Sometimes, even the most seasoned solo traveler finds inspiration in the most random places. It happened for me today.
This morning, I left on the early flight for a business trip to El Paso, and found myself with an afternoon to myself - a rare treat these days. So I decided to head north to Southern New Mexico and just explore a little bit. Because of my fascination with ghosts, I always do a quick search for ghost towns, and quickly came across a listing for Dripping Springs, New Mexico.
It's important to note that Dripping Springs is a nature area formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity, with hiking trails that happen to lead to the ruins of a resort and tuberculosis sanitorium that were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While there may be ghosts and spirits running around the ruins there, I can't confirm any of that, because I was so captivated by the trail, the scenery, and the general splendor of the hike itself, that I was thankful to have stumbled upon Dripping Springs. It was a great reminder that solo travel doesn't have to be a series of hotels.
I drove the quick 15 minutes from Las Cruces on a partially unpaved road, gladly paid my $3.00 park fee, and set out to explore the trail. Now, the word "trail" makes it sound like a leisurely stroll. It's not. It's a HIKE in every sense of the word. It's uphill, it's 3 miles, the path is covered in rough, uneven rock, and it's not for the faint of heart. The trees, wildlife, and scenery is amazing, and well worth the trek. On the first turn of the trail, a breeze ran through the valley and the Organ Mountains that - I swear - carried the voices of the ancient natives with it.
For your hike - to Dripping Springs or elsewhere - always remember to bring plenty of water, sunglasses, sunscreen, and sturdy, stable shoes that can handle any terrain. Don't stray from the path, and make sure someone knows where you are and will miss you if you don't come back. Take a walking stick, if you're at all uncertain about the terrain or your footing on it, wear a visor or a hat, and don't take on terrain that's beyond your ability. If you're going to take a camera, don't carry it around your neck. Put it in a backpack or other padded case. If you fall, your camera will be protected. And three of my most important keys - leave the wildlife alone and they'll leave you alone, take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints. No matter how blue, red, sparkling, captivating the rock is, leave it there. If everyone took one, there wouldn't be any left.
A hike can be a great way to break out of your routine and appreciate the earth in a special way. What are you waiting for? Grab those shoes and go.