One More Time to the Newest Mexico

Dear friends and family,

Well I blew right past my 21 January deadline, huh? Ah well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So the adventures continue! With one more dip into the mountain west:

Well, not exactly your normal mountains. These are the 700’+ dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park. They’re like mountains, just made of sand 🙂

And holy shit were they big dunes. I’ve seen more than my fair share of dunes at Sleeping Bear, Silver Lake, heck even in Kiptopeke State Park in Virginia, but these are, in fact, the biggest dunes I’ve ever seen:

Great Sand Dunes is a nice little oddity in southern Colorado, and I highly recommend seeing it. It’s one of those rarities in the park system where you can run and play around literally anywhere. Nothing is protected because nothing lives there, nothing is off-trail because all the trails are blown away in the wind. There’s nothing to do but to climb every peak higher and higher and then:


Yeah babyyyyy!!!!!!! Plunge back down the dune in full leaping bounds until you faceplant and somersault and get sand in every known corner of your clothes Yeeeeeeeaaaaahhhh!!!!!!!

Of course I biffed it coming back down the dunes. It’s part of my heritage as a Michigander 🙂

I recovered swiftly though 🙂

But enough about dunes! As I have said on this blog before, the nicest part of this trip has been being able to meet with friends and family along the way and share with them the experiences of the road trip. And that is why I dipped south one more time into the Newest Mexico:

To hang out with my favorite brother, Spencer!

Last summer (because wow, that was so far distant from when I write this), Spencer landed a prestigious research position at Los Alamos because he is the bar-none smartest Lee who has ever lived and works unbelievably hard in his quantum computing PhD to make jobs like this happen. Cern, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, you line them up and he knocks them down, even some research institutions without alliterative Ls in their names!

Truly a man of unabashed genius. But he did also almost get run over by a paddlewheel steamer so he does have his blind spots 😉 (love you Spence)

Anyways, Spence got to Los Alamos a few months after I left it and let me crash at his place. We spent one day going back to Chaco Canyon, which he had not seen yet and which had opened some more pueblos to tourists since I last visited in the beginning of May:

There’s something very charming and melancholy in being able to return to a place you were once charmed and awed by. And not even in a new phase of life; just some time distant, on the same winding road trip, the same old you and the same dusty car and same crooked tent and same whirlwinding maple seeds of life. But it was nice to come on back and share it with someone I care about.

Judging by this sage bundle, some other people have been revisiting Chaco Canyon too.

We even saw some new stuff! There were a couple of young elk moving through the valley, although I had no idea elk ranged that far south:

It was cooler and wetter than the first time I came through. Not by much, but you could tell that it had actually rained at some point between May and August.

Spencer was working the next day, so I went to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, with its amazing collection of Native American arts, textiles, etc.:

All of the art was incredible, but I found the textiles particularly compelling:

I like this one the most.

God I wish I could pull that look off.

Not a textile. but I just wanted to say that I thought this was an ingenious way to make a ladder out of a single post, no fastening or notching for cross-poles or otherwise required.

It was a grand old time. Our last adventure in the Newest Mexico was to meet up after Spence was done with work and go to Bandolier National Monument:

Can you believe they just let you into these cave dwellings?

They even set up ladders for it!

Some very, very long ladders.

The cave settlements at Bandolier are several hundred years older than those at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, but still bear some similarities, such as in Kiva construction.

Spencer and I could not figure out what these holes were for the life of us. But then it dawned:

Roofing timbers! Duh.

Cat and I have often mused on this: if you had to recreate the entire National Parks System from scratch, what one National Park would you remove and what one area would you add? We both agreed that Gateway Arch National Park would be demoted, but she suggested either Inyo National Forest or Bandolier National Monument should be upgraded to full park status.

I haven’t been to Inyo yet, but I think I can pretty confidently cast my NPS vote for Bandolier 🙂

Winding roads winding home.

And so it was time to move on. It was time to return to the road, and say my final goodbyes to the west. I said goodbye to Spencer first; thank you, Spence, then as now, for meeting up and hanging out with me. The best part of this journey has always been having people I love and care about to share it with. Love you brotherrrrrrrr 💙

That’s all for now,

Stay well eveyone,

Evan 💙