That sounds like the start of a Disney movie, doesn’t it? Though I do have an itch to see the new Beauty and the Beast, this isn’t that kind of story.

After teasing about it for weeks and weeks, we have finally arrived in the New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Wel left Durango and boogied south to the stunning Jemez Mountains north of Albuquerque.

We stopped for the night at a BLM campground along the Jemez River. I had just enough time to set up my hammock before the sky erupted into one the prettiest sunsets I’ve seen. It was an auspicious start to our highly anticipated time in New Mexico.

Though our original plan was to stay near Santa Fe for a week or two, the night temperatures were too cold to keep Hobbes’ pipes from freezing. We decided to meander south, though without a real plan in mind, we were listless (and a little grumpy).

Pulled over off an exit ramp on I-25, we were searching for somewhere to land when we heard a crazy car horn right outside the van – the kind of car horn you hear in parades. I looked outside and there was another, much newer, Tiger.

We hopped out and started up a conversation with the owners. Tiger ownership comes with a great community – every other owner we’ve met have been wonderful. This couple lives in New Mexico and were headed south to visit the Trinity Site.

Trinity Site is where government detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945. It’s on the White Sands Missile Range, and is only open to the public twice a year for five hours at a time. The next day was one of those days. Serendipity had struck and though we aren’t fans of nuclear warfare, we thought it’d be an education.

So, we went. I documented the journey in an Instagram story (link) and still can’t quite wrap my head around what I saw. I stood on the site that launched massive destruction in Japan (at least 129,000 documented deaths in the blasts), as well as ushered the world into a nuclear age.

The site doesn’t mention the bombs in Japan. At all. All that death, and you wouldn’t know it from being at Trinity Site. All you’d know is that some guys (who played polo around the military buildings on the weekends) detonated a bomb powerful enough to melt the sand that swirled into the mushroom cloud, making it rain glass. Trinity was an education, but neither of us enjoyed the experience.

After Trinity Site we made our way to White Sands National Monument. Though right next to the White Sands Missile Range, the national monument was a landscape we could understand. Miles and miles of dunes formed, not of white sand, but of tiny flakes of gypsum (but who would want to go to White Gypsum Flake National Monument?).

We loved hiking in White Sands so much that we decided to snag an overnight backcountry permit and camp on the dunes. It was absolutely stunning at sunset and sunrise – two times of day impossible to see without camping because they close the entry gate. That means we were locked in overnight, but we didn’t mind too much. We’re now in a futile battle to rid Hobbes of gypsum flakes, which get into everything.

After White Sands we made our way to Las Cruces, and our first night in town (after showers!) we caught a talk by Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures. Though watching the movie or reading the book would have enhanced the presentation, I still pulled out some interesting nuggets about women of color, and women in general, in STEM fields. Also, the book was optioned for a movie before it was even written. Talk about pressure.

This week we’ve been exploring Las Cruces, and spending a lot of time on the New Mexico State campus. The campus is suprisingly welcoming: free parking, open access to the university libraries, and student-priced food everywhere.

Where to next? We’re eyeballing a loop through the Gila wilderness for excellent hiking and wide open spaces. But first, we’ll be going for the full New Mexico experience with a Garth Brooks concert this weekend. Yes, you read that right. Wish me luck.

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