Our week has ended, the group has returned home to Yangon, and here I sit in the Denver airport. I’m bringing my parents to New Mexico for a few days, but we ended up on separate flights, and mine is delayed. They should be touching down in ABQ as I wait another three hours.
So, then. I’d love to give you a glimpse of last week, but that is not technologically possible right here, right now. Later this week, I will. But right now I can take you through a little camping trip we took at the start of September.
We packed the Camry, loaded the cooler, and strapped our bikes to the back.
We chose a convenient base at Valley of Fires*, one of the country’s youngest lava flows. Cacti and desert critters live in and among a carpet of black rock.
At night, the sky looms large and the campground offers vast vistas of White Sands and the mountains surrounding Capitan and Lincoln to the east.
People frequently call the desert empty or barren, but I’ve never understood those terms. There is so much life in these lands.
It blooms and grows in magnificent colors, and shapes that remind me of the creatures found on an ocean floor.
Plump tunas, we have above: lush and thick with juice. The cacti in our yard are producing similar fruits. Next year, I hope to harvest them.
We spent three days exploring the home of Smokey Bear and the little town of Lincoln, where Billy the Kid made his famous getaway.
One balmy night while cycling between those two towns, we discovered Laughing Sheep Farm, an organic sanctuary on the river, adjacent the Serendip Orchard. We returned after our ride and walked away from the little farm store, our arms full of hot jalapenos, the most delicious homemade raspberry chile jam, a pound of grass-fed ground beef and oodles of juicy blackberries, picked on site that afternoon. Blackberries! In New Mexico! Half the stash disappeared by the time we reached our camp site; the rest we ate with yogurt for breakfast the next morning. And the next night, we fried up thick jalapeno/garlic/onion burgers on our little camp stove and smothered the fresh beef in cheese. We declared those burgers among the best we’ve ever had.
That night, we spent farther south at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park*, at the site of an old ranch estate on the edge of an incredible canyon. The hills here are covered in ocotillo, lovely while green with leaves. Had time allowed, I would have hiked the entire Dog Canyon Trail, with its steep climbs and stellar views. As it was, we ventured a few miles up, rising 600 feet within the first half-mile. It was enough of an energy expenditure to warrant a stop at Phat Phil’s on our way through Alamogordo. I don’t agree with the man’s politics, but he makes a fine and tasty pulled pork!
*Just for the record, I love, love, love New Mexico’s BLM and state park campgrounds. They make car camping a breeze. For $10 to $12 a night, you get a tent site with water and nearby bathrooms with hot showers! Perhaps at an earlier age I dealt better with no-shower camping. But I’m older now, and I really enjoy a good rinse after a long ride or strenuous hike.