Wildway never misses a chance for adventure. Read about Wildway Marketing Coordinator Emery Elliott's wild road trip through New Mexico.
"Where are we?" "What is that?" "Are we even on earth right now?" "No way is this real."
These were phrases uttered repeatedly on a 4 day road trip through New Mexico and thoughts I'll continue to ponder as I return to reality. At 11 pm on a Thursday night, I picked up my 3 best friends and hit the road headed west for an adventure. Here's our story:
After throwing our packs, tents, and YETI cooler full of beer in the back of my truck named Trip, we were on our way- coffee in hand and Ira Wolf on the radio. We had 12 hours and 757 miles to cover and plenty of beef jerky and Wildway granola to get us there. Our ultimate destination: Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
All road trips across Texas are long. New Mexico is our next door neighbor, but it's 8 hours before we see the "You are now leaving Texas" sign. Almost immediately, the speed limits went from 85 mph to 65 mph and the temperature dropped from 100 to 80. Welcome to the Land of Enchantment.
Our first stop: Roswell, NM. The so-called capital of alien activity and home to a supposed UFO crash in the 1940's. We came from Austin, where we keep things weird, so it felt fitting to stop for breakfast in the strange settlement of Roswell. After a coffee at the Alien Cafe and a quick look at the UFO Museum, we were back on the road, already puzzled and perplexed.
Next stop: Albuquerque, NM. We had to pick up an additional adventurer at the airport, but first we took a "vagabond shower" and brushed our teeth in a parking lot- a comical sight that got a lot of honks and hollers from passer-by's. After some more coffee and a downtown stroll, we grabbed our friend from the airport and got back on the road. We had somewhere to be...
First destination: Jemez Springs Recreational Area
Nestled in the backcountry of Santa Fe National Forest, is a vast and beautiful stretch of untouched and untamed land that hides natural hot springs, waterfalls, and more. It's unknown and underappreciated, making it our ideal spot.
We drove 15 miles up into the wilderness, on an unpaved road that only vehicles with 4WD and proper suspension could handle, until we reached a ridge that looked out over a valley with a creek running through it. We knew there was no one and nothing else around for miles and that's exactly how we wanted it. The cool thing about National Forest land is that there are no designated camp sites or restricted areas... You can pitch a tent wherever your wild heart desires. So, that's what we did. We staked our tents down and made our temporary claim on this little piece of New Mexico for the weekend.
Then, we set out for the next thing on our list: Jemez Hot Springs
Like the trek to our campsite, getting to the springs was no easy task. We had to study the map, determine where we were in relation to the springs, and then just set out in a general direction, paving our own trail through the pines. We hiked down the ridge on which we were camped until we hit the creek, then followed that to a crossing, where we hiked halfway up the ridge on the other side, following the water flowing down the hill, noticing it getting warmer and warmer, and smelling more and more like sulfur. We felt like Bear Grylls, not gonna lie.
We finally stumbled upon a stunning and steaming set of spring pools- a welcomed sight after our 3 mile journey through the woods. We grabbed a couple of ciders and hopped in for a soul-quenching soak. We stayed there until the sun went down behind the mountains and the stars came out above us, enjoying the magical water and company of good friends.
Before we knew it, it was midnight and we remembered we had an unmarked hike back to our camp. So, we dried off as best we could, turned on our headlamps, and set out in the darkness. A couple falls, scratches, and lots of laughs later, we made it back to our spot. Now, that's what you call "primitive hot springs."
The next couple of days were spent exploring the Santa Fe National Forest, finding more hidden springs and a couple of waterfalls, sitting around the campfire, playing cards, drinking beer, snacking on Wildway, and having a blast.
We woke up to incredible views from our tents, boiled coffee over the fire, and watched the sun come up over the hills. We enjoyed every moment we had in our secluded spot and hoped the world never found out about it.
On Sunday, we packed up and made the long, rough drive back down and out of the National Forest. Our next destination: White Sands National Monument.
If you're not familiar with White Sands, look it up and you'll see why it was a must-see on our trip.
As we were getting close to the entrance, we had our doubts. Everywhere we looked was just desert and desolation- no white sand in sight. However, when we turned into the park and continued down Dune Drive, we were transported to a different planet. Scratch that- it was like going to the moon. This place was out-of-this-world, unbelievable, breathtaking, and so many other words that still don't do it justice.
After driving a couple miles, we couldn't stand it any longer. We had to pull over and get out on those dunes that looked more like powdered sugar than sand. We took off our Chacos and went running into the immense and unexplained beauty of White Sands National Monument.
We spent hours wandering around in that strange desert. Jumping from one hill to the next, burying ourselves in the impossibly soft sand, and watching the sun set behind the distant mountain range. We stayed until they kicked us out, then we drove slowly out of the park and back to earth.
The next day, we made the 11 hour drive back to Austin, tired and ready for a shower. We came back with 2 disposable cameras ready to be developed and lots of stories to share. Land of Enchantment, indeed.
Here's to living wild and always looking for the next adventure.
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