The state New Mexico advertises itself as the “Land of Enchantment”. I’ve been to a lot of places where bold statements are made with little bearing on reality, however, New Mexico lives up to this epithet. And even its urbanized areas of Taos and Santa Fe ooze the beauty of its landscapes distilled by human creativity.
I must…. escape.
Escape to the places hidden from the everyday world by only a thin veil.
On our 5th visit in less than 3 years, we headed to the mountains of northern New Mexico. The drive in was late at night and, as everyone knows, midnight is a magic hour. The entrance to Cimarron Canyon State Park is guarded by a great horned owl. He signaled the way only briefly in my headlights. Miss it and you cannot enter. When we finally began to climb the mountain roads, we were greeted by deer, owl and a bear galloping down the last road to our cabin. The sky was dark and the crescent moon had set revealing a band of stars so thick that they looked like spilt milk.
A couple nights later, walking the path in front of our lodge just after dark, we saw a few elk in the beam of our flashlight. But, a surprise was hiding in the darkness. The ground shook beneath us as the few elk we saw became the sound of a hundred thundering through the high, narrow valley.
Morning comes slowly and with the glow of sunrise, the pines begin to whisper their secrets. Just after 8am, I put out the feeder and sat with warm cocoa until the hum and trill announced the arrival of the breakfast crowd of three hummingbirds. Later, little brown birds arrived for the seed on the railing.
Hiking in the mountains teaches pace and patience. It’s no fun to get to the top breathless. Too much time is wasted in recovery that is better spent soaking in the view and tasting the air. Besides, a slow gait and a friendly chat calms the neighbours. A couple of young bucks watched us hike past them, aware but unfazed. They were only frightened by a loud group further down the trail.
(see video below)
The other side of the mountains is high desert and the rift of the Rio Grande isn’t always visible. From some vantage points it appears to be a flat expanse to the other side of the valley. Then the tear appears, the road drops and the river flows gracefully between the cliffs.
When the day is done, the sun sets and casts light on only the highest places. The clouds darken and duck behind the mountains, blending with the tree tops. Puffs of pink and orange fade to a greyish blue, then indigo and everything falls silent once again waiting for the stars to begin their show. I drifted with them across the sky, and forgot about concrete for a little longer.