Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Mexico: Land of Summer Storms!


We got on the road in the late morn from Ganado, AZ, about an hour from the New Mexico border. Kavi went immediately to sleep as we drove through more red rock and scrubby terrain of the reservation land. As had become our norm, we stuck to highways and a random route, which this time led us to Chaco Canyon--yay!! Upon arriving at the crossroads to the park entry, we took a moment to decide if this was to be a stop for us, mainly because the road leading in was 20 miles of washboard. A slow trek in our ride. We were quick to decide that certainly this was a worthwhile trek, though we would need to stop sooner to eat. We started the bumpy drive and kept on until we found a scenic spot, though shade was not an option. After refueling our bodies, we continued towards our goal. Thankfully, we were able to drive much of the road at a higher speed than expected and we arrived just before the visitor center closed. There were campsites avail and still a few hours til gates were closed to the 9 mile loop of many trails to the various ruins. We drove a couple miles in, to the largest set of ruins and explored in and around the structures and rocks for the next hour or so. It was an ideal spot--all of us getting a good walk and a satisfying exploration of a beautiful, magical place. 

Kavi had recently taken an interest in signs, asking, "what's that sigh-yin says?" anytime he saw one. Sometimes that's every other moment and can get a bit tiresome. The fortunate side effect is that he tends to honor what the signs say when the information pertains to him. This was super helpful on the trail as he is an avid climber and climbing on the walls was not an acceptable activity amongst these sacred, crumbling structures. So anytime he started making a move to go up a wall or off a trail, I reminded him of the signs and their request for cooperation and respect of this special place. 
We settled into a campsite for a simple meal while watching the sunset. As we were cleaning up, a family pulled into the next spot over. The youngest turned out to be a 6 year old boy, who Kavi immediately took a liking to and quickly abandoned our site to be with him. He "helped" set up their tent and ran around giggling until we retrieved him to read stories and head to bed. It was a cool night with a sky full of stars. We all slept well. 
In the morning we hiked one of the backcountry trails, climbing high up the red rocks to a panoramic view of the hub of the long-gone city. It was a fun trail (the most diverse we’ve been on since Kavi), with lovely desert wildflowers, small remnants of the lost culture and more ruins. Kavi hiked a fair amount of the trail on his own (his endurance is building!), though asked to be carried much of the return trip and fell asleep on my back about 15 minutes before we reached the camper. Thankfully, he transferred into his seat with only a short waking squawk before returning to slumber. Then it was goodbye to the rich lands. 
Andres--going up!
Kavi & me--going down!
 Within a couple hours, it was goodbye to the red rocks as we drove into the pine forests, landing in Santa Fe National Park, just beyond Cuba, NM. We found a remote spot on a forest road with no one around. Such a great camping spot! Lots of trees, flowers, grassy areas and little paths to explore. After setting up, we hiked around a bit, had a nice meal outside (so few bugs!) and played games as the sun went down. The next morning Kavi and I did more exploring while papa cooked breakfast. After eating, we all went out together, taking in the wild flowers, climbing rocks and following paths to their endpoints. Then it was back on the road! 
  Next stop, Santa Fe, to visit dear friends Jon & Amanda and our first meeting with their 2.5 year old son, Manu. Kavi & Manu were both excited about the visit. We planned to arrive a day earlier and both boys had been disappointed by the delay. Upon meeting, they went straight into playing with trucks! Manu has a great collection of small cars and trucks as well as a sandbox out back with bigger trucks to haul dirt and push around. Push around cars and trucks is what these two did a majority of the time--though not always cooperatively! Their initial excitement about one another eventually turned into what looked more like sibling rivalry. Kavi spent a bit of time in an aggressor role, screaming at and biting Manu when he was frustrated (which was often just at the sight of Manu playing with his own toys!). Still, there were many sweet moments together. Times of gentle wrestling, chasing each other around, riding bikes and eating popsicles. 
Manu's collection. Photo by Andres Amador
 We visited Amanda's childhood home on the beautiful land where her parents still live. After a big walk around and creek exploration, Andres pushed Kavi around for a nap walk, giving me space to take a much needed snooze. As I was dozing off, it began to sprinkle. About an hour later, I was awakened by such a big thunder clap and immediately jumped up and ran downstairs. The rain and wind had picked up and I got some notion that there could be a flash flood and perhaps we needed to head out before we got stuck out there! Seems I should have stayed in bed. Amanda's mom giggled at the notion and said there would hardly be enough rain to wet the ground. Oh well. Was nice watching the storm go by. 
Family time on the land--tough to get a good candid group photo!
The next day was a slow, stormy, snuggly, sick day. Kavi spent much of the day in arms-around-mama's-neck position. Feverish and listless, he was needing closeness and comfort above all else. I felt tender hearted witnessing his sad eyes and slumped body, doing my best to stay out of worry mode (a state I've become more acquainted with in my role as parent). While knowing he is strong and healthy, thoughts still niggled in... "what if it's this illness or that disease?", even if unlikely. The slow-moving day offered me much time for reflection and wondering. What I came to at the end of the day was admiration, respect and love for all the parents who have nursed a child in extreme or ongoing illness, injury or disability. What strength, patience and overall resources that must take. *Sending a prayer to all the littles and their caretakers for health, well being and peace in your hearts.*
And the next day, Kavi was back up and running! And he and Manu were back at their sibling-like antics. It was quite the juxtaposition after the day of tenderness and nurturing, now returned to the toddler terrain that solidified my stance at sticking with a family of three! Ok, aside from whatever kid drama transpired, we had a lovely visit with the family--it was so filling to catch up with dear friends we haven't seen for a few years, to rest in their beautiful home, to share delicious home-cooked meals, to feel each other from where we are now in our lives. Thank you, Oda family, for welcoming us in so fully!
The day we left, we decided to have one more town adventure, per the suggestion of Amanda. So we headed out early and made our way to Meow Wolf. What a trip!! It's an interactive mystery/art exploration in a giant transformed warehouse and it is captivating! Kavi got a kick out of the place as well, though we couldn't really explore in the way we might choose to if kid-free, so the experience was a bit of a tease. Still, one I highly recommend if you're in Santa Fe! 
Giant robot outside Meow Wolf

We stayed a couple nights at a campground just outside of town, then made our way to Taos. I had some romantic vision of what our time there would be. That did not manifest. My last visit to Taos was 17 years ago while on a cross-country journey with a dear friend. A very different adventure traveling as a single woman without any responsibilities or agenda. Both the town and I had changed much since that time. On top of it, Kavi was in a spell of really pushing boundaries, big testing going on! Fortunately, my patience was growing and I was in a spell of seeing the bigger arc of things, which meant more would slide off of me without getting me stuck in some funk. (Part of this patience cultivation was due to the support of a podcast I began listening to on respectful parenting--Unruffled.) Since the town thang wasn't working out, we went back to the ol' reliable nature thang. We drove a short way out of town to a gravel road that became a dirt road that grew ever more bumpy the further we drove. Our goal was a hot springs that came highly recommended. Cell reception was spotty and our map was not working reliably. The overcast sky began to let down its cache of water in tiny little droplets. We came to a part of the road that was just not passable for our vehicle. A short backtrack and we found another dirt road to follow. Our electronic map came online again as the sprinkles gave way to rain. We held out hope that we would soon be soaking (how lovely it would be in this weather!). We were only a couple miles out from the springs when we came upon another questionable spot in the road. As we were deliberating our choices, a car pulled alongside us asking if we were headed to the springs. Yes. Did we have 4wd? No. Best not try it then. Hmmmmmm. No hot springs for us this time. 
Random rainy roadside silliness
As it was 4th of July weekend and town was bustling with visitors, we decided against driving out to a campground that would likely be full. Alas, we ended up in Walmart parking lot (!). This was certainly not my vision of time in Taos. However, we did meet a couple friendly long-time rv-ers that were good company for a bit before heading inside for the night, sharing worthwhile places to check out and  they confirmed that campgrounds would be full for the weekend (which made our decision more palatable). It rained much of the night. Next morning we packed up quickly, with the goal of getting a bigger hike in before putting in any miles of driving. We ended up at Kit Carson State Park. It was sprinkling as we parked and looked as if the weather could turn. We opted for raincoats and the chance to see a new place. But before we even made it out of the parking lot, Kavi fell apart. On cue, the rain started up. We decided to move on. 
We followed Hwy 64 to Cimmaron Canyon State Park. Yet another gorgeous area--tall, tall pines and amazing rock formations. We stopped sooner than we planned to as the place intrigued us enough to want to stay and explore. 
We scored the last remaining spot in a large campground that sported a small, stocked reservoir and was full of families, American flags and fishing poles. While it wasn't a place we would typically camp, there were no fireworks allowed (!!) and there were trails close by. After setting up, we set out for our first adventure with a recommendation from the camp host. It seems we must have taken a wrong turn at some point as the trail became unclear and then we encountered lots of little spurs that didn't really go anywhere. So, we took to exploring the rocky areas. Our main draw to this region was the formations we saw from the highway. Sadly, those didn't seem accessible from the trails, but we still found some interesting spots.  
 It was an uneventful evening and surprisingly quiet night considering how many people were filling the campground. We left early the next day to get in another hike, which turned out to be less interesting than the first one, though we did have a nice view from the top of the mountain we climbed... 
Once back on the road, we rambled this way and that and ended up at Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico--which was more understated than the last few camping spots, but quite lovely and serene. It was a great place to ride bikes, which we did right away. We rode around the whole camping village (which was nearly empty, surprisingly), then hiked the short Dinosaur Trail that boasted fossilized dinosaur tracks!
Looking out towards dino tracks. Couldn't capture good pic, so snapped this lovely instead. :-)
As we returned to camp, a light sprinkle and the sun both began their descent. Ominous clouds loomed over the distant hills. We three were a bit crabby (a common occurrence amongst the sleep-deprived) and bickered a bit. The sprinkle turned to rain which quickly turned into a BIG storm!! This quieted our little storm as we were captured by the intensity and beauty of what was all around. 
In the morning we took another bike ride to a lovely nature trail and skipped rocks in the reservoir. Then we packed, showered up and drove off. Goodbye, New Mexico and thank you for sharing your beauty!
Family photo shoot!! :-)

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