My 3 Favorite Places in New Mexico

New Mexico, the land of enchantment.

Before I indulge in the land of enchantment, let me tell you a little story.

July 2011. I was working my shift at a sushi restaurant in Atlanta when I received a phone call. “LT McBride, this is your branch manager. Your active duty orders are in– you’re going to Fort Bliss, you report in 3 weeks”.

My heart dropped. First of all, THREE WEEKS? How am I supposed to gather my life in 3 weeks? Second of all, where the fuck is Fort Bliss?

El Paso.

Okay, where the fuck is El Paso?

Texas.

I had graduated and commissioned as an Army Nurse in May of 2011 and the original plan was to begin my Active Duty career in Germany in October of 2011. I was going to live the dream- work in Germany and travel through Europe. I was counting down the days to October. So you can sense my disappointment when I heard the premature news.

I arrived in El Paso during a sandstorm. Just my luck. Everything was brown, it was cold and windy, I saw a tumbleweed for the first time in my life, and the temporary hotel the Army placed me was horrid.

I must have done something shitty in the past and this is karma paying me back.

Long story short, karma eventually let up and I found my groove in El Paso. I found a nice apartment, made new friends, discovered fun bars and great restaurants. Work was challenging, but for the most part, enjoyable. Mostly because I was surrounded by bad ass coworkers. 😉

Shortly after I settled down, I had visitors. My mom, of course, and really amazing friends who would fly into EL PASO (of all places) just for me. There are limited things to do in El Paso, so I had to venture out. Lucky for us, New Mexico was just 20 minutes away and some of the sightseeing spots were ~3 hours away.

So off to the land of enchantment we headed.

First stop: Carlsbad Caverns

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The drive to the caverns was deserted, least to say. With absolutely nothing but dirt and cacti to the left and right of us for miles and miles, a giant cup of coffee is a must. We finally arrived to the caverns and thanks to my military ID card, our admission fee was omitted. Otherwise, it would cost $10 per person.

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Before entering the cave, we took in the view of New Mexico mountains. Although the scenery wasn’t green and flourishing with wildlife, there was a special charm about this place. The rocky mountains, cool breeze, dry heat from the bright sun, tough bushes scattered along the mountainside and beautiful cacti thriving in the desert environment was captivating.

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(My beautiful mother enthralled by the forbidden cactus fruits. I say ‘forbidden’ because she attempted to peal the fruit from the cactus and was attacked by their spines. I warned her not to touch the fruit, FYI.) 

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We began our descent into the dark, cold, haunting cave. Once we entered the cave, we felt the sudden temperature drop. The darkness crept up on us and our surrounding felt oddly eerie. Distant whispers from other visitors and water drops into the stagnant water above the rock formations echoed throughout the silent cave.

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We continued our descent and soon we were greeted by jaw-dropping views of exquisite limestone rock formations.

“Wow..” I exclaimed automatically at the sight of the marvelous natural wonders. With every step we encountered something alien-like. The ceiling of the cave was covered in icicle-shaped sharp rock formations. The colors of the formations ranged from yellow, to orange, to green.

The entire hike down was approximately 2km. Once we reached the bottom, we had the option of taking the elevator up to ground level or hiking back up to the top. Our lazy asses took the elevator, what else? 😉

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Second stop: White Sands National Monument 

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Quick facts:
1. White Sands comprises of 275 sq miles of white sand dunes.
2. It is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
3. There are astonishing images of the White Sands photographed from the space. (Look it up now!)
4. The weather is completely unpredictable due to the desert settings.

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We drove straight into the sand dunes and parked the car in the middle of the desert. The white sands stretched for miles and miles– we couldn’t see the end of it. We jumped out of the car and raced up the sand dune as Noah (only the cutest doggie in the world) chased us to the top. Noah was just as excited as we were. Jumping up and down, running laps around us a we wandered around the desert. The sand was so soft and fine- we rolled around in it like couple of children.

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Third stop: Ruidoso 

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Ruidoso is a quaint little town in New Mexico, mostly known for skiing/snowboarding in the winter time. However, we visited during the spring time so we ended up wandering through the cute town. There were tons of local shops filled with unique southwestern art, beautiful Native American jewelry and dream catchers, and other charming finds.

After stopping at every shop, we stumbled upon a winery called Noisy Water Winery. When we walked in, they offered wine tasting and delicious snacks. So let me tell you something— to this day (5 years later), I still remember their amazing red wine and unique green chili wine. That red wine just might be the most delicious wine I’ve ever had. I actually looked into how much it would cost to have few bottles shipped to Hawaii. Apparently, an amount I cannot afford. If anyone is cruising through Ruidoso, bring me a bottle or ten please.

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So there you have it– my three favorite places in New Mexico. Moving to El Paso ended up being a blessing in disguise. 1. I made amazing friends in EP. 2. I had the opportunity to explore New Mexico, the land of enchantment.

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