On a family vacation nearly thirty years ago, I hiked up a mountain trail in the Lincoln National Forest. The steep climb eventually brought us to an amazing view. An old trestle bridge made a slow turn in Mexican Canyon below us. As the gorge faded into the distance, it made way to the Tularosa Basin and Alamagordo. On the horizon, the San Andres mountains looked down on White Sands.
The unexpected vista was a fading memory when I returned over twenty years later. Since then, each trip to central New Mexico has included at least a drive along Mexican Canyon. If time allows, I take that short hike to the overlook again. The trestle bridge faced imminent collapse and has since been rebuilt. The trees are taller and block the view a bit more than they used to, but it is still a site to see.
On our last trip, I had decided to be on site at sunset, staying around long enough to hopefully get a shot of the Milky Way. The timing was off. The full moon combined with a fairly thick haze in the valley made the image in my head impossible to capture. Still, my son and I set up a tripod, a camera, and some patience and gave it a try. The sunset itself was worth the trouble.
The landscape before us never really got dark. The moon quickly rose over the mountain behind us, lighting up the haze-filled terrain. The light of the setting sun seemed to take forever to fade enough that the stars finally began to appear. While it was too bright to make out the Milky Way, it was an experience we will never forget.
We will return, even after finding what appeared to be very fresh coyote scat on the walk back down. Hopefully, the next trip will coincide with a slightly warmer evening and a new moon.