People often ask us how we find these gems, these beautiful places. Well! We keep an adventure list, organized by state, and we’re always updating it as we learn of great spots. We get tips from fellow travelers, travel magazines, or sometimes we just see a green space on the map and read up on it. Pro tip: we also check out Campendium and sort by the highest-rated free campsites in an area. Anyway, when we were leaving Albuquerque we realized we could incorporate a stay at the beautiful Elephant Butte Lake State Park and so our plan was set. If you look up photos of this place, you’ll see a popular destination with cars dotting the shoreline and boats filling the lake. Well, those must be from the height of summer because that’s about the opposite of what we found coming here in mid-October!
When we left Colorado, our original idea was to spend a week in Taos but with a chilly forcast showing overnight temps there dropping into the low 30s, we decided we should keep moving south. I found that Albuquerque was a good twenty degrees warmer all around and so we made that the destination. It wasn’t until Brad started looking into camping options that we realized the International Balloon Fiesta was currently going on!
After our time in Manitou Springs, we made the three hour drive south to check out Great Sand Dunes National Park. We had heard how impressive the giant dunes are and were excited to see it with our own eyes. Our last National Parks pass expired a couple months ago, so at the entrance station we purchased our third annual pass since living on the road. It’s still a STEAL at $80 for the whole year. Not only does it get you into every national park and monument, it has also covered our parking fee at different national forest hiking and recreation sites. Worth every penny, or as my dear friend Jessica would say: it’s cheap at twice the price!
It’s always so fun to figure out what path and direction we’re going to take when we have a far-off destination in mind. We pull out our road atlas (yes, a paper map!) and start looking at all the options, and it’s very exciting to envision ourselves on different adventures along these different routes. When it came time to leave Iowa, we knew we would be heading towards the Southwest for the winter but we didn’t know what we wanted to see on the way there. Realizing that we might be able to catch some of the golden Aspens in Colorado helped us make our decision.