WAY back in May, we loaded the minivan with supplies and headed west.
I really hoped that Sand Dunes National Park would be worth the drive. It seemed to be one of the smaller national parks, but as we drove closer the the massive dune field, we were all in awe of how majestic and whimsical the dunes seemed. They were out of place at the edge of a great valley and at the foot of the mountains, and we would later be amazed at we learned about the set of circumstances keeping the dunes alive, circumstances found only in this tiny corner of the earth. The park ranger who greeted us at the visitor's center seemed thrilled that we were campers and not simply there to spend an afternoon. I'm sure the locals take advantage of Medano Creek during the spring. It's a temporary oasis in the midst of the desert climate We froze at night (40 degrees is COLD!), sweated in the sun, and generally loved every second of our time in the Dunes.
On day two, we tried out hand at sand sledding. We hiked into the dunes, sinking past our ankles as we climbed, and I wished for snow shoes to keep our feet on the surface. After each dune was conquered, we stopped to hydrate and catch our breath in the high altitudes. We finally made it to dunes worthy of sledding, and the kids zoomed down slopes steeper and longer than any I would attempt.
Too soon, we turned our backs on the Dunes and our faces toward New Mexico. New Mexico, while beautiful and unique, is truly made by its people. Native American and Hispanic, each group proud of and eager to share their heritage, meet side by side in New Mexico, and it truly feels like a different, perhaps more genuine, world.
We walked across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, drove through the beautiful turquoise trimmed Taos and through the Sangre De Cristo Mountains into the adobe world of Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is a city where all the buildings are the color of sand and mud, but it's one of the most colorful cities I've seen. Downtown is full of life, culture, art, and history. Our afternoon was spent wandering the streets, stepping into an occasional shop, and celebrating Mass at the St. Francis Cathedral.
One of my favorite parts of our trips doesn't exist in photographs. We were so blessed that Tesuque Pueblo had opened it's doors to the community while we were in Santa Fe. We left our phones and cameras behind and reveled in their Corn Dance ritual. The men and boys were painted in earth and trimmed in pine branches and fur. The women wore traditional black dresses and painted headdresses finished with soft grey feathers. One group of men dressed in more formal costume chanted the words to their prayer while the men, women, and children answered in their own chant and danced into a series of formations. We loved the little ones in their tiny moccasins and fur tails nearly dragging the ground. Some children, no older than two, danced beside their mother or father, and others made a group of children who followed the adults.
We enjoyed a children's festival at a historic Spanish settlement, and the kids were able to make adobe, spin wool into yarn, grind corn, and taste bread baked in adobe ovens.
Before we could leave the Land of Enchantment, Amos Lee twisted my arm, and we detoured though Roswell to see if we could spot an alien left over from the supposed UFO crash of the 1950's. It was ridiculous and hilarious how much the kids enjoyed the town. From the aliens painted on most of the storefronts to the UFO Museum, our 90 minute stay in Roswell was an absolute hit with the kids and my husband. I was more entertained watching them be entertained.
After a forever drive, we visited Fort Worth, Texas. We toured the Bureau of Engraving and watched the manufacture of millions of US dollars. And we wandered the Ft. Worth Stockyards, soaking up a little cowboy, complete with a little rodeo fun and longhorn cattle drive.
We returned home exhausted from our busy trip, but satisfied with how we'd spent our time. I'm so thankful that our kids were able to experience a tiny bit of the southwest's diversity. Adventuring is a different type of travel. It's effort more than ease, researching more than relaxing, and learning more than fantasizing.
I want my kids to be comfortable in foreign places as adults. I want the thought of navigating the unfamiliar to be exciting rather than terrifying. I hope that each of them continues to revel in the vastness and true beauty of God's world, seeing with the childlike excitement they did this week.