City Girl Gone Wandering
The land of enchantment certainly earns its name. The earth is magnetic here–strong and mighty, yet gentle and kind. Days are filled with the warm glow of sunshine emanating from a royal blue sky before the afternoon gives way to a thunderous burst of cascading rainfall. It is always welcome. After all, it keeps the ranch’s vegetation green and thriving. This is the first season in years where the wilderness hasn’t been decimated by the repercussions of a drought, and the result is a pulsating greenery that sprawls from low country to high.
Like Hawaii, the property at Vermejo Park Ranch (where I now work and live) is full of micro-climates. It is possible to dance in the sunshine in a meadow while thunder roars in the distance.
The ranch spans approximately 590,823 acres along the border of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. It is essentially the equivalent of a privately-owned national park. As such, wildlife sighting are the norm. Just the other day a heard of elk stampeded across the dirt road in front of my friend’s vehicle. One thing is clear: this is their land and we are but humble visitors.
Along with elk, the property plays host to an assortment of creatures. Black bears, deer, prairie dogs, mountain lions, bison, wild horses, and variety of other animals roam the mountains and valleys of Vermejo. I feel at home with them—back in order with the natural world after a long stint in a tourist town full of development.
This is the epitome of out-of-the-way and rural.
This is the opposite of where I come from.
This is exactly what I set out to see.
Despite being so remote and removed, there is still plenty to do. The hiking here is phenomenal. Sprawling meadows give way to steep trails that take you into a canopy of green. The woods immerse you in their solitude, whispering secrets in your ear as you make your ascent deeper into their mysterious folds.
In the evenings, you have the luxury of sipping wine under a blanket of night, gazing up at the pulsating starlight and wishing upon shooting stars.
And, perhaps best of all, there are the sunsets. Our elevation is approximately 7,500 ft. so the sunsets seem to go on forever. Each minute of the sun’s descent is varied and unique. It also refuses to pick a direction, instead choosing to come at you from all sides.
One night, during my semi-regular sunset walks, I stood in a meadow underneath a whirlwind of color. To my right, golden yellows swirled together with the radiant blue of the sky and danced above the mountain peaks still covered in snow. To my left, the sky was painted in cotton-candy pink. Two sunsets for the price of one.
The New Mexico sky is a sight to be seen at any time of day. It stretches out into infinity, broken up only by the elaborate cloud formations passing by. The clouds differ from one speck of blue to another: tornado-esque clouds on one side and little puffs of white on another. Enchanting is certainly the word.
New Mexico itself is quite diverse. Southern New Mexico is the standard desert landscape that those of us from the east associate with the Southwest. But the northern part of the state is mountainous and, at least this year, lush and green. In some ways, it reminds me of Alaska. The main difference being the lack of water access and the color of the rocks—beige/red here, grey there. I’ve decided that grey landscapes are not quite my bag. But the colors of the earth here—the elaborate melding of reds, tans, browns, and even greens—this type of earth makes sense to me.
It’s mind-boggling how many things had to come together for me to find my way to this space. One terribly hard month laden with uncertainty—Hawaii to Alaska to Texas—and then, boom, the perfect place in the perfect time. This is a space of solitude and serenity, of expanding my literary portfolio while gazing out my window at the emerald mountain peaks behind the lodge in which I live. I am grateful.
I have thus far explored the towns of Raton, NM (not much to see) and Trinidad, CO (a little bit more to see). I am learning the history of the area and of the struggles this part of the country is currently facing. There is so little industry here. This is the America you always hear about but seldom experience.
The staff here is incredibly diverse as well. We have people of all ages and backgrounds, coming from not only all parts of the U.S. but even various parts of the world. It is the type of seasonal job I have been searching for since I began this journey 1.5 years ago. Good people, beautiful nature, an opportunity to save money for future adventures, and a positive space in which to grow myself.
I’ve given into my circumstances and am choosing to embrace them. I’m going to learn how to fish, I’m going to shoot a gun (Amurika!), and I’m going to let the cowboy ranch life permeate my being for a while. From island life to mountain life. Onward and upward. The journey continues.