Scenic sounds a bit too generic, too common. Idyllic sounds too poetic. I guess if I needed to describe Bosque del Apache in one word, I would use pastoral or rustic. But it really is a challenge to capture in words the essence of a visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. I visited this refuge in May 2014 and almost had the place to myself. I shared it with a few other visitors, quite a few birds, some mule deer, and a bunny.
Getting to Bosque del Apache should have been easy. It is situated off Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Las Cruces. I even had my new GPS to help me plan the route. The problem was that I did not have an address and the little towns it was close too were too small to be in the GPS database. It seemed lucky—at first—that one of the websites I was reviewing about the location had one of those how-to-get-there-from-wherever-you-are features set up. I plugged in my hotel’s address and received what appeared to be a back road’s route into the refuge. At one time along the way I would even be traveling on old Route 66. How cool was that? The total distance implied I would arrive at my destination in about 30 minutes.
Armed with these directions, I started out, quickly being led to a back road vs. a major thoroughfare. The directions seemed to be working. All the turns were showing up right on schedule. But there were a few glitches. As I went along, fewer of the roads were marked, and most were not paved. Eventually I turned off the main back road I was on, but the new road was rough dirt and gravel with lots of pot holes and seemed to cut across a farmer’s fields. As I drove, the route became progressively worse, bouncing me along through the dust allowing me to travel maybe 8 miles an hour. When my next turn displayed the road sign “unpaved bureau of land management road” and the gravel and pot holes worsened, I decided it would be better to find another route.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It was a beautiful drive.
I loved the wide open vistas, the blue skies, even the cattle who wandered back and forth between the fields and the “road.” After I turned around, I made it back to the interstate and had been out and about on my wild goose chase for only a couple hours. For the rest of the day, I figured I would take a drive and see what I could find. And there it was, right off the interstate, a little sign saying “Bosque del Apache.” I took the exit and followed the county road to my destination. The route still seemed fairly isolated, but there were houses and it was paved.
I was delighted to have finally arrived at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuse. I was hoping for a chance to enjoy nature in solitude, marveling at a few wildflowers and maybe some birds. I was not disappointed. If I had visited in the fall, I would have seen many more birds. At that time of year, 10,000 sandhill cranes and some bald eagles settle in for the season. But the heat was not too bad, there was a slight breeze, and I saw quite a few birds and only a couple other people. Nature and Solitude—my kind of day!
Most of the refuge was accessible via various self-guided auto tours that traversed along fields and waterways. The Visitors Center was a nice little respite where I could ask a few questions, use the bathroom, and buy a few postcards. When I returned to the Center late in the day, after closing hours, I saw a road runner dart across the driveway, too fast to allow a picture. This little bunny must’ve felt he was hidden well enough in the bushes that he did not need to run away.
But the best part of the day was the silence, the solitude, the beauty, the activity as I wandered along the byways and waterways of this wildlife refuge that covers over 57,000 acres in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. The website’s description says the refuge is a verdant and fertile land—and that is certainly true. I could not help but think of Basho’s words: “Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.”
It was a great day!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLACE WHERE YOU GO FOR SILENCE AND SOLITUDE?