New Mexico is a bizarre place – in the best sense of the word. Amidst the consistent slew of contradictions and changes in landscape, architecture, topography, accents, driving style, etc., this southwestern state gave us more than enough to gape at within our 4-day excursion.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at any leg of this adventure. But with an even-keeled partner by my side and the promise of open road ahead, expectations aren’t always necessary. And that is definitely something I learned on this trip—setting expectations can sometimes bring disappointment. So we bounded along like tumbleweed in the desert for four packed days among the New Mexico sunshine (and torrential downpour).

Stop one – Bishop’s Castle – Rye, Colorado

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As “fate” (or coincidence) would have it, I’d heard about this place about a week prior to our departure. We stopped off and were immediately captivated by the colossal structure. The castle’s creator, Jim Bishop, cemented the framework rock by rock, until the towering pillars raised above the tree line and into the heavens. Bishop himself is a “quirky” character, which is quickly evident among the hundreds of hand-painted radical anti-government signs plastered every few feet. Known for his loud, obscene rants to castle visitors, Bishop was unfortunately not present during our visit. However, his distaste for all things conventional seeped through every nook and cranny of his edifice. The castle is an adult playground—one which I would suggest making sure your shots are updated before entering. There are turrets with stone spiral staircases that wind all the way above the tallest trees. From there, the extra brave can even scale the metal cornices above and hang off like suicidal monkeys. Parents beware, this popular “sight” is not up to code, nor are there and restrictions or supervision. You could spend hours roaming the narrow corridors and gazing out at the beautiful San Isabel National Forest below. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated. Learn more about eccentric Jim Bishop and his castle, here.

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Stop 2 – The Earthship – Taos, New Mexico

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It’s been a recent dream of mine to visit an earth ship, but nothing prepared me for a stay in one. True to nomenclature, an earthship is a completely sustainable dwelling where inhabitants can regulate the temperature, grow food, recycle water and more, just by the construction of the home within the earth. The first thing you notice upon entering the earth ship is the smell. It’s not a pungent odor, rather the permeating scent of dirt—of mother earth. In addition to a myriad of neat trinkets, crystals, books on space, a telescope, instruments and colorful tapestries, the earth ship was alive with nature, from dust and dirt to tiny critters roaming about (we were woken up by the loudest chirping cricket in our bedroom). The earthship is owned and rented by a man named Rex—a lovely astrologer, who took time to show us around while giving us a reading of our signs. We lit candles and did our tarot cards, then played with the bongos until the torrential rains subsided and the liquor warmed our cores.

Taos itself is a quaint southwest town. Homes and businesses of adobe lined the dusted streets. Art and jewelry were in abundance, but not in the ostensible, borderline-gosh manner of its sister southwest town, Santa Fe. To be frank, most of our time was spent in the earthship. We did visit the Adobe Bar of the Historic Taos Inn and the Eskes Brew Pub, both of which had live music. We also checked out the Rio Grande Gorge on our way out of town and spotted some big-horned sheep with the hordes of other camera-clad tourists. But the highlight of Taos was, undoubtedly, the earthship experience.

Stop 3 – The Tipi – Cloudcroft, New Mexico

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Coming from Colorado, I stereotype New Mexico as one big desolate desert where everything is constructed from adobe, and everyone wears shiny silver belt buckles and smothers their meals in green and red chile. I was completely astonished by our third stop, Cloudcroft. Cloudcroft is a sleepy ski town in the lush, green (yes, green) mountains of the Lincoln National Forests. It sits at about 10,000 feet elevation. In short, this place looked like home to us. Its western-style town square, the winding roads climbing along the side of jagged cliffs, the coolness of the evening air on our skin—it all just screamed Colorado.

Without plans for a stay, we booked a “glamping-style” tipi there for the night before heading to White Sands. Ferguson Tipi Camping is run by Wanetta and Joel Ferguson and is brilliantly executed for two tipi-novices. Wanetta sewed the 30-foot tipis herself from white canvas and Joel, a former logger, was in charge of setting their assembly. Inside, there’s a full-sized bed, two nightstands, lanterns, a table with stools, games, kitchen necessities, grilling necessities and extra blankets. Everything during your stay is taken care of, from the fire pit to the grill to the cooler to the hammocks for lounging. Wanetta even presents guests with a complimentary s’mores basket upon arrival.

Though the tipis are set up in the back of the Fergusons’ land, visitors feel far more removed from civilization. There’s no cell service, little light pollution and enough stars to count for the rest of your life. It was truly a magical (and no-hassle) experience to stay in their tipi. I am eternally grateful for their kindness and hospitality. We felt right at home from the moment we arrived to our early-morning departure after Joel had greeted us with a thermos of steaming Joe.

Next up… White Sands National Monument!

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