It’s been four months since I went to New Mexico. It was the first solo trip I’d ever taken and I can’t stop thinking about it, especially lately as I put together my next adventure, this time to Arizona for my birthday in March. I keep coming back to the way I felt while I was there, to these specific moments that seem suspended in my memory. They’re glowy, like an old television flashback, with a certain amount of sparkle around the edges.
When the park ranger at Fort Union National Monument asked me what I thought about the site, I told him it was creepy. He said that was an unusual response, one he didn’t get regularly, but that I was the second person that day to call the place creepy. I tried to qualify the statement. I told him creepy wasn’t exactly the right word. The place felt eerie, maybe, sort of ghostly and maybe even haunted.
In going to New Mexico, I wanted to experience two things: National Parks and really good food. So, upon my arrival in New Mexico, I went straight for the tacos, at Kelly’s Brew Pub, where I met a bartender who shared my name. I took meeting her as a good omen since she was only the second Terra I’d ever met and then I scampered to Petroglyph National Monument, to get my first taste of New Mexico’s national park scene.
One of the things that attracted me to New Mexico, aside from the sunsets, the National Parks, the mountains, the food and a Buzzfeed quiz, was the opportunity to learn more about the history of the southwestern part of the United States. I can rattle off all sorts of history about Virginia. I can still name the original 13 colonies, know all about the native inhabitants of my home state and the states that surround it and can give a pretty solid account of the colonization of the entire eastern side of the United States. When it comes to the rest of the country though, I don’t know much, or at least not much detail.
The views are great, the rangers are great, the hikes are great, the tour is great and the pigs are great, but the sheep at George Washington Birthplace National Monument are assholes. They’re direct descendants of the original Washington sheep and it’s made them incredibly arrogant. I spent 10 minutes leaning over a fence rail attempting to get a decent look at them. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with me and opted instead to hide from me in the shaded front of an outbuilding.
It took me a week to get to Kuwait when I deployed last year. That’s not normal. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, but for 1o of us, that’s exactly how it did work. We ended up stranded in Baltimore and then Germany and then Qatar before finally making it to our final destination.
Of course it was the hottest day of the year, over 100°F, but I was not deterred. Newly single and determined in my National Parks pursuit, I scampered east, to Fort Monroe National Monument. I slathered on a thick coat of sunscreen that I immediately started sweating off, grabbed a bottle of water I’d later forget in the gift shop, threw my camera around my neck and I set off.
I always google the National Park units I visit before I actually visit them. I don’t need a ton of information, usually, just some basic history and a rough idea of what it is that makes the park special. When I did this for Cabrillo National Monument, in San Diego, the internet was all, TIDE POOLING, and I was all, what the fuck is tide pooling?