October in the Land of Enchantment

By October, the Land of Enchantment had cooled off and I was ready to cross a few items off of my New Mexico–adventures bucket list: White Sands, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the Balloon Fiesta, and Santa Fe National Forest.

White Sands National Monument

First up, I decided to travel a little further than usual to see a rare wonder—White Sands.

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My adventure buddy, partner in crime, and best friend – Ronnie the goofball.

After a quick four hour drive, Ronnie and I arrived in Las Cruces near the Organ Mountains. I set up the tent in record time so we could get to White Sands in time for the sunset.

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Unable to pass up an opportunity to capture the majesty of the Organ Mountains during golden hour, I made a quick detour while driving to White Sands.

I was in a race against time. I was trying to capture the natural beauty of my surroundings but the sun would not wait. Luckily, I made it to just in time. The view of the sun setting behind the mountains did not disappoint and running barefoot through the dunes was pure freedom.

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The sun setting behind the mountains at White Sands National Monument.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

The next morning, I drove to the other side of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, arriving just after sun rise. The light touched the desert peaks just after eight in the morning. It danced its way down the mountains and by 8:30 a.m., the peaks were bathed in golden rays. No wonder New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment.

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The sun dancing down the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as the sun rises into the sky.
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The mountains basking in the sunshine.

I could have watched the sun bathe those mountains all day long but I was determined to get to the dunes to feel the sand between my toes before the heat made it unbearable.

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The sand hardened from the morning dew but the view of the mountains was much clearer.

As the sun intensified, it was time to leave the endless white sandy beaches behind. The plan was to grab a bite to eat and start the drive back to Santa Fe, but I wasn’t ready. Instead, I scooped Ronnie into his cage in the back seat and drove into Lincoln National Forest. Along the way I remembered a little town one of my yoga clients recommended I visit—Cloudcroft. The scenic drive had me pulling off to the side of the road to take photos every few minutes.

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Just after entering Lincoln National Forest was a scenic viewing area.

I was in awe. I felt like I was back in the Pacific Northwest. The lush greenery and cool air did not feel like the sandy desert that was just an hour away. After enjoying beer and some amazing pizza at the local brewery, I was a little more ready to go home.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The next morning was an early one. Jake and I had planned on watching the balloons take off at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta since first moving to New Mexico nearly nine months ago. We decided to honor that promise. However, when my alarm went off at 3:15 in the morning, I was ready to throw that promise out the window. But I hate traffic more than I hate early mornings, so as I dragged my butt out of bed, and told myself it would be worth it. And while we avoided heavy traffic most of the way, it was a grid lock trying to get into the parking lot.

Nonetheless we made it by 5 a.m. The light show was scheduled for 6 a.m. and the mass ascension at 7. The only problem: the wind. The balloons can’t lift off if there are winds blowing at even 10-15 miles per hour. So in the end, we walked around the fair, got a breakfast burrito and some fries and visited our favorite balloons.

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No doubt a Colorado balloon would be among the favorites.
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The wise owl was a close second.

Santa Fe National Forest

My weekend was not quite over yet though. I was determined to see some fall foliage. And no hike is better for that than the Aspen Vista Trail of the Santa Fe National Forest. Unfortunately, barely ten minutes into the drive towards the trailhead it had started to rain. I didn’t turn around. Every year I went on a fall hike and this year would be no different. 45 minutes later, I was zipping up my rain jacket and grabbing my camera.

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View from the Aspens Vista Trailhead.

As I  photographed the view from the trailhead, I realized these golden aspens were their own light. I began to appreciate and embrace the gloominess. Not every day is meant for the sun. Some days we have to be our own sunshine.

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The aspens shown magnificently, even in the gloomy weather.

I let myself pull off onto the side of the road every few minutes to capture the beauty the rain brought. And while I was winding my way back towards town, I couldn’t help but think how appropriate it was that it was raining, the leaves were changing, and the sun was setting.

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Stopping along the side of the road to smell the rain.

I was raining too, cleansing away my old self, changing my own colors, and letting the sun set on a version of myself. I was no longer the people-pleasing pushover that let everything slide and held everything in. I was standing up for myself. I was testing relationships with friends and family. I was discovering who was really there for me. I was noticing who wanted to talk things out and willing to actually listen when I spoke up. But most importantly, I am finally deciding who is worth my time.

I couldn’t help but smile as I parked the car. Everything does happen for a reason. Relationships end, friendships expire, and some days it rains when you want to go on a hike. Such is life. And everything will be okay because with every sun that sets, there is a sun that also rises.

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The sun rises for a new day, a new chapter.

Until next time,

Leah Pinkus

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