Laura Shippey, designer with Crewcuts, was featured last year on BozAround to tell us about her family trip to Tulum…Well, from Mexico….we’re travelling together today to New Mexico where she, husband Simon and their beautiful son Noah went recently on an exciting camping / road trip. With so many clouds and so much rain still in London, I dream of immense skies and sleeping under the stars. This is so inspiring, and reminds me of the recent ‘Oeuf’ family feature with their camping car adventure in Canada….Let’s Enjoy The Great Outdoors in New Mexico with the Shippey family, it’s the perfect family vacation!
All I knew of New Mexico before I went were the photos of the arid landscapes by Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe’s desert flowers and bones and a vague notion of retired hippies! But there is a reason this area has attracted artists and writers over the years, there is definitely something in the ever changing light and dry sage scented air that is inspirational. We were looking for vast landscapes and vistas, an antedote to New York living.
…ARE WE THERE YET?
We started our trip by flying to Denver, Colorado, and driving 4 hours south to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which features the highest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet. The sand dunes themselves cover an area of around 77km2, where the sand from the Rio Grande and it’s tributaries has been pushed up into the corner of the San Luis Valley, and rests at the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountain range.
We arrived in the evening as the sun was setting and pitched our tent in the immaculate campsite situated at the base of the dunes. I had been really looking forward to the outdoor cooking and so was excited to find that every plot comes with a fire pit and grill as well as a bear locker to keep the cheeky black bears in the area out of the campers’ food!
After a delicious breakfast also cooked on the grill, we set out to climb the magnificent dunes. They take around 1-2 hours to climb up to the highest point, the scale is quite deceiving, Noah was like an intrepid explorer racing up the steep slopes whilst Simon and I huffed and puffed behind!
It’s so much like being on another planet, that NASA perform research there as it is said to be the most similar environment to that of Mars, here on Earth.
The views were spectacular from the top and we took out our kite to fly. The best fun was rolling and sliding back down to the bottom!
Also of interest nearby is the Zapata ranch, a 103,000 acre area that has Bison, Elk, Deer, and Coyote roaming through it. There are also numerous trails of varying lengths throughout the park, which is reportedly the quietest in the USA!
From there we continued driving south for another 2 hours to Taos, a small town that was built around Taos Pueblo, which is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA. We found a great house to rent through VRBO in the canyon above Taos. It was owned by a local fishing tour operator and hunter and was an eco house built in the 1980s. Simple but comfortable and filled with antlers and a stuffed bear wearing a cowboy hat that Noah found hilarious!
The town has been an artists’ community for many years, and there are some great cultural things to see, such as New York socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house, which is now a beautifully kept B’n’B. Over the years it was host to some amazing cultural figures such as Georgia O’Keefe, Aldous Huxley, DH Lawrence, Dennis Hopper and Bob Dylan.
Taos sits on a huge plateau of sage brush with the Rio Grande river cutting a deep gorge through the flat landscape. 15 minutes out of town you can cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which at 650 ft over the river offers amazing if vertiginous views down.
Further north from town, you can trek down to the bottom of the gorge at the Wild River Recreation Area, which offers 3 different trails, all fairly easy, down and alongside the river..The air smells incredible, a mix of the pinion pines and sage brush . There are eagles, hummingbirds and all sorts of finches flying around and in August the river is low enough to bathe in. There are also natural hot springs beside the river which are glorious spots to float in. (They were even featured in Easy Rider.)
Also near the bridge is a community of ‘Earth Ships”, sustainable homes made of recycled materials including car tyres and glass bottles that use passive solar energy and water recycling systems. They are pretty extraordinary and look like Hobbit’s houses. There is an information centre which shows how they’re built and where you can see vegetables growing in the water filtration system. It is also possible to rent them out and stay overnight.
On our last day we visited The Ghost Ranch, a 21.000 acre retreat and education center, where the artist Georgia O’Keefe lived in her final years, and painted many of the spectacular landscapes there. To spark kids’ imaginations, it was also where the opening sequence of one of the Indiana Jones movies was filmed and we thought the landscape looks similar to that in the Pixar movie “Cars”! There are some incredible trails to take around the area with breathtaking panoramas of desert, rock formations and butes. If the trails are too much, (it can get hot in summer) there’s a small museum of Dinosaur fossils found nearby.
We mostly cooked for ourselves on the grill at the house. The owner of the house brought us Elk steaks one evening which were utterly delicious! We got most of our produce from Cid’s organic supermarket in Taos. It has the most delicious selection of all things organic and wholesome. We discovered some pretty addictive elk Jerky! Plus I could stare all day at the notice board in the entrance with notes advertising all things alternative, from yoga to healers to solar panels!
Also, The Love Apple: Famous for seasonal organic and locally grown food. Beautiful simple interior and relaxed atmosphere.
Pizza Out Back: Tasty thick based pizza with hundreds of fresh topping combinations, great for kids.
We booked our house through www.VRBO.com but there are also a couple of notable Inns/ B&Bs:
Mabel Dodge House offers reasonably priced beautiful rooms.
Hacienda del Sol our friends stayed here and loved it.
Ps: did you know that J.Crew for kids aka Crewcuts has started shipping outside of the USA? Yes! And they sell a beautiful pair of little minnetonkas for girls which would be the perfect matching shoes to a trip to New Mexico…hehehe…I got a pair for Amalya this spring..getting one step closer to this amazing NM road trip. Thank you Laura!