- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Travel to New Mexico, USA
THE AZTEC RUINS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Tucked back in a residential area of Aztec, New Mexico, is a 900-year-old ancestral Pueblo Great House — yep, these ruins aren’t actually from the Aztec Empire at all (Aztec was a general term used by early settlers and the name just stuck) — comprised of more than 400 rooms, most with the original timber roofing intact. The entire self-guided tour takes about an hour, but it’s worth the pit stop to experience the remarkable masonry and to walk the same halls that the ancient Native Americans did.
SOUTH BOUNDARY TRAIL
This is the trail mountain bikers flock to New Mexico for — a 24.9-mile stretch of singletrack with a climb of about 2,400 feet in the first five miles (don’t worry, after that you leap over a peak and enjoy a fast-paced downhill for almost 5,000 feet). The last few miles are steep and technical, but the exit is quick. Cross the creek and you’re already back at the parking lot.
WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
The world’s largest gypsum-dune field is in New Mexico, and it’s an otherworldly land of giant white sand dunes rising up from the Tularose Basin. Nearby is the Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated, but the real attraction is the wildlife. While limited for obvious reasons, most of the animals here have taken really amazing evolutionary leaps. Some species of plants can actually survive burial by a moving dune by quickly growing upward to keep leaves above the rising sand while lizards and mice are the perfect shade of white to match their surroundings. Come here to picnic, hike, and even sled down the massive sand piles.
EARTHSHIP BIOTECTURE VILLAGE
Stumble upon the Earthship Village and you’ll wonder if you’re A) lost on a movie set, or B) wandering around an alien settlement. For the last 40 years, a community of people have been working toward developing a fully sustainable prototype home that has a zero carbon footprint on the planet. The Earthship Biotecture group is still refining their process, but the prototype harvests its own electricity and water, treats its own sewage and heats and cools itself without fuel.
The biggest draw? It looks really, really cool.
Jim White had quite a discovery on his hands when he first threw his handmade ladder down 60 feet into the belly of Carlsbad Caverns (he was a teenager in 1898 and couldn’t convince locals that there was much to the cave). Now, we most definitely know better.
Carlsbad Caverns consists of 119 known caves interwoven into a giant underground system full of awe-inspiring limestone rock formations. The self-guided tour takes no less than two hours and the average temperature is 56 degrees.
Bring a sweater but leave the headlamps at home — the cave is perfectly lit to light the way, but keep the ambiance of the deep cave alive.