite bathroom into our house at home).|
The condo was very spacious (we've stayed in many and this one didn't feel tight like some do). The one downside was that there was no air conditioning in the unit. However, since the hot day while we were there was a whopping 81 degrees, as long as we left the windows open and the fans going the temperature was lovely.
Now, the drive to Ruidoso was not actually my favorite ever. While we loved, seriously LOVED, the areas we explored, much of New Mexico seems to be coated with unobstructed miles upon miles of parched dessert nothingness. Now, I'm from Utah and we have dessert here. Our desserts are a lush arena of loveliness compared to these desserts. In fact, one day we took a drive from Ruidoso to Roswell (seriously, how can you pass on a trip to Alienville USA when it is so close) and that drive left us parched as we stared out the window at NOTHING as far as the eye could see (except vultures...for real).
Anyway, Ruidoso was a beautiful little resort town and we loved it there. We were greeted on our arrival by a couple of elk grazing on the side of the road. It was rustic and wonderful. I honestly thought the town was great.
Anyway, after getting settled and sleeping off the first night we got to the good stuff.
Our first adventure took us to the Valley of Fire. This is a lovely, hardened lava flow in the middle of the dessert. While there was a great trail we could wander and read signs about plant life, animal species and lava facts we were also encouraged to climb all over the flow and explore the cracks and crevices.
So we did!
I am a lover of geology and this excursion was right up my alley, and it let the kids climb and wander and explore so it was great for everyone. The only real problem was that course black rock is not super nice to skin on a hot, summer day (this was down in the valley not our mountain retreat so temps were much higher).
We came home to relax after our day in the heat. But, as Aubrey went out on the balcony the quickly scuttled back inside and called us all out to glimpse our newest neighbor.
It was a bear. He was beautiful and we were thrilled to see him. Josh and I had a more personal introduction a few days later when he woke us up by chomping on something from a garbage bag near our front door. It was pretty awesome.
One major part of our trip was the condo pool. It was a great way for us to relax and cool off after our outdoor exploits.
(Plus, as an added bonus, it helped wear our kids out more so they slept well each night...and we got to enjoy the hot tub so it was a win win.)
As a side note, it rained every single day we were there, but it was never a problem. The amazing part was that we could watch the clouds roll in and slowly swallow the mountains across from us. It was beautiful. We also got to watch a couple lightning storms and that was pretty incredible as well.
On with the show.
I mentioned our desolate and possibly death defying drive to Roswell. Sadly, no one from our group was abducted by aliens so our stories are not as thrilling as they might have been. But, we still had fun.
We also visited the Billy the Kid Museum (that was back in Ruidoso). We learned a lot about the guy, it was interesting.
Then we visited the Museum of the American West. There was a lot to see and we enjoyed that as well (we do love museums...except Ellie...she generally complains about fake stomach aches and Josh and I tag team trying to keep her from fussing too much.) We do, however, tend to make museum curators nervous (six kids under 13 around priceless antiques -- yeah, I get it) and on this trip one particular gentleman discreetly followed us around the whole time (he seemed to try to sort of hide but was never very far away). I think he was relieved when we finally left. Poor guy, he may have hyperventilated if we had stayed longer.
All the boys LOOOVED the dozens of firearm displays. They all look like guns to me. Whatever.
Thankfully, this place had a great kids area where our sprites could enjoy some hands on fun and that spot was definitely the favorite (except for Bryce who is 13 now and is waaay too mature for things like that).
|Parker the Kid.|
|Ellie and Logan all dressed up and cooking.|
|Josh and I, very posh!|
|Aubrey. Ride em cowgirl!|
|Pretty cool mining display.|
|Off for a picnic.|
And what would the west be without horses. I really do love horses and these gigantic statues were fabulous. Ellie, in particular, loved them like I did.
Our next journey took us to Three Rivers Petroglyph area. This place was rockin'! (he he, cause there are rocks...get it?)
This two is mile trail wanders up a hill and is surrounded on both sides by hundreds of ancient petroglyphs. The Ranger on call told us to wander the whole hillside and get hands on with the petroglyphs and we had an amazing afternoon. It was super cool. What a great way to spend a day.
|Do these things look cool or what?|
I told you it rained every day we were there. It also hailed two days.
And -- mean mom that I am -- I dared my kids to run out onto the balcony to be pummeled by frozen balls of pain. Parker and Bryce both braved the weather and we all got a good laugh as we cheered them on.
Well, after our near death and hail experience, we set off on another epic day trip. We journeyed to White Sands National Monument. It was incredible. I have never seen anything like it. Rolling dunes of super fine, bleached sand stretch as far as you can see. It is beautiful and amazing. We ended up with shoes full of sand (although it really is very fine so it didn't grate on your feet like normal sand), a car full of sand, clothes covered in sand and sand in all of our unmentionables as well (that might not have been quite so friendly).
The point is, the place was GREAT!
|Gavin and Logan lovin' on each other on the top of a dune.|
|Josh and I enjoying one of the dunes with a bit of life. These trees grow down more than 40 feet below the dune but only stretch a few feet tall on top of the sand.|
|Some of the dessert life -- can you see the lizard in this picture?|
|If you can't see the lizard in this picture you might should have your eyes checked...but he's pretty so I thought I'd show him off.|
Anyway, we explored the sand on foot but then we also did some wicked sliding on the dunes using snow sleds.
|On top of the dune ready to slip slide away.|
|Logan sliding on the sand.|
Having spent time on sand dunes before (Utah girl, remember) I talked Parker into some leaps from the peak of the dunes into the soft sand below.
We even got Josh in on the action.
On the way home from our trip to the dunes we also made a stop at a pistachio farm where we got to see the little pistachio trees and sample some of the goods and even get a picture with the worlds largest pistachio.
Our final day trip took us to the Lincoln national forest. Did you know that Smokey the Bear was a real bear and his persona originated following a fire in this very forest many years ago (a bear cub was orphaned and adopted by fire fighters and named Smokey and became the safety mascot we all know today).
Anyway, as we were driving up to the area we wanted to find we came across this clutch of vultures hanging out together. We had seen several single vultures during our trip, but there were 10-12 in this tree (although you can only clearly see 5 of them here). It was sort of freaky. We worried that death was in our forecast (ok, we didn't really, but it sounds more dramatic that way).
The road was closed, but friendly Rangers at the station where we stopped to check things out had told us we could walk to our destination which was Monjeau Lookout located on the tippy top of the forest. This is an old fire lookout and you can literally see every piece of the valleys on every side of the mountains from this spot. It is awe inspiring.
|Ellie called it a castle and I can't really say she is wrong.|
The surrounding forests have been devastated by major fires the last couple summers and it was sad to see the skeletal forest rolling over the hills, but there was something peaceful and beautiful about it as well. We climbed on rocks and explored the "castle" and just had a great time. It really was an remarkable and memorable place.
|Exploring the rocks...which ended in a steep drop off that you can't see.|
|The fam. Yup, the kids are all in flag shirts, it was how we celebrated the 4th of July. Because of the fires there were no fireworks allowed so we had to make our own excitement.|
|A little piece of the damage done by fire.|
|Josh and G.|
|Bryce and Parker by the remains of a huge tree.|
And all too soon it was time to head for home (actually not really too soon, usually a week away is perfect for me, by then I am satisfied with vacation and ready to return to real life at home).
We waved to the water wheel as we headed out of town (apparently it is an important part of their history but we never could find anything to tell us why they love it so much).
We were glad for the chance to get away for a minute or two and create some memories that will hopefully stick with our little ones forever after. I love spending time with these people (and this people with me right here is my very favorite).
Thanks, New Mexico for sharing your wonders and beauties with us (even if I don't particularly appreciate your more barren areas). We loved it all and are so grateful for the chance to explore and discover and learn and play.
What a fabulous vacation.
|The whole crew on our back porch.|
|Yeah, now that looks a little more natural. Gotta love these nut jobs!|