New Mexico

New Mexico: Land of Enchantment

With New Mexico, we are visiting the fifth largest state in the United States in terms of area. It is however home to only a little more than 2 million inhabitants. This low population density becomes more and more noticeable as we head south through desert landscapes. On our way, we make a stop in Santa Fe, a colorful cultural and artistic city. Not far from the Mexican border, we then visit the White Sands National Park, the largest gypsum desert in the world.

The road to the south

Our way to the south of New Mexico leads us to Santa Fe. The state capital is known for its lively art and cultural scene. Buildings constructed in the old Spanish pueblo style are characteristic of the city’s architecture.

In the afternoon, we walk through the town center before heading to one of the most popular restaurants in the city, The Shed, to taste the regional specialties. We leave the famous tacos and burritos aside and order dishes we don’t know yet, like Posole and Tamale. We taste the red and green chilies, both of which are real classics in the regional cuisine. Before hitting the road the next morning, we are delighted to finally find a bakery with an assortment of fresh and crusty breads for breakfast.

The further south we go, the more deserted the landscape becomes. We drive endlessly on straight roads and barren landscapes that seem to get lost on the horizon. We wonder where the mountains are, because that’s where our next accommodation is, in the mountain village Cloudcroft.

Our highlights

The Shed Restaurant

Sage Bakehouse

Modern General Feed & Seed

Town center of Santa Fe

Barren Landscapes

The mountain village Cloudcroft

On the west side, we finally see the mountains where our next accommodation is located. Before heading there, we make a quick stop in the valley to go to the supermarket. As we get out of the car, we are surprised by the heat – the thermometer reads more than 40°C. This short stop is enough to melt the plastic cup left in the car. We are more than happy to spend the next few days in Cloudcroft, at an altitude of over 2600 meters, with lower temperatures.

We are however not really happy when all warning lights on the car’s dashboard start to blink only a few meters away from the Cloudcroft. The motor smells terrible and our Toyota stops. We are forced to stop on the side of the road. After many unsuccessful calls with the rental agency and roadside assistance, our hosts are very kind and save us from our interminable wait. They pick us up along with all our belongings and drive us to our accommodation.

With a few cafés and restaurants, the small village of Cloudcroft is very nice. We even find a good brewery, in a classic North American style, with a bar and a restaurant. We are surprised to learn that the area is also populated by black bears. In the evening, they like to come to the village in search of garbage and leftovers. Caution is advised, but we didn’t have the opportunity to meet any during our stay. Hiking and walking in the surrounding forest are currently prohibited: the risk of forest fires is at an extreme level, like everywhere else in the state of New Mexico.

Our highlights

Town center

Cloudcroft Brewing Co.

Forest & mountains

Lovely Airbnb

“Small” mechanical problems

We had to leave our Toyota on the side of the road before arriving in the village of Cloudcroft. Later in the evening and with the help of our hosts, we managed to bring the car to our accommodation. After countless phone calls and endless negotiations with the rental agency and the towing company, we finally find a solution: the Toyota will be towed and we’ll get a new travel companion, a Honda. It will be our faithful companion to visit White Sands National Park in the next few days.

After leaving Cloudcroft and as we drive through Las Cruces, the place from which our replacement car was delivered, a warning light blink on the dashboard of our Honda: the tire pressure is low. A check in a nearby garage reveals that one tire needs to be replaced immediately and two others very soon. With this verdict, we decide to go to the rental agency in person. It seems impossible to explain why we received a replacement car that was apparently not checked properly. Anyway, we exchange our car again. We are now introduced to a Jeep.

Based on our experiences with the agency in Las Cruces, we are not really comfortable with our new vehicle either but hit the road with it anyway. To be continued…

White Sands National Park

The highlight of our stay in New Mexico is without a doubt White Sands National Park. The world’s largest gypsum dunefield with beautiful white sand. It covers an area about the size of the canton of Jura or, for our readers who do not know the canton of Jura, about 100’000 soccer fields.

We went to the park early in the morning and took advantage of the still pleasant temperatures to go for a walk on the dunes. At the entrance of the park, the dunes are still relatively low and covered with vegetation. As we drive forward, the landscape changes little by little: the vegetation make place to white sand and the dunes get higher. The last section of the road that leads us to the trailhead is entirely covered with white sand.

To our surprise, the parking lot where our hike starts is almost empty. We happen to be alone on this huge stretch of sand and enjoy having the trail all to ourselves. Unlike Great Sand Dunes National Park we visited Park in Colorado, the dunes at White Sands are lower, the walk is really pleasant and less strenuous

Our highlights

Early morning visit of the park

Hike on the dunes

Drive on the sand

Beautiful white sand

Sunset at White Sands

We went to White Sands again for an evening visit. The sunset is fantastic. In the evening, the thermometer still reads more than 30°C, so we are even more surprised by the comfortable temperature of the sand. We walk barefoot up on one of the highest dunes nearby to have a good view of the national park. There again, we only meet a few people and enjoy the sunset in an idyllic situation.

The hour before sunset is the most beautiful. As the sun goes down little by little, the display of shadows and lights offers a unique spectacle. The shadows on the dunes create at this moment of the day the most beautiful contrasts. We enjoy those wonderful impressions and capture one or the other in photos

Our highlights

Sunset at White Sands

Display of lights & shadows

Peaceful atmosphere

Barefoot stroll on the dunes