Trip Recap: Santa Fe, New Mexico
A few weeks ago we trodded up the stairs to our apartment, dizzy, slightly delirious, and ever so glad to be home after 10 days away. The road trip that we spent endless hours planning and budgeting for had arrived, taken us by surprise, and then, like these things always do, spit us out back at home.
We had spent over 50 hours in the car, driven nearly 3,500 miles, and drank almost two cases of LaCroix (#Millennials).
The trip started with Santa Fe, New Mexico.
To say that Santa Fe and the entirety of New Mexico took us by surprise is a complete understatement. We love the outdoors, walks in the woods, hikes that trickle sweat down the crease of the back, but we weren’t prepared for the desolate desert beauty of New Mexico that tripped us up, over into love with a landscape we’d never experienced before.
It’s a land that feels lonely and forlorn even as it pushes forward, puffing its chest with bright bursts of green.
As soon as we crossed over into New Mexico from Oklahoma, we were stunned into silence. We couldn’t wait to get out and explore the land.
On our first full day, we drove up into the Sangre De Cristo mountains for a morning hike, never once giving thought to the high altitude. Five minutes in, I was bent over, gasping. While I prepared to lay down and die, J carved our initials into a tree because every marriage needs a little balance.
It was the most strenuous hike of our trip and I still sometimes can’t believe I kept going. After about two hours and an elevation of 10,000 feet, we stopped to take some photos, drink some water, and start the trek back down. Jack (our pup) took every chance he got to flop down into the snow and refuse to get up. If other hikers hadn’t been passing us, I very well may have joined.
Throughout the hike, we stopped at ice cold streams of still melting snow to wash our hot faces, and that jolt of cold water paired with the thin mountain air was enough to make persevering through the pain worth it.
That night, we capped off our first day with a sunset at Cross of the Martyrs in Old Fort Marcy Park.
The ache I kept feeling as we walked, hiked, and explored New Mexico grew as we read through the plaques in the park, detailing the history surrounding the erection of Fort Marcy, the first U.S. military base in the Southwest.
So much of the history that I learned in school was taught with a slant. The colonization and wars and expansion were displayed as a means to end and that end—the American dream—was often taught as inherently good. But our history is ugly and full of evil and if you pay close enough attention, the land, still carrying the stain our sins, will tell you the truth.
On our second day, we traveled north to Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch where we hiked up to Chimney Rock.
I have a long-standing fear of edges and heights and hiking up the side of Chimney Rock with its deep ravines cutting right down our side fiercely combined the two, and once again I was sure that I’d meet my death on a trail. J, on the other hand, sought out the edges and heights.
On our way back, we took a detour off the main road, bumped down a gravel road for 20 minutes until we got to another gravel driveway, bumped down that for another few minutes and arrived at Plaza Blanca.
By far, this was the highlight of our time in New Mexico. Being so far removed from civilization and the only visitors at the plaza that day, the air sat so still and so silent that it actually rang.
This place felt holy and sacred, and we each wandered off on our own for a few minutes to let the heavy weight of reverence sink in.
I’ve been confused about God for some time now, unsure of what to make of faith. Disappointments with the Church and Christianity kept building and mounding and pushing at my seams until we moved to Wisconsin and it all burst free. I’ve spent the last 10 months deconstructing, taking my faith apart bit by bit to analyze where each one came from, why it became a part of me, and the impact that it’s had. I’ve mostly felt sad, sometimes angry, always lonely as I’ve finally let myself acknowledge that perhaps faith as I knew it wasn’t complete.
And a small piece of healing, a bit of reconstruction stirred when I stood before those white rocks and let the holiness of that land wash over me without questioning it, without fearing or limiting it.
On our drive back, wind from open windows drying our sweat and plateau mountains pulling forward to our right, J said, “I think this is the most we’ve experienced God recently.”
I couldn’t stop crying.
God, the divine, the holy and the sacred is far more vast than any of us could ever hope to understand in a single lifetime, and I’m learning to rest in that uncertainty, to lean into my doubt, to not mock the divine weight that fell on me in the midst of those white rocks in New Mexico.