Duane Ross, MD, Medical Director
As we move out of the high temperatures of summer, the days become perfect for taking walks outside without being uncomfortably hot. It’s a great time to consider exploring some of the extraordinary places available to us in our own state. The National Park Service lists 18 sites in New Mexico ranging from the raw natural beauty of Valles Caldera and the rugged landscape of El Malpais to the culturally significant Chaco Canyon and the modern history of the Manhattan Project site. Of course, there are also countless spectacular trailheads throughout the state that are not national parks but are absolutely worth experiencing.
With a little planning, exploring these sites can be a wonderful experience that will provide many memories. The final stretch of road to Chaco Canyon, for example, is rough and you might want to consider the vehicle you will be using to get there. The path around the Gila Cliff Dwellings is a bit steep at points and can be challenging for some, but there are flatter paths in the surrounding forest.
When my wife and I visited Chaco Canyon, I couldn’t help imagining the people who built those dwellings; I could practically see them walking the old paths, in and out of buildings, living their lives. It is thrilling to be standing in the same spot as these people did centuries ago.
Whichever place you choose to visit, be sure to bring water and sun protection; the temperature might be cooler, but the sun can still be harsh. If you want to bring your dogs, make sure you check the rules for each site; often dogs are allowed on some trails and not others and they are usually not allowed near ruins (like the cliff dwellings).